Lama Norlha Rinpoche, an accomplished meditation and retreat master, is the abbot of Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery and director of Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche’s Dharma centers in the eastern United States.

Lama Norlha Rinpoche was born in 1938, in the Nangchen District of Kham, eastern Tibet. He entered Korche Monastery at the age of five, receiving monastic ordination at fourteen. By the age of twenty-one, Lama Norlha had completed two three-year retreats, during the second of which he acted as assistant to the retreat master. After the communist takeover of Tibet, he escaped on foot to India where he met Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche and became his close disciple.

In India, Lama Norlha established several three-year retreat facilities where he trained monks in the complete cycle of transmissions and practices of the Kagyu Lineage. In 1976, at the request of His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa and Kalu Rinpoche, Lama Norlha came to New York City where he taught Buddhist philosophy and meditation practices to a wide range of students. Two years later, to provide students with the means of studying and practicing at a more profound level of commitment, he founded Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery and Retreat Center. Following the sacred example of his own masters, Lama Norlha has dedicated his life to teaching the practices that make up the Kagyupa three-year retreat. To date he has directed seven full retreats at Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery, with an eighth retreat commencing in November 2011.

A tireless advocate for the purity of traditional Kagyu methods, Lama Norlha emphasizes developing a strong foundation for practice through contemplating the “four thoughts that turn the mind toward the Dharma” and engaging in the extraordinary preliminary practices (Tib. ngondro). To these essential teachings he joins instruction in calm-abiding meditation (Tib. shi nay) to stabilize the mind and taking-and-sending meditation (Tib. tong len) to develop compassion. Lama Norlha considers this simple yet comprehensive approach particularly beneficial in the modern age, when the mind is easily distracted and obstacles to practice continuously arise. More significantly, these teachings constitute the indispensible core of pure Dharma practice, on the basis of which students can advance toward a profound realization of the true nature of mind.

An Introduction to Vajrayana

Lama Norlha Rinpoche

In the Buddha, Dharma and the Supreme Assembly,
I take refuge until enlightenment.
Through practicing generosity and the other Paramitas,
May I achieve Buddhahood to benefit beings. (3X)

Whatever merit we accumulate
Through prostrating, making offerings, confessing,
Rejoicing, requesting and praying,
I dedicate to the goal of enlightenment.

The earth is sprinkled with fragrant water and strewn with flowers;
Adorned with Mount Meru, the four continents, the sun and moon.
Imagining all this as a Buddha realm, I offer it
May all beings enjoy this immaculate domain.

Pray turn the Wheel of Dharma
Of the Ordinary, Great or Small Vehicle
In accord with the various attitudes and dispositions
Of each and every being.

Once we have entered the door of the Mahayana dharma, it’s very important for us to give rise to a vast motivation, and we call that motivation of the Mahayana bodhicitta. What that means is, it’s an attitude of wishing to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings whose numbers fill the extent of space. So we think upon all sentient beings, and understanding that all of them, at one time or another, have been our kind parents, and our current situation is one like as if mothers are not recognizing their children and children are not recognizing their mothers. So instead of recognizing the kind of fundamental positive connection we have with all sentient beings, instead we form other sorts of relationships: we make friends and enemies, we have attachment and aversion to various sentient beings, and it is in that way that we cycle again and again, we take birth again and again in samsara. And all of us are alike in that: although we all want to have happiness, we don’t understand that virtue is the cause of true happiness, although we don’t want to suffer, we don’t understand that unvirtuous actions are the cause of suffering. So we end up engaging in unvirtuous actions that produce the suffering that we don’t want to experience. When we look upon this situation that we’re all in, this should inspire us to want to attain enlightenment, not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of all sentient beings who are basically in the same situation. And we should think, there’s no way that I cannot attain enlightenment, I must attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

From among the six types of birth in samsara, we have been born in the human realm. Although we are not able to directly see the hell realms or the hungry ghost realms, we can see the suffering of the animal realm. We can see that the stupidity of animals affects their freedom and causes them to experience a lot of intense suffering. Realizing that we have not been born in one of the lower realms in which we have less freedom and more suffering, we should appreciate that we have in this lifetime attained a human existence. Within that human existence we’ve had the great good fortune of meeting with the dharma, and being able to listen to and practice the dharma. So for those reasons we are extraordinarily fortunate…

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Watch Below: Lama Norlha Rinpoche on the Importance of a Daily Meditation Practice