2015 How the Nuns Built their New Temple
“My emanations, radiating waves of skillful means, will lead all future beings to their happiness.” — Yeshe Tsogyal
Such was Yeshe Tsogyal’s promise, uttered to her disciples moments before attaining the rainbow body. Time and again, she has kept her word — sometimes appearing as a realized master, sometimes teaching through visionary experiences and sometimes, implanting her wisdom life force in sacred landscapes.
With the raising of a new temple at her birthplace, Tsogyal Latso, she has kept her word once again.
Yeshe Tsogyal is a female buddha who incarnated in eighth century Tibet to benefit beings. She was a consort of Guru Padmasambhava and one of his chief disciples. Through her life example, she demonstrated the path to enlightenment. As heir and protectress of Padmasambhava’s legacy and a sublime master in her own right, she helped establish Buddhism in Tibet and preserve it for future generations.
Tsogyal Latso is a historic pilgrimage site in the Drak Valley of Central Tibet. It is most famous as the repository of Tsogyal’s ecological legacy — her life force lake which miraculously formed at her birth, her breast milk healing springs, and her life-force tree.
Today, a small community of nuns led by Ani Samten, are the caretakers of this sacred site of the enlightened feminine.
Lama Dechen Yeshe Wangmo, the founder of Jnanasukha Foundation, first visited Tsogyal Latso in 2009. As a lineage holder of The Dakini Heart Essence, (Khandro Thuk Thik) her connection to the Tsogyal Nuns was immediate and continues to blossom to this day.
On March 5, 2015, Lama Wangmo received a startling message from Ani Samten. After years of dreaming about a new temple, the nuns had at last started construction. The old temple had become too small and was falling apart. Their request for prayers to prevent obstacles was shared by Jnanasukha's global Internet community.
The nuns broke ground for the new temple on Buddha’s Miracle Day, both a new moon and a solar eclipse. With the help of a network of support— monastics and lamas, construction workers, craftsmen, local villagers, and a timber wholesaler from Kongpo—the temple's construction was off to an auspicious start.
“I take care of Tsogyal Latso because I have faith and because it's my karma. It's good karma, but still, it's difficult .” — Ani Samten
Ani Samten is a humble and spirited nun with a talent for organizing. Small of stature with a melodic voice and dazzling smile, she moved to Tsogyal Latso in 2004 when it was not much more than a rundown temple, desecrated during the Cultural Revolution. Although her resources were scarce-to- non-existent, she vowed to rebuild Tsogyal Latso and to bring together a community of nuns devoted to Yeshe Tsogyal.
In 2012, Ani Samten sought government permission to build a new temple. The timber columns and structural supports of the existing temple were worm-eaten and deteriorated and the temple was too small to accommodate the nuns, the local community and pilgrims. Three years later, permission was granted.
Following the advice of lamas in Amdo, the energetic essence of the temple was preserved by a centuries-old practice of recycling. Instead of demolishing and disposing of the materials, the temple was dismantled and some of the stones and other materials were incorporated into the new temple.
To generate a stream of positive conditions, Ani Samten sent offerings to many monasteries and asked for prayers. Two monks from nearby Mindrolling performed a special ritual to safeguard the construction and the nuns accumulated 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras and 100,000 Praises to Tara.
“I always keep in mind that the new temple is for the benefit all beings.” — Ani Samten
In September, Lama Wangmo, with two Jnanasukha directors and a writer, left Lhasa for Tsogyal Latso. It was a beautiful day — dry and warm with fits of restless wind. They were looking forward to seeing all that had been accomplished in just a few months, especially the temple, the newest emanation of Yeshe Tsogyal in our world.
Several hours later, they arrived at the nunnery. As they walked through the traditionally-painted gate and across the sandy courtyard, the new temple glowed against a dazzling blue sky. On the roof, a new golden Dharma Wheel flanked by two kneeling deer reflected rays of amber light.
The traditional architecture and detailed woodwork — carved columns, door frames and latticed windows — were impressive. The mortared stone walls, rugged and brilliantly white, tapered gracefully toward the sky.
Ani Samten and a handful of smiling nuns suddenly appeared and in the spirit of a homecoming, they offered katas and warm greetings.
The interior chamber of the new temple was cool and dimly lit. The nuns “skated” around on cloth mats, playfully polishing the stone floors. Ani Samten explained that the timber columns would be painted in the upcoming months. Eventually, the bare plaster walls would be decorated with frescoes that illustrate Yeshe Tsogyal's life story.
When asked how they were able to accomplish so much in so little time, Ani Samten smiled and said,