Oliver Leick, director of Shang Shung Institute, Austria, was recently requested by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu to become the new director of the Shang Shung Foundation. Oliver spoke to The Mirror about his background, his work of many years with the Austrian branch of the SSI and the Ka-ter Project, and his hopes to carry on the work of the former director, Enrico Dell’Angelo.
I was born in 1955 in June in Austria and I was fortunate to meet Chögyal Namkhai Norbu in 1977 when I was 22. I have followed him since that time. I was always very interested in practising Yantra Yoga and I received my first Yantra Yoga diploma from Rinpoche in 1981.
When Chögyal Namkhai Norbu started to give the first Santi Maha Sangha courses in the 90s I followed them and since then have participated in all the SMS courses. In November 2016 I managed to pass the SMS Level 3 exam and follow the SMS Level 4 training.
Among other activities in the early 80s and 90s Rinpoche sent me to places like Poland and Czech Republic to give some introductory talks about Dzogchen before Rinpoche visited these places. Up to now I have led 120 seminars and retreats in many different countries.
In 2002 in Isla Margarita, I was officially authorized to become a Yantra Yoga teacher, and in 2010 I was authorized as a Santi Maha Sangha Base level instructor.
I have been married since 1989 and we have two grown up daughters, who are also members of the international Dzogchen Community.
I have always been interested in the Shang Shung Institute and when H.H. the Dalai Lama came to Merigar in 1990 for its inauguration I was there and translated his teachings to some of the German speaking community.
On January 1, 2000, the first day of the new millennium, together with other people, I founded the Shang Shung Institute Austria. When the SSI Austria received an anonymous donation in 2002 it enabled us to start the Ka-ter Translation Project.
The word ‘Ka-ter’ is made up of two words: ‘kama’ and ‘terma’. ‘Kama’ are the teachings of the Buddha, while ‘terma’ are the hidden teachings. The Ka-ter Translation Project involves the translation into English of many important teachings that are originally in a cryptic and old form of Tibetan that is not easy to understand. Rinpoche mainly entrusted Adriano Clemente and Elio Guarisco with the translation, with the collaboration of Jim Valby, so that his students would be able to read the texts in English. The Ka-ter Translation Project also has the task to train people in translating Dzogchen texts into English. The Translators Training from Tibetan has been going on for 14 years and this summer we will hold the 15th Translators Training under the guidance of Prof. Fabian Sanders.
Rinpoche asked me to be responsible for this project and to try to increase the income so that our translators could be supported in their work. Ever since then I have continued with this Project. Besides the Ka-ter Project I have organized several cultural events for SSI in places such as Romania, Tenerife, and Austria as well as public talks in Prague, Zagreb, Wales, London, etc. I was also one of the founding members of the Shang Shung Institute in London.
Recently Chögyal Namkhai Norbu asked me to become the director of the Shang Shung Foundation, with its main seat in Italy and branches in different countries: a seat at Tsegyalgar in North America, another in Austria, one in London, another in Russia, a branch in Argentina, and another in Australia. The main seat of the Shang Shung Foundation in Italy is more or less responsible for all these seats.
Unfortunately our dear Vajra Brother Enrico Dell’Angelo who was the president of the Foundation for many years, passed away recently, so my role and what Rinpoche has asked me to do is to continue the work that Enrico started. Enrico’s idea was that the Shang Shung Foundation should become a recognized institute for Tibetan culture at the international level, offering various courses on Tibetan medicine, Tibetan language, Yantra Yoga, Vajra Dance, and Khaita Joyful Dances in the field of art, but also courses on the inner meanings such as public talks introducing Tibetan culture and Tibetan Buddhism. And that people studying these different fields of knowledge would be able to receive diplomas that are recognized worldwide.
These are still early days for me and I will need some more time to oversee the whole range of my work and responsibilities for the future. My priority as the director of Foundation is to have a very good collaboration with all the people involved in the SSI worldwide as well as with the International Gakyil of the International Dzogchen Community. I’m looking forward to a prosperous collaboration that may benefit all people interested in Tibetan culture.