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

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Ngakpa Seminary, Level 1

With Pema Khandro

October 23, 2019
The Ngakpa Training offers in-depth study of Vajrayana Buddhism. The five year curriculum focuses on a study of Vajrayana Buddhist history, philosophy and practice, focusing on the Inner Tantras of the Nyingma Tradition, also known as MahaYoga, AnuYoga and Dzogchen. These studies alternate with one on one dialogues with the Lama in phone classes, private […]
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Open Teaching Webcast

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October 23, 2019
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Bodhisattva Training

With Pema Khandro

October 30, 2019
Bodhisattva Training is an online class with Pema Khandro Rinpoche held on the 5th Wednesdays of the month. Prerequisite Completion of at least one module of Bodhisattva Training. Tuition $30 Free for Snow Lion Members and above.
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Dzogchen Day Webcast

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November 13, 2019
Guided meditation and discussion with Pema Khandro. This 30 minute online class is free and open to Buddhist Yogis Sangha Members only. Click Here to become a Member Join online for this monthly class to practice meditation and discuss esoteric Buddhism with Pema Khandro. This class is a joyful opportunity to connect with the Buddhist Yogis […]
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Ngakpa Seminary, Level 2

With Pema Khandro

November 20, 2019
The Ngakpa Training offers in-depth study of Vajrayana Buddhism. The five year curriculum focuses on a study of Vajrayana Buddhist history, philosophy and practice, focusing on the Inner Tantras of the Nyingma Tradition, also known as MahaYoga, AnuYoga and Dzogchen. These studies alternate with one on one dialogues with the Lama in phone classes, private […]
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Public Program

With Pema Khandro

November 21, 2019
San Diego, Ca ~ Public Program
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Ngakpa Seminary, Level 1

With Pema Khandro

November 27, 2019
The Ngakpa Training offers in-depth study of Vajrayana Buddhism. The five year curriculum focuses on a study of Vajrayana Buddhist history, philosophy and practice, focusing on the Inner Tantras of the Nyingma Tradition, also known as MahaYoga, AnuYoga and Dzogchen. These studies alternate with one on one dialogues with the Lama in phone classes, private […]
Closed

Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

November 27, 2019
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Dzogchen Day Webcast

With Pema Khandro

December 11, 2019
Guided meditation and discussion with Pema Khandro. This 30 minute online class is free and open to Buddhist Yogis Sangha Members only. Click Here to become a Member Join online for this monthly class to practice meditation and discuss esoteric Buddhism with Pema Khandro. This class is a joyful opportunity to connect with the Buddhist Yogis […]
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Ngakpa Seminary, Level 2

With Pema Khandro

December 18, 2019
The Ngakpa Training offers in-depth study of Vajrayana Buddhism. The five year curriculum focuses on a study of Vajrayana Buddhist history, philosophy and practice, focusing on the Inner Tantras of the Nyingma Tradition, also known as MahaYoga, AnuYoga and Dzogchen. These studies alternate with one on one dialogues with the Lama in phone classes, private […]
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New Years Retreat ~ Vajrasattva

January 20, 2020
Begin the New Year with a Day-long meditation retreat. You will practice Vajrasattva meditation, the practice cherished by Tibetan Buddhists for clearing past karma and restoring confidence and awakening compassion wisdom of your innermost mind. This retreat will be held in Los Angeles, Seattle, Santa Cruz, Grass Valley and Berkeley led by the Buddhist Yogi’s Sangha’s Meditation Instructors and Group Leaders [...]
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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/