The Hermitage: Our Teachers
The very venerable Bardok Chusang Rinpoche of Dingri, Tibet, is one of the spiritual leaders of the Dharma Fellowship and our Hermitage on Denman Island, Canada. His Dharma lineage comes from the great Tibetan yogis Sakyasri and Tipun Rinpoche. In his younger days, venerable Chusang Rinpoche—who is of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition—spent some six years in isolated retreat in a cave in the wilderness region north of Mount Everest, training his body and mind to master the Six Yoga’s of Naropa and Mahamudra. He became a great meditation master and yogi, before having to leave Tibet in 1959. Since then he has lived a family life in Nepal, where he is today widely renowned amongst the Tibetan community for his deep wisdom and saintliness.
Some years ago Rinpoche blessed the land upon which the Hermitage has now been established, praying that on that spot would develop a Western practice center suitable for solitary retreats by individuals drawn to deep meditation practice. Unfortunately, in more recent years, due to his advanced age and the difficulties of travel, the venerable Bardok Chusang Rinpoche’s visits to the Hermitage have become less frequent, although he has expressed hope of visiting the Hermitage again, sometime in the future.
It is Chusang Rinpoche who gave our Hermitage its Tibetan name, “Kunzang Samten Yangtse,” meaning the “Peak of All-Good Meditation."
Rodney P. Devenish (Karma Kunzang Palden Rinpoche) and his wife Lisa Devenish are the co-founders of the Hermitage, and Lama has been teaching meditation there from the start, personally guiding individuals as they develop their meditation practice. His speciality is the Kagyu teaching of Mahamudra, which he received chiefly from his root master Karma Namgyal Rinpoche, but also from Trungpa Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche and a number of other Lamas. From those Lamas, and from His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, he received an array of Kagyu empowerments – particularly the Marpa lineage full crown empowerments of Sri Vajradhara and Hevajra-dakini-samvara. Having completed both the Kagyu and Nyingma preliminary practices, he has further received the crowning empowerment of the Guhyagarbha from Penor Rinpoche, late head of the Nyingmapa school, the Mindrolling Vajrasattva-cycle and Dzogchen instruction from Khenpo Palden Sherab Rinpoche, and the transmission of Vajrakilaya from Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche (1933-2004). The Chöd practice of Jigme Lingpa was given by Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche. During a ten year period as a celibate Buddhist monk, Lama Rodney spent his long winters in isolated meditation retreat in the snowy wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, where he completed the Kagyu practices given him by his teacher Namgyal Rinpoche, with particular focus on the Six Yogas of Naropa and Mahamudra.
As a Western Lama inspired by the broad interests of his teacher Karma Namgyal Rinpoche, Lama’s teaching style is ecumenical and universalist, while remaining deeply rooted in the Kagyu tradition. Originally trained as an artist, he has studied many subjects extensively, including analytical psychology, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, comparative religion, philosophy and classical metaphysics. He takes a non-dogmatic approach, believing that the essence of Dharma chiefly consists of personal self-enquiry, investigation of the nature of consciousness and the world in which we find ourselves, coupled with a persistent effort to establish love in the heart. Many students at the Hermitage have found Lama’s method especially conducive for the rapid induction of blissful one-pointedness, the deep meditative state known as Samadhi. Students practice on their own, in the midst of nature, supported by frequent personal interviews with the teacher.
The most venerable Karma Gyurme Rinpoche of Dza-chu-ka, who resides in the vast highlands of far eastern Tibet, visits Canada only when circumstances permit, chiefly with the aim of raising support for the very poor children of his district, for whom he has succeeded in building a school, clinic and other facilities. He is presently engaged in building a large hospital in Dza-chu-ka.
