Jetsün Jampa Chökyi was born on the 30th day of the 12th Tibetan month, in 1922 in the year of the Dog. She was born and raised in Nyemo, central Tibet. Her father, Sonam Tobgyal, was from the Do-Gön family, descendants of King Trisong Detsen, and her mother, Deki Norzom, was a descendant of the Zanri Sarpa, the 6th family, or tribe, of Tibet through the lineage of her father, Rin Pong Desid.
From her childhood Jetsün Jampa Chökyi was devoted to spiritual practice, and was known for her exceptional kindness and compassion. She had several tutors for private education, and at the same time was very interested in practice and meditation. She met her first root teacher, Drakshung Rinpoche, at the age of seven and received teachings on mind-training and the preliminary practice. At the age of eight, she entered Samten Yangtse nunnery in Nyemo and became renowned for her meditation practice and renunciation. Whenever she came across the suffering of other beings, whether humans or animals, she was always ready to help at any cost. She dedicated herself to protecting animals from harm or slaughter and regularly offered food, clothing, or shelter to charities for people in difficulty. Often she would empty her own store of grain to provide for the poor.
Distant view of Nyemo valley, Tibet, 1946
In her youth, Jetsün Jampa Chökyi frequently travelled to south and east Tibet, due to the important political positions held by her mother and father. As a result, she had the opportunity to meet many great teachers and to study with them. Before Drakshung Rinpoche passed away, he predicted that she would meet her root teacher, with whom she had been connected for many lives. In 1936, when she was 14 years old, she went on a pilgrimage to visit sacred places in southern Tibet. When she reached Samye Chimpu, one of the khenpos from Dzogchen monastery, who would become the father of the 6th Dzogchen Rinpoche, told her that there would be a transmission of the complete collection of Buddha's teachings (known as the Kangyur) given in Samye Chimpu by a most eminent teacher called Kangyur Rinpoche. The Khenpo advised Jetsün Jampa Chökyi to attend these transmissions, very precious and rare to receive. When she heard the name of Kangyur Rinpoche, her mind filled with joy and without a second thought she knew she must meet this great teacher. So she sent a few of her attendants and one of her nuns home to collect enough provisions to last throughout the transmissions.
Jetsün Jampa Chökyi, Darjeeling, India
According to the Khenpo's advice and as preparation for these transmissions, Jetsün Jampa Chökyi completed the preliminary practices, and meditation upon the Guru sadhana called Ocean of Jewels (Norbu Gyatso), according to the tradition of Padma Lingpa. During her practice in this sacred place of Guru Padmasambhava, she had extremely auspicious experiences, visions and dreams. In one of her dreams, Guru Padmasambhava, the main deity in the Ocean of Jewels sadhana, transformed into the most impressive and powerful teacher. When she woke up, she felt that she had met this teacher many times, but could not say when. When she saw Kangyur Rinpoche arrive at Samye Chimpu, she realized that this was the person she had seen in her dream. She felt she had known Kangyur Rinpoche for many lifetimes. She received his permission to attend the transmissions of the Kangyur collection. During that time, she received many other important initiations. In 1938, she received the getsülma ordination and, following Kangyur Rinpoche’s guidance, practised advanced meditations in various sacred places. During that time, she also studied other subjects with her private tutors, and became highly accomplished in poetry, grammar, music, dance, sculpture, and painting, all of which she continued to study for several years. During this time, she also served Kangyur Rinpoche's mother in Nyemo.
Jetsün Jampa Chökyi transcribing a text
In 1941, Kangyur Rinpoche's mother passed away. Taking on himself her unfulfilled wish to go on pilgrimage, Kangyur Rinpoche decided to set off for to the holy sites of India and Nepal, followed by many of his students, amongst whom Jetsün Jampa Chökyi had the great privilege to be included. They travelled through Sikkim, Kalimpong, Patna, Vaishali, Nalanda, Udhampur, Rajgir, Vulture's Peak, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Kushinagara, and then went to Nepal, where they visited Bodhnath, Swayambhunath, Namo Buddha and Lumbini, and back to India via Sravasti, Sankisa, Delhi, Sanchi, Ajanta, Allora, and then again Delhi and on to Amritsar, Baijnath, Simla, Mandi, and Tso Pema (Rewalsar). At Tso Pema, Kangyur Rinpoche stayed in retreat for several months. It was here that he composed the Shower of Blessings sadhana. From Manali, the group re-entered Tibet, travelling on foot to Kailash and Shigatse and finally returned to Nyemo. The whole journey took over a year, during which Kangyur Rinpoche had many visions and discovered several terma (hidden treasures).
Jetsün Jampa Chökyi with Kyabje Kangyur Rinpoche and Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche