Lama Ole Nydahl is one of the few fully qualified Western Buddhist lamas in the Karma Kagyu lineage.

Since being asked by the leader of the Karma Kagyu school, the 16th Karmapa, in 1972 to offer Buddhism to those who were interested in the West, he has been doing so constantly in spiritually free countries all around the world.
Lama Ole specializes in teaching Mahamudra, the “Great Seal”, in which a realized teacher can give an experience of the limitless nature of mind to the student, as well as the transmission of Phowa, “Conscious Dying”, a rare, centuries-old meditation practice. In his teachings, Lama Ole stresses combining lay Buddhist practice with independent thinking and the maturity that comes from life experience, as well as the importance of taking care of society, especially freedom of speech and women’s rights.
To meet Lama Ole, you can check his teaching schedule and see when he is teaching in your country.

Biography of Lama Ole Nydahl

Ole and Hannah Nydahl during their honeymoon in Nepal
Ole and Hannah Nydahl during their honeymoon in Nepal

Ole Nydahl was born on March 19, 1941 north of Copenhagen, where he also grew up. He studied Philosophy, English and German in Copenhagen, Tubingen, Munich, and in the USA. He and his wife Hannah first encountered Buddhism on their honeymoon in 1968. While in Kathmandu, Nepal, they met Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche, one of the most important Buddhist teachers of the Himalayas.

Lama Ole and Hannah kept a very close connection to their first teacher Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche
Lama Ole and Hannah kept a very close connection to their first teacher Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche

In 1969, Hannah and Ole Nydahl met the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the head of the Karma Kagyu school, and became his first Western students. They received the most important empowerments and teachings of the Karma Kagyu lineage from the 16th Karmapa himself and other Karma Kagyu masters such as Kalu Rinpoche, as well as empowerments of other Tibetan Buddhist schools. In 1972, the 16th Karmapa asked Ole and Hannah Nydahl to bring the teachings of the Karma Kagyu lineage to the West and build Buddhist centres in his name.

16th Karmapa in Copenhagen with Lama Ole and Hannah Nydahl
The 16th Karmapa in Copenhagen with Lama Ole and Hannah Nydahl

Lama Ole and Hannah founded Buddhist centers first in Austria (Graz), Norway, Sweden, and Denmark (Copenhagen). Up to the present day, Lama Ole has founded 659 centers around the world on behalf of his teacher. He travels the globe twice a year to teach and visit his students. Everywhere he goes he gives teachings and Buddhist refuge — the ceremony by which one becomes a Buddhist — as well as the Bodhisattva Promise, the inner commitment to dedicate one’s life to benefit others, with the ultimate goal of the enlightenment of all beings.

From 1973 on, Lama Ole Nydahl and his wife Hannah organized tours and lectures of the highest Tibetan Buddhist teachers through Europe and later on also to North and South America, Russia and Australia. As well as the 16th Karmapa, they invited and translated for Shamar Rinpoche, Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Beru Khyentse Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, Topga Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche, Bokar Rinpoche, Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche, Trungpa Rinpoche, and Ayang Rinpoche. The 16th Karmapa died in 1981, and his rebirth, Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, was recognized and enthroned by Shamar Rinpoche, the second highest lama of the Karma Kagyu.

Lama Ole and Hannah Nydahl together with Shamarpa in Rumtek
Lama Ole and Hannah Nydahl together with Shamarpa in Rumtek

In 1987 Lama Ole Nydahl also started teaching the practice of Phowa at the request of Shamar Rinpoche. Lama Ole Nydahl has given this “Meditation of conscious dying” to more than 75,000 students around the world and is a recognized Phowa master.

The only time he suspended his teaching activity for some months was in the summer of 2003 after a near-fatal parachuting accident.

Lama Ole is the author of several books including The Way Things Are; Entering the Diamond Way; Mahamudra; Riding the Tiger (all from Blue Dolphin Publishing, USA); and The Great Seal (Fire Wheel Publishing, USA). The entire intellectual property of Lama Ole and Hannah Nydahl is held by the Diamond Way Buddhism Foundation.

Hannah Nydahl passed away from cancer in 2007. Her amazing life, and the story of how she and Lama Ole brought lay Karma Kagyu Buddhism to the West, is now an award-winning film: “Hannah: Buddhism’s Untold Story“.

17th Karmapa and Lama Ole Nydahl at the EuropeCenter in Immenstadt
17th Karmapa and Lama Ole Nydahl at the EuropeCenter in Immenstadt

One of her last acts in this life was to sign a contract to purchase the Europe Center, a beautiful site in the Bavarian Alps which is now the main international meeting-place for Diamond Way Buddhism was bought. In 2009, at the second international Summer Course, the 17th Karmapa came to the Europe Center to give teachings and Lama Ole ceremonially presented the more than 600 Buddhist centers of the Diamond Way to him.

Lama Ole Nydahl at the Kagyu Monlam in Bodghaya in 2012
Lama Ole Nydahl at the Kagyu Monlam in Bodghaya in 2012

In 2012, Lama Ole took part in the Kagyu Monlam, the annual gathering of the highest Karma Kagyu lamas at Bodh Gaya, the place where the historical Buddha attained enlightenment. Having been given a place of honour, Lama Ole was surprised by a gift from Karmapa of a traditional silk brocade robe to thank him for his 40 years of activity for Buddhism.

In 2014, Lama Ole married Alexandra Munoz Barboza, a yoga teacher from Venezuela, at the Copenhagen Buddhist Center.

On June 13, 2015 Lama Ole Nydahl received the award for dialogue, coexistence and peace of the UNESCO Association for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue in Malaga (Spain).

“Our mind is indestructible space. Look inside and you will become rich. What is looking through your eyes right now – find that.
It’s beyond birth and death. It’s beyond any kind of danger or possibility of being lost. It’s the source of all perfection and all joy in the world. Look inside. See what is aware now.”
– Lama Ole Nydahl, Malaga, 2015

If you would like to learn more about Lama Ole, please see his official website, lama-ole-nydahl.org.