Rinpoche’s Dharma lineage comes down from the renowned Buddhist saint Mipham Namgyal, the great nineteenth century Namgyal Rinpoche. Earlier in his life Rinpoche spent nine years in isolated retreat in a cave in central Tibet. Considered by many to be quite an exceptional yogi-master, he is famous for his healing powers. Many seemingly miraculous cures have been attributed to his use of prayer, breath, and the laying on of hands.
Although Karma Gyurme Rinpoche has only visited the Hermitage once, he is nevertheless one of our head Lamas; we are bound to him by a deep heart connection. He oversees, through his prayers, the inner development of all who practice meditation there. When travel and circumstances allow, he will visit us again, to bestow his precious ‘Healing Buddha’ empowerment.
Lama Lodoe Rabsal (Sidney McQueen-Smith) is a leading Spiritual Teacher at the Hermitage. He has been a Dharma practitioner for over 40 years, both in the world and as an ordained monk. For many years he worked as a medical doctor serving communities in the Canadian north. Now retired, he has been teaching Dharma and meditation in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island. His principal teachers include His Holiness the 16th and 17th Karmapa, His Eminance Tai Situ Rinpoche, Ayang Rinpoche, and the great Canadian master, Karma Namgyal Rinpoche. His expertise includes a profound knowledge of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, meditation for the Dying and the Dead, a knowledge of the deep metaphysics of the Prajnaparamita, and in particular, an understanding, through personal experience, of the path and method of Awakening for those living in the world. Lama Lodroe Rabsal has a unique way of making the age-old teachings come alive. He speaks from his own experience and deep insight. His talks at the Hermitage have been deeply appreciated by all and we feel very fortunate that he has agreed to teach on a regular basis at our centre. Over the next few years, Lama Lodroe Rabsal will be giving a series of tantric empowerments at the Hermitage from the Namgyal Kagyu tradition.
Nagkpa Kalzang Dorje is Head Lama of Thubten Choling in Duncan, BC. A yogi from Rekong in Amdo, far eastern Tibet, he grew up studying Buddhist philosophy, psychology and meditation under the guidance of a number of very famous teachers, one of whom included the great Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. In 1992 he entered Shedrup Dojo Ling monastery in Nepal where he became the chosen disciple of the Very Venerable Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche. As a regular visiting teacher at the Hermitage, Ngakpa Kalzang has taught basic Dzogchen Ngondro, as well as a set of Chod techniques in the Dudjom tradition. Besides Chöd practice, Lama is an expert in the complete 'secret mantra tradition' of the Nyingmapa school and a fully trained practitioner at all levels of Dzogchen.
Gerry Kopelow (Lama Gyurme Dorje) is the founder and resident teacher of the Dharma Centre of Winnipeg. He has extensive knowledge of a variety of Buddhist practices in both the Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. His principal teacher was the late Karma Namgyal Rinpoche, from whom he received authority to give a number of empowerments in the Kagyu tradition. Lama Gerry is also an internationally published author, lecturer, and photographer, with a wide range of skills in such diverse fields as business, personal counseling, and community development.
On occasion we have had the pleasure of welcoming Nyingmapa Lama, venerable Lingtrul Rinpoche to the Hermitage. Lingtrul Rinpoche is the head of several monasteries in Tibet, and has a Dharma centre called Kathok Gonpa near Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island, not far from the Hermitage on nearby Denman Island. Rinpoche resides much of the year in California, but we always look forward to Lingtrul Rinpoche’s visits to our centre.
Alison Yarwood is a fully certified Iyenga Yoga (IYAC) teacher who has been teaching Hatha Yoga on Denman Island for a great many years. Involved with the Hermitage from the very beginning, Alison now teaches there, combining instruction on physical yoga with sitting and walking meditation practice. Deeply nurturing, Alison has been especially helpful to students who have trouble maintaining good sitting posture; many long-term practitioners of meditation have praised the significant benefit they have received from her instruction. She emphasizes the importance of physical relaxation, balance and good posture as a platform for successful meditation practice, and also includes breath-work (pranayama) as a support for the practice.
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