This documentary is based on Vicki Mackenzie’s book – Cave in the Snow: Tenzin Palmo’s Quest for Enlightenment and presents us the incredible story of Tenzin, a remarkable woman who spent 12 years alone in a cave 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas.
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo (born 1943) is a bhiksuṇi (female monk) in the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
She is an author, teacher, and founder of the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery in Himachal Pradesh, India.
She is best known for being one of the very few Western yogis trained in the East, having spent twelve years living in a remote cave in the Himalayas, three of those years in strict meditation retreat.
Tenzin was raised in London and whilst in her teens, she became a Buddhist. In 1964, at the age of twenty, she decided to go to India to pursue her spiritual path.
There she met her Guru, His Eminence the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche, a great Drukpa Kagyu lama, and became one of the first Westerners to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun.
She remained with Khamtrul Rinpoche and his community in Himachal Pradesh, northern India, for six years and then he directed her to the Himalayan valley of Lahaul in order to undertake more intensive practice. She stayed in a small monastery there for several years, remaining in retreat during the long winter months.
Tenzin Palmo – Cave in the Snow synopsis:
In 1976 Palmo commenced living in a cave in the Himalayas measuring 10 feet wide and six feet deep and remained there for 12 years, for three of which she was in full retreat.
The cave was high in the remote Lahul area of the Indian Himalayas, on the border of Himachal Pradesh and Tibet. In the course of the retreat, she grew her own food and practiced deep meditation based on ancient Buddhist beliefs. In accordance with the protocol, she never lay down, sleeping in a traditional wooden meditation box in a meditative posture for just three hours a night.
The last three years were spent in complete isolation. She survived temperatures of below −30° Fahrenheit (−35°C) and snow for six to eight months of the year.
She left India in 1988 and went to stay in Italy where she taught at various Dharma centers.
Before H.E. Khamtrul Rinpoche passed away in 1980, he had on several occasions requested Tenzin Palmo to start a nunnery. She understood the importance of this and remembers when in 1993, the Lamas of the Khampagar monastery in Himachal Pradesh India again made the request.
This time she was ready to take on the formidable task and she began slowly raising interest worldwide.
In January 2000 the first nuns arrived and in 2001 the construction of Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery began and is now, with the ongoing construction of the traditional Temple, nearing completion.
On 16 February 2008, she was conferred as Jetsunma (reverend lady) in recognition of her spiritual achievements as a nun and her efforts in promoting the status of female practitioners in Tibetan Buddhism by the head of the Drukpa Lineage, the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa /Gyalwang Drukpa the XIIth – Gyalwang Drukpa.
Tenzin Palmo spends most of the year at Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery and occasionally tours to give teachings and raise funds for the ongoing needs of the DGL nuns and Nunnery.
She is the most senior Western Tibetan Buddhist nun alive. On July 24, 2014, Jetsunma celebrated the 50th anniversary of her ordination.
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