We’d like to tell you the story of one nun, Delek Palmo, so that you can understand and appreciate the enormous impact that sponsorship gifts have on the lives of the nuns in India.
Delek Palmo, shown in this archival photo courtesy of Susan Lirakis, was one of the first batch of nuns helped by the Tibetan Nuns Project.
Her journey to India and freedom was nothing short of epic.
Delek Palmo was born in Lithang, Tibet in 1970 and became a nun at 19. She took her ordination vows with her lama, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who years later, in 2002, was arrested by Chinese authorities and became a prominent political prisoner. Human Rights Watch concluded that the case against him was the culmination of a decade-long effort by Chinese authorities to curb his efforts to foster Tibetan Buddhism. He died in prison in 2015.
In 1989, Delek Palmo joined a large group of pilgrims whose aim was to travel from Lithang to Lhasa, a distance of 1,200 miles.
“The pilgrimage to Lhasa took two years to complete because we did prostrations all along the way,” says Delek Palmo. “We would do prostrations in the rain and our clothes got wet and dirty and we could not wash them out every day.”
“When we got close to Lhasa, the Chinese police refused to let us enter the city as there was a meeting of some kind going on and they did not want us attracting attention. We had traveled for nearly two years and now we were prevented from reaching our goal.” Instead, the police loaded them into trucks and interrogated them for hours at a police holding center.
Denied access to the holy sites in Lhasa and fearful of the police, Delek Palmo and the pilgrims changed course to Mount Kailash. From there, she and most of the group decided to escape to freedom in India.
It was winter and the pilgrims were ill equipped. They had no winter clothing, no proper shoes, or even enough food to eat for such an expedition. The journey on foot over the Himalayas to Nepal took 27 days.
“We walked at night as our group was very large and the Chinese police would catch us if they found out that we were leaving to India,” she reported.
Delek Palmo and 41 other nuns from the group arrived in Dharamsala seeking sanctuary and a nunnery in which to study and practice. It was their arrival that was one of the catalysts for the creation of our sponsorship program which now supports over 700 nuns in India.
They arrived in a refugee community that was struggling to survive. Delek Palmo, like her sister nuns, needed the basic necessities of life—a roof over her head, a bed to sleep in, nun’s robes, simple food, education, and a safe place to practice her religion.
Delek Palmo is nun #35 and was one of the first nuns to be sponsored. In December 2016, she received her Geshema degree from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, equivalent to a doctorate in Tibetan Buddhism. She is now a senior nun, a teacher, and a leader in her community.
This is the power of your sponsorship gifts.
You are helping brave, dedicated and compassionate women on their path. Thank you!
Thank you for sharing Delek Palmo’s story. We in the USA have little context for understanding the dedication of Tibetans to their culture and way of life. Yet many of us want to understand better the needs of our souls. Our materialistic culture doesn’t support soul work very well. I’ve learned much from following the lives of these determined nuns and am grateful that I can help support their survival. The world needs more people with compassion, moral understanding, and courage. And we in the USA need to learn more about how Tibet created this kind of culture. We need these values so much.
The bravery and dedication of these such Tibetan Nuns is truly remarkable and is a testament to the strength that Buddhist teachings have. Thank you all for all that you have done & all that you do to keep Tibetan Buddhism true and very much alive. I have been fortunate (though perhaps not) to have been born a Westerner in this life. You are an inspiration to me and your stories are very much appreciated. Thank you a thousand times. 8)
Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring story. I admire so much the courage and dedication of these women and feel so blessed that I am able to behelp. The next time I feel discouraged I will think of Delek Palmo and her sister nuns and take courage! Many Blessings!
What a beautiful comment, Peggy! We are hugely grateful to you for becoming a sponsor.