There were many gifts I felt I received by making the journey to HH Penor Rinpoche’s Namdroling Monastery in India last week. One of the greatest was to see the young Mongolian men and women whose travel to Namdroling our project sponsored. I can happily report that they are all doing very well, quickly learning the Tibetan language, as well as various aspects of Buddhist philosophy, conduct, ritual, and meditation.
But there was one serendipitous treat that stood out above all – witnessing five of the nine young women take the lifetime getsul vows of a Buddhist nun.
You see, often when people first join the monastery, they are given provisional precepts called rabjung – the five precepts of a lay person except amplified by abiding by stricter rules of celibacy, refraining from all intoxicants, and shaving one’s head and wearing the robes of ordination. Getsul ordination increases the precepts to 10 (expandable to 33, but that’s another story) and they’re a lifetime commitment.
When I first visited the nine women – who had admirably organized all nine of themselves to live in one room until construction on a new dorm building is complete – I was told that five of them had decided to receive getsul ordination and it would happen soon. I expressed my joy at this, but it was to get even better.
One day late in the week, I had arranged to see them at 5pm. When I got there, only two were in the room. Asking what was up, I was told that two were at the clinic, and five were receiving their vows right then! The day before, I had been circumambulating the Zangdog Palri temple that enshrines Penor Rinpoche’s kudung and had seen a line of newly-minted monks emerging for the traditional walk around the monastery. On a strong hunch I hurried to the same place, and walked around the temple in a strangely elevated state, chanting Shakyamuni Buddha’s mantra, Om Muni Muni Mahamuni Ye Soha. Sure enough, very soon the line of freshly ordained nuns, having just received their vows from Khenchen Pema Sherab, emerged for their circumambulation. Fortunately, I had my camera, because it was really so special to see them like this. I should mention before I introduce them that at ordination you receive a new name.
Now how awesome is this? Here is Thubten Tsultrim Tsomo helping lead the way carrying the traditional staff of ordination...
...that you often see held by the Buddha’s two foremost disciples, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, in iconic depictions:
And here is Thubten Sherab Tsomo behind her, carrying the traditional begging bowl:
Then, reverentially, Thubten Zundui Baldun (maybe Palden?), with Thubten Tsultrim Baldun right behind her:
And, finally, saying it all, Thubten Tsutrim Zangmo flashing a marvelous smile:
Please join me in wishing for their health and happiness, as well as their swift, auspicious spiritual maturation!
Special thanks go to Ani Damchoe Wongmo, author of Reflections of Reflections, for facilitating meetings, translating, introducing me to Top of Town Restaurant!