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In Tibetan Buddhism and Bon, a ngagpa (male), or a ngagmo (female) (Tibetan: སྔགས་པ་, Wylie: sngags pa; Sanskrit mantrī) is an ordained non-monastic practitioner of Dzogchen and Tantra. Traditionally, many Nyingma ngakpas wear uncut hair and white robes and these are sometimes called "the white-robed and uncut-hair group" (Wylie: gos dkar lcang lo'i sde).
In Bhutan, and some other parts of the Himalayas, the term gomchen is the term most often used to refer to this type of Vajrayana priest.
Description and definitions
Matthieu Ricard defines ngakpa simply as "a practitioner of the Secret Mantrayana". Gyurme Dorje defines ngakpa (mantrin) as "a practitioner of the mantras, who may live as a householder rather than a renunciate monk."
Tibetan Buddhism contains two systems of ordination, the familiar monastic ordinations and the less well known ngagpa or Tantric ordinations. Ngagpa ordination is non-monastic and non-celibate. It entails its own extensive system of vows, distinct from the monastic vows.
Ngakpas often marry and have children. Some work in the world, though they are required to devote significant time to retreat and practice and in enacting rituals when requested by, or on behalf of, members of the community.
There are family lineages of ngakpas, with the practice of a particular Yidam being passed through family lineages. However, a ngakpa may also be deemed as anyone thoroughly immersed and engaged in the practice of the teachings and under the guidance of a lineage-holder and who has taken the appropriate vows or samaya and had the associated empowerments and transmissions. Significant lineage transmission is through oral lore.
Kunga Gyaltsen, the father of the 2nd Dalai Lama, was a non-monastic ngakpa, a famous Nyingma tantric master. His mother was Machik Kunga Pemo; they were a farming family. Their lineage transmission was by birth.
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Ngagpa college of Labrang Monastery
- The term 'lay' however is misleading as ngakpas are all ordained member of the non-celibate wing of the ordained sangha. The term 'lay' means 'non-professional' or 'not of the clergy' and ngakpas (such as HH Dudjom Rinpoche who was the Supreme Head of the Nyingma Tradition) cannot be described as 'not of the clergy'.
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