Gendun karpo literally means ‘white sangha’ and refers to the colour of our skirts – as distinct from the gendun marpo or red skirted monastic sangha. We are also known variously as the ngak’phang sangha (‘mantra wielding’, in reference to the fruitional stage of the mantra practice in which we engage) and also the ‘gö-kar-chang-lo’i-dé’ (the series of those who wear white skirts and maintain long hair). This tradition of ordination is based upon the teachings of Buddhist Tantra, whereas monasticism is based upon Buddhist sutra.
The gendun karpo has been subject to huge political pressure since the end of the first spread of Buddhism in Tibet. In modernity the pressure is such that almost all Tibetan women who practice in this style hide from public gaze, rarely wearing the characteristic white skirt. Many male practitioners also wear the red skirt of the monastic tradition to avoid persecution.
Prior to his passing in 1988, Dud’jom Rinpoche was the head of the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, and every Nyingma Lama of the mid-late 20th Century revered him as their teacher. He gave the name ‘Sang-ngak-chö-dzong’ (‘secret fortress of mantra’) as an inspiration for this accomplishment of his vision. In 1988 Ngak’chang Rinpoche ordained Lama Nor’dzin Pamo – the first Western woman to take ordination into this stream of practice. As time has passed many others have taken these vows, such that in the year 2000, 84 sangha members spent a week together in Baarlo in the Netherlands, which concluded with 25 ordained sangha members emerging from the retreat. In the meantime in 1993 Sang-ngak-chö-dzong became a registered UK charity. This charity has since supported this unique style of practice, including helping make available teachings from the Aro gTér, Dud’jom gTér, Khordong gTér and Chang gTér. The Drala Jong appeal is the next step in our commitment to Dud’jom Rinpoche to see the gendun karpo permanently established in the West.
I have the great pleasure to be the appeal director for this work, and this blog is intended to give supporters and the wider public a little insight into how we are setting about fulfilling our promise to His Holiness Dud’jom Rinpoche.