Buddhist Women: One Nun’s Hardship & Beauty

Upcoming Events

Donate – The Dakini Mountain Emergency Fund

Open Dates
Dakini Mountain and Ngakpa International have been severely affected by the pandemic which has caused a major loss of income. Every contribution at this time makes a difference...
Register Now

Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life

With Geshe Sonam

September 22 - 24, 2020
Study the guide to the way of life of love and compassion, the classic text at the heart of Mahayana Buddhism. This class covers essential topics of Buddhist philosophy including emptiness, bodhichitta...
Register Now

Vajrayogini: Teachings and Practice

With Pema Khandro

September 26, 2020
Vajrayogini Practice with Pema Khandro - Vajrayogini is the embodiment of wisdom, joy and fierce compassion, a female buddha venerated by all the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Vajrayogini meditation is practiced as a meditation to realize innate wisdom and intrinsic courage...
Register Now

Conversations on Buddhism and Sexuality

With Pema Khandro

October 5, 2020
The subject of Buddhism and Sexuality is a complex issue approached in a variety of ways throughout history. Most recently, in the wake of the #metoo movement, news about sexual abuse and sexual misconduct in Buddhism has brought forward important questions. This series provides a platform for contemplating these questions and the greater context of Buddhist ethics. The goal is to raise awareness, promote education and highlight resources. The series will feature four evenings of conversations between Pema Khandro and Buddhist scholars and teachers. By Donation.
Register Now

Conversations on Buddhism and Sexuality

With Pema Khandro

October 6, 2020
Details Coming Soon!
Closed

Vajrayana Training – Online

With Pema Khandro

October 7, 2020
Vajrayana Training is offered in modules with ten classes per year and six classes per module. The courses are non-sequential and can be taken in any order. In web-classes, meeting once a month, students will discover how to understand the pivotal principles of Tibetan Buddhism, make sense of empowerments, and go deep into understanding oneself, one’s […]

Conversations on Buddhism and Sexuality

With Pema Khandro

October 7, 2020
Details Coming Soon!
Closed

Conversations on Buddhism and Sexuality

With Pema Khandro

October 8 - 9, 2020
Details Coming Soon!
Closed

Dakini Day Chod: Living in the Charnel Grounds

With Pema Khandro

October 12, 2020
A deep dive in the profound method and view of Tibetan Chod meditation and the four feasts. This is a Tibetan meditation which is a potent, dynamic practice for cutting through fear and facing death. It is a practice of healing through ultimate compassion...
Register Now

Vajrayana Training – Online

With Pema Khandro

October 14, 2020
Vajrayana Training is offered in modules with ten classes per year and six classes per module. The courses are non-sequential and can be taken in any order. In web-classes, meeting once a month, students will discover how to understand the pivotal principles of Tibetan Buddhism, make sense of empowerments, and go deep into understanding oneself, one’s […]

Vajra Sangha Retreat

With Pema Khandro

October 17, 2020
After a year of tremendous uncertainty the Vajra Sangha will gather online for the annual Vajra Sangha retreat to meet with Pema Khandro, practice together and study the root and branch vows. The Vajra Sangha are Pema Khandro’s personal long-term students.
Register Now

BIPOC Meditation Group

With Pema Khandro

October 19, 2020
This is a meditation group for members who are BIPOC to practice together and talk about how race impacts our lives. If you are interested in learning more about membership, please visit Become a Member or reach out to our Membership Coordinator, Tsal'gyur, at membership@ngakpa.org
Register Now

Ngakpa Training – Online

With Pema Khandro

October 21, 2020
The Ngakpa Training offers in-depth study... of Vajrayana Buddhist history, philosophy and practice, focusing on the Inner Tantras of the Nyingma Tradition, also known as MahaYoga, AnuYoga and Dzogchen...
Pre-requisites Required to Register. For More Information, Email Info@Ngakpa.org

Ngakpa Live – Online

With Pema Khandro

October 28, 2020
The Ngakpa Training offers in-depth study... of Vajrayana Buddhist history, philosophy and practice, focusing on the Inner Tantras of the Nyingma Tradition, also known as MahaYoga, AnuYoga and Dzogchen...
Pre-requisites Required to Register. For More Information, Email Info@Ngakpa.org

Excellent Path

With Pema Khandro

October 28, 2020
This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the challenge of integrating meditation into a full, dynamic life […]
Register Now

Meditation Instructor Training

With Pema Khandro, Aruna Rig'dzin and Dr. Satya

October 31, 2020 - February 20, 2021
The Meditation Instructor Training supplies the fundamental knowledge and experience necessary to lead meditation classes and one-day meditation intensives [...]

