Jigme Sherab Angmo, 54, who has been a nun since 1992 speaks to Kuensel, on behalf of the group of nuns from Ladakh, about the historic Gelongma ordination ceremony presided over by His Holiness the Je Khenpo
What does this ordination mean to you?
Personally, since the Gelongma vow or the full ordination is a superior vow in the Vinaya teaching of Lord Buddha, we never imagined we could receive it. It has never been bestowed or received by female practitioners in the Himalayan Buddhist tradition for some reason. Thanks to His Holiness Je Khenpo, now this Bhikshuni vow has been restored, therefore this is a very exciting and historic moment for all female practitioners. And it will surely uplift us personally so it will benefit, inspire and encourage many female practitioners around the world.
Spiritually, it is known as one of the best foundations to practice all other yanas, including Mahayana, Vajrayana and tantric yanas. In Kalachakra Tantra ( Duekhor), it is clearly said, an excellent foundation to practice Kalachakra is Gelongma, the middle is Getsulma, and the last option is Genyenma. But obviously, it also very much depends on individuals, such as their devotion, diligence, wisdom, etc.
Kindly share with us your experience of travelling to Bhutan?
Travelling to Bhutan at this time of the year is quite challenging, because of the pandemic. We have been in retreat for six years in Ladakh at the Gawakhil nunnery where the temperature in winter is -20 to -30 degrees and even these days it’s only 18 to 24 degrees. So all of a sudden moving to Delhi where the temperature is 48 degrees (exceptionally hot) and taking the train to Darjeeling and then to Bhutan and staying in quarantine for 5 days, then travelling by car, the journey has been quite tough. However, despite all the difficulties we faced, we feel so fortunate and happy to be able to receive this auspicious vow from HH Je Khenchen Dorjechang. Our deepest thanks and gratitude to His Holiness the Je Khenpo, His Majesty The King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Her Majesty the Gyalyum Tshering Yangdoen Wangchuck, and the entire Royal family who have very kindly supported this historic event. Also, our thanks go to Dr Tashi Zamgmo, the executive director of BNF, their staff and all volunteers who organised and made our trip very smooth and enjoyable.
Bhutan is truly blessed by Guru Rinpoche, Zhabdrung, and all other genuine masters of different schools, especially HH the Je Khenpo. Also, Bhutan is such a peaceful and serene country due to the pure devotion and quality of its people. And special thanks to the Royal family who has been constantly looking after the country and its people. Here, we can witness Gross National Happiness, not only on social media but in people’s faces wherever we go.
How will this ordain make your spiritual practice different?
Surely, we will pray and encourage ourselves to hold the vow and precepts so that we will be able to practice well and develop our path smoothly and rapidly.
You are not an ordinary nun, you practice kungfu. What does it mean to be Kungfu Nun?
We are very proud to be Drukpa Kung fu nuns. Drukpa Kungfu has been recognised by many international organisations for our efforts toward fighting climate change, women empowerment and gender equality. We’ve received awards such as Asia Society Gamechanger Award 2019, ICM Martial Arts Education Prize 2021 by UNESCO, and so on and so forth.
Kung fu directly helps one’s physical health and indirectly helps the growth of the spiritual process of different yogas, including the Six Yogas of Naropa. In fact, we have been in solid retreat for six years doing all sorts of different Yogas and Mahamudra practices. We found out that Kung Fu really helped us a lot both spiritually and mentally. This clearly tells us how Kung Fu can enhance spiritual practice if we know the skill of merging the physical exercise (Kung fu) with the spiritual process of development.
Overall, whatever we practice, whether Kung Fu, Bhikshuni Vows, Novice Vows, Hinayana, Mahayana, or Vajrayana, our main goal or mission is to work for the benefit of all beings and for our urgent needs such as rapid climate change and women empowerment in the Himalayan region. We wish that we can be an encouragement to all women – that we can do anything if we focus on it.