Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
On the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day I was most fortunate to be part of a group who accompanied the renowned Buddhist nun Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo to Tashi Jong Monastery, in Himachal Pradesh India to celebrate Tibetan New Year or Losar. This is one of the most important festivals in the Tibetan calendar. Special mention was made of the fact that it was the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. For me, an Australian woman, it was a most unique and special way to mark our internationally celebrated day. Although a non Buddhist practitioner I found the experience very moving and wish to nominate Jetsunma to be part of the International Women’s Day 2011 CALL FOR HEROES
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo spent her first 20 years in war ravaged London as Diane Perry. She left London for India to pursue what she knew was to be her spiritual path. There she met her guru, His Eminence the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche Dongyu Nyingma and Tenzin Palmo was shortly after to become one of the first westerners to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun.
She is acknowledged through her biographer Vicki Mackenzie in the book entitled ‘Cave in the Snow’, for it was in a cave at an altitude 13,000 feet , in the mountains of Lahaul in northern India, that Tenzin Palmo spent 12 years seeking seclusion and the right conditions for her Buddhist practice. When questioned on whether spending 12 years in a cave is a form of escapism she is known to quip “to my mind worldly life is a form of escapism”
Attaining Enlightenment, including looking inwards and gaining access to the deeper levels of consciousness which exist beyond the surface noise of the mind, was her goal, but this was quite a revolutionary path for a young English woman to follow.
The lack of opportunity for women and girls in spiritual life became a major part of her life’s work. She says “When I was staying at a small monastery in Lahaul I saw for myself that nuns however intelligent and devoted had no opportunity to study and no access to higher teachings. It made me sad because the monks were given all the teachings and put into retreats while the nuns were overlooked and treated as servants”
Encouraged by the Lamas of Tashi Jong, Tenzin Palmo established Dongyu Gatsal Ling (DGL) Nunnery in Himachal Pradesh, India. Today there are 75 nuns in an intensive study program at DGL Nunnery Their studies include Philosophy, Logic, Tibetan language and grammar as well as English language, Buddhist ritual, music, debating, yoga and pranayam, (the art of yogic breathing)
In 2008 His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa bestowed the honour of the title of Jetsunma, which means Venerable Master, onto Tenzin Palmo, in recognition of her spiritual achievements as a nun and her efforts in promoting the status of female practitioners in Tibetan Buddhism.
Jetsunma teaches all over the world and is on a number of committees promoting interfaith harmony and the role of women in monasticism and spiritual life. She is a Buddhist icon and a great role model for all women pursuing a spiritual path.
For me; JETSUNMA TENZIN PALMO IS RIGHT UP THERE WITH THE HEROES
Sue Gilbey world pulse member