A comprehensive introduction to the Aro Lineage can also be found on our sister site: www.arobuddhism.org
The Aro gTér is a stream of Vajrayana Buddhism in which ordination is congruous with romance, marriage, and family life. It focuses on the teaching and practice of the Inner Tantras from the point of view Dzogchen an essential non-dual teaching.
The Aro gTér tradition is possibly unique in its applicability to Western people. Due to the predominance of the Dzogchen perspective, the Aro gTér emphasises: assimilation with everyday working life; appreciative sexual equality; the spiritual dimension of romantic relationship; artistic creativity; and the pursuit of life enhancing engagement with the Arts and challenging physical skill – such as equestrianism. Students practice within the context of their ordinary lives: marrying, raising families, and engaging in the activities of life which are common to the general population. Practitioners in the Aro tradition reside in Great Britain, North America, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Finland.
The Aro gTér is a cycle of teachings revealed by the female visionary, Aro Lingma (1886 – 1923) and is based entirely in the three Inner Tantras of Nyingma Vajrayana. The Nyingma Tradition traces its origins to the first spread of Buddhism in Tibet, to the time of the Tantric Buddhas: Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel.
Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen are the current Lineage Holders of the Aro gTér and teach as a couple. They make it a priority in their teaching activities to facilitate their students in viewing their relationships and family lives as key spiritual practice. As representatives of a lineage founded by a woman, they are keen to help women become spiritual practitioners and teachers – and therefore children are always welcome on retreats.
They have encouraged the founding of other sanghas through their disciples. They teach twice a year in the USA, in New York and California.
The Aro gTér Lineage has been passed down through a line of enlightened women originating with Yeshé Tsogyel and continuing to the great gTértön Khyungchen Aro Lingma (1886 – 1923). Ngak’chang Rinpoche is the incarnation of Aro Yeshé the son of Khyungchen Aro Lingma.
Aro gTér practice is entirely Inner Tantra – from the perspective of Dzogchen. This means that yogic song, silent sitting, mantra recitation, and sKu-mNyé (physical yogic exercises) play a central part in practitioners lives. This is a colourful, energetic lineage where craft, thangka painting, namkha (sky-weaving), cham (Tantric dance), Tantric orchestra, and appreciation of sensory experience are celebrated. In comparison to other Traditions, the Aro gTér is non-monastic and therefore far less emphasis is placed on practices such as liturgical recitation, sadhana (rituals and detailed visualisation) and cho-pa (ritual offering practices).
Lamas of this tradition teach according to the ethos of Dzogchen both formally and through the simple spontaneity of informal situations. The Tibetan word Lama means not only the external teacher, but also the internal teacher – which is our beginninglessly enlightened nature. The rôle of the Lama is to mirror the student. This mirroring is a means of reflecting the students innate realisation – and his or her own pattern of confusion. The Lamas therefore encourage apprentices to regard their whole lives as practice – both practically and inspirationally.
The Apprenticeship Programme developed by Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen is an effective method of working with students who are seriously interested in the practices of the Aro gTér. Apprenticeship offers a personal relationship with the Lamas, direct access to teachings, apprentice retreats, and participation in a warm friendly sangha environment.
Apprentices practise under the direction of their Lamas. Guidance and transmission are given through: dynamic personal instruction; group question and answer sessions; shared meditation; yogic song; and, by being amongst their apprentices.
Apprentices who have studied and practised with the Aro Lamas for five years have the opportunity to take ngakpa / ngakma or naljorpa / naljorma ordination. Both ordinations are for those who have realistically come to regard the Lamas as their root teachers (Tsa-wa’i Lamas). Ordination is for those who regard the tradition, lineage, and practice as the most important part of their lives.
The Aro gTér lineage follows the Vajrayana gö-kar chang-lo style of practice which emphasises transformation. Its practitioners are known by their white skirts and uncut hair. The Vajrayana path of transformation is well suited to people who are inspired to practice using their everyday life circumstances as the path to realisation.
At the encouragement of Kyabjé Düdjom Rinpoche, Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen have established an ordained gö-kar chang-lo sangha in the West. Sixty students have taken this step (as of 2006), and others are working toward it. There are now three strong gö-kar chang-lo sanghas in the West and it is established that this lineage of ordination will continue to grow under the guidance of their Lamas.