Victorious Ocean Of Wisdom

“Until the depths of cyclic existence are emptied, you will continuously emanate in every land.
Your nondual compassion will transform into anything at all.
Your supreme enlightened line is that of Buddha Lady Ever-Excellent.
You are spontaneous great bliss. I hail you as the peerless dakini.”

~ The Master of Oddiyana

Yeshe Tsogyal was the chief disciple and consort of the Indian master Padmasambhava in 8th century Tibet. A master or guru in her own right, the Lady Yeshe Tsogyal preserved Padmasambhava’s teachings and exemplified the Vajrayana path to enlightenment.

Her name means Victorious Ocean of Wisdom and she is said to have lived 211 years. Centuries later, Yeshe Tsogyal is still revered as the epitome of the female buddhas and the beloved mother of the Tibetan people. It is predicted that she will have a billion emanations of compassion for the benefit of all beings.

Although the culture of her time no longer exists, she continues caring for the world through her wisdom. Her autobiography is lauded as a story “as lovely as the music gandharavas play upon their lutes.” Not merely a literary masterpiece, Tsogyal’s life story of liberation is an archetypal guide to enlightenment.

One of her autobiographies was published as Mother of Knowledge in 1983. This was dictated by Tsogyal in a symbolic dakini script, hidden as a treasure and later discovered and transcribed into Tibetan by Taksham Samten Lingpa in the 17th century. A second English translation became available in 2002 as Lady of the Lotus Born, Padmakara Translation Group.

In 2017, Jnanasukha Foundation funded the translation of another treasure biography of Yeshe Tsogyal revealed by the 14th century Drime Kunga. This is now published as The Life & Visions of Yeshe Tsogyal: The Autobiography of the Great Wisdom Queen by Shambhala/Snow Lion. 

Tsogyal Latso

Tsogyal Latso is the 8th century birthplace of Yeshe Tsogyal in Tibet. Since the Cultural Revolution, it has been gradually revitalized and expanded through the efforts of dedicated nuns, Tulku Sang Ngak Rinpoche, Khandro Tare Lhamo and Namtrul Rinpoche, Dorje Drak Rigdzin Yidzhin Norbu and more recently, by Jnanasukha Foundation’s Lama Dechen Yeshe Wangmo and its global sangha.

Cradled in a valley surrounded by the legendary mountain abodes of the female buddhas Saraswasti and Vajra Varahi, Tsogyal Latso lies southeast of Lhasa. Today, it includes Tsogyal’s famous visionary life force lake, two artesian springs with the healing waters of her breast milk, and the life force tree which nourished her as a baby. The main temple houses precious stone impressions of her hands and feet, statues, and a branch from her life-force tree. Tsogyal Latso is also renowned as the place where the 14th century master Jigme Lingpa had a vision of sacred symbols on the surface of Tsogyal’s life-force lake. He later decoded these symbols as the practice of Yumkha Dechen Gyalmo, the heart meditation of the Longchen Nyingthik.

Tsogyal Nuns

Ani Samten, who spearheaded the restoration and development of Tsogyal Latso after the Cultural Revolution, came to live at Tsogyal Latso in 2004. In describing the situation, she recounted:

“In those days, Tsogyal Latso was very isolated and run down. There was no road. There were only three or four nuns including me. And, only a few pilgrims once in a while. With my companions, we would go around begging for donations. In twelve months, there was enough to build a stone perimeter around the land. In the second year, we were able to clean out the life force lake after it had been desecrated during the Cultural Revolution. Then we built an earthen floor inside the temple and in the fourth year, we built individual rooms for ourselves. In 2009, we built a new enlightenment stupa on top of the old crumbling 14th century stupa that marks the exact place where Tsogyal was born.”

Today, there are sixteen nuns at Tsogyal Latso. In 2015, they built a much-needed new temple, kitchen, and bathrooms. In the following year, they completed the pathways and landscaping and earlier this year, they installed a protective canopy over the life force lake. Now, the nuns are focused on the interior of the new temple. They have hired two thangka painters and their assistants and purchased several large statues and all the ritual necessities. This phase will take at least two years to complete.

The nuns have a schedule of study and practice of both Jigme Lingpa’s Longchen Nyingtik and Dudjom Tersar. They also care for the sacred environment, Tsogyal’s life force lake and her artifacts and they welcome visitors and pilgrims every day.

Source: text and photos courtesy of Jnanasukha Foundation. Image of Yeshe Tsogyal by Leslie Nguyen Temple.