The Guyha Mantrika community near Alcácer do Sal, Setúbal, Portugal, is a strong, committed and authentic sangha living on the lands surrounding the imposing Tashi Gomang stupa. I was lucky enough to visit the community in the fall of 2022 and spent two weeks living and practicing with them inside this impressive temple stupa. These dedicated and trained ngakpas practicing the Nyingma lineage sadhana while living in harmony with the earth and animals. Their community is growing and has big plans to eventually build a Zangdok Palri temple:
Our aspiration is the creation of an extremely solid and robust basis for the development of a Nyingma Buddhist spiritual community in Portugal, with all the possibilities for study and practice that are still found today in the Orient.*
The Tashi Gomang Stupa is both glorious and impressive as it stands out against the low hills of the area, offering views in all directions. A stupa is a representation of the mind of the Buddha and is therefore a valuable symbol and place of power for practice. It is also an essential tool for avoiding war, famine and all forms of negativity. At my own Pema Ösel Ling temple in California, we have a large Dorje Drolö stupa surrounded by smaller stupas and then, again, a fence of smaller stupas, on a protected, wooded hillside in the redwood forest . I had the chance to help build and beautify aspects of it years ago.
On the other hand, the Tashi Gomang Stupa is unique in that one can go inside the first level, where there is a temple large enough to accommodate 12 or 15 practitioners. I had the chance to practice inside the stupa, under the statue of Guru Rinpoche with Lama Gyurme, his partner Delfina, their children and the dedicated resident sangha, including the Bhutanese sangha of Setúbal. In the upper part of the stupa, facing outwards, there is a pretty statue of Shakyamuni, all in gold. Inside the large main area, the colorfully painted Guru Rinpoche presides over the practice and scope of offerings. This stupa is particularly wonderful for making Early, with its magnificent views and open landscape. Lama Gyurme directs the gompa, advised by his own Lama Chödor, both students of the masters of the Chokling Tersar lineage. Their brief biographies are below.
It was particularly enjoyable not only to play bids inside, accompanied by abundant tsok offerings – much of which was then given to the local community in need – but also to tour the world with its incredible 360-degree views. The sunrise and sunset were glorious from this vantage point, giving the practitioner the feeling that their prayers and mantras extend 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 followed their progress online well before my visit. So many hands contributed to its planning, construction and completion! It is with great joy that the sangha practices there, respecting Nyingma traditions. I felt very welcome and at home there. I found that there were some bids and practices that we had in common: what a blessing and what a positive surprise to travel to foreign countries and find an unexpected Dharma family!
The Guhya Mantrika Dharma community is committed to building yet another incredible building to support the practice: the Heavenly Palace of Padmasambhava. I highly recommend that wherever you are, but especially if you are already living in Europe, to reach out and take the opportunity to visit this very special Dharma community located in the hills of southwest Portugal, and to support their plans for the Zangdok Palri Palace.
The stupa was inaugurated on September 30, 2017 and the consecration was presided over by Lama Chödor. It is always underestimated the power of community in the preparation of something as grand and sacred as a stupa, the countless hours spent making mantra scrolls, securing the substances according to the traditional instructions of the text, make tsa-tsas (mini stupas), and many other things that come into play.
The biography of Lama Chodor is as follows:
Born in Belgium in February 1968, the year of the monkey or year of Guru Rinpoche, Lama Chödor, at the age of only eight, went to India and Nepal, of his own decision, to study the teachings of Buddha. Within the Nyingma school, Lama Chödor maintains a close connection with the lineages of Chokling Tersar, Longchen Nyingthig and the Mindroling tradition. He also upholds the traditions of the Karma Kagyu lineage. He also received teachings from many other Tibetan lineages. Since the age of eight, he has been training 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 from ngakpa tradition (one who uses a mantra). Unlike monks and nuns who renounce worldly life by taking vows such as celibacy, abstinence from alcohol and meat, ngakpas relying on inner renunciation rather than outer renunciation, seeking to transmute the circumstances of daily life as a means/method of practice. Thus, the main field of practice may be relationships with family, friends and work colleagues, as well as the different facets and circumstances of life. Lama Gyurme grew up in Lisbon and works tirelessly for Buddhism in Portugal and beyond.***
May all activities of this community of faith reach their full potential and be of great benefit to beings throughout the world.
* The goal (Guhya Mantrika Community)
** Lama Urgyen Chökyi Dorje Spiritual Advisor of the Guhya Mantrika Community (Guhya Mantrika Community)
*** Lama Gyurme Lama resident of the Guhya Mantrika community (Guhya Mantrika Community)