Ngakma Yang’dzom was born in 1941 in Western Tibet, as one of five children of a nomad ngak’phang family. Her father was her first teacher, and taught her to read and to write. Her father was a yogi who integrated his retreats into his working life whilst herding the family’s yak and dri in remote areas – and was a great example to her.
She was twelve years old when her father died – and in 1959, when she was eighteen, she escaped from the Chinese together with her mother and siblings. After one month of walking they reached India. There, she found employment road-working in Kulu and Manali, in Himachal Pradesh. At the age of twenty-one she got married to a ngakpa and shortly after, met a Drigung Kagyüd Lama called Könchog Rabten who helped her with her practice. She continued as a road-worker after the age of twenty-one – and during her tenure as a road worker, she gave birth to five children. She then worked in several different carpet factories, initially in India – and after 1988 in Nepal.
In 1989 she journeyed on pilgrimage to Mount Kailash and circumambulated the sacred mountain. Könchog Rabten gave her empowerments for gÇod, and the practice of Ma-gÇig Labdrön – but her main teacher was the Nyingma Lama Kongtrül Rig’dzin Dorje Rinpoche who gave her teachings on Ma-gÇig Labdrön and gÇod. In 1987 she received the empowerment of Tröma Nakmo from Dungsé Thrinlé Norbu Rinpoche.
When asked if time
remained for practice during her life as a road worker and carpet factory employee, she smiled
intensely and said:
There is always time for practice. In the evenings I used to put my
youngest baby on a cushion next to me, and simply practise. During that period there was never time
for a solitary retreat – but today, thanks to support from the students of Ngak’chang
Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen, I live in Tsogyel Gé’phel
where I can practise four thuns (thun – meditation sessions) a day in semi-open