We have secured as a venue Kings Weston House in Bristol. A truly splendid Georgian House, it is a Grade 1 listed building that was completed in 1719 and designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, who also designed Blenheim Palace. We consider a setting most suitable to the occasion and to a celebration of Vajrayana.
What to expect
This anniversary event is a chance to look back and celebrate what Sang-ngak-chö-dzong (also known as SNCD) has achieved in the last 25 years, in supporting the non-monastic Aro gTér lineage in the UK. It has helped to build a community of gö-kar-chang-lo’i-dé (‘white skirt long hair’ – non-monastic) practitioners in the West, through a rich tradition of spiritual and physical practices as well as Tibetan arts and crafts. More importantly, the anniversary is an opportunity to think about the present and future. Why is Buddhism so relevant now? How may it help us travelling into the future?
SNCD doesn’t currently have a centre of its own, so we will be throwing open the doors of Kings Weston House to welcome friends old and new! Whether you’re already acquainted with the Aro gTér or are curious and want to find out more, there’ll be something for everyone.
Our most ambitious public event to date, the day will feature an unprecedented range of talks, demonstrations and workshops. These will cover subjects including the history and future of Vajrayana Buddhism, and on relationship as Buddhist practice – the spiritual vivacity of vajra-romance and the poignant possibility of remaining in love forever. Talks will be presented by the lineage holders, Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen, and by other lamas from the Aro gTér lineage. Workshops and interactive demonstrations will also be given by ordained practitioners on Buddhist crafts, dance , as well as thangka painting and musical instruments of the (gloriously cacophonous) tantric orchestra. The day will conclude with an evening reception.
About the Sang-ngak-chö-dzong charity
Sang-ngak-chö-dzong is the UK charity of the Aro gTér Tradition and supports the preservation of Buddhist teachings according to the Nyingma Tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism. The name Sang-ngak-chö-dzong was given to us by His Holiness Düd’jom Rinpoche specifically for our work of establishing the non-celibate householder tradition of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.
The focus of our activity is in the UK and on the teachings of the Aro gTér, a Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist lineage whose unusual characteristics make it singularly appropriate for many Westerners. The Aro gTér Tradition is principally concerned with transforming our experience of everyday being, rather than achieving an esoteric or spiritualised mode of existence. Our aim is to engender cheerful courage, perceptive consideration, sincere determination, natural gallantry, graciousness, creativity, and spaciousness.
The teachers of the Aro gTér Tradition are not monks or nuns. They are ordained Tantrikas whose lives are, in many ways, quite ordinary. They may have conventional jobs, or raise children. Many teach as married couples. Their wisdom is embodied in the ways they live everyday life. SNCD enables these teachers to provide Buddhist classes and retreats across the country and internationally, and is working to establish a permanent centre (called Drala Jong) for Vajrayana Buddhism in the UK. We also facilitate Buddhist arts and crafts projects in the UK and support the organisation of pilgrimages to Bhutan and Nepal, where we provide assistance to elderly teachers associated with the lineage.
SNCD is run by a voluntary management committee made up primarily of apprentices within the Aro gTér, who have a breadth of experience across charity and professional sectors. SNCD holds UK Charity Number 1019886, and its constitution was adopted on 20th February 1993. Charity records, including up to date financial reports, are available from the Charity Commission.
Talk – The Significance of the Non-Monastic, Non-Celibate Stream of Buddhist Practice in the West
For more than a thousand years, there have been two main systems of practice in Tibetan Buddhism. The more familiar system is the ‘monastic’ approach for monks and nuns, who are referred to as the ‘Red Sangha,’ from the colour of their robes. This system primarily supports the practice of Sutrayana. Less familiar is the ‘White Sangha,’ which primarily supports the practice of Tantrayana. It is called the gö-kar-chang-lo’i-dé, which means ‘the system of those who wear white skirts and keep long hair.’ This style of practice emphasises the methods of transformation and self-liberation, which are well suited to people who are inspired to practise using their everyday life circumstances as the path to realisation.
Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen, who are the principle teachers of the Aro gTér lineage, will discuss the importance of this stream of practice within Buddhism and its essential role in establishing Buddhism as a living and thriving tradition in the West.
Talk – a Visual Journey through the History of the Aro gTér Lineage
Kyabje Düd’jom Rinpoche asked a young Ngakpa in 1976 to establish the Householder Lineage of yogic practitioners in the West. That Ngakpa was Ngak’chang Rinpoche, and he, together with his wife and sang-yum, Khandro Déchen, have fulfilled that commitment through the establishment of the Aro gTér Lineage. The full scope of yogic practice is embraced by practitioners of this lineage within the context of an everyday commitment to family life, loving relationships, and responsibility for life circumstances.
