“This is a time that calls for extreme restraint. In a world of outright aggression and violence there can be no winners. To respond to violence with counter-violence only throws oil on the fire.”
Tenzin Palmo was born in 1943 as Diane Perry and was raised in London. At the age of 18, while still in the UK, she became a Buddhist. Two years later, she set off to India to pursue her spiritual path. In 1964, Tenzin became one of the early Westerners to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun. She studied under her guru, His Eminence the Eighth Kamtrul Rinpoche, for six years. Tenzin spent the following twelve years undertaking more intensive practice in smaller monasteries in the Himalayas, remaining in retreat during the long winter months when it snows for half of the year.
Seeking isolation and better conditions for intense Buddhist spirituality, Tenzin Palmo retreated to a cave near a monastery in the Himalayas. In 1988, she left the cave and went to stay in Italy where she exchanged knowledge with Buddhist and Christian nuns and monks. Before Tenzins guru Kamtrul Rinpoche passed away in 1980, he had on several occasions requested her to start a Buddhist nunnery. In 1992, the lamas of her monastery repeated this request and Tenzin accepted. She now lives at the Himachal Pradesh, India, where she has succeeded in temporarily establishing the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery (DGLN), initially accommodating 25 nuns. Every year Tenzin travels for three months to give teachings and to raise funds for the nunnery. Tenzin is dedicated to helping anguished women who have much devotion to Buddhism but little help and encouragement. She says, “Our Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery is an attempt to redress this century’s long neglect.” Recounting some of the painstaking efforts that women take to pursue their spiritual path, Tenzin narrates, “Ani Zangmo was a nun in Lahaul at the Tayul Gonpa where I lived. One day she asked if she could borrow my copy of the ‘Life of Milarepa’, a famous yogi saint of our tradition. Of course, I was happy to lend it to her, but a few days later she returned it with tears in her eyes. She could read the words but could not comprehend the meaning.” Tenzin relates another story of women committed to pursuing Buddhist spiritual life and ordinance. She says, “Zangmo, from a prosperous Lahauli family, had been betrothed to a young man. She protested that she only wanted to be a nun, but her family was more interested in creating a good connection with another family. The night before her marriage, Zangmo cut off her beautiful long hair, her ‘crowning glory’, so that all plans for the wedding would be cancelled.”
Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery (DGLN)
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