About Tilmann Lhundrup
Short biography of Lama Tilmann (Lhundrup) Borghardt
I started practicing Buddhism in 1978 with silent sitting meditation in the style of Zen. In 1981, I met the Tibetan teacher Gendün Rinpoche and shortly after took refuge followed by three years of daily meditation practice in the Burmese Vipassana tradition. From 1984 onwards I took up practice in the Tibetan Kagyu tradition and after finishing my studies of medicine and homeopathy in 1986 I spent 3 1/2 years with my wife Irene in a forest meditation retreat under the guidance of Gendun Rinpoche. In 1990 he bestowed on both of us the monastic ordination, followed by a group meditation retreat until 1994. After that until the end of 2011, I practiced and taught in the Karma Kagyu monastery Dhagpo Kündröl Ling in France. The late Gendün Rinpoche asked me to be one of the teachers responsible for the two cycles of three year retreats.I teach meditation courses in different countries, lead individual and group retreats, train dharma teachers, translate texts from the Tibetan and have started to write in the "Blue Book" on a contemporary Buddhist approach closer to our culture. I continue to guide practitoners in long retreats, but in less formal settings.
From 1997 to 2012 I was intensely involved in the Dharma house Croizet (Guépel Ling) in France which serves as a meeting place for people interested in the dharma. Leading seminars on “Dharma and Psychotherapy” for several years has led in 2009 to the founding of the “Institut für Essentielle Psychotherapie” in Germany where I am one of the teachers of a three years curriculum. And, recently together with a group of friend we bought a former hotel, the "Grüner Baum" in the black forest, in Southern Germany. As the Ekayana Institute for contemporay Buddhism it serves as a retreat centre for people wishing to do retreat coming from all traditions.Retreats are possible from one week to several years, with continued guidance.
A more detailed account of my life
I was born in 1959. Childhood was of course a mixed experience, with suffering and happiness in a very human mixture. We are four brothers of whom I am the second, and we like each other very much, which is a wonderful gift of life. Adolescence saw me with varying length of hair and beard, warm-hearted girl friends, travelling a lot, especially hitch-hiking. Then came the medical studies, further loves, political activity, then marriage with varied experiences of “honey and salt”.
I had started meditating while I was still in high school, but it was only in spring 1981 that I met my first Buddhist master, the Ven. Gendun Rinpoche, a truly awakened person. The meeting happened in the town of my studies, Freiburg in Germany, where Lama Gendun taught a weekend on awakening the heart (Bodhicitta). I felt like meeting for the first time in my life a person whose words and being were completely in tune without any contradiction. His teaching deeply influenced my spiritual journey for the years to come; some first understanding of Buddha nature as our potential to awaken became indelibly inserted into my heart. It was my first real introduction to the “dharma”, the teaching of the truth that liberates.
A few months later I took refuge with Shamar Rinpoche in Paris. He gave me his kind permission to go and study meditation under teachers of the Burmese Vipassana tradition, Saya U Chit Tin and Mother Sayama, with whom I practised in nine retreats of ten days each for three years until my wife Irene took me to meet Kalu Rinpoche and Tenga Rinpoche. They introduced me into the vast vision of the Vajrayana and Mahamudra world and their kind guidance finally let us to decide for a long retreat at the end of my studies.
On the advice of Tenga Rinpoche we contacted Gendun Rinpoche to be our retreat guide. To make a long story short: he not only accepted us but gave us perfect conditions to meditate in closed forest retreat in France in the centre of Dhagpo Kagyu Ling (Dordogne). He visited us every 2-3 months and guided us himself, helped by his experienced students Henrik and Walli.
The retreat lasted from autumn 1986 to summer 1990, when my strong wish to take monastic vows set an unforeseen end to it. That very summer I took the Brahmacarya vows and then I received monastic ordination with the name of Karma Sönam Lhundrup in January 1991 (so did Irene, from then on called Dorje Drölma). We both joined the group retreat of three years in the calm hillsides of the Auvergne.
This retreat place has since become the Karma Kagyu Monastery called Dhagpo Kundreul Ling with several retreat centres attached to it. From July 1994 until December 2011 I worked in this beautiful place on the request of the late Gendun Rinpoche as one of the dharma teachers in charge of the traditional 3-year meditation retreats. Together with my colleagues I took care of five such cycles of first and second retreat, guiding practitioners in intensive individual and group practice. My work for the dharma continues now outside the monastery in a life primarily dedicated to study, teaching meditation and writing.
