About Lama Ole

Lama Ole Nydahl was born on the 19th March 1941 north of Copenhagen and grew up there. He studied Philosophy, English and German at the University of Copenhagen, and in the U.S.A, Tübingen and Munich.

His first contact with Buddhism

1968: Ole Nydahl and his wife Hannah Nydahl came across Buddhism for the first time whilst on honeymoon in Kathmandu, Nepal. Here they met Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche, one of the greatest Buddhist teachers in the Himalayan region.

Hannah and Ole Nydahl

In 1969 they met and became the first Western students of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, who later sent them to bring Buddhist teachings to the West. The Karmapa is the highest Lama of the eleven-century old Karma Kagyu school of Buddhism, which teaches Diamond Way Buddhism (Skt. Vajrayana).

Hannah and Lama Ole Nydahl with the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje

Transmissions from his teachers

Hannah and Lama Ole received initiations and teachings directly from the 16th Karmapa and other masters of the Karma Kagyu School. They also received initiations from other Tibetan Buddhist Schools including:

  • Mahamudra (“The Great Seal” – tib. Chag Chen, the highest Buddhist view of the nature of mind) from His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.
  • Kagyu Ngagdzö – the collection of “Treasures of the most important transmissions of the Karma Kagyu Lineage” from His Holiness the 16th Karmapa (1976) and Kontrul Rinpoche (1989).
  • The Bodhisattva Promise (the promise to become enlightened for the benefit of all sentient beings) from Sharma Rinpoche, the second highest Lama of the Karma Kagyu lineage (1970).
  • The 4 Foundational Practices (Ngöndro) from Kalu Rinpoche (1970-1971)
  • Kalachakra (The Wheel of Time Initiation) from Kalu Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche (1985), His Holiness the Dalai Lama (1985 and 2002), Löpon Tsechu Rinpoche (1994), Beru Khyentse Rinpoche (2009) and His Holiness Sakya Trinzin (2010).
  • The 6 Yogas from Naropa (Advanced Tantric Meditations of the Kagyu transmissions); Lama Ole and Hannah Nydahl received this transmission 1976 in Ladakh together with Situ Rinpoche from his yogic teacher.
  • Phowa (the Practice of Concious Dying) from Ayang Rinpoche (1972).
  • Chik Tsche Kun Drol (a collection of Kagyu initiations) from Tenga Rinpoche
  • Rinchen Terzo (Treasures of the Nyingma – transmissions) from Kalu Rinpoche (1983)
  • And many more initiations and teachings from the above teachers as well as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Ogyen Tulku Rinpoche, Bokar Rinpoche, Gyaltrul Rinpoche and others.

Hannah and Lama Ole Nydahl with Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche

His activity

  • In 1972 the 16th Karmapa sent Lama Ole and his wife Hannah Nydahl to teach in the West. They were given the task of teaching and founding Buddhist centers in the Western world in the name of the 16th Karmapa. He empowered them to give the Bodhisattva Promise and to give Refuge, a ceremony where one formally becomes a Buddhist. Lama Ole has given refuge to more than 500, 000 people since then. 7 years later lama Ole and Hannah Nydahl were received by the Danish Queen and they presented her with a gift from the 16th Karmapa.

  • In 1972the first Diamond Way Buddhist Centers were built in Austria (Graz), Norway, Sweden and Denmark (Copenhagen). In 1974 the first center in Germany was built and since then throughout the rest of the world. Today he has founded over 600 centers worldwide.

  • Since 1973 Lama Ole Nydahl and his wife have organised trips and lectures for the highest Tibetan Teachers throughout Europe and later in North and South America, Russia and Australia. Including H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa (1974-1977), Shamar Rinpoche, Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Beru Khyentse Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, Topga Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche, Bokar Rinpoche, Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche, Trungpa Rinpoche, Ayang Rinpoche.

  • As early as 1975, under difficult circumstances, Lama Ole began to teach and build centers in communist Poland. This was the start that brought friendship and strong connections to what had been the Eastern Bloc countries. In the following years Lama Ole spent his time taking care of his students and developing his centers throughout the world.

