A Time To Remember
1931 - 2003
Toronto, Canada, October 11, 1931 at 3am.
Passed over at Zurich, Switzerland, October 22, 2003,
"Ye Shall Know them by their Works"
Namgyal Rinpoche, in reply to the question:
"How do you know a true Teacher?"
at a 1974, New York, meeting with Trungpa Rinpoche and
Part 1: The Early Years
the Davidson, McDonald, Clanranald lineage, Leslie George
Dawson was descended from both Robert the Bruce and Edward
the Bruce, on his mother's and father's side respectively
and was also related to the Hamilton family.
was an 'Irish Cop' (a detective on the Toronto police
force), his mother a Scottish nurse. As he himself said,
from his father he derived his 'terrific energy' and from
his mother the 'gift of the gab'.
He was born
and raised, with his younger sister Marylin, in the Beaches
area of Toronto, attended Norway Public School and Malvern
Collegiate (where he also studied music appreciation along
with Glenn Gould).
his summers at his uncle's farm in Hamilton, now 'Spring
Farm' Botanical Garden.
many mystical experiences in early life, he felt the call
to the ministry, attending Jarvis Baptist Seminary for
a short time where he learned many arts such as 'homiletics'
and 'higher (biblical) criticism'.
He did not
enter the ministry at that time but moved on to further
studies in Philosophy and Psychology at University of
Michigan, Ann Arbour.
an intense period of involvement in the Socialist youth
movement, CCF, NDP, etc. culminating in a visit to Russia
to address a youth conference in Moscow, whereafter he
returned to London, at the time of the Suez crisis.
time he stayed in London with the Huybens, a Rosicrucian
couple where he encountered the Western Mystery tradition
and Buddhism and practised meditation regularly.
while visiting the London Buddhist Society, during the
Buddha-Jayanti celebrations of 2,500 years of Buddhism,
he met the Venerable U. Thila Wunta Sayadaw, a meditation
master from Burma.
He was immediately
drawn to the Sayadaw as his teacher, and the Sayadaw invited
him to follow him to Burma.
in the East
overland, to India, he re-joined the Sayadaw in Buddhagaya
where he received the Novice ordination as Samanera Ananda.
Continuing on to Burma, he received the Higher Ordination
at the Shwe Dagon in Rangoon and was given the name Ananda
Bodhi Bhikkhu. There he studied the Vinaya and Abhidhamma.
that as part of his apprenticeship with Sayadaw, he had
to polish the floors of the Dat Pon Zu temple with coconut
shells, many, many times.
received meditation training in all of the 40 classical
Samatha practices under Sayadaw's guidance and later studied
the Vipassana (insight) meditation system under Mahasi
Sayadaw, later travelling to Thailand for further Vipassana
retreat work under Chao Kun Pra Rajasiddhimuni at Wat
Mahadhat. While there, he also mastered the Wat Paknam
he pursued his Dhamma studies in Sri Lanka, studying the
Pali Sutta texts such as the Dhammapada and the various
commentaries such as the Visuddhimagga.
5 years of intensive training in the East, Venerable Ananda
Bodhi received the title of Samatha-Vipassana-Kammathan-Acariya,
teacher of both the calm and insight meditation practice
and was given the red belt of a meditation master.
He was invited
by the English Sangha Association to become the Incumbent,
or Resident Teacher, of the Vihara, or monastic residence
in London, at Alexander Road, Camden Town. He took up
residence in the Fall of 1961 and immediately started
teaching meditation and giving regular classes in Dhamma
began teaching regularly at the Buddhadhamma centre in
Manchester and other centres.
he was invited by the London Buddhist Society to give
courses in meditation at their annual Summer School. At
that time he met a number of Tibetan Lamas such as Trungpa
Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche who had just arrived from
India to study comparitive religion at Manchester College
He was also
invited to speak at the Fifth International Congress of
Psychotherapists in London, where he met Julian Huxley,
Anna Freud and R.D.Laing, to name a few.
the Bhikkhu went back to Thailand to meet with one of
his teachers , Pra Rajasiddhimuni, who subsequently returned
to teach at the Vihara in London.
inspiration, with many students gathering around him,
Bhikkhu Ananda Bodhi expanded the London centre by purchasing,
through the Sangha Association, a large regency mansion
on Haverstock Hill which became known as the Hampstead
Buddhist Vihara - the Alexander Road centre remained as
a meditation house for a while.
time a number of aspiring students received novice ordination,
some of whom went to Thailand for further study.
need for a suitable meditation centre far away from London
, as he felt that a real meditation centre should not
be too easy to get to, he purchased an old estate with
a castle in Staffordshire, known as Biddulph Old Hall.
