Gelongma Migme Chödrön

(1924–2016)

 

ani-migme-homepage

Gelongma Migme Chödrön, a student of the late Ven. Trungpa Rinpoche and of the V.V. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, passes away on October 11, 2016, at Karma Changchub Ling (KCCL) in Fall River, Nova Scotia.

In this column below, you will find a brief description of her life, and in the next column, messages from various teachers and friends. If you want to send a tribute to be added, please send it to: kccl.contact@gmail.com.

In the last 16 weeks after leaving the hospital to go home to die, many people visited and/or sent messages to Ani Migme. Why did so many people love to talk and be with Ani Migme? What is the secret?

A few weeks ago, after she had met several people during the day, I asked Ani Migme about a last message for “people in general”, and she answered enigmatically in a way which seem to hint at her secret. She said:

Every time somebody talks to me there (comes up the question of) a last message. There is no (general) last message! What do people want? They know themselves damn well what the last message is. Why ask me?!

(A little later she jokingly added:) I won’t do it again! (i.e., trying to give “the” last message). Last messages are not for everyone since messages are personal. To each person you say something different, at different times.

Here is now a brief biographical sketch:

Ani Migme was born Thelma Eskin in Ottawa, Ontario in 1924. Her parents, free-thinking Jews who had immigrated to Canada from Russia in the very early part of the 20th century, were seeking a better life in North America.

ani-migme-age-12As a child, Thelma was curious of other folk’s beliefs but she grew up proud of being an atheist. At school where she excelled she read voraciously, encouraged by one of her “idols,” a librarian who gave her books beyond her age to read.

 

 

ani-migme-and-harryWith a scholarship to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, the new discipline of biochemistry rewarded her with a Bachelor’s Degree. This was followed by a Master’s Degree in chemistry. Thelma married Harry Habgood in 1946 and as graduate students in chemistry, they chose to enroll at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After receiving her Ph.D., she spent many years in chemistry research and in palynology.

Helen Habgood was born in 1956 and the loving task of raising a child softened her mother’s mental outlook.

A deep interest in archaeology and, in particular, rock art such as in the caves of Lascaux heightened her interest in spirituality, something other than the ambient materialistic out-look. Classes in Hinduism and Buddhism followed and the common sense of Buddhism became clear.

Then came “Meditation in Action” by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. This book made absolute sense to her and she felt that she had to meet this teacher. It clarified her nascent awareness of the ultimate dissatisfaction with worldly life in spite of ample success in family and work.

In 1973, she became a student of Trungpa Rinpoche and founded/established the Edmonton Dharma Study Group in 1974 which, in 1981, under her leadership, was given the full status of Dharmadhatu by the Vidyadhara Trungpa Rinpoche.

9-four-eldersTrungpa Rinpoche’s move to Halifax brought Harry and Thelma to Halifax in 1984 where she was practice coordinator of Karma Dzong and host for travelers to and from Gampo Abbey. Eventually she and Harry moved to the Abbey. After much discreet self-reflection, she told Harry that she wanted to be a nun. Ani Migme then took novice ordination and became a fully ordained nun in 1994.

She completed the traditional three year retreat in 1996 at Söpa Chöling, being part of the first group of graduates. During all these years and later on, she was considered to be the head umdze (chant master).

dsc_0443She was the Abbey’s main librarian from its very earliest days and enjoyed helping students as a mentor and meditation instructor.

Being a founding member of the Chökyi Gyatso Translation committee, Migme was a translator from French, translating literally several thousands of pages of Buddhist classical scholarly works into English: she translated Étienne Lamotte’s translation from the Chinese of the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra and his translation of the Mahāyānasaṃgraha, as well as Walpola Rahula’s translation of the Abhidharmasamuccaya, André Bareau’s Les Sectes Bouddhiques du Petit Véhicule, José van den Broeck’s translation of Ghoṣaka’s Amṛtarasa. She also finished the draft translations of all the works of La Vallée Poussin to be published in the future volumes of The Collected Works of Louis de La Vallée Poussin. In addition, she also functioned as the main editor for Gelong Lodrö Sangpo’s publications.

DPR and Migme-1In December 2015, she moved to Fall River, a suburb of Halifax, to start Karma Changchub Ling, a monastic center within the Karma Kagyü lineage, of which she functioned as Vice-President and as one of the Directors until her death.

