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Sera Khandro Kunzang Dekyong Wangmo

ISSN 2332-077X

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Sera Khandro Kunzang Dekyong Wangmo b.1892 - d.1940

Name Variants: Kunzang Chonyi Wangmo; Kunzang Dekyong Wangmo; Sera Khandro Dewai Dorje; Uza Khandro Kunzang Dekyong Wangmo

Sera Khandro Kunzang Dekyong Wangmo (se ra mkha' 'gro kun bzang bde skyong dbang mo) was born into a wealthy, politically powerful family in Lhasa. Her father, Lhase Jampa Gonpo (lha sras byams pa mgon po), was descended from Mongolian royalty. Her mother, Tsering Chodzom (tshe ring chos 'dzom), was from the powerful Tibetan Nub clan.

From an early age, Sera Khandro was drawn towards religion; instead of playing games with other children, she recited the six-syllable mantra and encouraged other children to practice religion. She reported that revealed her first treasure when she was seven, pulling a ritual dagger part-way out of a rock at Drak Yerpa (brag yer pa) near Lhasa. In her biography she records that throughout her life she had many visionary experiences interacting with ḍākinīs and siddhas and traveling to many extraordinary Buddhafields. (All ages from her biography have been adjusted to accord with the international standard.)

Despite Sera Khandro's proclivity towards leading a religious life, her father insisted that she be educated in literary Chinese in order to follow his footsteps into the life of the Lhasa political elite. When she was only ten years old, her father arranged a marriage to a Chinese leader's son, a union the religiously-minded young girl opposed. Despondent at the prospect of losing her chance to practice the dharma, Sera Khandro attempted suicide by drinking a mixture of opium and alcohol.

Traumatized by this and by the death of her beloved mother, at the age of twelve, Sera Khandro experienced a vision of Vajravārahī that changed the course of her life. Vajravārahī empowered Sera Khandro in the two Treasures that would be her life's main teachings: The Secret Treasury of Reality Ḍākinīs (chos nyid mkha' 'gro gsang mdzod) and The Ḍākinīs' Heart Essence (mkha' 'gro thugs thig).

Emboldened by ḍākinīs' prophecies, Sera Khandro courageously escaped from her home and her imminent marriage to join a group of Golok (mgo log) pilgrims, never to return to Lhasa or see her family again. From the moment she saw the Golok pilgrims' lama, Drime Ozer (dri med 'od zer, 1881-1924), great faith and devotion arose in her. Yet the road ahead was full of obstacles. Sera Khandro's wealthy upper-class Lhasa upbringing was no match for the harsh terrain and sub-zero temperatures of life on the road as a traveling pilgrim. She nearly starved and froze to death en route to Golok.

When the group finally arrived at Dartsang (brda/r tshang) the religious encampment of Drime Ozer's father Dudjom Lingpa (bdud 'joms gling pa, 1835-1904) in the high pasture lands of Golok, Sera Khandro's presence was met with jealous hostility from Drime Ozer's consort Akyongza (a skyong bza'), and she was forced to live elsewhere. Sera Khandro worked as a servant girl for a local nomadic family and began her preliminary practices. Quickly, she became renowned for her diligent practice, eloquent speech, and religious devotion.

Sera Khandro later became the consort of Garra Gyelse (mgar ra rgyal sras), son of the treasure revealer Garra Terton Dudul Wangjuk Lingpa (mgar ra gter ston bdud 'dul dbang phyug gling pa, 1857-1910) of Bannak Monastery (ban nag/pan nag) in Golok. They had two children, a daughter named Yangchen Dronma / Choying Dronma (dbyangs can sgron ma / chos dbyings sgron ma, b. 1913), and a son, Rigdzin Gyurme Dorje (rig 'dzin 'gyur med rdo rje, 1919-1924), who did not live past childhood.