Guiding individual practice and retreats
My prime concern and responsability from 1994 to 2011 has been to guide the two cycles of three year group retreats for men in France, in the monastery of Dhagpo Kundreul Ling (Auvergne). This responsibility has come to an end, but I continue to take care of dharma students in Europe and Brazil. I mainly teach Mahamudra meditation and the essentials of dharma, and not so much the vajrayana practices as I did the last 20 years. I help with individual or group retreats whereever needed. However I only take care of retreats which last for a month or longer. A group of four practitioners under my guidance has started a continuous life in retreat in a house in the Auvergne. Their retreat includes taking care of their parents, cultivating vegetables and doing their own shopping. The retreat is not limited in time. I visit them every three months to spend an intensive week of teaching and practice with them.
From 1997 to 2012 I offered one Saturday per month a meditation day (previously together with L. Seunam Dorje now with Trinlé-Carlo) where we worked through the meditation instructions in the Ninth Karmapa's “Mahamudra – Ocean of True Meaning”. Transcripts of some of the teachings are available in French under dharma textes. The audio recordings are available as well. Now I intend to continue the meditation days in Freiburg, but only five time a year.
I still need to finish some translations of dharma texts begun in the past years, mostly from Tibetan to German, and to make them available. That is one of the reasons why I wish to consecrate some of my time to semi-retreats. During these work retreats I am not easily available to outside practitioners. The translations are published in our Norbu Verlag in Germany.
Research and Writing
Time will show whether my wishes come true. I feel a strong inspiration to write on dharma practice as something that could be completely integrated and natural in our Western culture includinng especially all the knowledge coming from psychotherapy. I wish to remove barriers to understanding that are of a cultural nature and establish bridges from the Buddhadharma to our Western spiritual tradition, philosophy and psychology. In order to do this I will need to do research on certain themes, discuss with others and learn a great deal. Then I hope to express this growing understanding in writing. Let's see. For now I have started to write the letters of the “Blue Book” which appear roughly once every two weeks.
France: the Dharma house in Croizet and the Summer meditation course
Since 1998 one of my joys has been to build up together with other practitioners the dharma house “Maison du Dharma, Croizet”. In 2011 I lived in Croizet during the period of transition from monastic to lay life. The place offers some planned and a lot of spontaneous activity all around the year with different teachers participating. I myself shall continue to give the annual meditation course in the first ten days of August where we apply the instructions on Mahamudra to various aspects of our life and practice, focusing on Insight meditation based on the Ninth Karmapa’s manual “Mahamudra – Ocean of true Meaning”. I teach in French and German, and translations into English, Russian and other languages are possible.
Germany: Dharma and Psychotherapy
Another activity these past years has been to organize annual seminars on “Dharma and Psychotherapy” in Germany and France. They were a unique platform of exchange between Dharma teachers and Buddhist psychotherapists. Out of this grew the German Institut für Essentielle Psychotherapie where the second cycle of a three-year-training in psychotherapy based on Buddhist principles is to start in November 2012. Due to this new commitment and limited time I could unfortunately not continue with the previous exchanges.
I went four times to Brazil and other lamas have continued since, especially lama Gelek-Dirk who inspires many practitioners over there. It is planned that in the second half of January I shall continue every year with the transmission of the Mahamudra teachings to a group in Goyas. My teaching in Brasil is usually in English, of course translated into Portuguese.
Also I teach every year an English-Greek summer course on Mahamudra and mind training, usually in July in the mountain retreat centre Karma Rigdröl Ling near Thessaloniki. Participants from other countries are wholeheartedly invited. See the more detailed description on the blog
In recent years I have become quite involved with Karmapa's centre in the town of Freiburg, in Germany. My aging mother lives only half an hour away and that’s where I stay when not travelling.
The annual 6 day winter course in Freiburg focusses on deepening compassion with the methods of mind training (Lojong). We practice the five steps of Working with Emotions taught by Karma Chakme Rinpoche. A German translation of the text taught by Gendun Rinpoche is available in the Norbu Verlag as "Der Große Pfau". The teaching is in German and French in order to favour exchange with French practitioners.
In 2009 we started a three-year-curriculum in 12 weekends where we went through each line of Gampopa’s “Jewel Ornament”, studying it quite intensively. The new curriculum now focusses on putting into practice the various aspects of dharma that we have studied. For details of our program see Dharmagruppe Freiburg.
Invited by the lamas of our centre in Möhra, Germany, I try to spend every year a few days of teaching there. The meditation course in 2011 was based on the Third Karmapa’s "Mahamudra Prayer" and from 2012 onwards I teach the text "Eliminating the darkness of ignorance", by the Ninth Karmapa. The teaching is in German, translations in other languages can be organized, if we know the need early enough.
Thus you have a little overview, a few glimpses of my regular activities. For photos or further details please follow the links, write to the coordinators, and see the calendar here on the English part of the website.
Please receive all my best wishes, Tilmann Lhündrup.