The Nam’dzin Programme
the Gar-tak of Ling Gésar
Nam’dzin originates in the Gong gTér of Ling Gésar – a visionary Mind revelation of Rang-rig Togden. Rang-rig Togden received this Gong gTér directly from Thangtong Gyalpo – who was one of the major Nyingma gTértöns – discovers of Padmasambhava’s revelation teachings. He was a Renaissance figure much like Leonardo Da Vinci. He was a scientist, architect, engineer, inventor, astronomer, doctor, artist, sculptor, poet, and dramatist.
Nam’dzin means ‘holder of the Nam’gyürs’. The word nam’gyür means ‘demeanours’ – and a holder of the nam’gyürs is ‘one who is possessed by the Nam’gyürs’. The practice of Nam’dzin unites the practical and psychophysical trainings of Buddhist warriorship. These trainings are embodied—through presence and demeanour—both as a spiritual path and way of being in the world. The Nam’gyürs are an essential method of maintaining commitment to that which has been discovered through transmission – as the ongoing experimental experience of embodiment.
The Nam’dzin Programme provides the essential mode of Nam’dzin for those who feel inspired to participate. This introduction communicates the flavour of the practice – perhaps to pique interest in those who feel a connection.
Defence of Others
Gésar gTér could be described as a martial art. It is common to emphasise ‘self-defence’ as the rationale for combative training – but this rationale is non-functional from the Buddhist perspective. The Tibetan name is Dra’dül Gar-tak Nyèn-Kyong – the dancing tiger who protects relatives and friends by subduing enemies. This we abbreviate to Gar-tak. ‘Nyèn-kyong’ means ‘protecting relatives and friends’ – and this term stresses the primary emphasis on protection and the defence of others. Without a clear understanding of this other-focused motivation, the practice of Gar-tak would be misguided. Before any discussion of the methods by which Gar-tak may be enacted – it is imperative to understand the principle and function of the art. Based upon compassionate motivation – the psycho-physical methods of Gar-tak evolve through practice. The spiritual aspect of Gar-tak is present from the outset – and blossoms into a tangibly-effective physical expression of nondual awareness: the Dancing Tiger of Gar-tak.
The spirit of ‘protecting friends and relatives’ and requires that Gar-tak practitioners recognise each other as friends and family. This intimate sense of relationship creates an ethos of interpersonal warmth and conviviality. Achieving this, practitioners self-select as troupes of aspirants for whom the dynamic result of Gar-tak becomes attainable. Gar-tak draws its ambient texture from the realm of the battlefield. The cohort (ru’dren)—informed by the ambient texture—are united by the wish to manifest the wider parameters of the Gésar gTér.
Rather than insisting on a saccharine absence of conflict, we acknowledge that apparent conflict exists within the structure of life – and enter into apparently-conflicted scenarios with informed playfulness. We learn to dance with conflict and see the humour in apparently-conflicted life situations. Gésar teachers therefore encourage a gestalt of combative conviviality. Combative conviviality arises when the language of conflict becomes an arena of play. Once conflict is seen as play – it unravels itself. It becomes empty of aggression.
Nam’dzins are people who could enjoy finding themselves suddenly immersed in an impromptu performance of Shakespeare. Brandishing both sabres and iambic pentameters, they would play with the particularised prosody in the mounting menace of the moment.
The language of the preceding paragraph is important. Although initially it may appear outlandish, Gésar gTér explodes the notion of martial art to include all the Arts – poetry in particular. The cliché ‘poetry in motion’ is clichéd merely because the idea is so well known. The link between poetic composition and martial competence is well-established across the extant martial traditions. Gésar Training involves a tactile vocabulary based on the five elements. It involves a grammatical structure which relates to tactile interaction – within which, the need for actual aggression and conflict is discovered to be illusory. Fluency in this language is the goal of practice – and with it, comes martial competence. This goal however, should not be concretised. The budding warrior—like artists of every sense field—takes the honing of skill as its own reward. Only through cultivating a culture of civilised, intelligent, and æsthetically-appreciative adepts can we fulfil the goal suggested by the term ‘martial art’. We therefore use the term ‘martial poetics’ to denote the rigorous communicative approach encouraged through the practice of Nam’dzin.
