Esteemed Tibetan master Gochen Tulku Sangak* Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Namchak Foundation, the world lineage holder of the Namchak lineage, and a “high lama” who specializes in advanced practices. Rinpoche’s brother and dharma (teachings) heir, Namchak Khenpo Rinpoche Ngawang Gelek is a Tibetan-born scholar who teaches students at all levels. Rinpoche and Khen Rinpoche’s brother, Namchak Dorje Lopön Choeji Lodoe, is also a teacher in the Namchak lineage. The three brothers work together closely to spread and enrich the Namchak lineage. Lama Tsomo, author of Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling?, is a Western-born teacher who specializes in offering accessible and lively introductions to Tibetan Buddhist practice.
Tulku Sangak Rinpoche
Tulku Sangak Rinpoche is the world lineage holder of the Namchak lineage. He is the Spiritual Director of the Namchak Foundation and the Namchak Retreat Ranch, as well as Ewam and Namchak centers internationally.
Born in Chamdo in the Kham region of Tibet in 1952, Rinpoche was recognized in early childhood by the great Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö [1893-1959], as well as by the former Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, to be the reincarnation of the Gochen Tulku.
Rinpoche’s parents were hoping he was the reincarnation of another master instead—the great tertön Tsasum Lingpa, founder of our Namchak lineage. Tsasum Lingpa had been reborn in their family repeatedly, in the past. Their family had been responsible for the local Namchak Ritrö monastery and Tsasum Lingpa’s hermitage.
Imagine their chagrin when, as soon as he was old enough to speak a bit, he himself insisted he was actually a reincarnation of another lama—the Gochen Tulku! As such, he was head of the Gochen monasteries of the Namchak lineage. Soon after that he was formally recognized and confirmed as the 6th incarnation of the Gochen Tulku. It was Tsasum Lingpa who first predicted and named the site for the first Gochen Monastery, which was then built by the first Gochen Tulku, Gyalwa Gyatso.
Around the age of three, when Rinpoche was with his family and a large group of others harvesting hay in the fields, he was left sitting on a boulder at the foot of a cliff, where he imparted the wondrous sign of his realization by leaving his footprint in a rock, as though in soft clay. To this day it is still visible.
During the Cultural Revolution after 1969, he received important teachings including Dzogchen (the Great Perfection) from Tulku Chemchok Rinpoche and practiced them deeply. Later on, due to the kindness of HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, he spent 14 years studying and practicing under him outside of Tibet. At that time, His Holiness personally empowered him to take charge and uphold the Namchak lineage by starting the Namchak retreat center in Nepal. He published the Treasure teachings of the Namchak lineage, beginning soon after HH Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche’s parinirvana.
Tulku Sangak Rinpoche, an outstanding meditation master and scholar, is a primary lineage holder of the Namchak lineage. He also holds other widely practiced lineages of Tibet. Rinpoche is a master stupa builder as well. He has established the Turquoise Leaf Nunnery, a convent in Nepal, where more than fifty nuns live and practice.
When he was about seven, he first heard of the land of America. He thought of nothing else for a week, and knew that he would ultimately move here. He had specific visions of places here in the U.S.
As an adult, on one of his early trips to America, he asked Lama Tsomo to drive him around so that he could look for a place to create a center. Rinpoche recognized from his childhood visions the land on which the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas now sits. That is where he created his first U.S. center.
After living in Montana for many years, he and his family have now moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he has established a retreat and practice center, Pema Khandro Ling.
After establishing the first Ewam in the U.S., the center’s Dharma activity prospered around the world, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Bhutan, India, and others. In the States, Rinpoche later bestowed the Lama title to Sangak Tsomo, and she was given the responsibility to begin the work on building the retreat center and the translations of the Namchak lineage texts, to which he expressed his approval and support for Lama Tsomo’s endeavor.
Namchak Khenpo Rinpoche Ngawang Gelek (Khen Rinpoche)
Khen Rinpoche is one of the younger brothers of Tulku Sangak Rinpoche. They are descendents of the Great Treasure Revealer Tsasum Lingpa, since nearly three centuries ago, and became known as the Namchak family. The Namchak family originates from the Sum (pronounced “soom”) family of the Tong clan, one of the six original clans of the Tibetan people.
After entering the Namdroling Monastery Shedra of HH Penor Rinpoche, Khen Rinpoche completed the study of all the Indian Buddhist philosophical traditions and the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism under numerous great teachers. He also completed the nine years of rigorous training and served at the Namdroling monastery for several years. Enthroned as Khenpo by HH Penor Rinpoche, he taught at the Shedras of Ringo Tulku and Shechen Monastery for many years, as was instructed. Khen Rinpoche strictly abides by his precepts in everyday life and is diligent in his practice.
As it was necessary for assistance to Tulku Sangak Rinpoche, Khen Rinpoche was sent forth from Namdroling by HH Penor Rinpoche. He taught at the Nunnery and Purbaling retreat centers in Nepal, beginning from the Preliminary Practices through the stages of generation and completion, and then to Tsalung. Besides representing Tulku Sangak Rinpoche as his spiritual heir, he visits and teaches a variety of places around the world, including the Namchak Foundation and the Namchak Retreat Ranch, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other locations. While in the U.S., he resides and meditates at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee, Montana.
Lama Tsomo is an American lama, author, and co-founder of the Namchak Foundation and Namchak Retreat Ranch.
Born Linda Pritzker, Lama Tsomo followed a path of spiritual inquiry and study that ultimately led to her ordination as one of the few American lamas in Tibetan Buddhism.
Under the tutelage of Tulku Sangak Rinpoche, international holder of the Namchak lineage, Lama Tsomo has done extensive spiritual retreats in the U.S. and abroad, and is fluent in Tibetan. Today, she is dedicated to sharing the teachings of the Namchak lineage with Western students, bringing greater happiness and meaning to life through meditation practice, community, and retreat. She is especially passionate about reaching young people and supporting those working for positive social change. Her teaching has inspired American and international students, who appreciate her informal, and often humorous, style.
Lama Tsomo holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Jungian studies. She is the author of Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? An Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice, winner of a 2016 Independent Publisher award.
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Aaron Stern is the president and founder of the Academy for the Love of Learning, he is a musician, teacher, and internationally recognized consultant on learning. A guest teacher at Namchak, he facilitates teachings at our Waking Up in Community and Clearing the Lens retreats.
As the Academy’s creative and educational leader, Stern designs and directs the Academy’s core curriculum and faculty, guides program development, and offers select trainings in depth facilitation and diverse aspects of the Academy’s pedagogy.
During the early 1980s, Stern served as Dean of the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. It was here that he began to focus on learning and educational processes, developing creative, experiential curricula that won national acclaim.
It was during that time that Stern re-met his mentor, musician Leonard Bernstein, and the two embarked upon an intense 10-year collaboration. Stern had already begun to imagine a new institution focused on learning and their conversations and shared experiences further informed Stern in his quest to find ways to awaken, nurture, and sustain a life-long love of learning as a means to becoming more fully human. This early work laid the foundation for what is now the Academy for the Love of Learning, founded by Stern in 1998.
Today, Stern conducts programming in Santa Fe, consultancies and seminars throughout the United States and other parts of the world, and serves as a member of the Board and Fellow of the Mind & Life Institute, co-founded by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.