The Aro tradition has been called “controversial.” It has been called worse things, actually. Why? What is this “controversy”?
First, though, we might ask “Who said so? Where?”
There were six or eight people who used to regularly bash the Aro tradition on the e-Sangha discussion forum. They persuaded about a dozen others, who also occasionally chimed in. Generally the Aro Sangha ignored this, so it was a one-sided argument. Altogether, I don’t think this constitutes a “controversy.” It was more a tempest in a teapot.
The Aro gTér could rightly be called “unusual.” However, we will see that its features that are said to be controversial are mostly not unusual for a Nyingma lineage—so they cannot in fact be controversial (or no more so than in other Nyingma lineages). The features of that are unusual are mostly not thought to be controversial—because they are plainly in accord with generally-accepted Buddhist texts.
Internet sniping at the Aro tradition tended to muddle together several distinct issues:
- Ngak’chang Rinpoche (also known as Ngapka Chögyam), the head of the Aro lineage.
- The Aro gTér: a “térma cycle,” or body of revealed Buddhist teachings.
- The history of the Aro lineage in Tibet, prior to Ngak’chang Rinpoche’s teaching in the West.
- The Confederate Sanghas of Aro: the modern Western organizations devoted to teaching the Aro gTér.
- Other teachers, térma, and lineages that are confused with the Aro lineage by detractors.
- Misunderstandings of Buddhism generally and Dzogchen especially.
These need to be addressed separately, and I will do so in various parts of this site.
I will also have a little more to say about the forum discussion itself, for example in the page on trolling.