Our Founder and Our Resident Lama
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche originally came to Houston in 1992 when he was awarded a fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation at Rice University with the support of and in collaboration with Anne Klein, a professor in the Department of Religious Studies. He was then awarded a second consecutive fellowship in 1993.
Our Center was founded here in Houston by Tenzin Rinpoche during that time. His vision was two-fold. Initially, he started our Center as a place for preserving and promoting the ancient wisdom traditions of Bön Buddhism with its extensive teachings on the healing and meditative arts. Towards this goal, Rinpoche taught from his deep knowledge of the Bön tradition and he also invited many other masters of Bön to come and teach.
Additionally, Rinpoche realized that the proximity of the Texas Medical Center and its focus on the medical arts and sciences provided him with a special opportunity. He envisioned a place where the healing arts of Tibet and the traditions of modern western medical science could come together, allowing each to benefit from the strengths of the other. Towards that goal, in 1996, Tenzin Rinpoche organized a medical conference with representatives of the Tibetan Healing tradition (SoWa Rigpa), Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and western medicine. This helped to plant the seed of collaboration with the Texas Medical Center, and in particular with Rice University and The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. From that seed, a tree has sprouted and grown. As a result of these collaborative efforts, research grants from the National Cancer Institute are now providing funding for several research projects that are exploring the health and healing benefits of these practices.
Tenzin Rinpoche moved from Houston in 1997, but the Center he founded has continued to flourish. Over the past 20 years it has provided a place for these masters of the Tibetan Bön Buddhist tradition to come from all over the world, and to share their knowledge and experience with us.
Geshe Denma Gyaltsen is the resident lama of Ligmincha Texas. He arrived in Houston in January 2016 to serve as Ligmincha Texas’s first resident lama.
Geshe Denma was born in northern Nepal. His father brought him to Menri Monastery, India, regarded as the mother Bon monastery in exile, in 1981 to begin his program of study toward the Geshe degree. He received all the Bon teachings, initiations and transmissions in sutra, tantra and dzogchen from His Holiness Lungtok Tenpai Nyima Rinpoche, the 33rd Menri Trizin, and His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche.
When he became a senior student, he was asked to teach philosophy to younger students. He successfully completed this degree program in 1996 and was awarded the Geshe certificate, which is considered equivalent to a Ph.D. in Bön Buddhist philosophy and religion.
Geshe Denma was an accomplished teacher and in 1998 was appointed, with the approval of the Tibetan government in exile, first abbot of Zhu Rishing Yungdrung Kundak-Ling Monastery, a Bon Monastery in Sikkim, India by His Holiness. He served two terms in this capacity until 2003. In addition, from the time he graduated until 2008, Geshe Denma also was active in assisting Geshe Nyima Dakpa with the Bon Children’s Home, which houses many children in Dolanji, India, providing them with food, healthcare and free education.
Geshe Denma has traveled many times to the USA, Austria, Poland, Canada, Russia, Belarus, Germany, Switzerland and Holland to teach and to raise the funds for the Bon Children’s Home. In addition, he assisted in the administrative work of the Bon Children’s Home whenever possible.
During this time, Geshe Denma was the treasurer and co-editor of a well-respected publication, Door to Bon, and for three years from 2002–2005 the elected secretary of the Local Tibetan Assembly in Dolanji. Once Geshe Denma attained his geshe degree, he became a senior teacher at the monastery and taught philosophy when he was in residence at Menri.
From 2009 to 2013, Geshe Denma often traveled to the United States to participate in Bon practices and to learn more about the work his fellow geshes were doing to bring this tradition to the Western world. In 2011, Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, founder and spiritual director of Ligmincha International, asked Geshe Denma to become the resident lama of Ligmincha Texas. Geshe Denma accepted the challenge and began coming to Houston to get to know the Ligmincha Texas sangha, study English and begin work to acquire his religious visa and ultimately become Ligmincha Texas’s first resident lama.
In 2014 with the help and support from Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche and members of Ligmincha Texas, the formal application for the visa was made. In late October 2015, the application was approved and on December 20, 2015, Geshe Denma was awarded his R1 Visa. He arrived in Houston on January 3, 2016, welcomed by his grateful sangha and ready to assume his duties as resident lama for Ligmincha Texas.
