Khenmo Konchog Nyima Drolma
Abbess of Vajra Dakini Nunnery, Khenmo Konchog Nyima Drolma has studied with the foremost spiritual teachers of our time including H.H. Dalai Lama, H.H. Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche (the head of the Drikung Kagyu Lineage), and Ani Pema Chödrön. In 2002, she took full ordination as a Buddhist nun in Taiwan. In 2004, she was installed as a Khenmo (Abbot) in the Drikung lineage, becoming the first woman and first westerner in her lineage to officially hold this responsibility. She teaches the Dharma internationally. In addition to being Abbess of Vajra Dakini Nunnery, her current responsibilities include facilitating the Tibetan/Himalayan Nuns Leadership Program and chairing the international committee for the 2023 Shravasti Rains Retreat.
Khenmo was an esteemed Professor of Sculpture at the University of Maine and at the Maine College of Art in Portland, ME before becoming a Buddhist nun. Throughout her distinguished academic career, she received numerous awards and prizes for her work. She has an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania and 20 years of teaching experience at a college level. She is a breast cancer survivor who has served as an Art Fellow at the Connecticut Hospice; she has also served as a board member of both the Addison Respite Care Home in Vermont and Maine Respite Home, where she started an arts team for hospice volunteers.
After studying Buddhism for 15 years, Khenmo made a pilgrimage to India in 1995. Residing at Namgyal Monastery, she studied Tibetan, Lam Rim texts, and sand mandalas at the Tibetan Library of Works and Archives; though her initial visit was three months, she returned the following year for another five months. In 1997, she took novice ordination with H.H. Chetsang Rinpoche. She then received the many cycles of Drikung empowerments and lungs over a period of many annual trips to India.
Khenmo began her retreat training with a five-month solitary retreat in the mountains of Almora, India at the Drikung three-year retreat center. This retreat practice became a way of life with annual solitary retreats. In 1999, she entered intensive monastic training at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, learning the monastic rituals and duties. There she studied with Ven. Pema Chödrön. She spent the next two years in shedra (philosophy college) studying Buddhist classics of philosophy including the Abhidharmakosa, Dudra, Lorig, Tarig, The Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, the Uttara Tantra, Tenet systems, classical Tibetan, and debate.
While at Gampo Abbey, Khenmo created a bronze statue of Gampopa for the Abbey stupa and directed monastic training. She then supervised the building of a peace stupa in Vermont. In 2002, Khenmo was invited to come to India to fulfill the vision of H.H. Chetsang Rinpoche, to make a statue of King Songtsen Gonpo based on a dream of the 10th Panchen Lama. This statue originally was to have been installed in the main square of Lhasa, Tibet, but due to the invasion of China all plans were abandoned.
She became the Art Director for the creation of all the art works for Songtsen Library. To actualize H.H. Chetsang Rinpoche’s artistic vision, Khenmo led an international team of 16 artists in creating 40 ceiling thangkas, an elaborate two story entry door, and numerous statues using traditional Tibetan techniques and materials dating back to the 1500s. Aware of the significance of the statue and importance of historical accuracy of the depiction of King Songtsen Gampo, Khenmo researched details in the great libraries of India to accurately depict 7th-century fabric, clothing, jewelry, and horse harnesses.
H.H. Chetsang Rinpoche encouraged Khenmo to take full ordination as a bhikshuni in Taiwan at the Ji Yu Chen Monastery, becoming the first fully ordained nun in the Drikung Lineage. Khenmo returned to the U.S. to begin working on establishing Vajra Dakini Nunnery. In 2004, during the Drikung Monkey Year Teachings in Lumbini, Nepal, she was installed as a Khenmo in the Drikung lineage, becoming the first westerner to hold the responsibility of abbot.
Since then, she has worked continuously to establish Vajra Dakini Nunnery and teach the Dharma internationally.
(Sculptures depicted are by Khenmo Drolma.)
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