What is Buddhist practice?
“Early in my studies with Rinpoche, he clarified a foundational point to me. He told me that what he was teaching me was not a religion, but a set of highly effective, proven methods for improving my mind. Eventually, if I followed them and succeeded, they would lead me to full enlightenment.” —Lama Tsomo
While most contemporary mindfulness techniques originate from Buddhism, today people from all sorts of religious backgrounds—and no religious background—practice meditation. Why? Because they see the benefits in the form of decreased stress, enhanced creativity, better focus, and improved relationships with other people and with their inner selves.
The practices we share are part of the Namchak tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism, there are hundreds of branches, or lineages, associated with different regions and monasteries. These lineages can be traced back through Guru Rinpoche, who established Buddhism in Tibet, and to the Buddha who began it all in India more than two and a half millennia ago.
The Namchak Lineage
Each lineage of Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) has distinct stories, teachings, and ceremonies for achieving the goals of mindfulness and enlightenment. This is similar to the way Christian denominations follow varying liturgies and practices, while still practicing Christianity.
Within Tibetan Buddhism, Nyingma is a major branch, and Namchak is a small lineage within it. Tulku Sangak* Rinpoche is its holder and a high lama. Namchak Khenpo, Rinpoche’s brother and his Dharma Heir, spends most of his time in Montana, and will be our resident Vajra Master at the Retreat Ranch. Lama Tsomo, a Westerner ordained by Rinpoche and founder of Namchak Foundation, is a key member of the team building the retreat ranch and helping introduce the lineage to areas of the Western Hemisphere.
The Namchak Retreat Ranch, true to its name, is dedicated to the teachings of Tulku Sangak Rinpoche and the Namchak Lineage.
What makes Vajrayana different?
Vajrayana Buddhism differs from the other vehicles of Buddhism in two primary ways:
- Practitioners approach working with negative emotions in a different manner.
- Teachings are offered only through a qualified teacher, usually a lama (like a minister or rabbi), who carries a particular lineage, or tradition, carefully handed down through the centuries.
Gochen Tulku Sangak Rinpoche is the world lineage holder in the Namchak tradition. Rinpoche received authority to teach the Namchak lineage first from masters in Tibet, then from a master named Pedgyal Lingpa before coming to the United States in 1994. Now he and our translation committee are working to translate the 33 volumes of the Namchak lineage from Tibetan into English.
Curious to learn more? Sign up for Namchak’s eCourse, Always Smiling: An Introduction to Tibetan Buddhist Practice and have beginner-level meditation practices delivered to your inbox once a week.
* Sometimes spelled “Sang-Ngag”