Lama Ole Nydahl visits London and the Beaufoy Institute, January 2013

Old electricity switch in the Beaufoy Institute building

Old electricity switch in the Beaufoy Institute building

From 23-27 January 2013, Lama Ole Nydahl visited London for a momentous and action-packed visit. Arriving at Heathrow Airport at lunchtime on Wednesday 23 January, fresh from his winter tour of Russia, Lama Ole with his travelling group including Tomek Lehnert were greeted by members of the London sangha as well as Caty Hartung, who had already arrived one day previously. The main focus of the visit was the London Diamond Way Buddhist Centre‘s new home at the Beaufoy Institute in Lambeth, the sale of which had completed on the auspicious day of 21 January (a Guru Rinpoche day). Caty had already spent quite a lot of time the previous day with friends in London, sharing her decades of experience in building up Diamond Way Buddhist Centres, and helping to answer many important practical questions about the big project ahead to transform the building.

Beaufoy Institute in the snow, January 2013The London sangha wait for Lama Ole Nydahl to arrive at the Beaufoy InstituteLama Ole Nydahl opening the doors to the Beaufoy Institute

Lama Ole symbolically opens the new Buddhist Centre

Lama Ole arrives in the main hall of the Beaufoy

Lama Ole arrives in the main hall of the Beaufoy

The car ride from the airport to our “old” London Buddhist Centre was a chance for Lama Ole and his team to catch up on some of the developments since his last visit to London in July 2012 when H.H. 17th Karmapa was in London. After taking a short rest and enjoying a meal with the local sangha, at 8pm Lama Ole entered the new Buddhist Centre together with a large gathering of students and friends for the first time as the new occupants of the building. Other than some basic cleaning and making sure that important security and health and safety measures were in place, the building had not been used since Diamond Way Buddhism became the Beaufoy’s new owners. The building had stood on the corner of Black Prince Road and Vauxhall Street in more or less the same derelict condition for the last 15 years, as if waiting for this very day. Over that time there had been a number of unsuccessful attempts by Lambeth Council to sell the property. At one stage, apparently, there was even another Buddhist group who had tried to bid for the property. However it seems that the conditions were not ripe up until now for the building to find its rightful new owners and take its place as the representative Buddhist centre for the Karma Kagyu lineage in London.

Lama Ole unveils a Buddha Statue in the main hall of the Beaufoy

Lama Ole unveils a Buddha Statue in the main hall of the Beaufoy

Despite the freezing weather outside and lack of heat inside the building, everybody crowded into the main hall, and listened to Lama Ole make a short speech about the history of the project, the building itself, and the hard work undertaken by so many, as well as challenges the London sangha successfully overcame in order to arrive at this historic moment. Following this, as is done daily in all Diamond Way Buddhist centres of the Karma Kagyu lineage worldwide, Lama Ole and all present invoked Karmapa’s protector, Black Coat (Skt. Mahakala, Tib. Dorje Bernagchen), wishing for a meaningful life with the ability to carry out Karmapa’s enlightened activity, for all disturbing emotions to be transformed into wisdom, and for all obstacles to Karmapa’s teachings to be immediately removed, dedicating all merit for the ultimate happiness and enlightenment of all beings.

Birth of a Buddhist Centre: Beaufoy Preparations begin

A picture from 1930 – the room in the Beaufoy that has become a small meditation hall

Following this, Lama Ole, Caty and many of the friends from different Diamond Way Buddhist centres present immediately started cleaning and preparing one of the rooms in the Beaufoy to become a small, functional meditation hall. In terms of the work ahead, the original beauty and architecture of the building will be fully respected, and all the historic (including many listed) features will be preserved and carefully restored. To this end, the London Diamond Way sangha is extremely fortunate to be advised in this task by Beate from Germany, a professional restorer who has played a leading role in the renovating the villa in the Europe Center in Bavaria, which was built in the same era as the Beaufoy Institute.

The following day, Thursday 24 January, was taken up by several meetings concerning the project, covering topics such as architecture and the use of the space inside the building, as well as who would take on key roles in managing the various elements of the forthcoming work. The London Diamond Way Buddhist centre was delighted to host Lama Jampa Thaye and his wife Dechen Dolma for a delicious lunch together with Lama Ole Nydahl and several friends. The two lamas took the opportunity to share their joyful experiences of establishing Tibetan Buddhism in the West, and catch up with the latest news.

