Dear Heart Friends,
In Memory of an Extraordinary Buddhist Master, Woman and a Mother
It is with a heart of great sadness that I have to inform you of the Parinirvana of my kind mother Venerable Naljorma Jangchup Palmo, also known as Lady Palmo and more affectionately as Amala (honorable mother). No words could ever convey the bereavement of Venerable Naljorma Jangchup Palmo’s demise; it is an incalculable loss for our community and for the world. Her incredible life story was source of hope and inspiration to so many people all over of the world. Amala was indeed one of those very rare individuals who had an immediate effect on whoever she met. People were all struck by her warmth, humility, beauty of heart and the shining simplicity, modesty and selfless nature of her presence and compassion in her eyes.
She was revered and loved by all and regarded by many accomplished lineage masters as an emanation of Dakini (Goddess of Wisdom). Yet, she always remained extremely humble throughout her life; she never pushed herself forward to talk about her accomplishments and realizations and she chose to remain in the background as far as possible, truly lived the hidden, austere life of an ancient contemplative.
However if you were to reflect upon Venerable Naljorma’s ( Amala ) early years, she did not have an ordinary life. It was one filled with incredible loss, suffering and triumph. When she was fifteen years old, during communist China’s invasion of Tibet, she was shot six times; in the process she also lost her loving parents, siblings and her beautiful home land.
And instead of feeling hatred and vengeful towards the perpetrator, Venerable Naljorma ( Amala ) responded to these life circumstances with compassion and forgiveness, which was gleaned through years of rigorous spiritual training; this entailed the combination of devotion, compassion and meditation. Thus Amala was able to transform these adversities into the path peace compassion and wisdom. Thereby bringing about realization of the innate Buddha nature.
In this pursuit she had spent over 16 years of meditation retreats in the caves of Mount Kailash, Himalaya of Tibet and further on in her initial years in the caves of India, under the guidance of her spiritual masters. Ever since, she continued to practice dharma (path of peace, compassion and wisdom) meditating throughout her life and often through the dark hours of the night; sometimes even foregoing her sleep hours.
Since her arrival in United States, she has performed many compassionate activities such as freely offering counsels, healing ceremony and founded khandro choeling meditation center. Along with that she initiated annual week long prayer ceremony dedicated to world peace and to the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and fulfillment of his noble aspirations in North America and Europe.
More recently she was the key person instrumental in bringing His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Eugene, Oregon and with the blessing of His Holiness she helped established the Palmo center for Peace and Education.
In essence, her life clearly illustrated that aggression which often may seem the most direct and expedient way to solve a problem is fundamentally unstable and not long lasting while on the contrary peace and compassion is fundamentally strong and long lasting.
On June 26th, 2012, Venerable Naljorma (Amala) manifested her illness with 4th stage lung cancer, which progressively had spread to other parts of the body. We were informed that patients at such aggressive phases of cancer usually go through tremendous amounts of pain with life expectancies of 3 to 5 months. yet, in Venerable Naljorma’s ( Amala ) case, she prolonged her life at will for over two years and participated in hosting the first ever visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Eugene, Oregon and many others events and activities of our center.
During this period, Venerable Naljorma (Amala) never uttered even a word of complaint. Though we were all concerned about how we could help her, she would instead be asking about the well-being of others; never voicing a single word about her difficulties or her needs. Instead, she always remained the same- joyfully smiling, relaxed and graceful with a carefree dignity about her that was unparalleled.
Amidst all these changes, she was still teaching us the beneficial effects of meditation on ones well-being even in the face of death. And reaffirmed our belief in the fact that DHARMA REALLY WORKS!
On September 14th, 2014 due to coughing and abnormal vital signs, we took her to ER at Cottage Grove Hospital. Upon examination, the doctors proclaimed that she may only have a few hours to live and said that if we kept her here, they would give her morphine and other medication to make her feel comfortable in her last stages. However, from a Buddhist perspective, this is a crucial moment for a meditation practitioner, and it is advised to be free of any pain medication or sedation so that the practitioner is aware of the process of dying.
