Lectures on ngakmas and ngakpas in New York, 29-30 April

Dr. Humchen Chenaktsang, the Director of the Ngakmang Research Institute in Repkong, Amdo, is presenting two lectures in New York City, April 29th and 30th (2011).

The first is titled “Ngakma: Female Lay Tantric Practitioners in Contemporary Tibet,” at Columbia University.  (Friday, April 29, 5:30pm – 7pm,  Rm 918, School of International Affairs, 420 West 118th  St.; for more information contact rjb58@columbia.edu.)

The second is “The 1,000 Phurba-Holders: Rebkong Ngagmang Past and Present,” at the Trace Foundation, 132 Perry Street, Suite 2B, Saturday, April 30, 2011, 3 pm - 5 pm.  Here’s his abstract for that one:

Scholar Humchen Chenaktsang introduces us to the world of the the ngakpa (yogin in Sanskrit), a lay practitioner of Tantric Buddhism. In the 8th century, Padmasambhava established the ngakpa tradition in Tibet so that lay people could receive spiritual and cultural education. Through study and practice, both men and women practitioners can attain the highest spiritual realization and develop powerful skills such as the ability to make divinations, perform tantric rituals, and even control the weather. They are highly regarded in their communities, and often play more social roles of giving medical advice, astrological predictions, and counseling for individuals.

Humchen Chenaktsang’s talk will provide specific focus on the ngakpa community of Rebkong (Rebkong ngakmang), in Amdo, who are also known as the "One Thousand phurba-holders," so named for the ritual dagger, or phurba, used in tantric and other rituals. The Rebkong community is the largest group of ngakpa and is famed as being the most powerful.

Dr. Chenaktsang is, on the one hand, doing probably more than anyone else to raise interest in the ngakpa/ngakma tradition among academics in both the West and Asia; and, on the other, has been instrumental in reviving the ngakma tradition in Repkong.  (I hope at some point he will challenge the “lay tantrika” formula that has become the standard, but entirely misleading, gloss for “ngakpa” in English.)

If you are in New York, these are don’t-miss events.  If you don’t miss them, it would be great if you could post a report as a comment here.

[Thanks to Ngakpa ’ö-Dzin Tridral for bringing these events to my attention.]