Buddhist Women – Tibet’s First Female Tulku (reincarnate lama)

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Donate – The Dakini Mountain Emergency Fund

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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...
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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...
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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...
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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.
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Conversations on Buddhism and Sexuality

With Pema Khandro

October 6, 2020
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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
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Conversations on Buddhism and Sexuality

With Pema Khandro

October 8 - 9, 2020
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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...
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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.
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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
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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 […]
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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.  
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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 […]
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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...
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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 […]
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About Sonam Peldren – Tibet’s First Female Tulku

This is the story of Sonam Peldren, a Tibetan yogini, is the earliest recorded female tulku. (1) She lived in thirteenth-fourteenth century Tibet.

Some Background

The system of finding a “tulku” (sprul sku) is one way that the Buddhist lineages are passed on through generations. Someone who is known as a tulku is recognized as a reincarnation of a previous Buddhist master. Some tulkus are associated with major institutions, such as the Karmapa or the Dalai Lama. Others are recognized regionally, or others by certain local traditions, particular lineages or particular monasteries. Sonam Peldren was the first Tibetan woman recognized as a tulku.

Sonam Peldren was recognized as a tulku at the end of her life, after she had already demonstrated her abilities. Such a late recognition is not uncommon for female tulkus. Most tulkus in Tibetan Buddhism are men and few have been women. Historically speaking, the manner of their recognitions varied, with men being recognized in childhood and women being recognized as tulkus after they had already demonstrated their abilities. This is described by Havnevik:

“While the position of the male tulku is institutionalized, this is not the case for female incarnations. Regardless of their abilities, young boys are installed in high positions as abbots and hierarchs of important monasteries, but this is not the case of girls. The recognition of tulkus is a matter of ascribed status…

Female incarnations can occasionally be recognized when they are young, like Jetsun Pema and Khandro Rinpoche. It seems to have been the rule that very few women who became eminent religious teachers and who were recognized as incarnations, were recognized as such only after having proved their abilities.”
– Havenik 133-134 (2)

The Story of Sonam Peldren

As a young girl, when a marriage was arranged for her, Sonam Peldren had refused the suitor chosen by her parents and said she was karmically destined to be married to Rinchen Pel from Kham. They married and she spent her life as a nomad, wandering from place to place with her husband.

Sonam Peldren was associated with various “miracles” such as breaking up a knife fight between four men by single handedly holding them apart. In the story of another miracle, when the horses were stolen in the middle of the night, she jumped onto a remaining horse, chased down the thieves and took the stolen horses back. (1)

During the last year of her life she had many visions and dreams. She gave religious teachings in the form of spontaneous songs. Even though she was not officially trained in Buddhism, these songs contained themes of all the Buddhist doctrines and practices including Mahamudra. Her legend says she had a miraculous death and appeared in the form of Vajrayogini to give messages to her husband after she died.

Sonam Peldren was finally recognized at the end of her life and due in great part to her miraculous death. She was recognized as an emanation of Dorje Phagmo, Vajrayogini. Even though she had proclaimed this identity outright while she was alive, it wasn’t until after many miracles, spontaneous songs and after the event when many relics were found at her death, her status as a tulku was confirmed.

Post-humonously she was recognized as the early progenitress of the Tibetan Samding Dorje Phakmo lineage. Her next incarnation was Chokyi Drolma.

(1) Bessenger, Suzanne. Echoes of Enlightenment: The Life & Legacy of Sonam Peldren. Dissertation, University of Virginia, 2010

(2) Havnevik, Hanna. Tibetan Buddhist Nuns: History, Cultural Norms and Social Reality. Oslo: Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Print. 133-134

Additional Sources:

Diemberger, Hildegard, and Marilyn Strathern. When a Woman Becomes a Religious Dynasty: The Samding Dorje Phagmo of Tibet. Reprint edition. Columbia University Press, 2012. Print.

“Sonam Peldren.” The Treasury of Lives. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 June 2015.

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/