Vajrayana Training – Online

With Pema Khandro

November 4, 2020
Vajrayana Training is offered in modules with ten classes per year and six classes per module. The courses are non-sequential and can be taken in any order. In web-classes, meeting once a month, students will discover how to understand the pivotal principles of Tibetan Buddhism, make sense of empowerments, and go deep into understanding oneself, one’s […]

Vajrayana Training – Online

With Pema Khandro

November 11, 2020
Vajrayana Training is offered in modules with ten classes per year and six classes per module. The courses are non-sequential and can be taken in any order. In web-classes, meeting once a month, students will discover how to understand the pivotal principles of Tibetan Buddhism, make sense of empowerments, and go deep into understanding oneself, one’s […]

Ngakpa Training – Online

With Pema Khandro

November 18, 2020
The Ngakpa Training offers in-depth study... of Vajrayana Buddhist history, philosophy and practice, focusing on the Inner Tantras of the Nyingma Tradition, also known as MahaYoga, AnuYoga and Dzogchen...
Pre-requisites Required to Register. For More Information, Email Info@Ngakpa.org

Tara Day Practice (Meditation Monday)

With Dr. Satya

November 23, 2020
White Tara Meditation is a buddhist prayer offered in times of calamities, natural disasters, wars, and major obstacles in order to bring peace and healing to the community and environment.  
Closed

Ngakpa Live – Online

With Pema Khandro

November 25, 2020
The Ngakpa Training offers in-depth study... of Vajrayana Buddhist history, philosophy and practice, focusing on the Inner Tantras of the Nyingma Tradition, also known as MahaYoga, AnuYoga and Dzogchen...
Pre-requisites Required to Register. For More Information, Email Info@Ngakpa.org

Buddhist Philosophy Online, Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

November 25, 2020
This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the challenge of integrating meditation into a full, dynamic life […]
Register Now

Vajrayana Training – Online

With Pema Khandro

December 2, 2020
In web-classes, meeting twice a month, students will discover how to understand the pivotal principles of Tibetan Buddhism[…]

Vajrayana Training – Online

With Pema Khandro

December 9, 2020
In web-classes, meeting twice a month, students will discover how to understand the pivotal principles of Tibetan Buddhism[…]

Birthday Fundraiser Event – Online

December 16, 2020
Pema Khandro Rinpoche's Birthday Celebration & Fundraiser Details TBA, check back soon...
Closed

Ngakpa Live – Online

With Pema Khandro

December 23, 2020
The Ngakpa Training offers in-depth study... of Vajrayana Buddhist history, philosophy and practice, focusing on the Inner Tantras of the Nyingma Tradition, also known as MahaYoga, AnuYoga and Dzogchen...
Pre-requisites Required to Register. For More Information, Email Info@Ngakpa.org

Buddhist Philosophy Online, Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

December 23, 2020
This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the challenge of integrating meditation into a full, dynamic life […]
Register Now

The Story of Gelongma Palmo (Tib. dGe slong ma dPal mo)

The historical stories of Tibetan Buddhist women often contain shocking elements which blatantly address the difficulties of life and how Buddhist teachings can be integrated into real life circumstances. Such dramatic narratives can make philosophical points in a way that an intellectual argument never could, by evoking unforgettable imagery, eliciting emotion and through their vivid portrayal of shocking elements, which demand a reaction on the part of the reader.

One of the key themes of Buddhist life stories is that our experiences are not only made up of circumstances, but also of our reaction to those circumstances. Whatever happens externally may not be in our control, but we have a choice about the meanings we take from them and where we go from here. This is a Buddhist viewpoint made apparent by the radical story of Gelongma Palmo, who faced extreme hardship, yet is subsequently transformed and liberated through the experience.

Long ago, in tenth or eleventh century, legends tell of a Buddhist nun who came to be known as Gelongma Palmo. She was a princess from Kashmir who, due to her great beauty, could have been married to kings from neighboring countries but decided instead to become a Buddhist nun. Because of her aptitude for study, her teacher appointed her as a head of the monastic community. But the boons of her early life could not have foreshadowed the horrors she would have to endure.

