Overview of the Dharma Fellowship
The Background History of the Fellowship
Dharma Fellowship was originally founded in the Dominion of Canada on
8th June 1973 by personal request of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa,
Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1923-1981), supreme head of the Kagyu
Order of Tibet. It began as a small society of Westerners interested in practicing
Buddhism and studying the profound secret oral tradition of the
Kagyu and Nyingma schools of
The late Venerable
Tenzin Dorje Namgyal was most instrumental,
both as a major inspiration and as a source of wise advice,
in the development of the Dharma Fellowship. Beloved
Namgyal Rinpoche was a longtime personal disciple of
His Holiness the 16th Karmapa. As His Holiness the Karmapa stated (April
25th 1977): "I consider Namgyal Rinpoche chief in Canada in the
activities of introducing, elucidating and demonstrating the Karma
Kagyu teachings." It is entirely thanks
to Namgyal Rinpoche that our society embraces the principles
we hold most dear.
The Dharma Fellowship was newly confirmed in its role by
Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Urgyen Thinley Dorje, at
Gyuto Tantric University
in Sidbhari, India, on the 18th of April 2000, and entirely reorganized with
new headquarters in California, and now with a small monastic retreat center once again in Canada.
The Purpose of the Fellowship
In the "mission statement", as defined by
His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, the purpose of the society
- To study, teach and practice the Buddha Dharma
- More specifically, to develop and share the Tibetan
spiritual tradition of Buddhism in such a way as
to be meaningful to Western peoples.
- To support the ecumenical dissemination of the teachings and practices
of the Kagyu Tradition of Buddhism amongst whomsoever might wish to
benefit there from.
At the heart of everything, is our aim to establish and
perpetuate a viable living "Practice Tradition" (Tib:
sgrub-brgyud) in the West. What we practice is mystical Buddhist
Yoga—the esoteric practice and meditation techniques of the Vidyadharas
and Siddhas, passed down from ancient times. The fellowship is a school
of Esoteric Buddhism for seekers of truth in the West. His Holiness the
16th Karmapa did not believe that the authentic wisdom-teachings of Tibetan
Buddhism would be truly founded in the West until real Western tantric yogis and yoginis could
be trained, doing practice in their own native language and culture.
To pursue Enlightenment, to directly experience the ultimate nature
of Mind through meditation, and to work to make the world a better place—this
for us is the very essence of the Buddha Dharma.
The Spiritual Leadership of the Fellowship
His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa is the permanent supreme spiritual head
of the Dharma Fellowship. For up-to-date and current information concerning
the activities of His Holiness the Karmapa, please visit
the Kagyu Office website.
Under the direction of His
Holiness the Karmapa, head of the Kagyu school of Buddhist practice,
we are guided by the spiritual leadership of three exulted Lamas. These
are the Venerable Bardok
Chusang Rinpoche, the Venerable
Karma Gyurme Rinpoche and the Venerable Karma Kunzang Palden Rinpoche.
Lama Lodroe Rabsal Rinpoche (Sydney McQueen-Smith), local representative for His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche and a leading lineage holder of the late Karma Namgyal Rinpoche, now lives as a resident teacher at our Hermitage
on Denman Island.
The official Abbot (khenpo) of the Dharma Fellowship is the most Venerable
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche,
personal teacher to His Holiness the Karmapa. As tutor for the four principal
Karma Kagyu regents, it was Thrangu Rinpoche who initially established
the basic monastic curriculum of the Karma-Kagyu lineage headed at Rumtek,
in India. As our abbot, he is in charge of the monastic community belonging
to the Dharma Fellowship.
Kunzang Samten Yangtse - Denman Island, BC, Canada
A Hermitage in the West for Meditation and Enlightenment
Following the model of yogic ashrams that exist in India,
the isolated retreat communities of Tibet, the wilderness hermitages
of ancient China, or the forest monasteries of Burma, we
feel the need to create a place in the West where deep meditation may
be carried out amidst pleasant wooded surroundings and meadows in
the beautiful privacy of nature. Our aim therefore is
to create a peaceful Hermitage where
visitors may come for periods as short as a single weekend, to ten days,
three weeks, or as long as three months, to relax and
practice quiet meditation under the kindly guidance of
one or more authorized teachers. One principle we definitely want to foster, which derives from the ancient ashrams and forest monasteries of the Orient, is that of personal inner seeking, a quest to know oneself, especially through the application of traditional paths of meditation and yoga. In the present age, as a result of new psychological studies and the modern brain imaging techniques of neuroscience, the science of the living brain, there comes solid proof that these ancient paths really do lead to physical, mental and all-round improvement – advanced brain growth, greater empathy toward others, natural stress reduction, fresh states of healthy mental wellbeing, clearer thought, and better functioning. Therefore the difference that can be made in the world through learning the practice of meditation and yoga is enormous!
Spiritual Life is meaningless unless there is an aim
to make the world a better place for all sentient beings.
This great truth obliges us to practice mercy and compassion in our
daily lives. Thus motivated by a wish to lesson the suffering of others,
the Dharma Fellowship conducts Charitable
Work helping poor orphaned children in far eastern Tibet and Tibetan
refugee children in Nepal.
We encourage members and non-members alike to become Companions
of Mercy and help these destitute children in their struggle to survive.
The Board of Directors
The Dharma Fellowship is strictly a membership driven
organization. This means that members mutually decide
on the direction of their society, inviting various Lamas
and spiritual Teachers (of different religious traditions,
as they so wish) to give guidance in meditation and spiritual
The Dharma Fellowship is a legal religious non-profit
publicly supported society instituted on democratic lines
and governed by a member-elected executive Board of Directors. This
board is responsible for implementing the wishes of the
membership and putting into effect the general business
of the fellowship. The board is elected annually at a membership meeting.
Dharma Fellowship is entirely non-political. The Fellowship does not
take sides in political issues.
A Few Further Miscellaneous Facts You Should Know
A number of other Lamas are closely associated with
the Fellowship, such as Tai
Situ Rinpoche's secretary
Lama Tenam, who very kindly has served as liaison officer
between Fellowship interests and the main Office of the
Ka'gyu Administration in India. Graf Peter von
Finckenstein represents the society in Europe.
Although a Buddhist group, we are ecumenical and non-sectarian in our
approach. We seek truth, not only as may be obtained through the teachings
transmitted from the Buddhist saints of India, Southeast Asia, or the
Lamas of Tibet, but also from all the equally wonderful spiritual elders
the world over, regardless of race or religion.
is extremely important to us that the individual officers, lamas, teachers,
monks and nuns of the Dharma Fellowship be obliged to adhere to the moral
and ethical principles set forth in the teachings of Buddhism. We absolutely
do not tolerate unethical or sexually abusive behaviour by anyone appointed
to be a spiritual exemplar, a Lama or teacher, in our society. It is vital
that the conduct of everyone associated with the Fellowship be at all
times such as to live up to the centuries old high ethical standards and
virtuous reputation of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa.
In line with the way we are structured, we also should
say that any fault in our presentation, any errors of
statement appearing in our literature or on this website,
is due to us alone, the members of the Dharma Fellowship.