Ngakma Nor’dzin and Ngakpa ’ö-Dzin will take you on a visual journey through the history of the establishment of the tradition. They will present images of small beginnings blossoming into the large and vibrant communities of Aro gTér Lineage practitioners in many parts of the world. Vajrayana practice and retreat; engagement with Vajrayana arts, physical yogas; and the development of reference material for the study of and practice of Vajrayana – all will be tasted in this presentation to whet the appetite for the later talks and workshops.
Ngakma Nor’dzin Pamo and Ngakpa ’ö-Dzin Tridral were the first apprentices of Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen, and have been Buddhist practitioners since 1980. Ngakma Nor’dzin is a teacher and therapist, and author of Spacious Passion, and Relaxing into Meditation. Her third book Battlecry of Freedom will be published next year. Ngakpa ’ö-Dzin works for Cardiff University in IT support. They are joint authors of Illusory Advice. They have two sons, and one grandson, with a second grandchild due in December.
Ngakma Nor’dzin and Ngakpa ’ö-Dzin are a teaching couple and have held responsibility for a group of personal students since 1995. They host Aro Ling Cardiff, which has a weekly meditation group and regular retreat events. They teach publicly in Britain and in mainland Europe.
Talk – The History and Practice of Vajra Romance
The practice of Vajra Romance — viewing one’s partner as nondual — enables men and women to transcend restrictive stereotypes – facilitating personal transformation and prompting societal wellbeing. Families — exemplifying kindness, openness, and enthusiasm for life — are necessary for peace and harmony in the world. Men and women who exhibit great respect and appreciation for each other are crucial for the psychological health of children. Vajra romance primarily leads to nondual realisation – but also develops respect and appreciation – even in its initial phases.
This talk will explore the history of consort practice from the time of the Mahasiddhas through to the Dharma relationships of the female gTértöns Sera Khandro and Khandro Tare Lhamo; and will elucidate the Dzogchen Long-dé and Dzogchen Men-ngak-dé couple practices of the Khandro Pawo Nyida Mélong Gyüd (the body of teachings entitled ‘Mirror which reflects the Sun and Moon of the Khandros and dPa’wos’) of the Aro gTér. The survival of Vajrayana in the modern world will, in part, depend on the teachings and practices of the non-monastic heritage initiated by the Mahasiddhas and established throughout the Himalayas by Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel. With their emphasis on the integration of meditation and everyday life, the gTérma traditions of the gö-kar-chang-lo’i-dé (ngakpa sangha) hold important teachings – including those on vajra romance as a means of achieving liberation.
Ngakma Mé-tsal Wangmo and Naljorpa Ja’gyür Dorje are a teaching couple within the Aro gTér lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. They have been ordained as gö-kar-chang-lo’i-dé practitioners and students of Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen, the lineage holders of the Aro gTér since the 1990s. They combine careers in IT project management, education and Chinese medicine with family life and practising and teaching Vajrayana. As well as teaching publicly, they have personal students in Britain, mainland Europe, and South America.
Talk – The Art and Practice of Thangka Painting
Thangka painting is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist art form – and a spiritual practice. By drawing and painting visionary beings and symbols, thangka painters provide a source of inspiration as well as a visual representation of a practice method. The scroll paintings are based on highly specific symbolism and iconography, as well as on the respective painter’s experiential understanding of what is depicted.
In her talk, Ngakma Déwang Pamo will give a brief overview of the history and principles of thangka painting, and offer a glimpse into a thangka painter’s actual work. After her presentation, participants who are interested will be able to have a go at some basic drawing exercises.
Ngakma Déwang Pamo and her husband Naljorpa Traktung Dorje are ordained disciples of Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen – the Lineage Holders of the Aro gTér. As members of this family lineage that is uniquely suited for practitioners in the West, bringing up their children within the atmosphere of a loving relationship is one of the main concerns of their lives.
Ngakma Déwang Pamo is very much inspired by the possibility of integrating every aspect of human life with spiritual practice – particularly through appreciation and creativity in everyday life; where any activity can provide an opportunity to open the senses and enter into authentic communication with reality.
Workshop – the Making of an Appliqué Thangka
Thangka appliqué is perhaps less widely known than the art of thangka painting. In this method, the images of awareness beings or lineage lamas are not painted but are instead created out of fabric. Several practitioners in the Aro gTér lineage have become specialists in creating appliquéd thangkas and, toward this end, have learned very refined sewing techniques.
Naljorma Nyima Gyalmo will demonstrate which tools and equipment she uses in this highly refined process, and will show the creation of an appliqué in its various stages. Those interested will be able to try some of these techniques hands-on.
Workshop – Ying’khor
There are 25 Ying’khor exercises which involve subtle movement in a standing position. Some include visualisation of coloured light/energy synchronised with the breath. A few involve sound as vocalised syllables. Visualisation is connected with mind, the breath with energy and the movement with body.
