When one becomes a Buddhist monk, they give up all past attachments, including birth name, family etc, even nationality. So my past life is now no longer relevant. All that needs to be known is that this present body came into existence in1948.
The spiritual path
Hinayana Theravada Lineage
My first introduction to the spiritual path was in early 1968, when I started attending classes in Buddhist meditation and philosophy in London, under the guidance of the Buddhist teacher Ven. Sangharakshita. Later that year I was taken under the wing of Theravada monk Ven. H Saddhatissa Mahathera of the London Buddhist vihara, who instructed me in the Tripitaka (the original teachings of the Buddha) and trained me in Samatha (calming) meditation. I was also trained at this time, in Vipassana (insight) meditation by the Sri Lankan meditation master Ven. Ananda Maitreya. Late in 1969, Ven Saddhatissa authorised me to teach both meditation methods and Buddhist Dharma. In 1976 Ven Saddhatissa ordained me as a samanera novice monk, and I was put into training under the guidance of a monk in the Thai forest Dhutanga tradition, who gave me an excellent foundation in Vinaya.
Mahayana Zen Lineage
In 1982, after attending a Zen retreat in London, I was invited to travel to the Los Angeles Zen center, to train under the guidance of Zen master Taizan Maezumi Roshi. I was ordained as a monk (Shukke-Tokudo) in the Soto Zen tradition by Maezumi Roshi in June 1983, and studied both shikantaza and koans under him. I took ordination with Roshi with the understanding that I would remain a simple monk. I had no interest in training to be a priest and dealing with the births, marriages and deaths side of things. I also had no interest in moving up the ladder and becoming a sensei or roshi, but remaining a simple monk, Roshi agreed to this. After Maezumi Roshi’s death, I decided not to immediately seek out another teacher in the Zen tradition, but to continue to teach and train as a lone Buddhist monk. I still keep up my Shikantaza and Koan practice, and remain open to working once again with a traditional Japanese or Chinese Zen master.
Since early 2001, in order to investigate the non dualistic Advaita tradition of Sanatana Dharma and its possible links to the Buddhist tradition, I had been making regular trips to India. It was on one of these early trips, whilst staying in Darjeeling, that I came across copies of the Astavakra Samhita and the Avaduta Gita. Reading these texts had a profound effect on me, and led me to investigate further the teachings of the Advaita Vedanta tradition. I also spent time visiting Various Swamis in the Advaita Vedanta tradition to discus and receive advice on the practices and philosophy of the tradition. By 2006 I found himself totally absorbed by, and practicing, aspects of both the Zen and Advaita traditions.
On 23rd January 2007, I had the Upanayana samskara (sacred thread ceremony) performed for me by Sanatana Dharma priest Pandit Bal Gautamji. In this ceremony, I was given the Yagnopavita sacred thread, and initiated into the meaning and use of the sacred Gayatri mantra.
Tibetan Vajrayana Lineage
In 2010 I decided that I should expand my knowledge of the Tibetan practices by taking ordination into the vajrayana tradition. On 13th August 2010, I received the oral transmission of the common preliminaries,and the oral transmission of the Ngondro (4 tantric yoga) practices from the Nyingma Longchen Nyinthig Lineage.
In October 2013, after just over 3 years of intense practice, I completed the 100’000 repetitions of each of the four main ngondro practices.
During February 2013, in a private ceremony, at Leksheyling monastery in Kathmandu, Choje Lama Phuntsok formally gave me the preliminary monks vows of the Karma Kagyu tradition. On the 2nd March, also in a private ceremony, lasting approx one and a half hours, Choje Lama Phuntsok gave me the “Vajrakilaya sadhana” empowerment.
In September 2013, I returned to Kathmandu to continue my training with Choje Lama Phuntsok. I was given the oral transmission of the Vajrakilaya sadhana, and the oral transmission of the Phowa practice.
On 19th September 2013, I received the formal Getsul monks vows from Choje Lama Phuntok, and four other senior teachers, and was presented with the “Chugu” (yellow patchwork) monks robe. I was given the Tibetan getsul name “Phuntsok Dorje Zhonnu”
On 1st September 2014, I received my full Gelong monks vows in the Karma Kagyu tradition from Ven. Khenpo Lodro Donyo Rinpoche, at Bokar monastery in Mirik, North India. I received my Namjar monks robe and monks bowl, and was given the formal monks name “ Karma Ngedon Drime”.
