At the age of 20, Diane Perry left her home in London for India to pursue her spiritual path.
There she met her guru, His Eminence the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche and was renamed Tenzin Palmo, became one of the first Westerners to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun.
In 1976, seeking more seclusion and better conditions for practice Tenzin Palmo found a cave in the Himalayan district of Lahaul, where she lived for 12 years, the last three in retreat.
The cave was actually fashioned from a rocky overhang, and Lahouli friends built thick walls with a door and window. Of course, after leaving the cave in 1988, it gradually weathered away until there was nothing left but the rocky overhang.
Tenzin Palmo went on to found the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery in the Kangra District of India. The nunnery is nearing completion, and currently houses 70 nuns. In 2008 she was given the rare title of Jetsunma, which means Venerable Master, by His Holiness the 12th Gualwang Drukpa, Head of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage in recognition of her spiritual achievements as a nun and her efforts in promoting the status of female practitioners in Tibetan Buddhism.
In 2010 a unique pilgrimage took place to retrace Tenzin Palmo’s steps on arriving in India, and return to the site of her cave.
While the pilgrims sat under the overhang, listening intently to recollections of life in the cave, which she describes as the happiest time in her life, a Lahouli elder said “Jetsunma, this is your cave. Please tell us what you would like us to do with it – if you want us to rebuild it just the way it was, then that’s what we would like to do”. Jetsunma was overwhelmed at the generosity of this unexpected offer, and said yes, she would love that, because then others would be able to use it on their journey to enlightenment.
In October 2011, Lahouli workers supervised by Jampal Dorje, returned to the site to rebuild the cave. The Bodhi Tree was honoured to donate A$1,600 for the rebuilding project. The majority of the funds were provided by our friend and bestselling author, David Michie, and supplemented by our tip jar savings.
An excerpt from a letter from Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, September 2011:
“My sincerest thanks to you and the Bodhi Tree customers for your help in promoting the book and for raising the money needed to rebuild the cave…
Our friend Jampal Dorje and Lama Nawang of Tayul will supervise the building and they want to do a good job so that the structure will last. They will start later this month and of course it will only take a few days to complete – basically an outer wall – since the stones are already there.”