Therefore, we decided to bring her back to her residence so that she could pass away naturally without any morphine and remain undisturbed throughout the process of inner dissolution. Once home and settled, my brother His Eminence Ngalo Rinpoche made a supplication to our kind mother saying that Dakini Day (Goddess of Wisdom) is approaching within four days, and it would be very auspicious and meritorious for us to perform a tsog offering. From that night onwards, for the next four days, all of us were amazed, inspired and comforted to see that with each passing day, without any complication, her beautiful smiling countenance grew more radiant- an obvious reflection of her vast and profound realization of inner qualities and peaceful state of mind. The hospice nurses on duty were surprised and inspired to see such a sudden shift. The atmosphere in her bedroom remained fresh, as though she is merely quietly resting.
On September 18th, the most auspicious dakini day, we performed prayers and tsog offering which started late in the night and lasted until early morning next day. Then, on September 19th at 2:30am, after the conclusion of tsog ceremony and receiving a last word of heart advice from her spiritual teacher lord of refuge, His Holiness Sakya Trizin, she passed away into Parinirvana very peacefully without any pain or difficulty. She showed all the signs of attaining the final accomplishment of a great dzogchen practitioner at the age of 71 at her residence in Khandro Choling in Cottage Grove, Oregon.
We feel sad to have lost our mother and a great teacher, however with enough merit, the passing of this great being can be interpreted as a wakeup call and a timely reminder of all the teachings, from the simple truth of impermanence and death all the way up to the realization of boundless compassion. In this way, as much as this deluded mind of ours appreciated and valued her appearance in this world as a mother, teacher and a perfect being, it should also appreciate and value of her disappearance.
At the moment, she has been remaining in “Thukdham”, a stage of life after death where a realized meditation master continues to abide by the recognition of the nature of mind at the moment of death and awakens to the ground luminosity when it manifests. Her body lies in a meditative state without decomposing. She may even remain in that state for a number of days or weeks. Some masters die sitting upright in meditation posture while others repose in the posture of “sleeping lion.”
During this period of “thukdam”, it is a very special opportunity to receive blessings, particularly now since her wisdom mind has been uncovered from the physical elements and has merged with vast dharmakaya. Receiving blessings is more powerful even than when she was alive since Naljorma’s wisdom mind merges and pervades everywhere.
If you are able to join with local Sangha, kindly perform Vajrasatva practice according to any sadhana including Ngondro and the hundred syllable mantra and recite Samantabadra king of aspiration prayers and perform many other wholesome activities such as offering candle lights etc. Essentially it is about mindfulness and awareness. However, allow me to remind myself and all those who are interested, that none of the practices we are currently engaging in are for her, but for ourselves.
Because it is said, however brilliantly the moon appears in the sky, if the pond is muddy, the moon will not be reflected in its waters. In the same manner, it is through the purification of defilements and accumulation of merit within our own minds that will enable us, in time, to perceive a reflection of the Buddha fully intact.
“Previously, my mother had always been ‘my mother’. I loved her and respected the fact that she was a good practitioner. But I did not know that she had such a vast and profound realization. Ever since her illness manifested- her behavior, the things she spoke about, the teachings she gave in just a few words- everything has touched all the people in her life, from her doctors, nurses to dharma students, friends and family. It instilled such a deep devotion in us that I, along with our family have started to regard her not only as our mother, but our kind Guru. We have learned a lot and the experience has helped our own spiritual development, experience, and realization.” His Eminence Ngaglo Rinpoche
May all of you who read this come to know Venerable Naljorma Jangchup Palmo as we have known her: May all of you be as inspired as we have been by the dedication of her life for the benefit and happiness of all sentient beings and the splendor of her demise; may all of you draw from her example of courage and wisdom to work for the truth in these times; and we pray that she may continue to inspire and guide us until enlightenment dawns.
Written and dedicated for the Benefit of all beings in the presence of her (Holy Body) Rupakaya of Naljorma Palmo also known as Venerable Lady Palmo on Sep/23rd/2014 Cottage Grove, Oregon.
Venerable Tulku Jigme Rinpoche
A son and her deluded student