The Life of Jetsunma Pema Sang-ngag Jamyang Yeshe Palmo

Born to her parents Gonpo Phuntsok, and Pema Tsedon on October 20, 1979 in the Western calendar, the 25th day of the 11th month of the 16th Tibetan Rabjung Cycle, His Holiness Drubwang Penor Rinpoche bestowed upon her the name Jamyang Dolma. She began her education in pre-school and kindergarten at the Tibetan refugee camp of Monparti. Thereafter she studied through grade four in Nepal’s Thrangu School, and completed her high school education through grade twelve at the Tibet Government in Exile School in Massuri.

Sakya Gongma Rinpoche recognized her as the incarnation of the nun Karma Tsultrim Kechok Palmo.[1] In 1996, Bero Khyentse granted her refuge and performed the hair cutting ritual. In Bodhgaya, Gyalwa Karmapa and Shamarpa Rinpoche offered prayers of auspiciousness and enthroned her in connection to her previous incarnation.

She received the Kalachakra empowerments and bodhisattva vows from the Dalai Lama along with teachings on the Bodhicharyavatara. She received novice ordination from Kyabje Drubwang Penor Rinpoche.

In 1999, at the age of twenty-one she entered the shedra at Namdroling Nunnery, Ngagyur Tsungon Tsogyal Shedrup Dargyeling. Over the course of nine years she completed her studies on the topics of both sutra and tantra.

While consistently performing at the tope of her class, she was progressively conferred with honors, including the degrees of Tadrel Mawai Wangchuk and Ngesang Lekshay Dzöchang.[2] Also at that time, during her seventh year of shedra, she acted as kyorpon[3] and lectured on the Abhidharmakosha, taught pramāṇa, and on other philosophical systems as well. She also taught English and Tibetan grammar to younger students.

While Kyabje Penor Rinpoche was still residing in this world, he granted her the instructions of the Namchö Tradition including those of tsalung and Dzogchen togel which she subsequently trained in.

In 2001, in accordance with her longing to engage in spiritual practice, Drupwang Rinpoche gave a written directive based on which she travelled to Nepal to engage in meditation retreat at the Ewam Buddhist Center. When she first stayed at Yanglesho Kusum Khandro Ling Three-Year Retreat Center, I, Gochen Tulku Sang-ngag Tenzin, offered a number of teachings and transmissions to her. After first receiving the empowerments of the Longchen Nyingtig three roots, and profound teachings of the Namchak Lineage, she began her first three-year retreat.

During the first year, she trained in the one-hundred day mind training practice from the tradition of Khenpo Ngagchung and then amassed the five times one hundred thousand accumulations of ngondro. Then focusing on guru yoga she amassed 1.3 million guru mantras. In her second year, she trained in the development phase by practicing the three roots of the Nyingtig Tradition, and completing the three phases of approach, accomplishment, and activity, together with supplemental fire puja offerings. For her completion phase training, for one hundred thirty days she trained in the Nyingtig completion phase trainings of tsalung and trulkhor followed by the practices of the six yogas from the Namchak Tradition – thus accomplishing the general trainings of completion stage.

In her third year, for one hundred twenty days she trained in the phases of outer and inner rushen and the purification of the three doors, as taught in the meditation guidance manual Yeshe Lama. She then trained in trekcho for one hundred days followed by tögel for one hundred days. I transmitted the extraordinary Whispered Lineage of Khenpo Ngakchung, and unique teachings of Dzogchen to her in the tradition of experiential guidance. Many positive signs arose in connection to the fruits of her training.

She again entered three-year retreat, beginning with the ngondro trainings of the Chetsun Nyintig Cycle. As she progressed, she trained in the practice of Kunzang Dontrin, and trekcho and togel as her primary practices along with accomplishing the approach and accomplishment phases of Namchak Yangpur.  

She also practiced Yangti Nagpo:[4] The Single Golden Letter, including completing the requisite ngondro accumulations, then focusing on the phases of completion stage tsalung practices, and Dzogchen trekcho and togel.

Not only did she practice herself, she also acted as the retreat master of the retreat center at Kusum Khandro Ling, offering guidance to the other retreatants. Subsequent to this retreat, during her third three-year retreat, not only did she act as retreat master offering teaching, she taught the tantra section of the shedra at Ewam’s nunnery. She did all of this while simultaneously accomplishing the main practices of Yangti and the earlier and later profound treasures of Namchak.[5]

In brief, her nine years of study in shedra, and multiple rounds of three-year retreat, reflect her unceasing engaging in listening, contemplation, and meditation. While continuing her own training she was also imparting to others the higher sections of shedra; including teaching on the Guhyagharba Tantra, Kagye Namshey, Kyerim Namshak, Nüksem Korsum, the extraordinary sections of the Treasury of Precious Qualities related to Dzogchen, as well as the sutra sections of the Treasury of Precious Qualities.

Furthermore, she both practiced and taught the entirety of the curriculum of our three-year retreat system; beginning with ngondro, on through development stage practices, tsalung trainings, the six yogas, auxiliary sections of completion stage, Yeshe Lama, Dzogchen trekcho, and togel. She accomplished all of this over the course of her three consecutive three-year retreats. In the main section of our nunnery, she also leads an annual one-month mind training retreat and other practices.

This all demonstrates her unceasing sharing of guidance for the sake of others, while simultaneously accomplishing her own purpose through her own continued practice. These days, particularly among the histories of women, Jetsunma’s activities warrant extraordinary praise, and are very inspiring.

I intend that she hold my lineage in the future, and head Yuloko Jetsunling Nunnery – our nunnery focused on the trainings of intellectual study and spiritual practice as a unity. Because of this aspiration, while opening the mandala of our annual drupchen, on February 25, 2015, I presided over her enthronement to the exalted status of “Jetsunma”. In connection to this, I offered her the name Pema Sang-ngag Jamyang Yeshe Palmo, along with offering her the mandala and sacred supports of enlightened body, speech, and mind.

I, who carry the label of being the head of Ewam International, incarnation of Drime Lingpa, the 6th Gochen Tulku, Sang-ngag Tenzin, composed this on July 16, 2017.

[1] This is the ordination name bestowed by the 16th Karmapa to Frida Bedi. Frida Bedi was the first western Tibetan Buddhist nun, and lived an extraordinary life of service in England, and throughout Asia proving of particular benefit to the Tibetan cause in India during the Chinese invasion and Cultural Revolution.

[2] (Eng: “Great Expounder of the Middle Way” and “Holder of the Treasury of Esoteric Doctrines”)

[3] (Eng: review instructor) This position is given on an individual basis to students performing at a high level who are responsible for preparing and facilitating review sessions covering philosophical topics.

[4] (Eng: The Black Quintessence)

[5] This refers to the terma teachings of Tsasum Lingpa and Pedgyal Lingpa respectively.