Ngakpa Update

Ngakpa chödpa

Naljorpa Ögyen Dorje and I write the site Ngakpa Update.

Ngakpa Update presents news and notes on the Tantric system of non-monastic ordination. This system is central in the Aro lineage.

The Aro teachers are not monks and nuns. Instead they are ordained as ngakpas, ngakmas, naljorpas, or naljormas. These ordinations are just as rigorous as monastic ordination, but are compatible with careers and family life. We believe that this system has great promise, in a time when few wish to be monks, but some Buddhists wish to dedicate themselves wholly to practicing and propagating Vajrayana.

Much is unclear about the role of non-monastic Tantrikas in Tibetan Buddhism. Although historically important, the tradition has dwindled in recent centuries, and there are now relatively few Tibetan ngakpas. This appears to be due at least in part to intense political pressure from the monastic establishment. We do not fully understand the nature of this antagonism. We report on current historical research, particularly on Tibet’s “Dark Age,” a time when it seems the ngakpa tradition was at its peak.

Meanwhile, non-monastic ordination seems unusually well-suited to contemporary conditions. It is undergoing a revival both in the West and, apparently, in the eastern end of the culturally-Tibetan region. Anthropologists are finding fascinating developments in the role of living ngakpas in Kham and Amdo. (Perhaps there are also interesting anthropological opportunities for study of Western ngakpas?)

Ngakpa Update has a quasi-academic viewpoint. Ögyen Dorje and I are not academic Tibetologists, but we do read the current journal literature. Our intention is to summarize articles we find particularly interesting, for the benefit of Western Vajrayana practitioners. Occasionally, we write essays presenting overviews, and our opinions about recent scholarly work.