  • In 1981 the 16th Karmapa passed away in Chicago. Together with high Lamas of the Karma Kagyu lineage, Lama Ole Nydahl carried the body of 16th Karmapa to his cremation in Rumtek.

    Kudung of the 16th Karmapa before the ceremonial creation

  • 1986 Lama Ole Nydahl travelled together with a small group of friends on a secret to Tibet. The trip was documented in the film “Secret Journey To East Tibet”.

    Lama Ole Nydahl giving blessing in Tibet

  • 1987 Shamar Rinpoche, the second highest Lama of the Karma – Kagyus after the Karmapa, asked Lama Ole Nydahl to give Phowa courses (the practice of concious dying) to Western students. The first Phowa courses was given in Graz, Austria. To date Lama Ole Nydahl has given this meditation course to over 75,000 students worldwide.

    Shamar Rinpoche and Lama Ole Nydahl

  • In 1989 Lama Ole Nydahl founded the first Diamond Way Buddhist Center in what was then the Soviet Union. Later Diamond Way Buddhism was officially recognized as a religion in Russia and since then Lama Ole Nydahl has travelled with up to 200 students through Russia on the Trans-Siberian railway to Vladivostok every year.

    Hannah and Lama Ole Nydahl with Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche 1991 in the former Soviet Union

  • Since 1992 he has concentrated on the work given to him by his teachers together with the 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje who was appointed by the Shamarpa. For example these include: Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche, Lama Jigme Rinpoche, Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche, Gendün Rinpoche, Shangpa Rinpoche, Beru Khyentse Rinpoche and many others.

    Shamar Rinpoche introduces the 17th Karmapa Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje in New Delhi in 1994.

  • In 1999 Lama Ole and Hannah Nydahl, Caty Hartung and the Buddhistischer Dachverband Diamantweg e.V. (umbrella organization of over 100 Diamond Way Buddhist centers in Germany) founded the charitable foundation “Buddhismus Stiftung Diamntweg”. Lama Ole Nydahl donates his entire intellectual property to this organization.

    Hannah and Lama Ole Nydahl with Caty Hartung

  • In the year 2000 Lama Ole Nydahl invited the 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje to Europe. The then 17 year old Karmapa was met by 6000 students in Dusseldorf (Germany) for the first time on European soil. During his stay he gave many initiations and lectures.

    6000 people welcome the 17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje

  • In 2003 Lama Ole Nydahl, together with 72 students from 36 different countries, travelled to Bhutan at the invitation of Löpon Tsechu Rinpoche. Amongst others they met Je Khempo the highest Buddhist dignitary in Bhutan and a member of the royal family.

    Lama Ole Nydahl with the Princess of Bhutan

  • On 10 June 2003 Löpon Tsechu Rinpoche passed away at the age of 85 and in the same summer Lama Ole Nydahl met with a life threatening accident whilst undertaking his 88th parachute jump. As a result, he was unable to take part in his planned lecture tour due to health reasons. In October 2003 during an initiation at the largest Stupa ever built in Western world, constructed by Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche in Benalmadena, Spain, he resumed his duties as a Buddhist Teacher.

    The 33 meter stupa of enlightenment in Benalmadena, Spain

  • In 2004, the Olympic Committee asked Lama Ole Nydahl to provide the Buddhist services for top atheletes from around the world at the “Religious Service Center” in the Olympic Village in Athens. Selected by Lama Ole Nydahl, an international team of Buddhist teachers speaking 7 languages took care of the atheletes over the coming weeks.

    Lama Ole Nydahl in the Olympic Village

  • On 1st April 2007 Hannah Nydahl passed away in Copenhagen at the age of 60. She was a very sought after translator for translations from Tibetan into English, German and Danish. Hannah Nydahl taught at the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute (KIBI) in New Dehli (India) and was involved in the translation of many Buddhist texts. She also took care of many high Lamas of the Karma Kagyu lineage during their visits to the West and taught many advanced meditation practices.

