Hannah Nydahl

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Hannah Nydahl
Hannah Nydahl.jpg
Born(1946-04-17)April 17, 1946
DiedApril 1, 2007(2007-04-01) (aged 60)
Spouse(s)Lama Ole Nydahl

Hannah Nydahl (1946–2007), wife of Lama Ole Nydahl, was an important Danish teacher and translator in the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.[1]

Early life[edit]

She was born and died in Copenhagen, Denmark. Hannah and her husband Ole Nydahl, who assisted her work, were childhood friends, meeting for the first time when Hannah was 5 and Ole 10.[2][3]

Involvement with Buddhism[edit]

Under the spiritual direction of The 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje Hannah Nydahl and Ole Nydahl Founded Diamond Way Buddhism, a Buddhist organization for lay practitioners within the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Hannah and Ole Nydahl were introduced to Buddhism on their honeymoon in Nepal in 1968, and were among the first Westerners to become students of the 16th Karmapa in 1969. (British nun Freda Bedi took refuge in 1960). [4] After a three-year period of study they were sent back to Europe by the 16th Karmapa to found centers in his name.[5][6]

She was a Buddhist teacher like her husband (sometimes referred to as Lamini or female Lama[7]), but the main role of Hannah Nydahl was as a translator for Lamas like the 16th Karmapa,[8] Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche etc.[1] In an interview she explained, "I do not mind teaching but when I am together with Ole it is more natural that he teaches. When I am not with him I mainly translate and organize for the Tibetan lamas."[9]

In the magazine Kagyu Life International she was described in this way: "Hannah Nydahl is a much sought after translator and interpreter of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. She divides her time between translating for the lamas at the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute in New Delhi, India, participating in various Buddhist text translation projects, organizing schedules and visits of high Rinpoches in the lineage, and traveling around the world with Lama Ole."[9]

She spoke Danish, German, English, and Tibetan fluently. As few Tibetan teachers spoke English, she learned Tibetan, from Tarab Tulku at Copenhagen University. Since all texts were in Tibetan, her work included translating texts,[9] and spoken translation for the teaching Lamas at the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute in New Delhi, India, participation in various Buddhist text translation projects,[10] as well as organizing and translating lectures for Tibetan Lamas.[11][12]

Death and legacy[edit]

In 2006 Hannah Nydahl was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and died three months later.[13] Just a few days before Hannah passed away, the Diamond Way Buddhism Foundation purchased a 50 hectare property with historic structures in the German Alps. The Europe Center is the site of a yearly international meditation summer course where up to 4000 Buddhists from 50 countries participate in empowerments, teachings and meditations.[14][15][16]

She was widely respected for her work, devotion and accomplishments as a Buddhist practitioner.[17][18][19] A Danish newspaper even referred to her as the "Mother of Buddhism".[20] Jørn Borup, Department of Study of Religion at University of Aarhus said: "The most lasting influence on the Buddhist practice scene in Denmark was triggered by Ole and Hannah Nydahl backpacking in the spiritual East during their honeymoon in Nepal in 1968."[6]

A documentary about Hannah Nydahl, titled Hannah: Buddhism's Untold Story, was screened for the first time at the ARPA International Film Festival (held at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles) on 15 September 2014 where it won the audience award for Best Documentary. The film was later screened around the world, including at various festivals where it won further awards, and has received positive reviews from film critics.[21][failed verification] It is now available on Netflix and Amazon in North America.


  1. ^ a b Nydahl, Ole (1992) Riding The Tiger, Twenty Years on the Road - The Risks and Joys of Bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West, Blue Dolphin Publishing. ISBN 978-0-931892-67-7
  2. ^ "Lama Ole Nydahl talks drugs, meditation and losing his soul mate". South China Morning Post. April 15, 2017.
  3. ^ Nydahl, Ole "Entering The Diamond Way, Tibetan Buddhism Meets the West", Blue Dolphin Publishing (1999). ISBN 978-0-931892-03-5
  4. ^ Mackenzie, Vicki. "Cave in the Snow : Tenzin Palmo's Quest for Enlightenment", New York, Bloomsbury USA, (1998)p. 96
  5. ^ Bausch, Gerd, "Radiant Compassion, The Life of the 16th Gyalway Karmapa, Volume 1." 2018 pp. 220
  6. ^ a b Journal of Global Buddhism, Article by Jørn Borup, Department of Study of Religion at University of Aarhus, Denmark. 2008, based on research from 2005 Archived 16 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2009-02-02
  7. ^ Movie: Buddhism in the Modern World (2008), Soulproduction
  8. ^ Official statement from Lama Karma Wangchuk, International Karma Kagyu Buddhist Organization. 01.07.2004 Retrieved on 2009-02-02
  9. ^ a b c Interview with Hannah Nydahl, Kagyu Life International, vol. 4, Virginia, July 1995 Available online
  10. ^ "History – Translating the Karmapas Works".
  11. ^ DiamondWay-Buddhism.org - Teachers Archived 20 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2009-02-02
  12. ^ Open letter regarding Karmapa Controversy by karmapa-issue.org, 26.07.2004 Retrieved on 2009-30-01
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 December 2014. Retrieved 22 December 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Remembering Hannah Nydahl". April 1, 2017.
  15. ^ "Europe Center – An international project of Diamond Way Buddhism".
  16. ^ "The Europe Center | Diamond Way Buddhist Foundation". www.buddhism-foundation.org.
  17. ^ Official letter from the 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje, 2007 Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2009-30-01
  18. ^ Official letter from Ole Nydahl, 2007 Archived 3 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2009-30-01
  19. ^ Official letter from Jigme Rinpoche, 2007 Archived 30 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2009-30-01
  20. ^ Nanna Schelde, Farvel til buddhisternes mor (Farewell to the Mother of Buddhism), Kristeligt Dagblad, Denmark, 03. apr 2007 Available online ("In danish")
  21. ^ "Hannah the Movie. Main". www.hannahthefilm.com.