The principle and function of Gar-tak methods derives from Dzogchen Long-dé – the series of Vastness. Dzogchen Long-dé employs physical sensation to realise the nondual state. These methods are unusual, subtle, powerful, and disorienting. In general, such methods are only available after significant periods of study and practice within a Vajrayana lineage. Through Rang-rig Togden’s Gong gTér however – the practices of Dzogchen long-dé are potentially available immediately. Connection to lineage is still required – but the foundation of Dzogchen long-dé is created through Dzogchen long-dé itself. Strict rigor is necessary – because this cannot be a fantasy-oriented approach. It appears to provide a short-cut for those with a strong connection to the practice – but it is by no means ‘easier’ than proceeding through the phases of Vajrayana. It is simply different, in that it addresses individuals directly within the physical dimension.
Potential acceleration vis-à-vis Dzogchen long-dé runs a risk: recklessness leads to injurious consequences. Injury—whether physical or emotional—is likely if no regard is paid to the rapidity of one’s immersion in this energetic sphere. There are also oblique risks. If not constitutionally suited to the ambient dynamics of Gar-tak – one might become alienated. Despite the potential for rapid acceleration, forced attempts to experience a connection could lead incrementally to stagnation, marginalisation, and recrimination. Gésar teachers go to great lengths to provide an environment hospitable to all who wish to investigate Gar-tak. The Nam’dzin programme exists in order that students may explore in an independent and adult manner. The twin risks of reckless injury and detached stagnation must always be considered the primary guideline in respect of increasing or decreasing personal involvement. The exploratory nature of Dzogchen Long-dé demands that Nam’dzins be free to discover the implications of their own orientation to self-existing energy. Nam’dzins must therefore take personal responsibility for the texture of personal practice – and that may include ending the association if it proves unfruitful.
Rang-rig Togden’s Gong gTér is startlingly direct and simple. It must be understood however, that Nam’dzin is Vajrayana – whether attention is drawn to this fact on every occasion or not. This point is not necessarily made immediately – but it must be borne in mind. Full engagement with the Ling Gésar gTérma is impossible without concomitant commitment to lineage. The active ingredient in Dzogchen long-dé is experiential transmission received through interactive connection with lineage – through the teacher as its representative.
Potential nam’dzins for whom this introduction proves bewildering should investigate further with one of the Aro gTér Lamas. Apprenticeship with an Aro Lama is one method of acquiring a thorough education into Vajrayana. Nam’dzin is another – but to approach Vajrayana through Nam’dzin presents a particular challenge. The challenge is that the system is based entirely in Dzogchen – and students might take too long to understand the technical vocabulary.
Although the Gésar gTér provides preparatory practices for approaching Dzogchen, there is no formalisation of the gradual approach that individuals require. The gradual acquisition of Vajrayana vocabulary needs to be personal – because the study of technical Vajrayana topics is not core requirement for Nam’dzins. Personal relationship with the teacher however, is all the more important. Nam’dzins require knowledge of a technical vocabulary whose relevance to physical practice may not be initially apparent. For this reason, all nam’dzins must commit to silent sitting. Silent sitting establishes an authentic relationship with Buddhist practice. Although no formal emphasis is placed on this, nam’dzins take Buddhist refuge as an implicit prerequisite.
Depending on the students attending any particular event – the introduction of Vajrayana practises from the Aro gTér can be expected – as the Ling Gésar gTér is nested into Aro gTér Lineage. Public Gésar members need not take a special interest in such topics. Those who pursue Nam’dzin however, will recognise the vital function of Vajrayana – and thus be open to the possibility of eventually entering into relationship with the tradition. No commitment apart from openness is entailed by becoming a nam’dzin – but if one felt in advance that involvement was limited by a divergent orientation, experimentation with commitment could be frivolous and unnecessary.