During August/ September 2014, whilst at Bokar Monastery, I also received further oral practice instructions from Nyingma terma texts, in the Vajrakilaya sadhana and Phowa transference of consciousness at the time of death practice, from Lama Trinle Thaye.
In Dec 2017 I spent 5 days receiving private 1-to-1 transmission and practice instructions in the tantric practice of Chod from Khenpo Wangchuk Lama at Leksheyling monastery just outside Kathmandu.
A note about lineages
When someone already ordained into one lineage goes on to train in another, they do not give up the previous lineage, but embraces both. So you may find a Tibetan monk trained in 2 or 3 Tibetan lineages, such as Nyingma and Kagyu. The same applies to the Zen tradition, where a monk may train in Soto and Rinzai. Also, as in my case, a monk may be ordained and trained in several traditions, such as Zen and Tibetan and retain ordination in the lineage of both of them.
As a dedicated practitioner of Bodhicitta and upholder of the Buddhist principle of Ahimsa (non harming or non violence) I practice a strict vegan lifestyle, abstaining from all animal based products, in food, clothing or any day to day items that I use. I became vegetarian as part of my spiritual practice in 1969, but after investigating the issue further in later years, I realised, that as there was so much suffering in the honey, dairy, egg and wool industry etc, that to be true to my personal vows, I would have to follow a total vegan lifestyle, which I have done since 1999.
Pranayama and Yoga Nidra
In 2008, I travelled to south India to seek qualified instruction in both Pranayama yogic breathing and Yoga-nidra deep meditation techniques. I was trained on a daily 1-to-1 basis by a teacher from the Chennai yoga mission. I was also authorised by my instructor to teach both methods to students.
In 2008, I was trained in, and certificated to teach, the Shibashi eighteen forms of Tai Chi Qigong, In 2010, I was also trained in and qualified to teach the eighteen advanced forms of Qigong, plus the five animal forms and the six sound and movement breathing exercises I underwent this training under the guidance of Tai Chi gold medallist and instructor Robert France.
A note about my Dharma names
The meaning of Dharma names is always relevant to the person being ordained, and is very much personal to them, therefore I will not go into their meaning.
This is my Japanese zen monks name, given to me by Taizan Maezumi roshi at my ordination in 1983. Roshi informed me at the ordination, that he was naming me after Takeda Shingen, a 16th century samurai warlord, who was also ordained as a Buddhist. Although the two characters (shin gen) that make up my name have a different meaning to his.
“Shri Sadhu Dharmavira”
When one becomes a Buddhist monk, they are supposed to give up all past attachments, so in 2006, I decided that I should really let go of the name given to me at birth. So I chose a relevant Sanskrit name. The priest who did the formal naming ceremony for me added the title “shri”. This is now my legal name on all documents, passport etc.
"ven. lama ngedon drime"
When I received my Getsul vows in 2013, I was given the monks name Phuntsok Dorje Zhonnu. Then in 2014, I received my Gelong full monks vows, so I was given a new Tibetan monks name Karma Ngedon Drime.
I am normally addressed simply as Lama, although many address me as Sadhu or Dharmavira, and I am also still addressed as Shingen in the zen tradition.
Although I am ordained as a monk in both the Japanese Soto Zen and Tibetan Karma Kagyu traditions, I am no longer connected to any centre or organisation, but share a house with one other person. This allows me to live a quiet contemplative life. I have a strict daily routine, starting my first meditation at 3am, with various Tibetan and Zen meditations and practices through the day until I retire at 8pm.
As having a human body is a valuable opportunity to practice the Dharma, I look after it by weight training at the gym 3 mornings a week, and also do a mixture of karate exercises to keep everything working. All my physical training is done as an extension of my practice, as a form of meditation in action (zen and the art of weight lifting!).
I eat the same food for breakfast and lunch every day (monks do not eat after mid day). I only vary this if I am travelling, but I am always strictly vegan.
I have nothing to do with skype, apps, facebook, twitter or any other form of social media, and I do not walk around with a smartphone in my hand, aspects of modern times that appear to be sucking the life out of humankind.
I live a quiet reclusive life, with no interest in publicity or becoming well known. I practice the Dharma, drink tea, watch the birds in the garden and write haiku style poems (for my own reflection) about animals.
In the zen tradition, it is customery, when you know you are going to die, as a way of expressing your mind at that moment, to write your death poem.
I do not know when I am going to die, in the next 5 minutes or in the next 5 years, so, in preparation I wrote my death poem in January 2014.
Lama Ngedon Drime