The Life and Liberation of Yeshe Tsogyal

with Holly Gayley

November 28th

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Yeshe Tsogyal is the most celebrated woman in Tibetan Buddhism. Born into privilege as a princess, she left it all behind to practice austerity under the guidance of none other than Padmasambhava, the renowned eighth-century Indian tantric master. A gutsy female exemplar, Yeshe Tsogyal surmounted various obstacles along her journey to enlightenment, including warding off hunger, converting thieves, withstanding the arrows of those who mistook her for a witch, and practicing unperturbed despite inclement weather and other challenges along the way. She also plays a key role in the terma tradition as the disciple who recorded Padmasambhava’s teachings and hid them throughout the Tibetan and Himalayan landscape. According to her biographies, Yeshe Tsogyal promised to emanate in each generation, and she continues to serve as an ongoing presence in visionary experience and liturgies that supplicate her.

This talk explores two quite different portraits of Yeshe Tsogyal’s life and liberation, translated in Lady of the Lotus-Born (2002) and The Life and Visions of Yeshe Tsogyal (2017). These divergent biographies suggest radically different perspectives on courage, resilience, and devotion on the Vajrayana path, while unequivocally affirming the transformative potential for enlightenment in a female body.

Read more at The Lion's Roar magazine.

About Holly Gayley

Holly Gayley is a scholar and translator of Buddhist literature in contemporary Tibet and Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research areas include gender and sexuality in Buddhist tantra, ethical reform in contemporary Tibet, and theorizing translation, both literary and cultural, in the transmission of Buddhist teachings to North America. Her most recent book is Inseparable Across Lifetimes: The Lives and Love Letters of Namtrul Rinpoche and Khandro Tāre Lhamo (2019). For almost two decades, she has regularly led meditation workshops and retreats and serves as a senior teacher in the Shambhala tradition.

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