Because Nam’dzin is essential Vajrayana, it depends on the relationship between the practitioner and the teacher. Without personal relationship, the dynamic drive animating the practice cannot be ignited. To experience Dzogchen long-dé through tactile responsiveness training demands direct involvement with the physical expression of the teacher’s practice. Although both personal relationship and physical interaction can be developed—and cultivated over time—it is important to recognise their central rôle in the training. For this reason, it is important that potential students be able to recognise the teacher’s practise-personality as an inspiring expression of what is communicated. Sufficient personal trust to engage in careful physical interaction in accord with the student’s development is also necessary. Although there are attendant risks, one great benefit of martial and equestrian practices is that they allow the dynamic of tactile communication. This guards against the interpersonal difficulties which arise when physical contact with the teacher is a necessary component of transmission.
It should be understood that unseemly interpersonal interaction or physical contact is never permissible amongst nam’dzins – or between nam’dzins and Gésar teachers. Whatever interaction takes place must be understandable within the context of the practice itself. This is why there is an explicit emphasis on courtesy, consideration, politeness, and decorum. Without these elements, entry into the exploratory experiential space of the Gésar gTér is not possible.
NB The Gésar gTér is a Nyingma lineage and therefore smoking is prohibited. This prohibition applies to everyone who attends teaching events – at least for the duration of the event, whether or not the individual is on the premises through that time. This means that prospective nam’dzins must be willing to forswear the habit of smoking and the use of any illegal intoxicants for the entire tenure of their association as nam’dzins.
Support of the Tradition
Gésar gTér is rooted in Dzogchen. As such, it is Dharma – and there can never be a charge for Dharma. Donations are traditional and are always welcome – but no cost is ever associated with the teachings themselves. In order for the teachings to manifest in the world, however, certain real-world structures must be put in place. For this reason, there are costs associated with receiving instruction in physical practice. Any member of the public who wishes to receive instruction in the practices of Gar-tak or rTa’dül may do so as a Gésar Member. This entails a nominal annual fee which covers the costs of insurance and administration of the organization. Gésar members also pay for retreats and events in order that appropriate venues can be secured and to ensure that the Gésar Teacher’s time be made available. This creates the necessary circumstances for the teachings to be given at all. Participation as a Gésar Member does not imply the need for any particular spiritual orientation – concomitantly it does not grant personal correspondence with the Gésar Teacher. Gésar members participate in periodic training or training at special events and are free to explore the system through the methods taught on those occasions.
Those who wish a closer involvement with the Gésar lineage will have experienced the benefits of personal relationship. Candidates for Nam’dzin will be those who—through direct experience of what is possible on open retreats and trainings—recognise that private Nam’dzin retreats offer further immersive depth. Potential nam’dzins will be those who wish to take the practice further – and who wish access to the inner methods of the system. The Nam’dzin methods are not secrets – they are self-secret. Those who do not actively wish for a more personal connection to the lineage would simply be those who find themselves unable to appreciate Vajrayana. Those who can appreciate such teachings may, after sufficient experience of Gésar Training, apply to the Nam’dzin Programme. The application process requires a personal interview with a Gésar Teacher, during which prospective nam’dzin and teacher explore the parameters involved. When applicants are accepted, they become members of the Ling Gésar family – and access to more restricted material is gradually made available.
Nam’dzins are entitled to correspond with their Gésar teacher and their personal relationship becomes a method of transmission. Because engaging with personal students is a time-consuming endeavour, Nam’dzins pledge a monthly donation in support of their Gésar teachers. This makes time available for correspondence and the development of teaching materials. It also enables Gésar teachers to ensure that their private practise does not stagnate.
Those wishing to become Nam’dzin will recognise that the need to build and sustain a teaching situation is indispensable to the establishment of the tradition. They will therefore see the need for ongoing support of the Gésar Teacher. Reflexively, nam’dzins attend open teaching and training events at a discount.
For more information or to apply for the Nam’dzin programme, please email email@example.com