Friday, 22 February 2008

The meaning of 'Drala Jong', and ties to Ling Gésar

When my wife Ngakma Shé-zér & I approached our teachers Ngak'chang Chögyam Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen about launching this appeal, we particularly excited when it came to requesting a name for the centre. I think for us the name was going to somehow make the whole thing more tangible - even though we started out with no idea how to raise the £500,000 we felt we needed to set up a centre.

Traditionally Ngak'chang Rinpoche would give a name to a place such as a gompa only once he'd been there and had a sense of the place and the space it occupied. Since we didn't have the funds, let a alone a potential venue at this stage, we thought at the very least Ngak'chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen would want to sleep on the matter. However in the moment, the name Drala Jong arose. We were delighted. We asked for a teaching on the name, then, later on, Ngak'chang Rinpoche kindly agreed to write about the meaning. This is what he wrote:

Drala Jong innately exists in human beings. ‘Drala’ is the appreciative faculty which exponentially enlivens people the more they engage with the world. Appreciation is the key to enjoyment and to the delighting in the enjoyment of others. When we learn to appreciate phenomena our sense fields ‘Jong’ begin to sparkle and a sense of generosity is born which connects us with others. Although Vajrayana Buddhism is by no means unknown in the West – the sense in which enjoyment and compassion are mutually interdependent remains unexpressed. We would like Drala Jong to be a place where human beings could discover the pleasure of existence – the pleasure that animates the sense fields and revitalises the Arts – and the art of living.

Ngak’chang Rinpoche, 13th September 2006, Penarth, Wales

We were particularly delighted that 'Drala' is part of the centre's name, as Drala is connected with practices associated with Ling Gésar. Gésar training from the gTérma of Rang-rig Togden has recently started to be offered by teachers from the Aro Tradition - specifically our vajra brothers Naljorpa Chhi'med Kunzang in California, and Naljorpa Bar-ché Dorje in Finland (see for details). This training contains elements of equestrianism, martial arts, and physical yoga and we intend to invite Gésar teachers to Drala Jong to give instruction on these practices once the centre is opened.

The Ling Gesar story is part of popular Tibetan folklore, but there are also practices associated with him found in several different Buddhist lineages. When visiting Kyabjé Kunzang Dorje Rinpoche and Jomo Samphel in Nepal films were shown of Gésar's life, and Kunzang Dorje Rinpoche and Jomo Samphel dressed in Ling Gésar costume, gave gifts associated with Ling Gésar and demonstrated Gésar cham.

More recently, Sang-ngak-chö-dzong was able to facilitate a series of visits to the UK by Lopon P. Ogyan Tanzin Rinpoche, a teacher from the Dud'jom gTér and headmaster of a gö-kar-chang-lo'i-dé school in India, and (see for his UK teaching contacts). During his busy teaching schedule on his recent visits he has attended Aro gTér events and given teaching on Nyingma history and also Ling Gésar cham to practitioners from the Aro Tradition.

So all these strands that connect the Aro gTér to Ling Gésar have come together in recent years and his practices are now part of the wider Aro Tradition - and 'Drala' is enshrined in the name of our planned UK retreat centre.

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