From 2016 to 2019, Geshe Denma has developed a schedule of office hours at the Ligmincha Texas meditation center in Bellaire, Texas, where he meets the public and schedules appointments to answer Buddhism questions or give other pastoral care. He provides guidance and support to all meditation sessions, in attendance at most of the weekly and monthly practices.
Geshela gives monthly classes on Buddhism, introduction to meditation, or other topics. In addition, he gives frequent teaching retreats at Ligmincha Texas including a calligraphy workshop at the CG Jung Center in Houston, provides support and practice retreats at large events at Ligmincha International in Virginia, has completed a three year intensive teaching cycle at the Chamma Ling Retreat Center in Crestone Colorado, is giving an online Tibetan language course through Glide Wing, and continues to plan future projects.
Geshela participated in a panel of experts at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He provides an ongoing meditation curriculum at Yoga Haven in Galveston. He assists the center in cultural observances such as Tibetan New Year. He performs specific ritual and prayer supports upon request, such as house blessings, prayers for healing, hospital visits, and other specialized rituals. Geshe Denma has published a series of meditation practice booklets for sale in our center and for use at our practices. He obtains religious and cultural objects to use as support for specific Buddhist teachings.
Most recently, Geshela has been working, on behalf of Ligmincha Texas, with Rice University’s Fondren Library to assist in cataloguing a collection of rare looseleaf books (pechas) belonging to the Bön Tradition. Geshe Denma is translating the texts and providing descriptions of these treasured items. The collection has been waiting for years for the perfect person to come and reveal its content to the world. That person is Geshe Denma. While Houston currently has individuals who are fluent in certain dialects of Tibet, it did not have one fluent in the Bön Tradition until Geshe Denma’s arrival. The collection will be searchable as the “Triten Norbutse Bön book collection.” The processing of the pechas is expected to be completed in the fall of 2019.
As Resident Lama, Geshe Denma provides leadership, teaching and caring for our Ligmincha Texas Meditation Center.
Ligmincha Texas has been very fortunate to welcome many respected and venerated Teachers in the Bon Buddhist tradition over the years – so numerous we cannot list all here. But highlighted are the following blessings to our teaching schedule.
Marcy Vaughn has been a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism for more than forty-five years and is a senior student of Bon Buddhist master Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. Marcy graduated from the first class in the master’s program in contemplative psychotherapy at Naropa University and is currently a meditation mentor and counselor in private practice in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She works in close collaboration with Tenzin Rinpoche and has edited his books Tibetan Sound Healing; Awakening the Sacred Body; Awakening the Luminous Mind; and Spontaneous Creativity. She is a senior teacher for both Ligmincha International and for The 3 Doors, where she designed and teaches the Compassion Project with her husband, Gabriel Rocco. Marcy is the practice leader for retreats by Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche at Serenity Ridge in Virginia, and travels extensively presenting workshops and retreats for both new and seasoned meditators.
Dr. Alejandro Chaoul is a Senior Teacher of The 3 Doors, an international organization founded by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche with the goal of transforming lives through meditation. Alejandro has studied in the Tibetan tradition since 1989, and for over 20 years with Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak and Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, completing the seven-year training at Ligmincha Institute in 2000. He also holds a Ph.D. in Tibetan religions from Rice University.
Since 1995, he has been teaching meditation classes and Tibetan Yoga (Tsa Lung & Trul Khor) workshops nationally and internationally under the auspices of Ligmincha Institute. Alejandro is a former member of the Board of the Ligmincha Texas and was an essential leader, supporting the vision of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, in the formation of the organization. He is a much-loved teacher and Sangha member for Ligmincha Texas.
In 1999, Alejandro began teaching these techniques at the Integrative Medicine Program of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, where he holds a faculty position and for the last fifteen years conducts research on the effect of these practices in people with cancer. He is also an associate faculty member at The University of Texas’ McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics, where he teaches medical students in the areas of spirituality, complementary and integrative medicine, and end of life care. Alejandro is also the author of Chod Practice in the Bon Tradition (Snow Lion, 2009) and most recently, Tibetan Yoga for Health & Well-Being (Hay House, Inc., 2018). For more information on upcoming offerings by Dr. Chaoul, please visit his website at: https://alechaoul.com/