“At one time the previous Khamtrul Rinpoche had formally placed a long silk khata around my neck and said that in Tibet there had been many togdenmas but now the tradition had been broken. Therefore he prayed that I would re-establish this precious yogini lineage. For me this has been a sacred commitment.”
~ Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
“Togdenma” refer to the female yogic practitioners.
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 some of these were able to escape to India and so continue this precious tradition. However there were also 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 had survived the destruction of the nunneries, it seems that there is presently a revival taking place in remote areas of eastern Tibet.
Dongyu Gatsal Ling 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 eight years of strict retreat and others have now joined, including two nuns from one of Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s nunneries who had already completed a 3-year retreat in Nepal. They are being personally instructed by Togden Achos who is the most senior yogi at Khampagar monastery in Tashi Jong.
Source: More information about the togdenmas can be seen here on the Dongyu Gatsal Ling website here.