Gelongma Palmo

A Short Biography of the Nun Gelongma Palmo

by the Very Venerable Kalu Rinpoche
Translated by Chochi Ivyima

In the past, there was an extremely evil individual who nevertheless encountered the teachings of Dharma and forged a positive connection with the form and mantra of Avalokiteshvara. This individual was therefore reborn in the land of Uddiyana to the west [of India], as the daughter of a king. As she grew up to be an extremely lovely maiden, there were many princes from neighboring kingdoms who sought her hand in marriage. Not wishing to risk offending the other suitors by selecting any one of them, she instead became ordained as a Buddhist nun, or gelongma. At that point, karmic tendencies (which would ordin- arily have resulted in rebirth in a lower state of existence due to the violent force of her karma) came to maturity during the nun’s lifetime and she was afflicted with a virulent and infectious form of leprosy, a disease caused by naga-spirits. Her body became covered in swellings from which issued profuse pus and blood, so that she could not be allowed in the company of others. Building a wooden hut in a forest, she stayed alone in misery. A holy yogi encountered this nun, and out of great affection  bestowed  upon  her the empowerment and blessing of Avalokiteshvara. After his departure, she practiced with intense exertion, supplicating the deity with concentrated mind even as her sickness and pain increased. Eventually, her body became one open sore and she was on the point of death. Then, one night in the early dawn before awakening, she dreamt of a person in white clothing carrying a vase of water with which she was bathed — she had the impression that all her sickness and suffering were cleansed without trace. Upon awakening, she found that in fact all her disease and suffering had been completely discarded like skin shed from a snake. Gladdened and overjoyed, she offered a prayer of fervent faith and devotion, whereupon the Exalted One [Avalokite- shvaraj actually appeared and blessed her. Her mind merged with the divinity, and she experienced directly the eighth level of bodhisattva realization. The nun became widely known by the name of Gelongma Palmo. The cycle of empowerments and teachings which she received directly from Avalokiteshvara comprise both the sadhana for the one-thousand-armed, one-thousand-eyed form of the Supremely Compassionate One, and the empowerment and practical instructions for the fasting ritual (nyungne). These are classified in the Lotus (Pema)-family section of the Kriyatantra. This cycle was bestowed on the [Indian] Mahasiddha Candrapra- bhakumara, and from him to the succession of gurus in the lineage, whose names are mentioned in the supplications of the liturgies.