Biography of Lama Jampa Thaye

Lama Jampa was born in England in 1952; he has been a very close student of Karma Thinley Rinpoche and His Holiness (HH) Sakya Gongma Trichen since 1973.  He is also particularly close to HH Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje.  In all, he has received teachings from over thirty masters.

“Lama Jampa has been my dharma friend for many many years….  It is very impressive that he has kept the traditional studies and dharma practice with all his followers together….  this is veryencouraging to see, that dharma is growing and blossoming everywhere.”

HH Sakya Gongma Trichen, London 2022

Karma Thinley Rinpoche bestowed upon Lama Jampa many initiations, transmissions and instructions from the Kagyu, Sakya, Nyingma and Kadam traditions. In particular, he received from Rinpoche the famous collection of vajrayana initiations known as the One Hundred Sadhanas of Bari Lotsawa, the One Hundred Lojong Teachings, the complete cycle of Konchog Chindu and various works on Kagyu philosophy.

From HH Sakya Gongma Trichen, Lama Jampa has obtained many initiations and transmissions from all four sets of tantras, most notably the Thirteen Golden Dharmas, Lamdre Tsokshe, the esoteric teachings of Vajrayogini, the Jonang Transmission of the Eighty Four Mahasiddhas and the One Hundred Sadhanas of Narthang.

A third master who was particularly important in Lama Jampa’s education was Ngor Phende Shabdrung Rinpoche (b. 1934), from whom he received numerous initiations, textual transmissions and instructions, such as Vajrayogini, Vajrapani and White Tara.

Having completed the Kagyu Mahamudra preliminaries by 1975, Lama Jampa went on to complete the retreat of the development and completion stages of Konchog Chindu as well as the retreat of Amitabha. Over the following years he completed White Tara, Vajrayogini and Hevajra, the chief retreat practices of the Sakya tradition.

In 1975, following a visit to Manchester of His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa and with the blessing of Karma Thinley Rinpoche, Lama Jampa established the first of the worldwide network of Buddhist centres and groups dedicated to the study and practise of the teachings of either Kagyu or Sakya schools.

In 1977, Lama Jampa was appointed by Karma Thinley Rinpoche as his dharma-regent and subsequently in 1988, as a result of his completion of the necessary retreats and textual studies, he was given the authority to carry out the activities of a lama, such as bestowing Vajrayana initiations. 

“One of the great Western dharma teachers is my dharma regent, Lama Jampa Thaye. We have opened many dharma centres in Great Britain and he has been giving teachings all over Europe. He is not only a great scholar, but also a great dharma practitioner.” 

Karma Thinley Rinpoche, Millennium Letter, Toronto 1999

Since then, with the blessings of HH Sakya Gongma Trichen and Karma Thinley Rinpoche, Lama Jampa has travelled extensively giving teachings and initiations in many countries and also establishing permanent centres and groups as requested. By August 1989 these included a European retreat centre – Sakya Changlochen Ling – and it was at this time that Karma Thinley Rinpoche bestowed the collective name of Dechen on the network. Originating from the first line of a poem by Rinpoche: ‘great bliss (dechen) is the antidote to laziness’, it now has centres in USA, Mexico and Germany as well as France and the UK.

Before passing away in June 2014, Shamar Rinpoche, who alternates with His Holiness Karmapa as lineage holder of the Kagyu tradition, requested that Lama Jampa visit and give teachings at his Bodhi Path centres worldwide. Since this time Lama Jampa has travelled to Bodhi Path centres in USA and Europe in order to fulfil Shamarpa’s wish.

Lama Jampa Thaye is the author of various works including Garland of Gold (1990), Way of Tibetan Buddhism (2001), Rain of Clarity (2006), Wisdom in Exile (2017), Patterns in Emptiness (2019), River of Memory (2nd edition, 2020) and Diamond Sky (2nd edition, 2023). His books and essays have been translated into French, German, Polish, Spanish, Portugese and Bulgarian. He holds a doctorate from the University of Manchester for his work on Tibetan religious history and lectured for over twenty years at the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University. He edited and wrote the introduction for Karma Thinley Rinpoche’s The History of the Sixteen Karmapas of Tibet (1980) and composed the entries on Tibetan religions for The Dictionary of Religions (1980).

In 1974 His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa appointed Lama Jampa to the Karma Kagyu Trust (UK) and he is now a member of the international teaching faculty of the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute in Delhi.  For many years he has also served as one of the principal masters for the Summer Courses held at Dhakpo Kagyu Ling, the European seat of HH Karmapa in France.

“In our present day and age, it is rare to find teachers like Lama Jampa Thaye, who succeed in presenting the complex teachings of the Buddha dharma in both a traditional and accessible manner.”

HH Karmapa in his preface to Patterns In Emptiness 2018

In 2010 Lama Jampa was invited to attend The World Buddhist Summit as the UK’s Supreme Head of Buddhism. Established in Japan in 1998 the purpose of the organisation is to bring leaders of the three major Buddhist traditions together (Theravadin, Mahayana and Vajrayana) in order to promote the teachings of the Buddha as a vehicle for world peace.

Lama Jampa Thaye lives in Bayswater, London with his wife Albena and family. He maintains a busy annual program of teachings and initiations for Dechen and other international dharma organizations and personal interviews at the request of his students.

“You spread the dharma, the medicine that pacifies sin and suffering,
Taught by Shakyamuni, protector of beings as limitless as space,
By explanation, debate and composition,
Supreme scholar, Lama Jampa, may you live long.” 

Extract from the Long Life Prayer for Lama Jampa Thaye composed by Karma Thinley Rinpoche

Taking refuge: becoming a Buddhist

"People ask a lot about what is it that makes somebody a Buddhist, and in fact the traditional answer is a Buddhist is somebody who takes refuge in the Three Jewels, the three rare and precious objects meaning the Buddha, himself, the founder of the tradition, the Dharma, his teachings, and the Sangha, the community of those who followed the Buddhist teachings, and therefore, act as our helpers and companions in the practice of the Dharma, taught by the Buddha."