Okay, “Enlightenment or bust” might be a bit dramatic, but…

"Dang Zang" is an empty name. The blog has to do with the dharma; material related to Buddhist teachings (Tibetan style in particular, Kagyu in even more particular), meditation, gurus and lamas be they genuine or flaky, books and events. I do have a more personal blog, Pica Pica, and a site for my work.

Oh yes, it's by Alex Wilding


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    When is that? In Theresa May’s  speech to Republicans she is expected to say that “… as we end our membership of the European Union – as the British people voted with determination and quiet resolve to do last year – we have …” (The sentence goes on with more waffle-words like ” sovereign and global Britain”.) […]
  • Fight for me, Teresa 01/01/2017
    Theresa May seems to be revealing herself as a Class One “say-whatever-you-think-people-will-like-to-hear-at-the-time,-and-preferably-in-words-that-are-vague-enough-not-to-be-falsifiable-later” merchant. After “Brexit means Brexit” (eh?) and “I want a red, white and blue Brexit” (uh?), she claims in her New Year’s message that she will fight the remainers’ case in Europe too. Now, I am a remainer, or I would have voted […]
Tuesday June 30th, 2009. Posted by Alex W:

Old chestnuts about the Karmapa and the Dalai Lama

My good friend Dave Lawson sent me a link to an article in the Times Online by Michael Binyon. Written some three or four weeks ago, it is entitled Disunity threatens the Dalai Lama’s timeless authority. It is full of tired old chestnuts, and the comments that have been added by others are sadly full of ideas that I thought had curled up and died in a dusty corner long ago. We are only allowed 300 characters with which to comment on the Times site, so although I did that there, I wanted to expand on it here.

Binyon starts the article by referring, as if it were news, to the story of Lama Tenzin Osel, who “has changed his name, denounced the Buddhist order that revered him as a man of spiritual authority and is now studying film in Madrid”. Perhaps somebody can explain to me why this story suddenly spread across the news media a few weeks ago? In the cases that I read, it was always tied in, almost gleefully, with the idea that “See, things in Tibetan Buddhism are not as happy as people like to pretend”. I can certainly see that this case is not a happy one, and I can see that it does raise question marks, to some extent about the Tulku system in general, and more particularly about the recognition of little western boys (as Tenzin Osel was). The puzzle is, however, that it is old news. Tenzin Osel has been – and has been known to be – moving away from his role as a Tulku for some years. Clearly somebody decided recently to make it a campaigning point, but I don’t know who.

Binyon then feeds a couple of foolish misconceptions, to which I will return soon, by stating that “the Dalai Lama’s choice as his successor appears to have fallen on Ogyen Trinley Dorje”. Ogyen Trinley is, of course, the one we generally know as the 17th Karmapa. There are three problems here. Firstly, it is altogether jumping the gun. Secondly, the question of what is meant by “successor” badly needs clarifying. In the light of his age, intelligence, importance and charisma it is perfectly possible that the 17th Karmapa will become a semi-political figurehead for the Tibetans, just as the Dalai Lama is a semi-political figurehead at the moment. If the Dalai Lama were to give appropriate indications, there is no doubt that it would strengthen the possibility that this would happen, but he is not in a position to “appoint” the Karmapa in that way; it is simply a matter of popular feeling amongst the Tibetan people. Thirdly, however, there are also those who are frantically waving the nonsensical red herring that the Dalai Lama wants to appoint the Karmapa as the next Dalai Lama. This is, I suppose, intended as a form of scaremongering, but the idea could only be entertained by those with no clear idea of how these positions hang together.

A little further down Binyon asserts that “there is a major difficulty to any smooth transfer of authority to Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje: the Tibetan community is deeply split over his claim to the Karmapa throne”. This is just wrong. To the best of my knowledge, only a very tiny fraction of the Tibetan community have any allegiance for Shamarpa’s “rival Karmapa”. His followers consist almost entirely of those still loyal to Ole Nydahl and the “Diamondway” organisation. Binyon goes on: “A large number are loyal instead to the handsome and charismatic Trinley Thaye Dorje”. Apart from the fact that this is not true, and the number is not particularly large outside of Europe, he raises some almost embarrassing points here. While we would love to think that good looks and charisma are not important in these matters, we should perhaps be realistic. These are public figures. But “handsome and charismatic”? To judge from the photographs, Trinley Thaye Dorje is not as weedy as he looked a few years ago, which is pleasing no doubt. But if you want “tall, handsome and charismatic”, and if you feel that these issues have a lot of weight, then you simply cannot get past the more generally recognised Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje:


(Oh, did I mention intelligent and artistically gifted?)

The next chestnut is Binyon’s assertion that “The Supreme Court in India has backed Thaye Dorje’s claim”. It has not. The endlessly slow court processes in Sikkim are still proceeding. Some years ago – and this seems to be the basis of Binyon’s statement – the court did make a procedural ruling on the question of whether Gyaltsap Rinpoche could appear in a particular role in the court proceedings on the same side as the supporters of the generally recognised Karmapa. The Supreme Court said that he could not, and Shamarpa’s followers trumpeted this as a victory. In fact it was nothing of the sort; it had an effect on the way that the court case was to be heard but said nothing about the final conclusions, for which we are still waiting.

In his remaining paragraphs, Binyon manages to insert one or two more unlikely claims. He suggests that the Karmapa is “pro Chinese”, a point of view widely promulgated by the opposing side, but one which requires considerable intellectual acrobatics when explaining the Karmapa’s escape from the Chinese at the beginning of the millennium. He says, for instance, that “many commentators” consider the script of the letter that played a part in the Karmapa’s recognition was very different from the normal writing of its claimed author, the 16th Karmapa. One wonders who the “many commentators” are – I suggest that there are one or two commentators who take that point of view, some who say that the handwriting is like that of the 16th Karmapa, and quite a number who said that it is impossible to tell.

