Lama Mark Webber (Lama Yongdu Chokyi Gyaltsen) has been studying and teaching Buddha Dharma (the teachings of Liberation through the traditions of Buddhism) for thirty-eight years. He was born in 1956 in Toronto and started practicing meditation at the age of 16, through a strong interest to understand consciousness by using the mind to study the mind. In the following year, he began to formally study Buddha Dharma and meditation with his first teachers Karma Chorpel Dolma (Beatrice Raff) and Lama Karma Thinley Rinpoche (who introduced him to the Karma-paksi Guru Yoga and Extraordinary Foundation Practices). He met his root teacher the Venerable K. T. Dorje Namgyal Rinpoche in 1974. Namgyal Rinpoche was an extraordinarily great meditation master and a superb Dharma teacher who was a precious mentor to Lama Mark as well as many other humans and non-humans alike.
Training in Buddha Dharma and Meditation
Lama Mark spent the next ten years—between university studies and summer work—frequently traveling and studying with Namgyal Rinpoche and engaging in meditative retreat work. He was Namgyal Rinpoche’s principle attendant for one year between 1974 and 1976, and subsequently had the good fortune to attend, reside and travel with him for many periods over the next three decades until his Rinpoche’s passing away in 2003.
Namgyal Rinpoche instructed Lama Mark to begin teaching Abhidhamma and its meditations in 1975, to pass on a yogic tradition which Rinpoche received in Burma. In the following year, Lama Mark was asked by his Root Teacher to guide students in Tantric-Vajrayana meditations. In 1976, Rinpoche gave the novice ordination to Lama Mark, who held this for a number of years.
Lama Mark has completed extensive meditation retreats and periods of study, including the three years of Teacher’s Training given by his Root Teacher between 1975 and 1977. He has also studied with many other outstanding teachers from Eastern traditions including H. H. the 16th Karmapa, H. E. Chogye Trinchen Rinpoche, and currently with Drikung Lho Ontul Rinpoche, (given with Refuge the name, Lama Yongdu Chokyi Gyaltsen).
During the 1980’s Lama Mark was a Resident Teacher during Namgyal Rinpoche’s seminary program at the Dharma Centre of Canada called The Academy. The title “Lama” was bestowed by H. E. Chogye Trinchen Rinpoche in 2001 with the name Lama Karma Tenpa Lekshe Yongdu, and in 2002 Namgyal Rinpoche gave authorization for Lama Mark to bestow Empowerments (wong-kur) in the Vajrayana Tantric tradition. Lama Mark also attended Namgyal Rinpoche’s final Teacher’s Training at the Dharma Centre of Canada in 2003.
He is the author of the books, “Why Meditate? A Heart Song of Vast Release“, “Union of Loving-kindness and Emptiness”, “Blazing Awakeness, a very brief outline of the progress of insight within the classic Abhidhamma and Mahamudra-Dzogchen traditions”, “Contemplating Illusion Through Loving All Life” and most recently, “Liberation of What? The Science Behind Meditation and Liberation, a very brief survey”. He is also the editor of the booklet of prayers and contemplations called “A Basket of Gems”.
Lama Mark Webber is a Visiting and Resident Teacher for a number of retreat and Dharma centres including the Crystal Mountain Retreat Centre, Galiano Island, B. C. (where he is the resident and guiding teacher and resides nearby at Namgyal Choling Hermitage) and the Queenstown Dharma Centre, New Zealand. For several periods during the past 25 years Lama Mark has served as the Resident Teacher at the Dharma Centre of Canada in Kinmount, Ontario. He also teaches by invitation at many other centres in Canada and worldwide.
Academic, Artistic and Vocational Background
Lama Mark’s background includes research in molecular biology and chemistry, as well as training in the fine arts and crafts. During his teens, he spent a year (1970- 1971) studying organic chemistry in Dr. G. F. Wright’s (Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, University of Toronto) private laboratory. His mentors in molecular biology at the Ontario Cancer Institute during 1971-1972 were Dr.’s Alan Bernstein, Andrew Becker and Barry Rolfe. He spent a year studying at the Toronto School of Art (1973-74) and he was a member of the Art Institute at Capilano College, North Vancouver, having studied bronze casting under the guidance of George Rammell in 1994. His Masters degree in Anthropology was supervised by Dr. Charles Laughlin, and concerns the interconnections between meditation, ritual and neurophysiology.
In the mid-1980’s he was an economic planner for the Government of the Northwest Territories (Iqaluit) and an economic and arts consultant in Canada’s Eastern Arctic. He taught quarry operations in Canada’s arctic and learnt sculpture in stone and clay. While working as a consultant in the Eastern Arctic (from 1987-1989) he studied stone sculpture under the guidance of George Pratt, Sam Pitsiulak, Phillip Pitsiulak and John McKinnon and was able to collaborate on some major sculptures. In addition Lama Mark was a professional gemstone cutter, fulfilling commissions for a number of jeweller’s across Canada. From 1989 to 1997 he was the Coordinator and Senior Instructor of the Fine Arts and Crafts Programs at Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada where he also taught gem cutting, art history and elements of design. Lama Mark moved to Nelson, British Columbia in 1997 where he became the Executive Director of the Kootenay School of the Arts, Centre of Craft and Design.
Current Biological Studies
From a personal injunction by Namgyal Rinpoche to “know the minds of all sentient beings”, in 2001 Lama Mark began a long term study of the vast and unseen life forms of this planet. The vast majority—perhaps over 99%—of all life on this planet is not visible to the naked human eye and much of this is now considered sentient. All this ‘unseen’ life is interdependent and interconnected, communicating with most other life forms; from fungi and plants, bacteria and humans, to viruses and coral reefs, to name very few examples. This study and contemplation has focused primarily on marine and freshwater algae and plankton. Beginning in 2001 with a Swift portable field microscope, Lama Mark has traveled with microscopes, a digital camera and laptop, to share his interest and knowledge in microscopic life through courses and via the internet. Presently, his light microscopic and electron microscopic images are stored and publicly accessible on the University of British Columbia’s Biomedia Image and Movie Database complete with taxonomic and ecological descriptions. In order to gain a deeper appreciation of biological principles found in most life, his research has recently focused on the ecology, life cycle, speciation and stress of the coastal marine diatom Ditylum.