When on October 11 Gelongma Migme Chödrön passed away at Karma Changchub Ling (KCCL) in Fall River, Nova Scotia, Lodrö Sangpo wrote:

Dear Friends

Not only with sadness but also with great joy I would like to let you know that a very meritorious life has come to an end and is bound to move on to do something very meritorious again in the near future in a different form.

It was last night, on Heruka day, October 11, at 9pm sharp, that our dearest friend and companion, Gelongma Migme Chödron, passed away with a firm in-breath instead of the expected long drawn out out-breath, nearly as if inviting us to “hold our breath below the navel” one more time.

Ani Migme — as she was known to anyone who met her during her long tenure at Gampo Abbey — embodied what it was to be a true western Buddhist monastic. Her commitment to monasticism was unwavering.

People who wish to contribute financially to support Ani Migme’s vision for KCCL are welcome to do so: http://kccl.ca/donate/

p1010927-1-1In closing, here is one of the private notes found on her computer which recounts a meeting with Trungpa Rinpoche:

Towards the end of my Seminary (1978), during the Vajrayana section, I was given the message that Rinpoche wanted to see me. I was completely puzzled why he wanted to see me, I had never asked to see him. He was in one of the hotel rooms, in his shirt sleeves sitting in an arm-chair. He asked me to sit down. I said “I don’t have anything to say, Rinpoche”. He said: “Just sit there”. We sat in complete silence for I don’t know how long, seemed like hours. Then a red many-footed animal maybe two inches long like a caterpillar(?) appeared from under his chair and crept across the room, disappearing under the bed. We both stared at it until it disappeared under the bed. Then after a while, he said: “You can go now”.

Here are some of the messages that we have received.

Latest message from Thrangu Rinpoche who advised us with details regarding her dying process:

Thank you for your letter Lodrö Sangpo.

I have received your message of Gelongma Migme Chödrön’s passing and I have done prayers for her. I think that she will not be suffering difficulties in the next life. She is a very good practitioner.

Before dying, you helped her getting into the sitting position. Then after she passed away, you helped with putting on her robes.

Her heart staying warm (for three days after her death) was a very good sign.

Yours in the Dharma, Thrangu Rinpoche

A message from Khandro Rinpoche:

Thank you for your email communicating the news of Anila’s passing away.

Our Sangha and myself send you all our condolences and prayers at the passing away of our wonderful friend and an inspiring teacher to many.

May the Buddhas and Bodhisattavas, guide her on her passage and may she continue to manifest in ways that will allow her boundless energy, courage and kindness and that unforgettable humor, to benefit countless beings.

For all these years that I have known her, she has been someone who, whenever I thought of her, no matter where in the world I was, would lighten up my mind just recalling her smile and the glint of such kindness in her eyes that seemed to always make someone feel content and calm.

May her life and now passing, be of great inspiration to many.

We are all offering prayers and lamps for Anila Migme, but know that she will be protected and blessed by all the enlightened beings.

I would like to also thank you and everyone in the Sangha and beyond, for having been with her all this time and for taking such good care of our most beloved Anila. We will all miss her physical presence but know she is with us in every step we take as sons and daughters of the Buddha.

With prayers, KR

Message from Tyler Dewar, Dean of Nalandabodhi community:

To the Venerable Monastics and the Lay Practitioners of the Karma Changchub Ling Community,

On behalf of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and all the teachers and leadership of Nalandabodhi, I would like to extend condolences and heartfelt prayers in order to join with those who are practicing for, mourning the passing, and appreciating the inspiration of the Venerable Bhikṣuṇī Ani Migme Chödrön.

For decades at Gampo Abbey, Ani Migme held what perhaps could be considered the most central and authoritative seat of leadership of the community. Ani Migme taught and led by example, constantly and consistently. Whether through her expertise in scriptural dharma and ritual practices or through her always-available personal guidance, she displayed what it means to be a thoroughly dharmic person, and what a genuinely monastic Western lifestyle, free of pretense and contrivance, looks like.

One would be utterly confounded by an effort to identify a person more steeped in the dharma, and more inseparable from the dharma in their way of life, than Ani Migme Chödrön. Her devotion to monasticism proved that the monastery has a place in the Buddhadharma of the Western hemisphere. Her friendliness and unflappable ability to console and encourage others through the hardships of the path of awakening form a legacy that glorifies the two bodhicittas. Her humor and ever-radiant smile, now merging with the Ocean of Dharma, shine with vajra laughter, accompanying the sound of the three roots’ dharma, appearing in whatever ways are beneficial to all.

