The Guyha Mantrika community near Alcácer do Sal, Setúbal, in Portugal is a strong, committed, genuine sangha living on land surrounding the towering Tashi Gomang Stupa. I had the good fortune to visit the community in the fall of 2022, and spent two weeks living and practicing with them inside this impressive stupa temple. These devoted and trained ngakpas practice Nyingma lineage sadhanas while living in harmony with the land and animals. Their community is growing and has great plans to eventually build a Zangdok Palri temple:
Our aspiration is the creation of an extremely solid and robust base for the development of a Buddhist Nyingma spiritual community in Portugal, with all the possibilities of study and practice that are still found today in the East.*
The Tashi Gomang Stupa is both glorious and impressive as it stands out on the low rolling hills of the region, commanding vistas in every direction. A stupa is a representation of the Buddha’s mind and is therefore a precious symbol and power place for practice. It is also a vital tool to avert warfare, famine, and all forms of negativity. At my own home temple of Pema Ösel Ling in California, we have a large Dorje Drolö stupa encircled by smaller stupas and then, yet again, by a fence of smaller stupas, on a wooded, protected hillside in the redwood forest. I had the blessed good fortune to help build and embellish aspects of it years ago.
By contrast, the Tashi Gomang Stupa is unique in that one can go inside the first level, where there is a temple big enough to accommodate 12 or 15 practitioners. I was so fortunate to practice inside the stupa, beneath the Guru Rinpoche statue with Lama Gyurme, his partner Delfina, their children, and devoted resident sangha, including Bhutanese sangha from Setúbal. In the upper section of the stupa, facing outward, is a lovely Shakyamuni statue, all in gold. Inside the large main area, the colorfully painted Guru Rinpoche presides over the practice and offering expanse. This stupa is particularly wonderful for doing kora, with its magnificent views and open landscape. Lama Gyurme leads the gompa, advised by his own Lama Chödor, both students of the Chokling Tersar lineage masters. Their brief biographies are below.
It was especially pleasant to not only perform pujas inside, accompanied by bountiful tsok offerings—much of which were then offered to the local community in need—but also to circumambulate with its incredible 360-degree views. Both sunrise and sunset were glorious from this vantage point, giving a practitioner the feeling that their prayers and mantras extend out into visible space and beyond with the wish to benefit all sentient beings.
A stupa is never built without great preparation, generosity, and commitment, and Tashi Gomang is no different. I watched their progress online long before I visited. So many hands contributed to its planning, construction, and completion! It is with great joy that the sangha practices there, upholding the Nyingma traditions. I felt very welcome and at home there. I found there were certain pujas and practices we had in common: what a blessing and a positive surprise to travel in foreign lands and find unexpected Dharma family!
The Guhya Mantrika Dharma community is committed to building yet another incredible edifice for practice support: the Heavenly Palace of Padmasambhava. I highly recommend that wherever you are, but most especially if you already live in Europe, you reach out and make an opportunity to visit this very special Dharma community in the rolling hills of southwestern Portugal, and support their plans for the Zangdok Palri Palace.
The stupa was inaugurated on 30 September 2017, and the consecration was presided over by Lama Chödor. One always underestimates the power of community in preparing something as grand and sacred as a stupa, the countless hours of making mantra rolls, securing substances according to the traditional text instructions, making tsa-tsas (mini stupas), and so many other things that go into it.
Lama Chodor’s biography is as follows:
Born in Belgium in February 1968, in the Year of the Monkey or Year of Guru Rinpoche, Lama Chödor at the age of merely eight years traveled to India and Nepal, by his own decision, to study the teachings of the Buddha. Within the Nyingma school, Lama Chödor has a close connection with the lineages of Chokling Tersar, Longchen Nyingthig, and the Mindroling Tradition. He also upholds Karma Kagyu lineage traditions. He has additionally received teachings from many other Tibetan lineages. Since the age of eight he has been trained under the guidance of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.**
Lama Gyurme’s teachers include Lama Urgyen Chökyi Dorje, Khandro Kunzang Dechen Chodron, and Sangyum Kamala Rinpoche, as well as Lopon Ogyan Tanzin Rinpoche. Lama Gyurme is a lama of the ngakpa tradition (one who uses mantra). Unlike monks and nuns who renounce worldly life by taking vows such as celibacy, abstinence from alcohol and meat, ngakpas rely on inner renunciation rather than outer renunciation, seeking to transmute the circumstances of everyday life as a means/method of practice. Thus, the major terrain of practice can be relationships with family, friends, and co-workers, as well as the different facets and circumstances of life. Lama Gyurme grew up in Lisbon and works tirelessly for the Buddhism in Portugal and beyond.***
May all the activities of this community of faith reach their fullest potential and be of great benefit to beings everywhere.
* The Purpose (Guhya Mantrika Community)
** Lama Urgyen Chökyi Dorje Spiritual Advisor of Guhya Mantrika Community (Guhya Mantrika Community)
*** Lama Gyurme Resident Lama of Guhya Mantrika Community (Guhya Mantrika Community)
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