Lama Les Collins originally hails from Toronto, Canada, and although he has lived in the Bay Area since 1984, he has had the good fortune of being one of the first Westerners to connect with Tibetan Buddhist teachers following their great exodus from Tibet in 1959. From about 1970 until the mid 1980's Lama Les served, studied, practiced and traveled with many of the great lineage masters of the Kagyud, Nyingma & Sakya traditions, including HH the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, HH Dudjom Rinpoche and HH Sakya Trizin Rinpoche. From them, and other teachers including HH the Dalai Lama and HE Kalu Rinpoche, he received many empowerments, pith instructions and profound wisdom blessings, which he was able to put into practice in both monastic settings and in private retreat places during those years.
Starting in 1974 in Toronto, Lama Les connected with Ven. Gyatrul Rinpoche, who was to become one of his primary spiritual mentors. His relationship evolved over repeated meetings and in the mid 1980's Lama Les moved to Tashi Choling for several years, receiving teachings, practicing and cementing an unshakeable faith in Rinpoche. In 1990 Lama Les moved to the SF Bay Area, and since then has worked consistently to serve Rinpoche, first as a Board member helping with every aspect of dharma center management, and now as teacher.
Following an extensive teaching on the Six Bardos that Gyatrul Rinpoche gave in 1995, Les embraced the practice on a personal level and eventually began offering bi-weekly teaching and practice opportunities at ODD, and leading retreats at Tashi Choling and in Ojai. In the early 2000's, Gyatrul Rinpoche gave Lama Les his blessings, encouragement and full support in his teachings efforts, which have provided a doorway through which many people have entered the dharma and been able to embrace Vajrayana practice.