We celebrate the life of discipline, benefit, and vision that Ani Migme shared with us. As we sit in the space of her parting, and when we rise from our seats as well, may we remember and practice the Four Dharmas enunciated to us so clearly, through so many mornings, by a great master of the teachings and friend on the path.

Sincerely, Mitra Tyler Dewar

Message from Lama Tenzin, Karma Sonam Dargye Ling (KSDL; Canadian Seat of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa), Toronto:

On behalf of Lama Tenzin and the many members of KSDL, we would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the KCCL community.  We are saddened to hear that such a remarkable and dedicated practitioner has passed on. She will be greatly missed. She was a lovely person and an inspiration to both Western practitioners and the Buddhist community. It must be a great comfort to have the Very Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche praying for her and guiding you through this difficult time.

It is auspicious that she lived to such a remarkable age. We will be dedicating prayers to her here at KSDL and we extend our deepest condolences to those of you that had the honour of having her daily in your lives. May her memory and example live on in all of our hearts.

Best wishes to all.  Sincerely, Valerie (Secretary of KSDL)

Message from Ms. Shirley Blair for Thrangu Rinpoche’s school for Himalayan children:

Thank-you for sending this news. It is wonderful to know that Ani Migme was accompanied by the best friends possible in this life – vajra sisters and brothers.

Here at Thrangu Rinpoche’s school for Himalayan children, we have reason to remember Ani Migme in our prayers. She was linked to us by her generosity. The children do Arya Tara, Sangye Menla and Chenrezig sadhanas in rotation – I can hear them chanting as I type this. We have a prayer board beside the temporary prayer hall. Ani Migme Chödrön’s photo will be posted so the children can visualize her. They have nothing to give to others, but their prayers are said with deep aspirations and with joy – they can give that.

In gratitude, Shirley

Message form Ani Pema Chödrön:

Dearest Sangpo

If she died on Oct 11 how auspicious since its the 10th day, Guru Rinpoche feast day. I’ll be practicing for her in retreat.

I’ll so miss this dear friend but I know how happy she’s been at KCCL, taken care of so beautifully by you all. Thank you Sangpo for your care and love for her. I know there’s nothing that would mean more to her than that.

Now I guess it’s time for you all to get a good long sleep.

With my love and appreciation, Ani Pema

For Ani Pema’s Tribute to Ani Migme, see: http://gampoabbey.org/passing-away-gelongma-migme-chodron-october-11-9-pm-2016/

Message from Glenna Olmsted:

Such a sweet time, holding Ani Migme in my heart. I have notified Mingyur Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche.

Much love, Glenna

Message from Tashi Colman:

Please know that Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche was informed of Ani Migme’s passing and has said prayers as well as has requested them at the monastery in Bir, India.

Message from Karl Brunnhölzl:

I heard about Ani Migme’s passing yesterday and would like to convey my heartfelt condolences for your loss.

On the one hand, it is very sad to hear about her passing and I have very fond memories of times together with her. On the other hand, as you say, she is an example of a life lived truly meaningfully and she had such wonderful conditions during the last weeks of her life and her passing, with all of you present and taking care of her.

I will always remember her as the kind, witty, and diligent person she was, an inspiration for many on the Buddhist path in general and the monastic one in particular. May her rebirth – if there is one – be even more meaningful and beneficial!

Please also convey my condolences to the others at KCCL and may your practice over the next days be fruitful.

Best wishes, Karl

Gelongma Trime Lhamo passes away

We just heard that Ani Migme’s dharma sister Gelongma Trime Lhamo passed away on October 31 in New York.

We were told that among her last communications was a wish to meet Ani Migme who she said was waiting for her!

Migme and Trime referred to each other as “Thelma and Louise” based on Ridley Scott’s movie.

cci01112016

cci01112016_2

Ven. Bhikshuni Karma Trime Lhamo directed the Princeton Buddhist Meditation Group. A practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism for nearly 35 years, Ani Trime originally studied with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, one of the first Tibetan Buddhist masters to teach in the West; she also had a broad appreciation of various other Buddhist traditions, having studied with Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, the Venerable Cham Kusho, and other Tibetan teachers, as well as Theravada teacher Ayya Khema. She has also had some limited experience of Zen practice.

