At that time this photograph was taken the Aro gTér Lineage was hardly known in the West and the sangha around Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen was relatively small – so it was a remarkable opportunity for the students of that time to have such intimate audience with Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche. From the 1990s onward such close contact became increasingly rare – but during the late 1970s and early 1980s when Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche used to stay at Ngak’chang Rinpoche’s home for periods of time, students were able to receive intensive teachings on a day to day basis and also to invite Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche to their homes for dinner. Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche was always remarkably informal and yet always a colossal presence: no one was ever lax or inattentive in his presence, whether he was teaching, relating an anecdote, making momos, or—as in this photograph—sharing a picnic;.
Ngala Nor’dzin and Ngala ’ö-Dzin were amongst those who had the privilege of inviting Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche to their home. Ngala Nor’dzin and Ngala ’ö-Dzin were involved in both his visits to Cardiff and joined with him and with Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen for the legendary picnic at Southerndown when he stopped torrential rainfall. During his second visit—in 1987—when he gave the empowerments of Tröma Nakmo, Seng-gé Dongma, and Dorje Tröllö—Ngala Nor’dzin and Ngala ’ö-Dzin were able to introduce their son, Daniel, to Kyabjé Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche.
Ngala ’ö-Dzin comments:
We were always aware of the affection which Kyabjé Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche held for our Lamas. Although he could be quite a fierce Lama, he was always kind to us and encouraged us to practice closely with Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen.
Ngala Nor’dzin remembers, that after giving transmission on his first visit – Kyabjé Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche demanded we ask questions.
We were keenly aware that if questions were not forthcoming, the evening would be quickly curtailed. I asked Rinpoche if he could explain what was meant by a ‘root teacher’. He paused for a moment looking at me intently, and then asked me:
‘Are you married?’
I replied that I was, he asked:
‘Who is your root husband?’
Suddenly my understanding was clear. Later in that visit I was able to talk to Kyabjé Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche privately, and I told him that I believed Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen were my Root Lamas – at which he was delighted and said:
‘This is very good indeed’.
In this photograph—taken by Khandro Déchen—Ngak’chang Rinpoche wears the conch earrings of the gö kar chang lo and the silver takdröl given to him initially by Lama Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche, and later by Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche. Ngak’chang Rinpoche is wearing a gomthag or meditation strap around his knees.