Life with Gyelse proved difficult for Sera Khandro; he disapproved of Sera Khandro's calling as a treasure revealer and forbade her from writing or propagating religious teachings. Her health worsened as she became increasingly afflicted with an arthritic condition in her legs. Meanwhile, her devotion for Drime Ozer only grew stronger. These factors contributed to Gyelse's decision to send her back to live with Drime Ozer when she was twenty-nine years old. Sera Khandro credited her reunion with Drime Ozer with curing her of her illnesses. Together they revealed many treasures. After Drime Ozer's death only three years later, his disciple Sotrul Natsok Rangdrol (bsod sprl sna tshogs rang grol, d. 1935) invited Sera Khandro to live at his monastery in Golok named Sera Monastery, the place from which she derives her title.

Sera Khandro traveled widely throughout Golok with her attendants, the monks Tupzang (thub bzang) and her scribe Tsultrim Dorje (tshul khrims rdo rje). Her main teachings were the treasures of Dujom Lingpa and Drime Ozer as well as her own. She died in Riwoche at the age of forty-eight. It is said that before her body was burned, it dissolved into light until it was the size of a seven-year-old child's body.

Sera Khandro's main disciples include the First Adzom Drukpa Pawo Dorje (a 'dzom 'brug pa dpa' bo rdo rje) and his son Gyurme Dorje ('gyur med rdo rje) and daughter Chime Wangmo ('chi med dbang mo); Dujom Lingpa's sons Pema Ledrel/Drime Ozer (pad+ma las 'brel/ dri med 'od zer) and Dorje Dradul (rdo rje dgra 'dul); the Fourth Katok Chaksa Pema Trinle Gyatso (kaH tog phyag tsha pad+ma 'phrin las rgya mtsho); Pelyul Gochen Tulku Jiktrel Chokyi Lodro (dpal yul sgo chen sprul sku 'jigs bral chos kyi blo gros); the Riwoche Zhabdrung Tulku Tsewang Drakpa (ri bo che zhabs drung sprul sku tshe dbang grags pa); Abo Soge Tulku Natsok Rangdrol (a bob sod dge sprul sku sna tshogs rang grol) and Jikga Tulku ('jigs dga' sprul sku) from Sera Monastery in Serta; Trakya Lama Sherab Ozer (khra skya bla ma shes rab 'od zer), Tromge Khandro Dawa Dronma (khrom dge mkha' 'gro zla ba sgron ma); Dzogchen Khenpo Norbu Wangyal (rdzogs chen mkhan po nor bu dbang rgyal); Chadral Sanggye Dorje (bya bral sangs rgyas rdo rje, b. 1913); the king and queen of Ling (gling); and her own daughter Choying Dronma (chos dbyings sgron ma).

 

Sources

 

Bde ba'i rdo rje. 1934. Dbus mo bde ba'i rdo rje'i rnam par thar pa nges 'byung 'dren pa'i shing rta skal ldan dad pa'i mchod sdong. Unpublished manuscript. 

Bya bral sang rgyas rdo rje. 1976. Dbus bza' mkha' 'gro bde ba'i rdo rje'i rnam thar chen mo'i mjug gi kha skong nyung du g.yu yi phra tshom. Unpublished manuscript. 

Jacoby, Sarah. 2009. "To be or not to be Celibate: Morality and Consort Practices According to the Treasure Revealer Sera Khandro’s (1892-1940) Auto/biographical Writings." In Jacoby, Sarah, and Antonio Terrone (eds), Buddhism beyond the Monastery: Tantric Practices and their Performers in Modern Tibet. Leiden: Brill.

Jacoby, Sarah. 2009-2010. "This Inferior Female Body:’ Reflections on Life as a Treasure Revealer Through the Autobiographical Eyes of Se ra mkha’ ‘gro (Bde ba’i rdo rje, 1892-1940)." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol. 32, no. 1-2, pp. 115-150.

 

Sarah Jacoby
August 2007

 

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