Lama Jampa Thaye, Lama Ole and friends

Lama Jampa Thaye, Lama Ole and friends

Later in the evening, Lama Ole came to the Beaufoy Buddhist Centre once again, this time to transmit the practice of 8th Karmapa meditation to a large group of students, followed by some further work together with the enthusiastic and diligent friends renovating the new small meditation hall.

The next day, Friday January 25, Lama Ole, Caty, Tomek and a couple of other friends took a trip to just outside Reading, to meet for the first time with Uri Geller, see the report by Caty Hartung at Lama Ole’s Facebook page). Lama Ole had often spoken of Uri Geller since a remarkable experience in the 1970s. Lama Ole and Hannah were coming back from Sweden a day after Uri Geller had given a demonstration in Copenhagen, during which some of Lama Ole’s students had given Uri Geller a copy of Lama Ole’s first Buddhist book in English. At that time, Lama Ole experienced a sturdy Danish “Ruko” key becoming rubber-like and falling into two pieces, one piece getting stuck in the lock of the Copenhagen Diamond Way Buddhist Center at 3.00 in the morning. To this day, the pieces of the key are still kept in the Copenhagen Centre. As a lama who understands the world as a collective dream which can be changed through a concentrated mental input, and whose main teacher, the great 16th Karmapa, performed miracles every day, Lama Ole was exceedingly grateful to see a Westerner do this. Since that time, Lama Ole had followed Uri Geller in the press with great interest.

Uri Geller and Lama Ole NydahlLama Ole Nydahl and Uri GellerUri Geller Caty Hartung, Lama Ole Nydahl and Tomek Lehnert

On this occasion, it was wonderful that the busy schedules of both Lama Ole and Uri Geller coincided so that a meeting could finally happen. Within a few moments of exchange about their life stories and views of the world and the mind, the two men clearly developed a great appreciation for each other on a personal level, as well as for the positive work that each does around the world in their respective fields. Uri Geller, clearly a man well-versed in the latest media technology, snapped a picture with his BlackBerry of him and Lama Ole, and immediately posted it to his Facebook page! After arriving back in London, Lama Ole returned to the Beaufoy to give a question and answer session to a packed main hall.

Lama Ole is welcomed in the Beaufoy once again for a Q&A sessionview inside the main hall during Lama Ole's Q&A sessionLama Ole speaks to friends and students in the main hall of the Beaufoy

On Saturday 26 January, Lama Ole gave a public lecture entitled “Buddhism in the West” to an audience of 800 people in the Great Hall of Kensington Town Hall. This was the beautiful venue where in 2010, Lama Ole was a guest of honor at the initiation of Kalachakra given by H.H. Sakya Trizin which was hosted by Lama Jampa Thaye and the Dechen Community. Lama Ole gave a concise presentation of how Buddhism is practiced in the West today, paying particular attention to the highest view of Diamond Way Buddhism and the three qualities of enlightenment: fearlessness, spontaneous joy and active compassion. After the usual session of questions and answers in which people could clarify their understanding and check the teachings, around 100 people took Buddhist refuge. Lama Ole led a guided meditation, and all had the chance to receive a blessing.

Lama Ole teaching in the Kensington Town HallLama Ole teaching in the Kensington Town Hall 2Lama Ole teaching in the Kensington Town Hall 3

Meditation room inaugurated by Lama Ole in the Beaufoy

On the final day of his visit, on his way from the current centre in Holborn, where he was staying, to Heathrow Airport, Lama Ole Nydahl travelled to the new centre in south London for the last time during his visit to inaugurate the small meditation hall in the Beaufoy Institute, which was now in a remarkably improved condition after several days of hard work to get it into appropriate shape for people to start using for meditation. All of the London sangha, together with friends from all over the UK and abroad, managed to squeeze into the room, while Lama Ole invoked the five Dhyani Buddhas to activate the room for meditation practice.

Preparing the small meditation hall for Lama Ole's arrivalPreparing the meditation roomLama Ole Nydahl inaugurating the small meditation room

Afterwards, Lama Ole and his team were driven to Heathrow Airport to catch a flight to Dublin where Lama Ole was due to give a lecture later that evening. The London sangha and everyone present were left completely inspired by the visit and ready for the big task ahead to convert the Beaufoy Insitute into London’s largest Buddhist centre.

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