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


  • 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 […]
  • When spin approaches lie 26/01/2017
    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 […]
  • Post-almost-everything 07/12/2016
    There could well be several reasons why Teresa May is not willing to say what her Wrexit plan is. The obvious one is that the government hasn’t got one. It may have a flag, but it doesn’t have a plan. Another reason, almost as obvious, is that whatever plan the government has will alienate a lot of […]
Saturday September 12th, 2009. Posted by Alex W:

Mantra rolls

I have a fondness for pictures of decay and dereliction. I found this on the net (it was not attributed, so I can’t pass that on), and it combines two of my favourite topics: decay and dharma.


Friday September 4th, 2009. Posted by Alex W:

Who am I?

Thanks to Lorraine Vost for this picture from Lama Pema Dorje’s course last month:


Submit your guesses in comments! (Oh, I had to change the setting for comments so that I have to approve them before they appear, as I was getting anything from a handful to a score of spam comments every day, but I will of course approve anything that is even 1/4-way reasonable.) You might need to click-to-enlarge to get the necessary detail.

I asked the same question about a different picture on Pica Pica, but the intervening years and the number of people make that one much more of a challenge.

Wednesday July 8th, 2009. Posted by Alex W:


Home monastery of Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche and Chime Rinpoche. Looks a bit more spruce than when I was there in ’92!

Benchen 2005

Benchen 2005


The picture was sent out as a digital new-year card from Marpa House a year ago – thanks!

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 April 14th, 2009. Posted by Alex:

Stupa again

This picture may not be as in-yer-face as those posted below, but it is really interesting. The pictures were taken by a good old friend and dharma-buddy of mine, Dave Lawson, who has done a lot of work as a professional photographer; these are from his early travelling days. The first one is of a stupa in the Swat Valley, Pakistan, close to where Guru Rinpoche is thought to have come from. Dave took this picture in the early 1970’s and thinks that it has probably been smashed down by now, as have the Buddhas in Bamyian (Afghanistan) – he took those two pictures, below, at about the same time.

Dave says that the shots are of poor quality as they were taken with a half frame camera, but points out that this is a panorama that can no longer be taken.

The single Buddha is the larger one on the left of the panorama.

As usual, don’t forget you can see more detail if you click the pictures.

Dave has just sent this view, again one that can not be taken now, looking back over the valley from the top of the head of the Buddha. He says he got sick afterwards, and I think blames it on the disrespectful act of standing there. But now that’s definitely balanced out, I think, as we can all see this glimpse from the past.

Wednesday April 8th, 2009. Posted by Alex:

Two more fun stupas

The first one is from the net, source unknown, please tell me if you have copyright:

That is fun, isn’t it? Don’t forget you can click for a more detailed view.

The other one is at Benchen in Kham – my copyright this time! Photographed in 1992:

Tuesday March 31st, 2009. Posted by Alex:

Evening light

A “found lighting moment” in gold and low-intensity turquoise caught by Sarah as she walked the dogs. I’m doing my evening practice, hence the lamp on the low table inside; Tashi is hanging out by the window being feline. Click arrow under the small video picture below for a sound-track! (Yes, I’m looking for a better way to do this.)