Ani Trime, a student practicing on the path, did not present herself as a guru or master. Her down-to-earth, straightforward Dharma talks placed great emphasis on meditation practice and everyday experience. She was also known for her sense of humor and warmth.

unknown-4

Past, Present and Future of KCCL

Having lived in Fall River for more than nine months, it is time to briefly reflect on what has been and still needs to be accomplished to establish KCCL fully.

As for the past, most of the first six months have been spent to establish the basic infra and mandala structure: getting the rooms (shrine room, individual rooms, kitchen, etc.) and our website set up, establishing the daily, weekly and monthly schedule, becoming a charity, hosting and getting advice from our lineage teachers, etc., and, lately, establishing our Buddha garden, which brings much of the physical set-up to a closure.

As for the present, we have mainly focused on helping Ani Migme with her dying process, which had been expected to occur within a week or so but which for whatever reason is extending now into its twelfth week while only living on water/juice/tea (however with the occasional teaspoon of vanilla ice cream!). Since her physical strength has greatly declined in the last weeks, her death could occur at any time. At the same time, her mind continues to stay much of the time clear, although there are now more and more periods where she is very quiet. She have rented recently one of these fancy mattresses and ever since she has been pretty much completely free of pain.

Due to these circumstances, we have cancelled most of our usual practice and study events and have replaced them with a daily practice schedule geared toward supporting Ani Migme (see column below). After her passing away, we will continue with the traditional three days of practice, ending with the funeral ceremonies on the third day.

As for the future of KCCL, once Ani Migme passes away, this will of course be a major change since she has been so instrumental with establishing KCCL.

At the same time, come September, two of our core residents will return to the last phase (1 year) of their three year retreat at Söpa Chöling. We wish them the best of luck with the Six Yogas practices.

Thus, although our main focus is on Ani Migme right now, we also have to stay pragmatic and will now have to more actively look for and screen people who could be moving in with us.

In this context, we are happy to welcome Carol Lamarche to be a new resident at KCCL. Carol is an old friend of us and has recently received Vajrayoginī abhiṣheka from Thrangu Rinpoche. She will join us in our daily Vajrayoginī sādhana practice as soon as she has finished the remainder of her Kagyü ngöndro practice. Heartfelt welcome to you, Carol.

On the other hand, we are presently still looking for two more people (preferably tantrikas) who would like to join us with becoming residents in KCCL and help to further establish our vision for KCCL.

If you have interest to become part of our “team”, please contact me at KCCL: lodro.sangpo@kccl.ca; 902-576-3655.

Welcome & Vision

Welcome to our website. Here you can learn about the vision, activities and monthly schedule of Karma Changchub Ling. Please feel free to join us so that we can grow into a mutually supportive and enriching Buddhist community based on the Karma Kagyü and Nyingma traditions.

Welcome in particular to the Karma Kagyü and Nyingma lineages, namely, the group of our main advisors, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Dzogchen Pönlop Rinpoche and Mindrolling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche. Welcome also to the teachers who greatly inspire us, the V.V. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and the late V.V. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Welcome, furthermore, to all the other teachers and practitioners of the genuine Buddhadharma involved with creating enlightened society in our modern world.

What does the name Karma Changchub Ling mean?

It means, in English, Karma Kagyü Enlightenment Dharma Place, and was bestowed on our meditation center by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa in May, 2015. Something to live up to, isn’t it!

Why Fall River?

Our main advisors advised us to rent an uplifted place in Halifax with the prospect of later being able to purchase it, if it proves to be beneficial to the Nova Scotia sangha. We consider it to be auspicious that within a short time we were able to find a beautiful and peaceful home surrounded by much greenery in Fall River, a suburb of Halifax.

more…

Would you like to live in our community?

We are looking for two more residents who have a connection with the Karma Kagyü lineage (preferably tantrikas). If you are interested, please contact us for more details:

Phone: 902-576-3655
E-mail: kccl.contact@gmail.com

Invitation to support us

KCCL is geared toward serving others. To maintain a center that provides an uplifted space for others to join in, we need additional financial backing. We invite you to financially support us, if you have the means and willingness to do so. All donations from Canada and the US are tax deductible.

Donate Now!

How to stay in touch

Please sign up for our mailing list to learn about our activities and special events. Enter your e-mail address below and specify which areas you want to be notified about and how often.

Get Updates

Check out our calendar and other news on our website.

Facebook and Twitter. Please share with your friends.