Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Great Yogini

Buddhist photographer James Gritz has a marvelous blog which i highly recommend. It is also well worth checking out his photo gallery too as it contains some great photos from Nangchen including Dechen Ling, the nuns at Gebchak, the late Adeu Rinpoche and even Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Here is a taste:

We crowded into the small dark room and sat shoulder to shoulder. The ceiling was covered with years of soot so thick that black stalactites had formed. My eyes teared from the fumes of incense and the yak dung smoke leaking from a crude wood stove. In the dark corner, light spilled from the doorway illuminating an ancient face, deeply etched from the harsh Tibetan life at 14,000 feet. There, leaning back in her meditation box was Sherab Zangmo spinning her prayer wheel.

When Sherab Zangmo was a young nun, during a dark retreat (a Dzogchen practice of staying in total darkness for 49 days and nights), she had a vision of Yeshe Sogyal, Padmasambhava’s principle consort.

“Three times she offered me mudras (hand gestures) and then she became Tsang Yang Gyamtso (the student of the first Tsoknyi Rinpoche who started Getchak Nunnery). He came to rest on top of my head and then he dissolved into my body, speech and mind. We became one. I cried and cried. That moment I had a direct experience of the nature of my mind. I have had many experiences, good and bad, but my mind has remained stable, neither good nor bad.”

read on...


Unknown said...

When he is politically corrupted, he cannot be a great photographer! He states in his Khampa project, "Kham has the highest mortality rate in childbirth in China. Many nuns have chosen the monastic life to avoid the likelihood of death through pregnancy". Tibet is not a part of China!! and nuns don't become nuns to avoid pregnancy.
Cheme Tobden

gritzphoto said...

Cheme, not sure what you meant by politically corrupted but if you are referring to Kham as part of China I will take that back. I too agree that Kham is part of Tibet and usually I refer to Kham and all provinces of Tibet that way but the rest of the world does believe Kham is part of China (including Obama) and to get there you have to get a Chinese visa. As for nuns becoming nuns to avoid pregnancy you are welcome to keep you "holy" views but during the interviews we conducted in the course of filming and photographing for "Blessings" a couple of nuns did mention the horrors of childbirth and the likelihood of death and forced sex as one of their motivations for entering the monastic life. That being said, during all my travels to monasteries in Tibet, Nepal, Ladakh and other parts of India I never encountered practitioners as faithful, deligent, compassionate devoted and realized as the Nangchen Nuns.
Still I would not hold it against any young girl, and many nuns enter the gonpa in their early teens, if part of their intitial motiviation was to avoid pregnancy.

James Gritz

Anonymous said...

This Nunnery is a bit hard to take seriously as the Nuns there are trained to believe that they are lower then Monks because females are unable to become Buddhas only males are able to become Buddhas according to them. Tibetan culture has a lot to learn. Unfortunatly Tibetan Buddhism has alot of this culture in it.

Buddhas teaching of Interdependent Origination, Emptiness and Impermanence seem to be untouchable. Unfortunatly for beings to experience it it has to be through there karma or culture.

Here is some video of the Nunnery:

pensum said...

Hi Brendan, this is an interesting comment you have made. I am wondering if you could qualify it however, as i watched the video clip you suggested(and i've seen others of Gebchak as well) but neither saw nor heard anything about such an accusation. So i am assuming that you have visited Gebchak and have first hand knowledge of such discrimination. Not having had the opportunity to visit Tibet personally i am always interested in hearing people's personal experiences and impressions and so would love it if you would share yours.

I must say that, if even one person at Gebchak feels this way, i find it particularly shocking as this nunnery was founded in specific response to sexist attitudes and is reknowned for the level of realization attained by the nuns in retreat there. Here is the story of the founding of Gebchak:

One day, [the first] Tsoknyi told Tsang-Yang, "Your forte in benefiting beings lies in beuilding nunneries. Female practitioners are often not valued, and so they have a harder time finding proper guidance and instruction. Therefore, rather than keeping a congregation of monks, you should take care of nuns. That is your mission."
(as told by Tulku Urgyen, Blazing Splendor pg. 159)

Further obviously such gender discrimination is in complete contradiction to both the history and teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. First and foremost consider that practically all lineages can be traced back to Padmasambhava, however it was a woman, Yeshe Tsogyal, who wrote everything down and passed it on. Further the only Vajrayana Buddhist lineage originated by a woman arose in Tibet, of course i am speaking here of the teachings of Cho founded by Machik Labdron.

And what of the great tradition of Tara? or any of the other female yidams?

So though certain individuals may still hold such ignornant views as you describe, fortunately the tradition itself displays a much broader view and higher ideal.