During our interview with Jamyang Drolma in the course of our filming for our film Women On The Path in Nepal back in Spring 2015 …
Jamyang Drolma somewhat bashfully admitted to having been recognized as the reincarnation of Freda Bedi, Sister Palmo as she was known upon being ordained, the first women to receive full bhikshuni ordination in over 1000 years back in the early 1970s on the insistent urging of HH the 16th Karmapa. This is a rare occurrence of a recognized female tulku (reincarnation of an accomplished being) and the first we know of of a Tibetan being recognized as rebirth of a Westerner, and a woman at that!
As we discover more of the remarkable life and achievements of Freda Bedi in her recent biography, The Revolutionary Life Of Freda Bedi, it is just another of exceptionally diverse accomplishments and firsts by this special being, regarded as an emanation of Tara by the Tibetans. Beyond her earlier life campaigning for Indian Independence, a British woman who came to be at the heart of Gandhi’s non-violent movement, Freda was there just as the Tibetans fled from exile from their occupied homeland in 1959, taking care of 1000s in the first refugee camps, saving many lives. She was the first to meet Chogyam Trungpa as he arrived with Akong Rinpoche into India, later spiritually adopting them both, then founding a Young Lamas Home School for the first wave of young tulkus to enter the modern world. As such, she was so instrumental to the coming of these great lamas and the Dharma to the west. All called her “Mummy-la” for this nurturing mother-like role she had in their lives, in fact for their culture in its time of need. She went on to found the first Tibetan monastic establishment outside of Tibet, a nunnery at that, and later indeed becoming a heart student of HH 16th Karmapa, becoming the first fully ordained bhikshuni as above. In the finale to her activities and accomplishments, she played an instrumental role in HH Karmapa and the Dharma coming to the West (instigating the initial visit and accompanying, teaching and even granting empowerments on each visit) in the mid 1970s. It seems now that even death did not deter her.
It was sheer serendipity that led our small film crew, filming yoginis in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal at the time, to be introduced suddenly to Jamyang Drolma, the very day before she was to be enthroned as a Jetsunma by Tulku Sang Ngak Rinpoche in Pharping, Nepal, after completing over 9 years of shedra (comprehensive advanced study) and 7 years of retreat. A vivid presence, very strong but remarkably humble, Jamyang Drolma remarked on her being empowered as a Jetsunma more on the effect that it would have on others in facilitating the transmission of the Dharma – that the enthronement creates the positive conditions for the genuine Dharma she has to share to be heard.
It was a fascinating encounter, with an immediate warm, almost psychic connection. Multiple times during the course of her speaking in Tibetan (ie her actual words had yet to be understood), a question would occur to be asked, which when our Tibetan translator translated the words spoken was revealed to be precisely answered by her in the moment the question occurred in the mind, before the question could even be asked! Both sides remarked after on how wonderful the connection and the interview had been.
From page 178 of The Revolutionary Life Of Freda Bedi:
“But Freda’s story may not end there, however.
Two years after her death, in 1979, rumors began to spread that Freda had reincarnated as a Tibetan girl, Jamyang Dolma Lama, the daughter of His Eminence Beru Khyentse Rinpoche, a respected holder enthroned by the Sixteenth Karmapa. Born in Tibet, Beru Khyentse Rinpoche had known Freda Bedi well, and had set up his own center in Bodhgaya.
In 1995, when she was sixteen years old, Jamyang Drolma Lama, now a nun, was officially recognized by her father and other lamas as the reincarnation of Freda Bedi, aka Sister Kechog Palmo. Since then she has undertaken a nine-year intensive study program at Ngagyur Nyingma Nunnery High Institute, and on February 28, 2015, completed a six-and-a-half-year retreat. Fully qualified to teach, she is destined to take care of her father’s nunneries in both India and Tibet, and, like Freda, to travel around the world to spread the Buddha’s teaching for the benefit of all sentient beings.
For some, like Pema Zangmo [Freda’s long time devoted attendant], there is no doubt that Freda has reappeared on the earth in a new body. “Mummy-la has come back as a Tibetan girl. I heave no doubts. She came to see me at my nunnery and I recognized her immediately and her me. She took my hand, gave me a katag (white ceremonial scarf), and cried. She is very beautiful. When I look at her, I see Mummy-la, not the face but the nature is the same. Just before she died, Mummy-la told me to keep in touch with Beru Khyentse Rinpoche, as the connection was very auspicious,” she said portentously, hinting that Freda had already determined her next birth.”
Coming to discover so much about Freda Bedi recently through the release of her biography, it sends new light on our auspicious, effortless encounter with Jetsunma Jamyang Drolma. Almost sending shivers down the spine. We now long to meet and see Jetsnuma again soon, and be a channel for the dharma that she embodies – both insight and compassion – to be shared.
For a glimpse of Jetsunma’s enthronement and some heart advice, see…
The Enthronement of Jetsunma Jamyang Drolma
To support our production of this interview, visit here…
TYP: Tibetan Yogini Film Campaign
May there be benefit for all beings.