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Significant Person

Tenzin Palmo

Hey Class, doubt any1 will be checking this a day before the exam, but im absolutely screwed for tenzin palmo. i have started writing an essay but i cant seen to get it long enough. if you have any contributions, please feel free to email me. love eden

Tenzin Palmo – Buddhism

Like all religions, Buddhism is constantly changing and evolving to suit the attitudes of the adherents. There are certain individuals that contribute and influence the expression of the faith, and they impact on the way that practitioners understand the religion. Tenzin Palmo has made an extremely huge impact on the Buddhist tradition, especially in respect to female rights.

Born in east London in 1943 at Diane Perry, she converted to Buddhism at the age of 18. Her father was the owner of a local fish and chip restaurant and her mother was accepting of all types of people of all faiths. Tenzin’s upbringing was impacted greatly by her parents, and especially her mother influenced her interest in south-east Asian religion. At only the age of 20, Tenzin moved to India, where she began training as a Tibetan Buddhist nun. It was here she was given the name of Tenzin under her guru Rinpoche.

Whilst living at Rinpoche’s monastry she experienced first hand the misogynistic prejudices within the Buddhist tradition. Under Tibetan Buddhism it is believed that the female form is a less significant form of spirituality and therefore is unable to reach enlightenment. The best a women could hope for is to be reborn into a man. From mainly this experience Tenzin found her true calling, which she let the world no in a statement to a Buddhist magazine, “I vow to attain enlightenment in the female form – no matter how many lifetimes it takes.” Her determination and confidence in herself as a Buddhist nun provided a strong role model for other nuns within the Tibetan faith that were discriminated against because of their gender.

In 1964 Tenzin was the second western women to be ordained in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. This was the highest level available for women. However, with the support of her teacher, Tenzin travelled to Hong Kong where she was able to receive the full bhikshuni ordination, becoming the first western women to do so. Now at the highest level a Buddhist woman could reach she found that discrimination of her gender obstructed her path to enlightenment.

In 1976 she decided to deeply meditate in a cave in the Himalayas. She remained here for 12 years, 3 of which she was in full retreat. It was here that she practised meditation for days and nights based on ancient Buddhist beliefs. Her determination and sacrifice for her faith strongly encouraged many other Buddhists to do the same. In her retreat Tenzin was able to study the 3 marks of existence, the 4 noble truths and the eightfold path. She emerged from the tiny cave in 1988 and travelled to Italy due to legal reasons. Since 1988 she has exerted all her energy into the cause of equal rights and opportunities for Buddhist nuns.

When Tenzin asked her guru whether she should continue with her path to enlightenment or to create a nunnery he said it was ultimately up to her. She then sought another opinion from a priest at a church. His answer was simple and there was no question in his mind thinking otherwise. Tenzin agreed and in 1999 the construction of her Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery Began and in January 2000, the first nuns arrived. She aimed at teaching other Buddhist nuns to become better practitioners. Her contribution to the changing rights of women within the Buddhist faith was acknowledged, and in 2008 she was enthroned Jetsunma in recognition of her ‘spiritual achievements as a nun and her efforts in promoting the status of female practioners in Tibetan Buddhism’.

Her strong character was able to question the Dalai Lama himself about the unequal rights of women in the faith.

Religious Practice


Temple Puja


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