Thrangu Rinpoche Trust, Oxford – Thrangu Mila Retreat Centre

Answer to questions about the monastery retreat centre project

Hello friends,

Thrangu House was founded in 1981 and since 2004 we have worked continuously to establish a new monastery and retreat centre. I have put a plan for our project on the wall of the Buddhist centre. This is only an example of what we might do and nothing is confirmed. Please read this letter before asking any questions. Some people have been asking about the project, so I will do my best to explain.

We have been working on the project for ten years, and it is still on track. It was not the idea of Rinpoche, me or any of the trustees; it was just the suggestion of someone we met. My wish is for the project to succeed, but nothing about the project is certain, it’s just our dream. We have not decided where the retreat centre will be built or how much will be spent; we are still looking for land. The plan for the project may change, for example, it might become bigger or smaller according to circumstances. We cannot foresee the future and cannot be certain what our financial situation will be. If the project succeeds and people stay interested, there may be a monastery in thirty years or more. All we can say for certain is that we will buy land in the countryside.

The project will use funds raised from the rent and sale of properties owned and invested in by the Trust. We do not ask for donations, although we do accept them when members and students choose to give them.
The project aims to encourage the study and practice of ngöndro (the four common and uncommon preliminaries) and mahamudra as these are proven to purify body, speech and mind. Adhering to vinaya brings discipline and discourages alcohol and smoking.

The new centre may also be a suitable place to learn and practice the six yogas of Naropa. These are particularly beneficial for preventing diseases such as cancer, by improving the energies of our inner channels.
The Karmapa is becoming popular in the East and the West. His teachings may be useful; they include the six yogas, meditation, mindfulness, compassion, virtues, enlightenment, emptiness, rejection of the self, wisdom and karma. Karmapa may help people in the West achieve inner peace, away from the confusion of rapidly paced modern life and consumerist capitalism, even if they do not accept ideas like reincarnation. Modern culture is too stressful, moves too fast and is too much about I I I. Without I the world will be at peace. Buddhist ethics may help people to achieve a balance between spirituality and materialism. Mental health may be improved by the study of meditation and compassion, as well as Buddhist counselling.

A further reason for the project is to learn about Christianity. Britain has a great Christian history, and Christians have built many schools and hospitals and set up charities to help the poor. Buddhists need to learn more about this and engage in more social projects. Many western people, some Buddhist followers, some not, very strongly criticise and think that all Buddhists do is make beautiful temples, sit and meditate. In Tibetan Buddhism the idea is to support mainly monastic education. Students study ancient philosophy, mindfulness and vinaya law, with the wish of liberation for all beings. Tibetan lamas have built many monasteries in Tibet, Nepal and India, however, western observers have already complained that there are too many rich monasteries filled with gold, while the people are poor and there are not enough schools and hospitals.

Since the 1980s Thrangu Rinpoche has developed many Dharma centres in Europe and North America. Buddhists are building monasteries in western countries to exchange ideas. We want to learn more about other religions, and about modern democratic culture and technology. We will also invite scientists and see what we can learn from them, and what connections there may be between science and Buddhist ethics. We want to work closely with them, continuing the work of the Karmapa. Furthermore, the project may also assist in the translation of Dharma texts into English. Over several hundred years lots of texts have been translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan and in recent decades, (especially in the United States) many of these have become available in English, and we wish to help this along. Thrangu Rinpoche wished for a Vajrayana centre in Oxford to make a connection with the university, and this was actualised in 1981. He has given talks on mahamudra around the world for over thirty years and thanks to recordings and translations many of his teachings can now be read in English.

There are however concerns for the future of the project. There are concrete problems like the need for planning permission, but also problems of losses of faith. As technology becomes more advanced, people trust it more and trust the old ways less. Faith in Google has grown very quickly; people often tend to look outside for answers, rather than seeking solutions inside their own heads. Human values may be decreasing at the same time as fear and lunacy increase. Religion in general has become less important to people but human beings will always need compassion, love, wisdom and peace.

I have been in the UK for thirteen years, working as a manager for Thrangu House, running the centre and working as a landlord for eight years. I apologize that teachings have been reduced for the past years due to my failing health. Please read this letter carefully. It is based on my experience, and please tell me if there are mistakes or if you have any comments. If you have ideas to help the project, we would be glad to hear them.

Lama Wangyal
+44 (0)1865 241555