Buddhists meditate on impermanence as a primary feature of their practice, but it was a surprise when at the young age of twenty five, Gelongma Palmo discovered a small boil on her foot. She continued her work in the temple, ignoring it. But, as her boil grew into a blister, she began to witness her body succumbing to a nightmarish affliction. The blister spread and gradually consumed more and more of her body, which was increasingly filled with unbearable pain. After her feet fell off, it was clear that she her body was decomposing due to leprosy. Initially, through the help of her attendant, she hid her condition. But then, when her fingers fell off, gradually it became apparent to everyone around her what was happening.

<<

She and her attendant were promptly thrown out of the community. As is the case with many serious illnesses, she suffered not only the deterioration of her body, but the sadness and isolation left by the loss of social connections. Illness does not necessarily discriminate between young and old, religious or not, good or bad person. Gelongma Palmo had been a very noble person. She lost her beauty, she lost her toes, lost her fingers and could only move by crawling.

However, Tibetan Buddhist stories emphasize that our experiences are not only made up of circumstances but also of our reaction to those circumstance. Gelongma Palmo, facing what would be anyone’s worst nightmare, did not let herself fall into resentment, but instead generated bodhichita, enlightened intent. As a result, she had a vision of Avalokiteshava, the Buddha of compassion. She then made a vow to the Buddha of compassion, that she would remain in one place meditating until she attain the highest realization. And so she remained. She fasted without food or drink. She remained completely silent. Whatever inner demons hounded her during that period, she sent them compassion and therefore they were subdued. One year later, like a snake shedding a skin, her leprosy was cured. Her biography says that she became, “even more beautiful than before.” She discovered the true source of beauty, a compassionate, altruistic heart an enlightened intention, with the wish for the benefit of all beings. It is said that after that many people saw that she was a dakini, a highly realized woman. After her life, the practices she engaged with became her legacy. That fasting and meditation practice was carried on by both male and female practitioners alike, monastics and lay practitioners, making Gelongma Palmo one of the few Tibetan Buddhist women who was the founder of a major Tibetan Buddhist practice.

The fasting ritual (Tib. smyung gnas) and meditation practice of Gelongma Palmo is practiced widely still today as a popular fasting system for purification of karma. It features the visualization of the Buddha of Compassion, Avalokitesvara, along with a ritual of renunciation, prostrations and recitation.

Apparently Gelongma Palmo’s earliest biography dates back to the fourteenth century by jo gdan bsod nams bzangpo – the smyug gnas bla ma brgyud pa’i rnam thar. An overview of the various versions of her life can be found in a fascinating article in the Journal of International Association of Buddhist Studies, Volume 24, Number 2, 2001, by Vargas-O’Brian.

Footnotes

(1) Vargas-O’Brian 162

References

Havnevik, Hanna, Tibetan Buddhist Nuns: History, Cultural Norms and Social Reality (Oslo: Norwegian University Press, 1989).

Karma Lekshe Tsomo, “Tibetan Nuns and Nunneries,” Feminine Ground: Essays on Women and Tibet, ed. Janice D Willis (New York: Snow Lion Publications, 1987), pp.120-121

Price-Wallace, Darcie. “Gendering Nyungne: The Tibetan Buddhist Fasting Ritual,” Sakyadhita 14th International Conference on Buddhist Women; Compassion and Social Justice (Sakyadhita, 2015)

Vargas-O’Brian, Ivette M. “The Life of dGe slong ma dPal mo: The Experience of a Leper, Founder of a Fasting Ritual, a Transmitter of Buddhist Teachings on Suffering and Renunciation in Tibetan Religious History.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 24.2 (2001): 157-185.

Image Source

https://alishaadhikari.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/1a.jpeg

Pema Khandro
Pema Khandro is a Tibetan Buddhist scholar, humanitarian, and teacher in the rare lineage of Tibet’s Buddhist Yogis. Raised in the west, ordained in the Nyingma lineage, enthroned as a tulku and trained as an academic, Pema Khandro presents both a traditional perspective and a modern voice. Read more at: https://www.pemakhandro.org/pema-khandro-extended-biography/