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Calling the Lama From Afar: The Yogini Nuns of Nangchen's Gebchak Gompa by Jampa Kalden

Calling the Lama from Afar is a journey into the world of the remarkable yoginis of Gebchak Gompa, a nunnery in a remote valley in the Eastern Tibetan region of Nangchen, known as the land of meditators. Situated at an altitude of over 14,000 feet, Gebchak is home to more than 300 nuns renowned for their practice and realisation and is the heart and hub of a group of more than 30 gompas under the care of Tsoknyi Rinpoche III. Bokar Rinpoche wrote that of the many practice centers for women, Gebchak Gompa is “the most renowned center” in Tibet. The Gebchak yoginis are particularly known for their accomplishment of the practice of tummo or inner fire meditation, which they demonstrate in an annual winter ceremony, using tummo to dry wet sheets wrapped around their bodies as they walk slowly around the gompa in temperatures far below freezing. At the heart of the book are interviews with Gebchak nuns, including some very accomplished elderly yoginis who speak openly about their lives and their meditative realization. Just as inspiring are the new generation of yoginis who maintain the Gebchak tradition of meditation, and attain realization even as young nuns. Those interviewed include nuns in their 30’s who have been authorized to give pointing out instruction on the nature of mind. Others talk about taking part in the annual tummo ceremony, and about their lives at Gebchak Gompa. The nuns also recount tales of the deaths of Gebchak yoginis – events marked by wondrous signs of attainment. These nuns’ stories are first-hand, contemporary accounts, not history or legend. This is a living tradition that did not end with the yoginis of old but continues to this day, despite the destruction of the gompa during what they call “the troubled times.” Many humorous episodes enliven the text, and the nuns’ story is enriched with historical accounts of early visitors to the region, side trips to other gompas and meetings with remarkable Nangchen lamas.

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