Freda Bedi (Sister Palmo)
Freda with young tulkus (Akong Rinpoche to right) at the Young Lamas Home she founded in Dalhousie, India (circa early 1960s)
“As my experience with the Tibetan Buddhist world grew, I heard something about Freda that surprised me. Among the Tibetans it was whispered that Freda was regarded as an emanation of Tara, the female Buddha of Compassion in Action. Tara, (beloved of all Tibetans, religious or not) was hailed as the Divine Mother, to whom they all prayed when in need. It was Tara, rather than the historical male Shakyamuni Buddha, whom they called upon whenever they were in danger, sad, frightened, or sick, because they knew Tara did not merely sit and listen compassionately to their please; she got up and DID something. This ability to act and act quickly was regarded as a quintessential female quality.
Over the years I had seen plenty of paintings and staues of Tara. She certainly looked nothing like a fair-skinned, blue-eyed Englishwoman. Usually she was painted green (although sometimes white and other colors), with a round moon-shaped face, a benign expression, and one leg stretched out ready to spring into action. … Why and how had she earned this accolad? Freda, apparently, had appeared in the darkest time of Tibet’s history, when the Dalai Lama and thousands of his fellow countrymen, women, and children had fled over the Himalayas in a terrifying trek to freedom. They had poured into exile, sick and traumatized by the persecution and torture they had experienced and by there dangerous escape. Freda had been there to comfort them, bathe their wounds, soothe their fears, and help put them back on their feet.”
~ Vicki MacKenzie, from the introduction to The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi
“Freda is an inspirational woman, a role model for women everywhere. We need real-life examples of powerful women, especially nuns. Freda’s life was enourmous. She was pioneer in so many fields.”
~ Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
“What she had to say had a lucidity and simplicity about it. I can’t accept any teachings if there is a false note – if it is not coming from a person’s wholeness and integrity, if what they are saying merely comes from what has been heard or read. With Freda I was able to drink it in. It was coming from beyond.
I don’t know how realized she was. I didn’t go into those areas. She told me something about her mystical experience in Burma. She said she came out onto the street and saw everything in the world lit up as though from within. She did not go into a featureless expanse – but the ordinary world was transformed for her.
She also taught me from her actions. I never heard her say a mean thing to anyone. She was ‘always’ thinking of others, writing to people ‘all’ the time [quoted words italicized in book for emphasis], trying to get others what they needed. And it was done with such affection. She constantly had a folder in her lap, and whenever she had a minute, she’d write a note to someone.
Mummy [as Freda Bedi was affectionately known to all] was wonderful for me to a very high degree. First of all, she was important because she was a woman. I am grateful to someone who understood the teachings and practice, and that it was a woman in a tradition that is quite male dominated. This was not by choice – it was sheer good luck. i was not consciously being a feminist, but I knew and I trusted her. She had a love of the Dharma and used it in a bold, brave way. When I first approached her for teachings, she replied, ‘Yes of course, my dear. I will be delighted. That is just the thing.’ I sensed she had just been waiting for me to ask.”
~ Joanna Macy, renowned writer, Engaged Buddhist and environmentalist, on her experiences with Freda in India in the early ‘60s
On Freda’s recognized reincarnation, Jamyang Drolma…
Freda Bedi & Jetsunma Jamyang Drolma
On The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi…
The Yogini In Books