Some of the comments added to this article are even more tired. Morgan Camp, for instance, asks “Is there a historical precedent for the Dali (sic) Lama choosing a Karmapa or is this the first time this has ever occurred?” The implication, of course, is that the Dalai Lama did in fact choose this Karmapa, which is simply not true. The Dalai Lama confirmed and added his own recognition to the recognition presented to him by three of the four “regents” of the 16th Karmapa. But I must leave you to read them for yourself.

Sunday June 28th, 2009. Posted by Alex W:

Yet more links – part II

The panel on the right was too cramped for what I want to do, so I’ve moved the links to a Links Page – it will be easier to expand and comment there, and to arrange them more clearly into groups as time goes on.

I have now done a bit of weeding, and added a few brief remarks for each link.

Wednesday June 24th, 2009. Posted by Alex W:

Links, links

A “blogroll” of chosen links would be a good idea, but in the meantime here are some of the links I had on the old version of this site. I’m open to suggestions as to improvements or broken links, and I guess I could go through my “favourites” to see what else there is.

While the Gyalwa Karmapa was so much in the news since his flight from Tibet, Nalandabodhi were providing links to news stories, video and audio clips etc., and although that is now a thing of the past, a lot of interesting material is still accessible there.

I used to have a huge collection of links, but I never had time to keep checking them for content, availability etc., and there are others who do that kind of thing much better than me. There are always search engines, or you could go to Quiet Mountain. So this is just a small selection of personal favourites:

If you are looking for an introduction to Buddhism on the web, there are some very clear teachings presented by KTD, over there in New York State, and the teachings at Samye Ling in Scotland are also well worth a look – see links to these centres below. You could spend many happy hours browsing on the base of Simhananda, where Anthony Bruno has, amongst other things, a long list of rather well-chosen teachings.

You wanna know more? Read a book! You wanna book? Try Snow Lion, possibly the best bookstore in the world – there is a link at top right too, and you might also like to sign up for their newsletter.

Don’t know what to buy? Let me suggest Dharma Paths which is a good clear basic summary by Khenpo Karthar, Luminous Mind by Kalu Rinpoche, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation (I would suggest the Khenpo Konchog version), the Life of Milarepa, the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, Mahamudra Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance, Words of my Perfect Teacher … but I’m not trying to provide a bibliography.

If you can’t afford to spend, spend, spend, there is excellent reading in the on-line newsletter that used to be issued by Shenpen Osel. The site stopped growing years ago, but the old issues are still available, and well worth downloading.

Time to put some of it into practice? You might, for instance, like to take a trip to Scotland and stay at Samye Ling, but if you are on the left of the Atlantic you might nip to NY to visit Karma Triyana Dharmachakra – the site also includes reading in Densal Online. When in Kathmandu, if you can tear yourself away from the stupa at Baudha, why not visit Benchen, the monastery of Tenga Rinpoche and of Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. Last and perhaps this time really least, as a Birmingham lad, I can’t close this paragraph without including Birmingham Karma Ling, but the site is currently unavailable. Recently (did someone say “at last”?) a simple site, but useful if you are thinking of going, has opened for Marpa House (between Cambridge and Saffron Walden, England), dear to my heart, where I took refuge back in 1974!

A few links related to individual teachers: Thrangu Rinpoche has a site that might well be worth a visit, a site was opened recently for the great Khenpo Tsultrim, while Ringu Tulku Rinpoche has a site worth checking. Not so much an individual teacher, the Tibetan Government in Exile‘s website contains a lot of good information, both religious and political.

Feel like a chat? I wouldn’t recommend usenet these days, but how about joining up at the Kagyu discussion list at “yahoo”.

Karma Samten Choeling here in Sydney now has a new, working site. Traleg Rinpoche’s centre unfortunately still does not.

And when it’s time to DO something, what about helping Rokpa?

Tuesday June 23rd, 2009. Posted by Alex W:

HH Karmapa’s birthday

This Friday 26th June, is the 24th birthday of His Holiness 17th Karmapa, Orgen Trinley Dorje.

HH Karmapa at Bodhgaya - photo Karma Triyana Dharmachakra

HH Karmapa at Bodhgaya - photo Karma Triyana Dharmachakra

Some people will be reciting a mala (i.e. 108 times) or more of His Holiness’ mantra – “Karmapa Khyenno” – and dedicating this to His Holiness.

If you have no idea how to pronounce that, click here. (It’s only me, so it could be better!)

Edit: Oh, I have been reminded of the Billion Mantra Initiative, and that anyone who does this can still contribute their counts (preferably on or before the day) by going to khandro.net.

Sunday June 21st, 2009. Posted by Alex W:

Four years of retreat over!


Retreatants - photo Samye Ling

I don’t know how long this clip will remain available, but the determination of these people is really remarkable. Four years in close retreat is not to be sneezed at, though I dare say one could catch a cold on the Isle of Arran. The retreatants have gone off to Samye Ling to come down to earth.

One can’t help but be curious what other motives may drive some of these people, and it will be interesting to see what value they put on the experience in 10 or 20 years time. But for now – well done!

Tuesday June 9th, 2009. Posted by Alex:

Talking of phones…

… and their use as meditation aids, as I did a couple of weeks ago, there is an iPhone app from apricle technologies – I think the company has just been formed for this product, but who knows where it will go.

Me, I have a phone that is four years old and does its job, and a Casio digital wristwatch, but those of you with more modern equipment might like to check it out.

Wednesday June 3rd, 2009. Posted by Alex:

Tiananmen Square

Let us not forget. 20 years ago tomorrow. Here is one article in the Wall Street Journal.