Guelongma Palmo, or spiritual healing

- through Sophie Solere

Published on

Mythical founder of the famous practice of Nyoung-né, combining fasting with prayer and recommended in times of epidemic, Guélongma Palmo is an important female figure in Himalayan Buddhism.

Passed down to posterity under her Tibetan religious name of Guelongma Palmo, or the "Palmo nun", the mythical Indian princess Shrimati belongs to the very closed club of cardinal female figures of Himalayan Buddhism. Alongside Yeshe Tsogyal, Matchik Labdroeun, Niguma and Soukhasiddhi, this ancient renunciant is indeed celebrated as the venerable founder of Nyoung-né ("remaining in restriction, asceticism", in Tibetan), an intense devotional practice, very popular within this tradition.

Every other day, fast and pray for the good of all

Belonging to the first class of tantras called Kriya-tantra (“tantra of action”), Nyoung-né in fact brings together the three Buddhist Vehicles (Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana) and the three types of vows that correspond to them in a single integrated method, renowned for its purifying (“cleansing” accumulated negativities) and meritorious (“accumulating” positive karma and progressing in wisdom) effectiveness. In pairs, Nyoung-né articulates twenty-four hours of total fasting to twenty-four others of partial fasting, during which follow one another meditations, offerings, prayers and great prostrations. These are dedicated to the great bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Sanskrit) or Chenrezi (Tibetan), whose thousand arms and eleven faces symbolize awakened love and compassion, without limits. During the chosen duration (a minimum of two days, four, six, eight and up to a thousand or more for the most motivated), the faithful thus gives up speaking, drinking and eating every other day, and abstains completely from killing. , stealing, consuming intoxicants, having sexual intercourse or chatting, lying, singing, dancing, showing vanity (sitting on high seats, for example).

It is said that doing eight consecutive Nyung-né “definitively closes the door to rebirths in the underworld”, and that indulging in it for only two days has the same efficiency as following another method of purification for three months.

Individual or collective – since it is often done in groups, generally just after the Tibetan New Year, or just before the great festival of Saga Dawa (anniversary of the birth, death and Enlightenment of the Buddha) - , this asceticism is considered as most beneficial. Doesn't it indeed make it possible to purify, in depth, at the same time “the body, the word and the spirit”? Thus, it is said that doing eight consecutive Nyung-né “definitively closes the door to rebirths in the underworld”, and that indulging in it for only two days has the same efficiency as following another method of purification for three months. It is further reported that many past adepts have cured themselves of various illnesses by applying themselves diligently to them. Knowing that the true purpose of this path, particularly suitable in times of epidemic, is to achieve perfect Awakening for the benefit of all the living, as underlined by the verses repeated again and again in its setting: “(…) Me too , from now until sunrise tomorrow morning, for the sake of all beings, in order to benefit, in order to liberate, in order to eliminate famine, in order to stop wars and natural disasters, in order to suppress diseases, in order to perfect the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment and to truly realize the unsurpassable fruit of perfectly accomplished enlightenment, I undertake to perfectly observe the precepts which restore and purify. » A beneficent power illustrated – with some variations of details – by the traditional stories on the life of Guélongma Palmo, the famous initiator of Nyoung-né.

From Leprosy to Awakening

Relevant to hagiography, the story of Guélongma Palmo is not based on any historical document (in the modern sense of the term), its function being above all pedagogical, symbolic and spiritual. The very uncertainty of her dates bears witness to this, since she is supposed to have lived – depending on the sources – either at the beginning of the 1774nd century of our era, or in the 1853th or even in the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries! For lack of objective data to better situate the founder of this austere practice, we are left with the tradition, in particular a famous commentary on the Nyoung-Né by the XNUMXth Situ Rinpoche (XNUMX-XNUMX), a scholarly hierarch of the Tibetan Karma Kagyu lineage. According to these semi-legendary stories, a pretty princess from northwestern India, named Shrimati, Lakshmi or even Lakshminkara, had chosen celibacy from an early age, in particular not to hurt any of these many suitors. Having become a Buddhist nun, she was soon affected by a terrible form of leprosy, due to the coming “to karmic maturity” of serious negative acts perpetrated in her past lives. Her body covered with purulent and malodorous wounds, she was then relegated far from her monastery, to a desolate place, according to the customs of the time. Abandoned by everyone and in despair, the royal nun had already lost her fingers and toes when a dream came to show her a way out... King Indrabuthi, a famous tantric accomplishment, said to her in her sleep: "Meditate assiduously on Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, and you will to obtain Enlightenment, the realization of the nature of Spirit. » In spite of his sufferings, Bikshuni Shrimati (or in Tibetan « Gelongma Palmo ») devoted himself therefore night and day, for years, to these solitary spiritual exercises. As the announced fruit was slow to ripen, she experienced moments of discouragement... But different successive divine visions renewed the promise "of a realization equal to that of Mileage (the archetype of the female Buddha, whose large figures quoted above are supposed to be so many "emanations").

Continuing the recitation of Avalokiteshvara's mantras (including the famous " Om Mani Padme Houng ), the hermit also took a vow to fast totally every other day and partially the other day. So much so that by dint of ardor and perseverance, his body, his speech and his mind ended up being washed of all defilement and imperfection. Immense, this accumulation of ethical merit and wisdom not only restored her physical integrity, but also led her, in the long term, to perfect Liberation. After twelve years of intense retreat, Gelongma Palmo thus became similar – it is said – to Avalokiteshvara, the Great Compassionate himself. From the traditional point of view, this personification of Awakening therefore proves to be the true founder of Nyoung-né, which has since been handed down through an unbroken line of masters and disciples, having the Palmo nun as its first and most illustrious holder. For all Buddhists of the Tibetan tradition, the latter remains a remarkable symbol of devotion, faith and determination on the spiritual path, which makes it a permanent source of inspiration, especially for those who suffer from illness or handicap. various.

photo of author

Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

Leave comments