    Hannah and Lama Ole Nydahl

  • In 2007 the Buddhist Stiftung Diamantweg acquired “Gut Hochreute” on the Großen Alpsee in Immenstadt (Germany) and established the so called “Europe Center” of Diamond Way Buddhism. Here the International Summer Course takes place and is attended by many Tibetan Lamas and Western teachers. The course is visited by students from over 50 countries.

    A bird's eye view of the Europe Center

  • In 2008 Lama Ole Nydahl officially opened the exhibition “Timeless Values – Treasures of Himalayan Art” in the European Parliament in Brussels. The exhibition of the Buddhismus Stiftung Diamantweg showed over 40 exhibits from Nepal, India and Bhutan.

    At the European Parliament in Brussels

  • In 2009 Lama Ole Nydahl escorted the 17th Karmapa Thrinley Thaye Dorje on his first Russian tour. There he was received by the highest Buddhist dignitary in Russia, Hambo Lama.

    The Hambo Lama with Lama Ole Nydahl

  • In 2010 Lama Ole Nydahl was invited to take part in the Kalachakra Initiation given by His Holiness Sakya Trinzin, the highest Lama of the Buddhist School of the Sakya tradition.

    Lama Ole Nydahl, H.H. Sakya Trinzin, and Lama Jampa Thaye at the Kalachakra-Empowerment in London on the 14th of June 2010

  • On August 23, 2010 the Kalachakra Stupa in Karma Berchen Ling, Greece, was inaugurated after more than 20 years of preparation. The project to build this Stupa was originally initiated by Lopon Tchechu Rinpoche and accomplished by Lama Chogdrup Dorje. More than 2,500 Buddhists from all over the world, guests from the Greek authorities as well as people from the surrounding area joined the ceremony with Lama Chogdrup Dorje and Lama Ole Nydahl.

    Lama Ole Nydahl and Lama Chogdrup Dorje during the 48 hour Kalachakra meditation in Karma Berchen Ling, Greece in August 2010

  • The year 2012 marks the 40-year anniversary of Lama Ole Nydahl’s work and of Diamond Way Buddhism in the West. HH 17th Gyalwa Karmapa and other high Kagyu lamas took the opportunity to thank Lama Ole for his unceasing activity for Buddhism in the West. Read more in a dedicated article 40 years of Diamond Way Buddhism.

  • In 2012, Lama Ole teaches at the invitation of the Royal Family in Bhutan. He meets the Queen Mother of Bhutan and visits a special Buddhist temple with her.

    Lama Ole Nydahl and the Queenmother of Buthan

  • Then he is invited to the Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya, one of the most important religious events of the Karma Kagyu lineage. At the place where the historical Buddha attained enlightenment, the lineage holders and high masters practise together with thousands of Buddhists from the Himalayas.

    Lama Ole Nydahl at the Kagyu Monlam

  • Lama Ole Nydahl and Alexandra Munoz Barboza marry on November 6, 2014 at the Buddhist Center Copenhagen.

    Lama Ole Nydahl and Alexandra Nydahl

  • On the night of his 75th birthday on 19th March 2016, Lama Ole Nydahl gave teachings in Warsaw. About 4,000 students congratulate him during the lecture.

    75th birthday at a meditation course in Warsaw on the 19th of March 2016

    Letter from Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, congratulating Lama Ole Nydahl on his 75th birthday

Official Recognition

Official Documents

Official documents from lineage-holders and high teachers of the Karma Kagyu School

The documents

Questions to Lama Ole

Questions to Lama Ole

A compilation of Lama Ole Nydahl’s answers to questions asked in his lectures over the years.

lama-ole-nydahl.org/questions/

Special Moments

Gallery: East meets West

Lama Ole Nydahl's international activity preserved in pictures, focused on his cooperative work with Asian Buddhist teachers.

View gallery

Videos

Happiness is no accident, rather it can be learned. In this short video, Lama Ole Nydahl explains what we can do to be happy and achieve lasting inner freedom.

More videos on YouTube

Books by Lama Ole Nydahl

The Way Things Are

A modern introduction to Buddha's teachings by Lama Ole Nydahl.

More about the books