The Mother Essence Lineage

Part 3 – Pema ’ö-Zér & Jomo Chhi’mèd Pema

by Ngak’chang Rinpoche

She never chanted texts or used any kind of ritual implements. She had no shrine, and no thangkas in her home. People assumed that she was very poor, and ignorant of religious conventions, but always asked for her help when personal misfortunes overtook them. She did have some disciples who visited her – but they always came secretly.

Jomo Menmo had various emanations in Tibet, but in 1901 her incarnation was recognised by Gomchenma Pema ’ö-Zér. Gomchenma Pema ’ö-Zér was raised by Jomo Chhi-’mèd Pema (who was herself an emanation of Yeshé Tsogyel). Pema ’ö-Zér was recognised by her aunt Jomo Chhi-’méd Pema, to be an emanation of Tashi Chi-dren. Tashi Chi-dren was the consort of Padmasambhava who manifested in Vision as the Tigress upon which he rode in his manifestation as Dorje Tröllö – the most wrathful of the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava.

Pema ’ö-Zér’s mother father and older brother died of smallpox when she was about four years old, and she was left to be brought up by her ageing aunt Jomo Chhi’mèd Pema, who was regarded as being a very eccentric old woman. Jomo Chhi’mèd Pema lived alone and herded a few goats, but she was however a powerful yogini, and someone who could converse with the local Mountain Protectress and give people answers to questions about their lives and futures. There were heaps of stones all around her dwelling; mounds of pebbles from the river which she had arranged in circles and other shapes. She would carry stones, sometimes quite large ones, for many miles, because she felt that they were in the wrong place. She had some special knowledge, connected with the Protectors, about where certain stones should be. She treated them very much as living beings, and would read meaning into the positions in which she found them. One day, young Pema ’ö-Zér fell over and hit her knee whilst she was playing outside her aunt’s dwelling. When Jomo Chhi’mèd Pema heard her crying, she came out immediately with a large stick a gave the rock a severe thrashing, warning it to take very good care of young Pema ’ö-Zér in future. Pema ’ö-Zér was very moved by this. She felt very sorry for having got the rock into trouble by her stupidity, and thereafter treated the rock with kindness and respect. She would make offerings to the rock, and everyday apologise for the beating that it had to receive. Jomo Chhi’mèd Pema would often give young Pema ’ö-Zér teaching in this style and the young girl seemed to be able to take advantage of her aunt’s style with very powerful effect. She learnt a great deal from her aunt.

Jomo Chhi’mèd Pema knew the positions of the larger rocks in the river very well, and made predictions about the weather and when to sow or harvest, according to what she saw. If the rocks moved, she would know immediately and it would usually portend some change in weather. The local people would always ask her advice on the weather. Sometimes they would ask her to intervene, in terms of the weather, and she had notable power as a controller of weather. This wisdom-eccentric became the adoptive mother of Pema ’ö-Zér, and gave her many instructions on how to practise. She taught her the Dzogchen Long-dé and many other kinds of very essential practice. She never chanted texts or used any kind of ritual implements. She had no shrine, and no thangkas in her home. People assumed that she was very poor, and ignorant of religious conventions, but always asked for her help when personal misfortunes overtook them. She did have some disciples who visited her, but they always came secretly and gave no outer sign of ‘coming to visit a Lama’.

Jomo Chhi’mèd Pema would attend teachings when important Lamas came to the area, but she would sit in a state of non-conceptual equipoise rather than listening in an intellectual style. She would never make mudras of any kind, or join in the recitations when empowerments were given. Because of this many people assumed that she was a pious simpleton. When the teachings or empowerments were over she would walk away giggling. She would smile at people very broadly, and laugh very loudly, which monks in particular found rather disconcerting. When asked any question she would often only reply ‘Yes!’ over and over again, whilst nodding her head vigorously and grinning in an insane manner. This usually had the effect of dissuading people with intellectual pretensions from asking her questions.

One day when Pema ’ö-Zér was in her late teens, her aunt Jomo Chhi’mèd Pema left the house and never returned. (It is not known where she went or what happened to her.) Pema ’ö-Zér lived at the house of Jomo Chhi’mèd Pema for a while, but one day she had a Vision during her meditation in which Jomo Chhi’mèd Pema appeared to her. Jomo Chhi’mèd Pema told her to begin a life of wandering in which she would find a suitable sang-yab. Pema ’ö-Zér left her aunt’s house, which had almost fallen into ruins, and wandered for several years as an itinerant yogini before meeting Rang-rig Togden, a wandering gÇodpa (practitioner of gÇod). After wandering together through Eastern and Central Tibet, they settled in Mar-Kham where they found a cave called ‘Tiger Space of Rainbow Light’. They remained there for the rest of their lives as practitioners of Dzogchen Long-dé, the ‘Space’ or ‘Vast Expanse’ series’ of Dzogchen.

Gomchenma Pema ’ö-Zér’s Sangyab and disciple, Rang-rig Togden, was a powerful yogi, especially of the subjugation practices of Chana Dorje (Vajrapani), Tamdrin (Hayagriva) and Khyung (Garuda) a practice he had received from A’Dzom Drukpa. They practiced all their lives and spent almost all their elder years in retreat. When they were in their sixties, Gomchenma Pema ’ö-Zér had a Vision of Yeshé Tsogyel that lasted for seven days. When the Vision dissolved back into Chö-nyi (dharmata) she was left with the knowledge that she was going to give birth to a daughter who would be the incarnation of Jomo Menmo, the great female Nyingma gTértön. Jomo Menmo was the consort of Guru Chöwang – one of the gTértön Kings. The Aro Tradition holds the nine prong meteorite iron Vajra made by Padmasambhava and discovered by Guru Chöwang through the inspiration of Jomo Menmo, and also the Dorje and Drilbu of Jomo Menmo.