In 1981 and 1982 Ngak’chang Rinpoche1 gave a series of talks at Lam Rim Chö Ling2 – the Lam Rim Buddhist Centre in Raglan, Wales. These talks were transcribed and published as three booklets and an article. The booklets were illustrated and sold at open retreats – retreats which anyone could attend and especially aimed at people new to Buddhism or the Nyingma3 Vajrayana4 tradition.
The booklets—entitled Confidence, Certainty, and Kindness-Mind—are remembered fondly by Ngak’chang Rinpoche’s elder students. The article, entitled Karma, the Personal Police State, appeared in Caduceus.5
Rays of the Sun brings these booklets and the article together in a single volume. They have been edited – but only lightly re-written, so that they retain the flavour of the original talks.
Rays of the Sun is dedicated to Gétsulma Tsultrim Zangmo6 as it was she who first invited Ngak’chang Rinpoche to teach at Lam Rim Chö Ling. She was a western woman who—with her mother Gétsulma Wangchuk Palmo7—was ordained by the 16th Karmapa. They were two of the founders of the Lam Rim Centre.
It was Gétsulma Tsultrim and Gétsulma Palmo who invited Geshé Damchö Yönten8 to Britain. At first he lived in their home in Bromley, Kent. Ngak’chang Rinpoche visited them there on numerous occasions and helped them organise the first residential retreats in Wales. These retreats led to the establishment of Lam Rim Chö Ling.
Gétsulma Tsultrim had known Ngak’chang Rinpoche for some years, simply as a Nyingma practitioner who had made many trips to India and Nepal. She knew him to have an extensive collection of high quality slides of Vajrayana and Tibetan culture. She had seen a selection of the slides when he gave a talk for the Tibet Society in London in 1976, on the subject of McLeod Ganj and Forsyth Bazaar – Tibetan refugee settlements in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Ngak’chang Rinpoche never introduced himself as a Lama, and Gétsulma Tsultrim simply knew him as Chögyam Togden.9
She was aware that he gave lectures at Art Schools on Tibetan Art and although they had many interesting conversations, she had never had any idea that he could teach – as a Lama. It was common in those days for practitioners to be quite well informed concerning Vajrayana ritual equipment. However this knowledge did not mean such a person would necessarily be able to discourse on Vajrayana as such – and so unless they were to deliberately wish to impress, there would be no way of estimating anyone’s knowledge, experience, or capacity as a teacher.
One weekend, a Hatha Yoga teacher who was to be giving a workshop at the Lam Rim Centre found himself double-booked and unable to teach. It was an awkward situation – but Gétsulma Tsultrim had the idea of contacting Ngak’chang Rinpoche to see whether he could come and give a slide presentation so that the yoga teacher could keep his other commitment. Ngak’chang Rinpoche agreed. The slide presentation, however, turned out to be a revelation for Gétsulma Tsultrim. It is impossible to show visual images of Vajrayana without being put in the position of having to answer questions on Vajrayana. It was thus that Gétsulma Tsultrim heard Ngak’chang Rinpoche teach authoritatively for the first time in their acquaintance.
The ladies on the Hatha Yoga workshop were lively, intelligent women whose enthusiastic questions required detailed answers – so Ngak’chang Rinpoche answered them as extensively as they wished. Once the slide presentation was concluded, the questions continued until quite late and Gétsulma Tsultrim had to draw the evening to a conclusion.
As Ngak’chang Rinpoche was departing, she admitted to being astounded by his facility in teaching Vajrayana. She said, “I never knew you could teach.” He replied characteristically, “You never asked me.” Thereafter she did ask him if he would come and give further talks, and he agreed. This in turn led to requests for weekend retreats which he gave at Lam Rim until 1988.
1. Ngak’chang Rinpoche was known as ‘Ngakpa Chögyam’ at the time these talks were given and is the author of a number of books under this name. For details of these publications see the biography.
2. lam rim chos gLing. ‘Lam rim’ means ‘graduated path’. ‘Ch�’ means ‘as it is’. Skt: dharma. ‘Ling’ means ‘place’ or ‘sanctuary’.
3. rNying ma. The ‘old’ tradition of Tibetan Buddhism founded by the Tantric Buddhas Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel in the Eighth Century. It is based on the ‘old translations’ of Indian Tantras and on gTérma.
4. Vajrayana – the Buddhist vehicle based on the experience of the nonduality of form and emptiness. In the Nyingma tradition it consists of the six Tantric vehicles.
5. Caduceus issue 9, winter 1990
6. dGe tshul ma tshul khrims bZang mo
7. dGe tshul ma dBang phyug dPal mo
8. dGe bShes dam chos yon tan
9. See the chapter The Linguistics of Liberation: establishing confidence in actuality, for an explanation of Ngak’chang Rinpoche’s name.