Ani Choying Drolma Interview (Excerpt)
On the Influence of Her Teacher Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and on Being a Modern Yogini
Ani Choying Drolma: When I first joined Nagi Gompa, I was 13 years old. And for the first time in my life, I felt as if I was allowed to be a child. I was a child. And I was allowed to be naughty. I was allowed to play. I was allowed to jump around, sing around, dance around. And nobody beat me up. Nobody made me work hard. At home, I had to wake up early in the morning around 5. And then do all the cleaning, and cooking, and feeding. You know, a lot of these responsibilities, which never made me feel like I was just a little girl. So somehow, that refuge I took in Nagi Gompa, in Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, it started the whole renewing process of my life. The cleansing process. Healing process. And that was through Dharma. The whole environment was dharma, dharma practice. Every word that was spoke from my teacher’s speech, every look that he gave me, was full of compassion, full of love. Full of care.
I’m not sure if I could find the right word to do justice to his kindness towards me. Really. Of course it was not an overnight transformation. It took a lot of time. Ten, twelve years of time to totally… I wouldn’t say that I’m completely transformed, but much more of that aggression, the anger, the hatred, the frustration that was, you know, took place, had been implanted in me… it seems, to be being cleaned out. You know, from the bushes. Like when you have a garden, you wish to clean out all those unwanted plants. Those beautiful plants were being nourished a lot more. And those not needed small bushes, were being cleaned out. So that process took place.
And that’s why I always tell people, whatever good qualities nowadays people may see in me, and rejoice, that makes them happy… whether that is singing, or my way of speaking with them, or my way of looking at them, or my way of treating them… it’s all, and all, and all, all from his blessings, fhis guidance. The value he implanted in me. The understanding he helped me to polish. The most overall is more the perception that I could develop in myself, in everything that I deal with, or see with, or feel with, has been from his kindness. Compassion.
That’s the whole process in becoming who I am now. In a sense, a yogini is more about a person who has been able to broaden out their perspective. Perceptions. Broaden more in a sense of seeing the qualities, rather than the faults. Every circumstances are there. But then, as nowadays, as is a very popular saying, as the psychotherapists say, you look at a glass that is half full of water, or half empty… and that’s the question, same thing: how you develop your attitude or your perception. So I think dharma practice is more of that sort of effect that is supposed to take place in you. Not on that scale, on a larger scale, but without fabricating. Without making it up. It should be like the sky. Space.
So when you look up, only that is not sky, every space is sky. But then you’re not making it up, and talking about it, rather you are just in it. Why calculate, oh, this much of space, that much of sky. Oh, Nepali sky, or Tibet sky, or India sky. The sky is the sky, it’s over all. I’m still on the way (laughing)… I wouldn’t say I am complete. But I have understood the idea. (Snaps). The view. And I am in the process still of developing that within me, in myself more and more. I still get affected by certain circumstances. But, I mean, compared to others, much less. I am able to see those circumstances in a different perspective. If I look at this tree, and if I don’t like this view, I try to go from this angle, and try and see ‘ok.’ But still tree is here, this is what I have in front of me. But due to looking at it from a different angle, it comforts my feeling. At least, that is one of the solutions. But overall, the best is to understand the nature of this tree. To understand that no matter which angle I choose to look at it, and struggle and waste my time in analyzing how to perceive it, but just (snaps again) perceive the nature of it. Be in the nature.
Up to that level of technique and technical guidance and everything, the understanding that has been able to be developed in me has been very effectively beneficial in my life. And in every thing I have done. What I have done has been fairly unconventional, according to what people usually think a Buddhist nun supposed to do. Singing, coming into media, having a celebrity life. It’s not what people would usually imagine a Buddhist nun to be in. I am in it not because I wanted to be in it, but my whole motive – and more aspiration – was to be able to do something, if not completely eliminate people’s suffering, but at least try to reduce the amount of pain, or difficulties, suffering they are going through.
So that’s a little bit, a very small scale of what I’ve been trying to do. But on a deeper, inner level, the practice has been different, something else. More of a broadening, you know, of my… (Words fall away for a short time)….
Tulku Rinpoche used to always give the example of a mute person to have a taste of honey, and then have to explain the taste to others. The pleasure of that taste, in a word. So at times I do go through such difficulties of limitation in wording, or language. But anyway…
So… I am a modern yogini. (Laughing). In the modern perspective, I guess. Generally people hold on to the idea of a yogini as one who has dreadlocks, stinky body, who never takes showers. Wearing town clothes. I mean, come on. That’s not relevant anymore. In this time.’
~ From an interview with The Yogini Project founder Michael Ash at Ani Choying Drolma’s home in Boudhanath, Nepal, March 2012