Lama Ole Nydahl visited the UK from 8-10 November 2011 to teach in Manchester, Exeter and London. Here is a report of these exciting three days. Click on any of the thumbnails to enlarge the image.
Lama Ole Nydahl arrived in London St Pancras International by Eurostar from Belgium, having already taught in Paris, Rotterdam and Brussels during the previous days on this year’s “Channel Tour”, an annual part of Lama Ole Nydahl’s teaching schedule in which he is invited by his centres in the countries along the English Channel – France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK. Typically this tour is made via coach, with a full travelling group of about 60 students who, as well as attending Lama Ole’s public lectures, use the opportunity to spend more time together with their lama and sangha friends, strengthen connections and use the long coach rides for personal questions and interviews. On this leg of the journey though, Lama Ole Nydahl took the Eurostar to make enough time to visit the Diamond Way Buddhist Group in St Albans.
From London St Pancras International Lama Ole Nydahl was driven to St Albans, where the local sangha had prepared lunch. There he gave a short teaching on the transformation of the five disturbing emotions into the five wisdoms, then blessed the meditation room and the sangha friends by invoking the five Buddhas, the purified manifestation of the five elements.
Following this, during a quick drive to catch up with the Channel Tour coach, which had set out earlier in the day from Brussels and was now outside Birmingham, Lama Ole Nydahl recounted for the four friends in the car some of his experiences from the UK with Kalu Rinpoche and the 16th Karmapa, for example the Black Crown ceremony Karmapa gave on the banks of the Thames in London in 1980, and clarified some points about Tibetan Buddhist history. Lama Ole then rejoined the travelling group on the Channel Tour coach, pressing northwards through the rain.
Arriving in Manchester, Lama Ole Nydahl and the travelling group were greeted by the local sangha and met with representatives of the Northern UK Diamond Way Buddhist groups and centres, including Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield, York, Edinburgh and Glasgow. During the meal there was a discussion about the development of Diamond Way Buddhism in the North of the country.
Lama Ole Nydahl then proceeded to the Manchester Renaissance Hotel’s Medici Ballroom where he gave a lecture on Buddhist meditation. This was not the first time Lama Ole had taught in Manchester. In his book Riding the Tiger, Lama Ole Nydahl recounts an unusual event there in September 1974, when he and Hannah were together with the great lama Kalu Rinpoche on his first teaching visit in the UK:
“…in Manchester, Rinpoche suddenly announced that I would now continue his lecture. I was deeply thankful. It was a true initiation into his mind-stream, but I had to keep my eyes off a place right in the middle of the hall. There a man – otherwise quite normal looking – shone in a radiant green. There was no chance to investigate the phenomenon, and if I had not ignored it, there would not have been much of a lecture.”
This time there was no green man, but around 250 people attended the lecture, there was a question and answer session, and several newcomers took Buddhist refuge. Following the lecture, Lama Ole and the travelling group visited our Manchester Buddhist group at its current premises on Lower Ormond Street. There Lama Ole answered questions from the local sangha, and blessed the meditation room.
After breakfast the next morning with the Manchester sangha, Lama Ole boarded the Channel Tour coach and departed for the next stop on the way, Exeter. On the way Lama Ole used the time for making divinations (“mo” in Tibetan) to support important decisions needing to be taken about the new Moscow Buddhist centre project, as well as answering questions from students on the tour and catching up with the latest news.
In the afternoon the coach arrived in Exeter. This was Lama Ole’s second visit to this city. The Diamond Way Buddhist Centre there was established in 2003 and hosted Lama Ole for the first time in 2008. After meeting with the local sangha and answering some practical questions regarding the functioning of the centre, Lama Ole proceeded to the lecture venue, the Exeter Conference Centre. The title of his lecture was ‘Practical Buddhism’, about 250 people attended and there were many questions from the audience. Many newcomers took Buddhist refuge, including the driver of the Channel Tour coach who had got to know Lama Ole over the past days on the road!
On Thursday Lama Ole Nydahl and the travelling group departed for London. At Hendon, Lama Ole was collected by taxi to bypass the heavy London traffic to a meeting with members of the team involved with the project to find a new Buddhist Centre for London. After dinner, Lama Ole Nydahl gave a lecture at the Camden Centre entitled “Buddhism in the Modern World”. As is typically the case when so many of the audience are regular practitioners wishing to deepen their understanding and clarify doubts, Lama Ole Nydhal dedicated most of his time at the event answering a large number of questions. As usual the questions were asked either directly by those who chose to speak into the roving mic, or indirectly by others who chose to preserve their anonymity by writing their questions on paper and passing them to the front of the hall for Lama Ole to read. They covered a diverse range of subjects, which Lama Ole Nydahl answered with great openness. The 550 seats set out on the main floorspace were not enough to hold everybody who arrived, so one of the balconies was opened up to allow another 50 or so to be seated. The queue of people coming for a for blessing or to ask for personal advice continued late into the night, ending at 2am.
On Friday morning Lama Ole Nydahl left the London Diamond Way Buddhist Centre and was bid farewell by a group of students at London’s Heathrow Terminal 5 as he departed for Switzerland and on to the Europe Center. The visit was a fantastic success and we’re looking forward to next year, when we’re sure there will be some great events and important developments for Diamond Way Buddhism in the UK.