1964, the Bhikkhu flew to Canada for a short visit "to
re-connect with his roots". At the invitation of
the incumbent Rev.Ishiura he gave classes in the Japanese
Toronto Buddhist Church on Bathurst Street - where he
met his first Canadian students.
On his return,
sensing a need to open up further avenues of exploration,
the Bhikkhu began searching for a new independent 'Contemplative'
centre and purchased Johnstone House, an old hunting lodge
in Dumfriesshire, Scotland which used to belong to the
Duke of Bacleuch. Later, he offered this to the Tibetans
and it became Samye Ling - under the auspices of the Johnstone
House Trust was set up through one of his students, Miss
an intensive, innovative year of work with students including
the new 'Mandala therapy'.
then embarked on a three-week tour of Northern Europe
and Scandinavia along with two students Tony Olbrecht
and Barry Goulden.
return they went straight to Scotland where Tony and Barrie
applied for Canadian immigrant status. After a month touring
Scotland all three departed from Edinburgh for Canada.
They did not return to England. Their journey to Canada
took them to Iceland where the new volcanic island of
Surtsey had just emerged from the ocean. After touring
Iceland they flew to Canada via New York.
Centre of Canada
arrived in Toronto on September 23, 1965 and immediately
began teaching at the Toronto Buddhist Church and gathering
more students. He would later refer to Canada as his "experiment"
1966, he formed the Dharma Centre, a charitable organisation,
and immediately requested that a meditation centre be
found. He then returned to Scotland to continue the teaching
at Johnstone House.
1966 through a real-estate agent in Bobcaygeon, Tony Olbrecht
inspected an old mink-farm of 400-acres near Kinmount,
and informed the Bhikkhu of this, saying it had a beaver
this, the Bhikkhu immediately returned from Scotland to
see it and the land was purchased for the sum of $4,500.
A trust was set up to secure private loans and the Kinmount
Centre was born. [In 1972 the Dharma Centre of Canada
was organised as a charitable Corporation.]
On the Road
loved to travel and went very far afield with groups of
his students travelling extensively in North and South
America and in Europe.
he lead a group of 12 students to India on the Dutch freighter
"Giessenkirk". The ship visited Sri Lanka and
Burma before landing in Calcutta in January, 1968.
were had on the way , including visits to the Sri Lankan
Viharas and gem-stone mines. Henri Van Bentum has written
a very full and complete
account of this trip elsewhere. In Burma they met
with the Bhikkhu's teacher U Thila Wunta Sayadaw, visited
the Shwe Dagon and had an elaborate breakfast of 'mohingar'
with Yogi U Thin, one of the Bhikkhu's supporters.
they stayed at the Mahabodhi Society and met the Maharaja
of Sikkhim who arranged visas to visit Sikkim.
made a pilgimage to Buddhagaya and finally travelled to
Darjeeling enroute to Sikkim.
an amazing transformation.
in Gangtok, the Bhikkhu went with four students to Rumtek
Monastery, where he was immediately ushered into the presence
of H.H. the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa.
greeted Ven. Ananda Bodhi like an old friend and seated
him beside him on the same level causing some consternation
amongst his entourage.
gave a private empowerment (Wongkur) of Milarepa to the
Bhikkhu and his four students - Tony Olbrecht, Brian Bamford,
Ted Bieler and Stu Ennis. As His Holiness was busy giving
Lung (ceremonial readings), no further empowerments were
given at that time.
then travelled to Dehra Dun and met His Holiness Sakya
Trizen and his teacher Chogye Rinpoche.
the Bhikkhu returned to Rumtek with 108 students, and
received the full Tibetan ordination as the Venerable
Karma Tenzin Dorje Namgyal. The students then took Refuge
with His Holiness the Karmapa. Many empowerments were
received at that time, including Dorje Phagmo, Red Chenresi
In the Spring
of 1971, in Green River, on instructions from His Holiness,
Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche was formally Enthroned with full
ceremony, by the Venerable Karma Thinley Rinpoche.