In 2001, Thrangu Rinpoche sent Lama Wangyal to Oxford, as the spiritual head and manager of Thrangu House. This gesture is a very profound indication of Rinpoche’s faith in Thrangu House and the Sangha, and of his belief in the centre’s potential to flourish. Following established Home Office procedure Lama Wangyal was originally issued with a temporary visa allowing him to stay in the UK for a year at a time. Lama has now been living in the UK for the full specified period during which he must remain under temporary visa status, and was recently granted leave to remain in the UK, under a ‘minister of religion’ visa.
The importance of having a Lama living full-time in Oxford cannot be overstressed. Although scholastic learning is an indispensable component of the Buddhist path, the transmission of true, spiritual knowledge cannot be reduced to theory. The great pandit Naropa was at the top of his class in the famous university of Nalanda, and yet, one day, when an ugly old woman pointed out his insecurities about his knowledge of Dharma, he realised that he had to give up the life of a scholar, and went off in search of a guru. Having found his teacher in the form of Tilopa, he began what was the most difficult and arduous, but ultimately rewarding phase of his spiritual journey.
Historically in Tibet, the master/disciple relationship developed as pockets of disciples began crystallising around a master. When the number of the group increased, they formed an authentic monastic community (Sangha), even building around the original cave dwelling of the master. Thus, not detracting from the tradition of great yogis attracted by the solitude of a hermit’s life, the monasteries multiplied. In this way, the direct master/disciple relationship persists in parallel to the development of profound scholastic systems incorporating philosophy, literature, and special methods of spiritual attainment.Thrangu Rinpoche has been extremely kind and trusting in sending Lama Wangyal here to Oxford. It is a rare opportunity of great importance, to be embraced with joy! Now that we have the master, we have the foundation necessary to develop a strong Sangha, on the basis of which great things are possible. As his long-term position has been finally secured, Lama Wangyal is doubly intent on realising Rinpoche’s long-term vision for his centre in the UK—a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, built to support and educate the Sangha.
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