I had posted before about the nuns of Gebchak Gonpa, one of the realised nuns, Sherab Zangmo passed away at the age of 86. I thought of doing up a complete post about her, because I am always inspired by these enlightened practitioners and would like to emulate them. It also serves as a reminder to us about the important points of Dharma practice.
“The great yogini of Gebchak Gonpa, Sherab Zangmo, passed away in the autumn of last year at the enlightened old age of 86 or so. She had been unwell for some time, but then seemed to recover and was strong and in high spirits for some days. During these days she gave meditation teachings to the nuns and often sang the prayer “Calling the Lama From Afar.” Near the time of her death her complexion lightened, and her face and body became youthful and small like a child’s. She told those who were with her that she could see Jetsun Tara clearly before her, and that she was now going to Dewachen, the Pure Land of Amitabha. She counseled the nuns to serve their lamas well and to live in harmony with each other, and told them not to worry, and that all would go well for them in the future. The sky remained like a morning sky, bright and clear for the whole day of Sherab Zangmo’s death, and she remained in tukdam meditation for 6 days afterwards.”
More about Ani-la Sherab Zangmo:
(From : http://shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=7546)
When Sherab Zangmo was a young nun, during a dark retreat (a Dzogchen practice of staying in total darkness for 49 days and nights), she had a vision of Yeshe Sogyal, Padmasambhava’s principle consort.
“Three times she offered me mudras (hand gestures) and then she became Tsang Yang Gyamtso (the student of the first Tsoknyi Rinpoche who started Getchak Nunnery). He came to rest on top of my head and then he dissolved into my body, speech and mind. We became one. I cried and cried. That moment I had a direct experience of the nature of my mind. I have had many experiences, good and bad, but my mind has remained stable, neither good nor bad.”
Enthralled with the concept of seeing the world through enlightened eyes I asked Sherab Zangmo, “Can you describe your perception of the world?”
She replied, “What arises in my mind now is the thought to benefit others. On the other hand, I don’t cling to appearances as real, in the way that others do.”
Wangdrag Rinpoche, the head of Getchak nunnery, asked her, “Do they appear like a dream?”
“Yes, they appear illusory, like a dream,” she said.
(From : Calling the Lama from Afar: The Yogini Nuns of Gebchak Gompa, Jampa Kalden)
Even though from 1959 onwards there was some decline in the teachings and the state of practice in Tibet, for Sherab Zangmo there was no decline in her meditation and practice. There have been many nuns of Gebchak Gompa who have died since that time, who saw the Pure Lands before they passed away and who rested in the clear light after they died. There are many examples of nuns like this. Sherab Zangmo now has no more impure vision left. Everything now arises as pure appearances. If we stay in this room, all we see is a very small room. But all Sherab Zangmo sees in the palace of the deities and so forth – completely pure view. Having practiced since she was very young, having relied on many lamas and relied on rigpa, the pure nature of mind, this is the result. (Wangdrak Rinpoche explains)
“Do you still make any distinction between meditation and post-meditation?”
Sherab Zangmo replied emphatically, “There is absolutely no difference between resting in meditation or post meditation. It is like looking upwards at a clear blue sky with nothing in it. There’s no difference whatsoever. When I get sick in my body there is a little bit of pain but in the nature of my mind there is no difference.”
“How many years of meditation did it take to achieve this state?”
Sherab Zangmo replied, “At the time when I was practising chulen in dark retreat I received visions of Yeshe Tsogyal and Tsang-Yang Gyatso coming to me. Tsang-Yang Gyatso’s body was green and he was wearing a lotus hat. He blessed me with long-life nectar and dissolved into me. I became inseparable from Tsang-Yang Gyatso. I suddenly realized the nature of mind. At that time I felt strong faith and devotion. I cried. The mind which grasps the object and the object all dissolved into the pure nature of mind.”
“Do you have any advice for students who might not have the same level of faith?
“Really there is no way other than this,” Sherab Zangmo asserted. “You have to meditate for yourself and supplicate the Lama with great faith and respect. You must believe in the Lama and supplicate the Lama well, generate compassion for all sentient beings and check your mind yourself.”
“When you die what will you see, what will you do?”
Sherab Zangmo replied simply, “I don’t know,” and after a pause filled with laughter, she added, “Going to the pure lands is nothing so special. It’s nothing to think on a great deal. It’s already there established in the nature of mind. I have no hopes or doubts about going to the pure lands.”
“Having practiced pure vision for many years, are you able to go to the pure lands like Dewachen or see Zangdok Palri?”
Sherab Zangmo replied, “ There is no special place to go. Zangdok Palri is in your mind. If you recognize the Buddha nature it’s already in your own mind. There is no place called heaven or hell to go to. It’s all within your own mind.”
“Once you have recognized and experienced the nature of mind, then you can engage in the practice of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. When you have done that practice for some time then you will become completely without suffering, without pain and without the afflictive emotion of hatred, attachment and ignorance. If you really know the nature of mind, then there is no suffering.”
“Having realized the nature of mind, the spirit of bodhichitta, the mind that wishes to lead beings to enlightenment and free them from all suffering, with that pure mind, through the power of aspiration, you can be of very great benefit to others.”
“The aspiration prayers of someone who has realized the nature of mind are inexpressibly more powerful than those of someone who has not realized the nature of mind.”
Can you describe your perception of the world?
What arises in my mind now is the thought to benefit others. On the other hand, I don’t cling to appearances as real, in the way that others do.”
Do they appear like a dream?
“Yes, they appear illusory, like a dream.”
From the time Sherab Zangmo was young, she frequently had these visions, experienced going to the Pure Lands, meeting the deities, making offerings to them and so forth. Also going to the hell realms, where beings are really suffering, and helping to lead them out. She is able to travel beyond the human realm and give teachings to beings in other realms.
Other teachings by Ani Sherab Zangmo:
“If you really supplicate the Lama repeatedly with faith and check your own mind over a long period of time then you will accomplish the path. The accomplishment of practice really relies on yourself. Supplicate the Lama repeatedly and when your mind becomes distracted, bring your mind back. If you continually supplicate the Lama whether winter or summer you can really receive the blessings.
As regards accomplishment of dharma activity and practice, this really relies on your own efforts. You should supplicate the lama continually and whenever you get distracted, cultivate mindfulness and bring the mind back to the supplication to the lama and your own rigpa, the state of your own mind. You will become distracted but by continually supplicating the lama you can accomplish. Really it depends upon yourself.”
If you continually supplicate the Lama, whether winter or summer, you can really receive the blessings. In accordance with the kindness of the lama, having received the teaching of Lord Buddha, it’s all described in there, the suffering of the various realms. Other than meditating on this, you won’t really come to understand the nature of suffering. The six realms are in the nature of suffering. In all of them, there is really not even one day of true happiness or bliss.”
“The most important thing on the path to Buddhahood is to recognize the inseparability of the lama’s mind and one’s own mind.” Sherab Zangmo emphasized, “Recognizing the inseparability of the compassion of the lama’s mind and one’s own mind.”