Living Practical Dharma: A Tribute to Chomo Khandru and the Bonpo Women of Lubra Village, Mustang, Nepal

  • Sara Shneiderman
Part of the Religion/Culture/Critique book series (RCCR)


Chomo Khandru was 80 years old when we met. I was 20. She welcomed me into her home for one night, which soon turned into many. It was 1995, and I had traveled to the ethnically Tibetan area of the Nepal Himalayas known as Mustang to conduct research on the lives of chomo—female religious practitioners of the Tibetan Buddhist and Bon traditions who live independently in villages, without the support of an institutional monastic setting.1 Chomo Khandru was the oldest woman in Lubra, a tiny settlement of 14 houses sheltered in a side canyon of the mighty Kali Gandaki river, and she was arguably the senior most chomo in the entire area (figure 3.1). She was an old woman with much to teach and no disciples, and I was an eager young student. As I gained her trust, the story of her life as both a celibate ascetic and a worldly trader on the historic Tibet to India salt-grain trading trail unfolded. With an unusually sharp memory for dates, names, and places, and a down-to-earth way of explaining abstract dharmic (religious) concepts, she was a gifted raconteur and teacher. It became clear that the experience of telling her story and explaining her beliefs was important to her, just as the experience of listening was to me. Together we entered the special space of transmission. I use the word in its spiritual sense, where it implies the ritual passing of knowledge and practice from one generation to another.2


Religious Practice Religious Tradition Religious Identity Religious Education Spiritual Practice 
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© Meena Khandelwal, Sondra L. Hausner, and Ann Grodzins Gold 2006

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  • Sara Shneiderman

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