—Aro Ling Cardiff—in Whitchurch Village, what inspired you to begin such a venture?
Ngakma Nor'dzin: I was inspired by the success of a similar venture in Bristol. The teachings of the Aro Tradition are so precious and relevant to our everyday lives that I wanted to make them available to the people of Cardiff as well.
Q: What were your hopes for the Centre when you began looking for a place?
NN: I wanted to offer a space for meditation that people would find welcoming and inspiring. It also needed to be convenient for me and easy to access.
Q: Why did you choose Whitchurch as the place for the new Centre?
NN: I have lived in Whitchurch for nearly 30 years. It is my home and an area of Cardiff that I love. Whitchurch village is a pleasant place to be and has a good feeling of local community. I felt the centre could become a real asset to the community and the village.
Q: What have you had to change in your life to take on the running of a Centre?
NN: The main thing was that I had to reduce my other commitments so that I had more time available. The main manifestation of this was to give away one of our horses to a good home and put the other on retirement livery, so that they were cared for and would no longer need my attention day by day.
Q: What does the Centre offer to the people of Whitchurch and Cardiff?
NN: The centre is one room split into a practice room and a small office space. The practice room is available for anyone to use at any time we are open to sit quietly, practice meditation or read the Buddhist reference books. We also offer guided meditation sessions. Every Tuesday we have a meditation group. We also offer courses of around 6 evenings (usually Thursdays) that explore particular Buddhist teachings in more depth. We have just started opening on Saturday mornings—when we are not teaching elsewhere—and from May will offer a series of three hour ‘taster’ sessions. I also offer three types of therapy: Tibetan Energy Balancing, Reflexology foot massage, and Relaxation and Self-healing sessions. People are also most welcome to just drop in for a chat and a cuppa!
Q: What tradition of Buddhism does the Centre teach?
NN: The Aro Tradition which is a small branch of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Q: In what way does this tradition differ from other Buddhist traditions?
NN: It has an emphasis on Vajrayana practice, embracing ordinary life as the path of Liberation. The ordained practitioners in the Aro Tradition are not monks or nuns but tantrikas, yogis and yoginis, who live ordinary non-celibate lifestyles whilst maintaining their commitment to practice and the Vajrayana vows.
Q: Would you say that this approach is particularly suited to Western people?
NN: Absolutely - that is why it is so valuable and so important that people learn about this style of practice. The householder tradition was well-known in Tibet, but it is the monastic style of practice that has mostly been imported to the West. It is vital that something other than renunciation and a monastic style of practice is available to those who do not find this works for them, but still feel an affinity for Buddhist practice.
Q: How do you make the Centre and it's activities known to the public?
NN: We advertise as much as we can afford! Leaflets are delivered locally a couple of times a year and we advertise in The Local Advertiser. I have an A-board at the front of the premises, and a notice board at the end of the drive that advertise our activities. We produce flyers and posters and simply try to let as many people know of our existence as possible.
Q: Aro Ling Cardiff has been open for four months, has the response to the Centre met with your expectations?
NN: Yes and no . . . ! The first courses were better attended than I expected and this has evolved into a regular group for meditation on a Tuesday evening. I have not has as much interest in therapy as I had imagined, but this is less important than meditation and Buddhism. The furtherance of awareness of Vajrayana Buddhism and the Householder Lineage is the primary purpose of the centre, and this is going well.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
NN: We have just made the change from a 4 day a week opening pattern to three days a week with longer hours, plus a Saturday morning. Interest seems to mostly be coming from younger people and those who have work commitments, so being open only during the day is not so useful for them. In May we will have a series of Saturday morning events with a number of guest teachers offering a variety of subjects. This will expand what we are able to offer and giving a more detailed view of the amazing scope of the Aro teachings. We also wish to expand the awareness of art and craft as a means of accessing Vajrayana, by offering art and craft related events.