Lama Ole Nydahl
Ole was born in 1941. I think it is fair to say he has always been a fighter.
(quote) During childhood he had frequent memories from his last life, battling Chinese soldiers to protect the civilians of Eastern Tibet...While growing up he gained quite a reputation as a nearly undefeated boxer adn unflinching protector of his friends.(The Way Things Are, page 77)
Having completed his military service and taken a degree in philosophy at the University of Copenhagen, he decided to go travelling. He had just got married and in 1969 he and his wife, Hannah, went to Kathmandu. One day, they joined a queue of Tibetans and Nepalese waiting to be blessed.
(We) stood in front of the Karmapa and he put his hands on our heads. We looked up, and suddenly he became greater than the whole sky, incredibly vast, golden and luminous...The power of the Karmapa had entered our lives. (Entering the Diamond Way, 65)
(Rawlinson states)'Everything in Ole's subsequent 'career' follows from this last statement.
After spending three years in Nepal, and having become the Karmapa's students, the Nyadhls went back to Denmark, where they opened a centre in Copenhagen--the first Tibetan centre to be established in the West by a Westerner. (Riding the Tiger
It was inaugerated by the Dalai Lama in 1973, and the Karmapa visited in 1974.
Over the last 24 years--from 1972 to 1996, Ole(helped by Hannah, and more recently, by two students, Caty and Tomek) has opened 180 centres throughout the world (The Way Things Are
Apart from the places one would expect (America; every Western European country except Portugal; Australia and New Zealand), many have been established in countries that previously had no contact with Tibetan Buddhism at all, especially Eastern Europe (Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine) and Latin America (Mexico, Colombia, Venezuala, Peru).
In 1978, the Karmapa issued a letter "for the attention of all European Dharma centers, especially those in Germany and Scandinavia" saying, "I have re-appointed Ole Nydahl as the Head of the Dharma centres of the Karma Drub Djyling Association1 and I have reappointed Hannah Nydahl as his deputy" (Riding The Tiger
, 135)Footnote #1
Ole puts it in his own way:
'We did exactly as (the Karmapa) said: I was to travel as lama and establish centeres in his name. Hannah's job was to help the lineage holders and other Rinpoches from Rumtek. She shoudl organize for them and translate on their tours...She (also) communicated "upwards" and calmed the frequent rumors caused by my yogi style*.(Footnote 2) (Riding the Tiger, page 136)
In 1995, a certificate was issued by the Karmapa's International Headquarters which said that 'Ole Nydahl is a qualified Buddhist layman-teacher or Lama." (Footnote 3)
He himself says that he has a vision (that's his word) of establishing a lay, yogic Buddhism (thats his phrase) that directly shows the nature of the mind. The back cover of The Way Things Are
describes the book as "a living transmission of Buddha's deep wisdom, given by a Western Buddhist Master."
This is quite a claim . But (says Rawlinson) Ole justifies it by referring to the Karmapa--or perhaps it would be more accurate to say 'the power of the Karmapa.' According to Chechoo Lama ( who was actually Ole and Hannah's first teacher), the sixteenth Karmapa said (of the two of them) that "they will express my activity in the future" (Riding The Tiger
, page 492)
Meanwhile, Ole continues his energetic way.
One day we shall all really recognize the open, clear, limitless space of the mind, and experience the fearlessness, spontaneous joy, and active compassion of all Buddhas. Everything small, limited, and blocked will fall away, and we shal realize our timeless perfection.
(Entering the Diamond Way
, page 235)
(Rawlinson concludes, as of 1996/7)
'It would be misleading to say that he claims to have realized this state. But he is certainly trying.'Footnotes
(a footnote #
1 states this organzation (Karma Drub Djyling Association) oversees all the centres opened by Ole--as of 1996)
2 gives this:
"It is perhaps inevitable that such a style, which he describes as uncompromising, should have its detractors. In 1984, three years after the Karmapa's death, Osel Tenzin (Chogyam Trungpa's Vajra Regent), wrote to Vajradatu members--at Trungpa's request
(Rawlinson's italics)--warning them against "a certain Ole Nydahl" who had presented himself at various centres as "an authentic dharma teacher authorized by His Holiness the XVI Karmapa". Ole's "teaching style" is described as 'contrary toe everything we have been taught and have come to recognize as genuine...The Vajradhara (Chogyam Trungpa) feels very strongly that there is so real perversion of the buddhadharma taking place by Mr. Nydahl, and a definite perversion of His Holiness Karmapa's intentions and wishes' (Riding the Tiger
(Rawlinson comments) "This is strong stuff. Ole's response was to do nothing. Although "hundreds of powerful Central Europeans who could each each a dozen Vajra guards before breakfast"and who "felt that their lama had been attacked" were ready to jump on the next plane and sort Osel Tendzin out, he decided to be "a good Buddhist who doesnt take revenge" (Riding the Tiger
(Rawlinson comments) "This episode was perhaps no more than a storm in a teacup. But it is interesting because it involved two Westerners (Ole and Osel) who wer eobth part of the same Kagyu lineage---though in different ways---and both fully committed to their support of the Karmapa (end of footnote 2)
3)--Rawlinson states) "I should point out that this declaration was made at the height of the current kertuffle concerning the recognition of the 17th Karmapa. (The Sixteenth, who was Oles teacher, died in 1981). There are two rival candidates, one selected by Tai Situ Pa Rinpoche and one by Kunzing Sharmapa Rinpoche. Ole has thrown his weight behind the Sharmapa's candidate; he describes the boy recognized by Tai Situ Pa as 'a fake communist Chinese Candidate' (The Way Things Are
., page 78)Primary Sources:
Ole Nydahl, Ngondro:The Four Foundational Practices of Tibetan Buddhism
, Nevada City, California, Blue Dolphin, 1990)Entering the Diamond Way;My Path Among the Lamas
, Blue Dolphin, 1985Riding the Tiger;Twenty Years on the Road--The Risks and Joys of Bringining Tibetan Buddhism to the West
(Blue Dolphin, 1992)The Way Things Are: A Living Approach to Buddhism for Today's World
(Blue Dolphin, 1996)Secondary Sources
Some remarks in S. Batchelor: The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of Buddhism and Western Culture
Center: Karma Drub Djy Ling, Svanemollevej, 56, 2100 Copenhagen, O, DenmarkCompare with other entries in Enlightened Masters:
(these persons also have articles in Rawlinsons volume, enabling the reader to compare their life trajectories and legitimation strategies)
Other Westerners in Tibetan Buddhism: Freda Bedi, Alexandra David-Neel, W.Y. Evans-Wenz, Lama Angarika Govinda, Jampa Thaye, Lobsang Rampa, Osel Tendzin, Lama Teundrop, (Western)tulkus