In the days of the great yogi Milarepa, there were many male and female yogic practitioners called 'Togden' and 'Togdenma' (literally meaning 'realised ones') who chose to follow the ascetic path to enlightenment.
The Drukpa Kagyu lineage, which was founded in the twelfth century by the first Gyalwang Drukpa Tsangpa Gyare, was renowned for its highly accomplished yogis and yoginis. Out of compassion for the world, many practitioners adopted this austere path in order to accelerate the attainment of spiritual realization.
Unfortunately, this precious tradition was almost lost following the Cultural Revolution. Ironically these attempts to uproot Tibetan Buddhism forced it into the world at large and it has now returned to its birthplace in India and Nepal.
Khampagar Monastery in Eastern Tibet was famous for its monk Togdens and there were nunneries under Khampagar with highly reputed Togdenma. Despite not having formal scholastic education, these nuns were great practitioners. Whilst it was long thought that none survived the destruction of the nunneries, it seems that there is presently a revival taking place in remote areas of eastern Tibet.
DGL Nunnery has several nuns who already aspire to train as Togdenmas and are prepared to undertake the long, rigorous and austere practices which require many years in retreat, in order to attain enlightenment in one lifetime. Towards this aim, four nuns have already completed close to four years strict retreat and after a short break to receive further instruction and medical check ups have gone back into retreat for a further three years. The efforts Tenzin Palmo is making to re-introduce the precious Togdenma lineage to DGL Nunnery is strongly supported by the senior lamas of the Drukpa Kargyu Lineage.
Milarepa, the supremely powerful yogi and poet from the 11th Century, accomplished his quest in attaining the highest state of spiritual liberation and complete self knowledge in one lifetime. This image was drawn by Robert Beer, and painted by Jai Shanker Sharma of Jaipur, India.
To see more of Robert Beers' work, visit www.tibetantreasures.com