Part II Of Our Series of Reflections by Women Practicing in Niguma’s Lineage: RIGDZIN YUDRÖN
In the beginning of the 80s, leaving behind a period of criminal military dictatorship in my native Argentina, I arrived in Madrid, Spain, where expressions of freedom were flourishing, thanks to new airs of democracy manifesteing at that time. Always in search of happiness, as everyone does, I got deeply immersed participating in a countercultural explosion called La Movida, walking on the wild side of a crazy and enjoyable time where a profusion of music, cinema and other artistic manifestations took place. From then on, I lived in Spain.
In my honeymoon trip to Nepal in 1990, I liked to go to Pasuphatinath and spend my time at the bank of the Bagmati river where I used to often get enraptured contemplating the displays of daily life.
One of those days, in that evocative atmosphere ―intoxicating smell coming out from the cremation of the dead bodies’ flesh, cheerful sights of monkeys jumping, kids playing, women washing clothes, and outcasts searching in the muddy waters for some golden pieces from the teeth of corpses ― a Sadhu broke in to my reverie, came close and asked to me if I was happy. Troubled, in a sequential flash, I checked myself and everything which we usually value happiness seemed fine to me: youth, health, love, money… All were there. “Yes”. The Sadhu with a piercing look asked me again: “But, are you truly happy?” At that time every cell in my body began to shake. Was I truly happy? A moment later, the Sadhu turned around and joined five disciples; they sat on their cushions, opened a text and began to recite scriptures. The view of life and death in an inseparable dance, the Sadhu’s gaze, his question, the chanting… this image still reverberates in my mind. My search of true happiness began.
Coming back to Madrid, with lots of impressions on my mind, among many other things, I attended a conference by a Tibetan lama and recognized the truth Buddhism holds. From then on, that was my path. I was raised in Catholic nuns’ schools and though I was quite devoted to the Christian faith, the feeling that something was not fitting in was also there. I remember how much I loved it when we joined for spiritual retreats. But these retreats never really showed up to be skillful enough to soothe my adolescence anguishes. The essential Buddha’s teachings on non-self met long afterwards, no doubt, could have helped much more.
On the road, I attended a lama who spent most of his time in seclusion, for many years, serving him in different ways: cleaning, cooking, driving him in his car when necessary, organizing courses with his students… Overall, it was a happy active time. Reflecting on this makes me wonder how many female lamas might be attended by male assistants?! I do not know anyone. I guess not many.
For many subsequent years, I challenged my dull and cloudy mind learning philosophy at Rigpe Dorje Institute at Pullahari Monastery in Nepal, and continue to go there every time it is possible. It is a worthy place for international students to get immersed in Dharma consistently, at the feet of a scholar, a monk, a yogin, a true spiritual friend. The embodiment of the Perfect Teacher. A limpid mirror to look at yourself and confirm that there is still a long road ahead.
In 2009, the first Shangpa Kagyu Traditional Three-Year Retreat took place at Dag Shang Kagyu (in Huesca, Spain); the Temple where I have been living for more than twenty years now. Causes and conditions came together and I was able to join in for that once in a lifetime opportunity, together with other eight women. The kindness of the previous Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche, who was confident that Western students – both male and female – were equally capable to undergo traditional training, manifested once more, this time in a secluded and quiet setting in the Pyrenees mountains.
I cannot deny a sense of pride of being part of the flow of a female lineage which has its origins in two Wisdom Dakinis, Niguma and Sukhasiddhi. Their life stories are a clear reference for seekers on the path.
The essential teachings and practices of these yoginis’ lineage are easy to practise and yet very profound. They do not involve too much activity in rituals, such as torma offerings and so on. Instead, they evoke freedom and spaciousness. They show all the way from complexity to realizing true feminine potential, the wisdom of absolute simplicity.
It is curious enough, that even though, feminine energy was the initial impulse for this Golden Rosary that awakened Shangpa masters have carried forward, there are not other renowned women in the lineage besides Niguma and Sukhasiddhi. Social and cultural patriarchal conditioning seem to have been always the seal. Shangpa Three-Year Traditional Retreats for women are still not conducted outside Western countries. Something to reflect on. If Bhutanese, Tibetan, Nepali, and other women from traditional societies would like to have access to the secret practices of the lineage, they would have to come somewhere in the West, as it was the case of Lama Sonam Lag, a nun from Rumtek in Sikkim and a yogini retreatant in Kagyu Ling, France, and now wife and mother living today at Dag Shang Kagyu.
Nowadays, as my teachers asked me to do so, I share whatever understanding I may have with other Dharma students. It is a fact that, even though, Western three-year retreatants usually undergo the same training than in the East, not having “slanted eyes” carries many challenges for being respected as a senior practitioner; and if you are Western and female the challenge, becomes double. In patriarchal times and their residue, women need role models to follow in every field to be encouraged to reveal their potential. In that sense, female teachers can help us to do so. Some of my dear female students, practitioners who exert themselves enthusiastically, often express this to me. We, practitioners, are sailing towards the shore of non-dissatisfaction, inspired but those who has preceded us with success. In the case of our particular lineage, preceded by two superstar Dakinis.
Letting go of whatever blissful, uncomfortable, or terrifying neurosis shows up in the mind and relaxing in the spaciousness of a non-conceptual state – that the Wisdom Dakinis embody and evoke – is the freedom I keep longing for. Persevering and confident, I keep nurturing the search of true happiness that was first acknowledged one day, once upon a time, in the evocative atmosphere of Pasuphatinath.
~ Rigdzin Yudrön (Viviana Bustos, Tucumán, Argentina, 1964)
Resident Lama in Dag Shang Kagyu Buddhist Centre, Huesca, Spain