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


  • A Brexit puzzle 03/07/2017
    No, not the one about “why did we ever…?” This: Let’s think of an election, perhaps a general election. A vital part of our democratic process, of course. Usually it’s a two-horse race with a few also-rans, so let’s just concentrate on the two main parties, and call them left and right. One side wins, […]
  • Kathmandu trip 30/06/2017
    For the last few weeks I’ve been writing up “what I did on my holidays” in Kathmandu this April. It’s on this site, but not on this blog. You’ll find it at http://alex-wilding.com/the-kathmandu-report/  
  • Untitled 27/02/2017
    https://www.theguardian.com/…/grandmother-deported-from-uk-… How is this fair? How is this not vindictive? How is this not a failure to use discretion? How is this not a failure of compassion? How is this not a failure of common sense? How is this not narrow-minded? How is this not mean-spirited? How is this not pig-headed? Sorry, pigs, it’s just […]
  • Donny, Theresa and the Brexit effect 29/01/2017
    In her attempt to pretend that there is enough other “free trade” out there in the world to compensate for the financial hit to the UK (lower wages and higher prices, to you and me) that Wrexit will cause, we have seen Theresa May cosying up to a variety of questionable characters, most notably the […]
Thursday November 12th, 2009. Posted by Alex W:

Karmapa in Europe next year

Well it seems clear from a number of sources that the wheels are turning and the plan developing. Wonderful. So much for the scare story that went round a few months ago about even tighter restrictions on his movements.

Not that I’m likely to be there – but I rejoice in your merit, Europe!

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.

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.

Saturday May 16th, 2009. Posted by Alex:

The day that Mahakala broke the table

So a couple of posts ago I mentioned the course this week-end with Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche. Day one was today. For lunch we could choose the meat option (spag bol, I think) or the “vegitarian” option. Confident that the cooking would be better than the spelling, I booked for veg.

As we moved towards the kitchen, I asked Gary (one of the pillars of the new centre) if it counted as a Karma Kagyu centre. He wasn’t sure what I was getting at, and I explained I was commenting on the wish of “His Holiness Karmapa XVII” that all his monasteries and centres should stop preparing meat in their kitchens. Many a Tibetan monk has been dismayed by this, but they have done it. You do realize I was, though admittedly making a point, being fairly light-hearted about this, don’t you?

Well someone in front of me got their food, I got mine, and so did a couple of others. Then BANG. The left hand half of the table (with the cookies and bread on it) was spared. The right-hand half simply broke, dumping broken glass, crockery, bolognese sauce and veg sauce on the kitchen floor. Most people had to go out to local restaurants. Here’s a couple of pictures of the mess:

There have been jokes about Felicity’s powers – she is Rinpoche’s wife, and was the cook. So whereas you or I might look in a mirror and break it, the joke was that she only had to cook food and put it on the table to break it. There have been “sensible” explanations about “well the food was hot, of course, so it would break the glass, wouldn’t it?” (Of a purpose-made dining table, it should be said!) But we know the truth, I think, don’t we? Mahakala stepped in to say that the centre really should do what HH Karmapa said. That was the outer warning – next time will there be an inner warning, and a secret warning the time after? I shudder to think!

Friday March 20th, 2009. Posted by Alex:

Irish Karmapa

A little while ago I made a brief entry on the theme of “There’s Nobody as Irish as O’Bama” after the successful American elections.

St Patrick’s day fell earlier this week, of course. Strong as my connection with Ireland is, I didn’t go out to join the jollity. In Ireland there is indeed plenty of merry-making, much of it alcohol-fuelled, but there is also a lot of church going, mass saying, visiting of family and friends, tea drinking, cake-nibbling, praying and so on – there is, in short, a balance. Here in ex-pat land (half the world it seems, though most of them are essentially just wannabee ex-pats) it tends to be little more than a booze-up with green trim.

However, as I was reciting the Mahamudra Lineage prayer that morning, as I have done (almost) every day since the early 1980s, I was blown away by the vision and realization that the 8th Karmapa too, Micky O’Dorje, was also to all intents and purposes Irish.

The Tibetans call him Mikyo Dorje, in case you weren’t sure. Above is the picture of him that hangs in my office.

Wednesday June 28th, 2006. Posted by Alex:

Will the Karmapa come to Sydney?

I heard a rumour (and the source was good, but it was just a rumour) that the Karmapa (by which, of course, I mean Orgyen Tinley Dorje) wants to have a fully fledged seat in Australia, and that the plan is for this (at least as far as the city is concerned, there might be somewhere else in the country) to be in Sydney. Could it be true? If it is, how come I am so lucky as to be living here?