The total synchronicity and alignment of these three principles symbolises the fact that they are indivisible.
Ying’khor is an easily accessible system with profound effects. The main purpose is returning to the experience of the natural state of being but practised at the outer level, its secondary functions also promote good health, vitality, longevity, and charismatic lucidity.
Many of these exercises are not strenuous and some can even be performed seated for those with limited mobility.
The workshop will be lead by Sang-gyé A-tsal, who has been practising and teaching the Aro gTér system of physical practices for more than 20 years.
Workshop – Yogic Song
Sound plays a vital role in the practice of Vajrayana and is understood as the essential energy of being. The Aro gTér tradition includes many practices that use sound – and one’s voice – as a primary method to approach the nature of mind.
Ngakpa Zhal’mèd will introduce the theory and practice of yogic song as it is understood in the Aro gTér lineage, as well as the various instruments used in this context. The presentation will include a short session of meditation interspersed with actual group practice of yogic song.
Ngakpa Zhal’mèd was ordained into the gö-kar-chang-lo’i-dé in the early 2000s. As a Ngakpa, he has been engaging extensively in the practice of mantra, and specialises in the study and practice of Phurba. He lives and teaches in France, and integrates his practice with a family life and a career in the communications industry.
Workshop – sKu-mNyé
sKu-mNyé (pronounced koo mnyay) is a physical yoga practice from Dzogchen Longdé. sKu-mNyé means ‘massage of the energy body’. The exercises ‘massage’ the spatial nerves—giving rise to extraordinary sensations. In these sensations one can find the presence of non-dual awareness, momentary enlightenment.
There are 111 sKu-mNyé exercises. They are structured according to the 5 elements – earth, water, fire, air and space, which are associated with specific animals: lion, vulture, tiger, eagle and garuda. The exercises are unlike any other exercise systems, covering a wide range of movements, from simple and gentle to highly demanding and vigorous.
They are therefore suited to an extraordinarily broad range of body types and levels of suppleness. With sKu-mNyé practice one can enhance strength, flexibility, stamina, coordination and balance.
Naljorma Dzü’drül Pamo has been practising and teaching sKu-mNyé for more than 20 years. In this workshop she will teach a selection from the first 35 exercises.
Workshop – Sky Weaving (Namkha)
Sky weavings, or Namkha in Tibetan, is a practice which explores the ‘skies’ of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and space. Each element is a dimension of meaning, and each element is associated with an emotional confusion and a liberated energy. Weaving ‘skies’ of coloured wool links our energy with the energy of the elements, through the Tantric craft of sound and vision. The beauty of the sky weaving – empowered through mantra – magnetises personal ‘demons’ (neuroses, fears and obsessions); and releases them within the skies of each element. By exploring the practice of sky weaving we can obtain penetrating insights into the nature of emotions, revealing the inner meaning of the five Buddha families and the mandala of the five dakinis.
Ngakma Shé-zér Khandro and her husband Ngakpa Namgyal Dorje were ordained by Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen in 2000. They combine everyday family working life with teaching their students in Britain and Europe. They are currently writing a book on Skyweaving and specialise in teaching tantric dance and the practices of Natural Dignity from the Ling Gésar gTerma.
Book your place
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Here is a list of upcoming workshops and retreats of the Aro gTér Tradition in the UK.
Walking or cycling:
The estate can be accessed from entrances on Kings Weston Lane, Penpole Lane/Shirehampton Road and Mancroft Avenue. It is within easy walk of public transport.
There are bus lines going to Kings Weston and services regular.
From the city Centre: First Bus: 3 or 4 to Shirehampton Road. Alight at Penpole Lane. From Bristol Parkway and UWE: Wessex Connect: 501 and 502. Alight at Napier Miles Road. Search for detailed connections here.
The nearest station is Shirehampton, approximately 15 minutes walk away. Trains run regularly Between Bristol Temple Meads and Avonmouth. Search for detailed timetable information here.
Kings Weston House is situated just 10 minutes from Bristol city centre, and a short drive from both the M4 and M5 motorways. Free parking is available in the car park situated right next to the venue.
Yes, this is a family-friendly event. Whilst at the event however, children remain the responsibility of the adults they attend with, and as such we ask that they are supervised at all times.
Yes, a ramp can be organised on request and there is a toilet for wheelchair users.
We would advise arriving at the start of the event. This will give you an opportunity to attend the opening talk, which will set the tone for the whole event and give a context for the various activities and presentations. There will be plenty of breaks throughout the day, and refreshments provided. Should you wish to arrive after the event has begun, just let us know and we will be sure to fit you in. You may, of course, leave at any time.