Ordination Retreat at Drala Jong

When Ngak’chang Rinpoche first met Kyabjé Düd’jom Rinpoche – Jig’drèl Yeshé Dorje in 1971 he immediately became ordained into the Gö-kar-chang-lo’i-dé, the Sangha of non-celibate practitioners, sporting white skirts and uncut hair. He also made the promise to Kyabjé Düd’jom Rinpoche that he would establish the Gö-kar-chang-lo’i-dé in the west. It became a lifelong endeavour to fulfill this promise together with his wife Khandro Déchen. Consequently it has been a huge milestone for the development of Drala Jong when in May 2022 the first ordination retreat commenced.

Four newly ordained students

At this occasion four students of Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen were ordained, including one Naljorma, one Naljorpa and two Ngakpas. The distinction between Ngakpas/Ngakmas  on the one hand and Naljorpas/Naljormas on the other hand is quite unique to the Aro gTér tradition. Both wear the white skirts from the Gö-kar-chang-lo’i-dé, but the upper garments differ in colour and shape and there is also some slight difference in the emphasis of practice. Ordination is a lifelong committment and therefore some serious preparation is necessary for those who consider to become ordained, including a study exam, completion of certain practices and participation in a pilgrimage.

The Retreat

Every ordination retreat involves a large amount of symbolic activity which needs a lot of preparatory work. Those to become ordained have to prepare special gTormas and learn a specific dance. Then they go on a specific retreat within the retreat to finally get ready for the ordination per se. The ordination ceremony itself is a huge empowerment in which a large number of tantric implements are used which need to be polished in advance. After the ordination there is a big fire ceremony which concludes the symbolic transformation.

Apart from all that the usual retreat activity is happening, which includes morning practice, wonderful meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, work on the land in the afternoon and formal teachings from the lineage holders in the evening. Ordination retreats in particular provide this feeling of warping time, where it is hard to believe how much is happening within a very brief period of time, where time flies by but one gets the feeling that one has stayed at Drala Jong for much longer than is actually the case. It is magical but completely ordinary at the same time.

Directly after the ordination ceremony the newly ordained are welcomed by their Vajra brothers and Vajra sisters and receive all kinds of presents. This is always an incredibly moving occasion. Ordination involves the commitment that one dedicates ones life to the lineage and thus becomes a representative of the Gö-kar-chang-lo’i-dé. While this is a huge commitment it is also a reason to celebrate because it provides the unique opportunity to live up to the full potential of ones life.

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