It has been nearly 10 years since the body of Namgyal Rinpoché dissolved into the wider life of the planet. His dying spurred many of his students to begin teaching and to share their understandings of dharma. Throughout this time, I have been asked by a good number of people to express my views on the ‘Namgyal lineage’ or ‘Namgyal lineage of teachings’. Two years ago I was asked to write something on this topic but the timing didn’t seem quite right and it has taken till today to finish this short piece. Although this article refers to The Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre in NZ, it could just as easily refer to any other centre for study and practice that has been established through his inspiration.
The need to identify with a ‘Lineage’ reveals an ancient tendency still strongly operating in the human psyche. It is the desire to bolster our sense of well being and belonging by identifying with a broader family, clan, or tribe. Not just me, but us! Although this tendency can be supportive, it can also be part of a process that ends up partitioning the universe into ‘us’ and ‘them’. It can become even worse when it drifts towards categorizing people as wise or deluded, orthodox or heretic, special or ordinary.
Throughout his many years of teaching, Namgyal Rinpoché continuously urged us to drop such divisive sectarian tendencies and to come to know our wholeness; our kinship with all life. Again and again, in myriad situations and circumstances, he inspired us to refine our powers of awareness and appreciation, often using tools from classical Buddhist schools but also adapting methods and techniques from other sources – as long as they were useful. He encouraged us to be of service to others; to share what is best in us with all that we meet, humans and non-humans alike. He challenged us to live with passion and compassion, and to nourish these qualities in each other. The degree to which those of us involved with Wangapeka take these pointings to heart and, using our intelligence and integrity, our courage and conscience, put them into practice – the degree to which we do this, would be a demonstration of how well his life and work has shaped the activities at Wangapeka.
In a way, his teachings were not unique. He was unique. But so too are you, and so too am I. He encouraged us to explore buddhadharma – not just Buddhism; not this system or that system. He urged us to free ourselves from clinging to ‘isms’. The central core of what he taught is what myriad sane people throughout history have taught, namely that as humans, we walk through life on two legs. One, is the leg of curiosity and deepening enquiry. We could call this non-clinging awareness. The other, is the leg of compassion or helping others that we meet along the way. The two coordinating together in a seamlessly integrated harmonious movement, is to walk in the way of wisdom. Everything else he taught was simply detail and elaboration, appropriate for those who he happened to be interacting with at the time.
This approach to living is unpretentious. It invites each person to a path of personal responsibility and mutual respect. It honors the vast unknowableness of the universe and encourages an attitude of mindfulness, love and wonderment for this great mystery of life.
Rinpoché often said; “If you would honor me, practice what I teach.” Personally, I think we could forget about identifying ‘Namgyal Lineages’ or even ‘Namgyal lineages of teachings’. We could abandon fussing over who is a ‘lineage teacher’ and who isn’t. Instead, we could roll up our sleeves and, helping each other on the way, get on with living fully and compassionately, for the sake of all beings. This would be a meaningful honoring of his life – and of our own.
© Tarchin Hearn January 2013