Updated: Apr 21
A few weeks ago, Dear Ani Lobsang Kunsang shared with me a video of Venerable Ani Thubten Pemo. She expressed her wish to demonstrate a very moving story of this recently deceased Venerable that would be beneficial to the Bodhiblossom project. When I began to watch, it was an interview with the Venerable Ani Thubten Poem from 1999. Captivated by the two-hour footage, I could not stop the tears throughout the entire clip. The words that Venerable Ani Thubten spoke in the video kept coming back to my mind, and her image repeatedly appeared to me. Every time, it brought a surge of emotion. Her story has reinforced my commitment to do all I can to draw attention to the compassionate and powerful Buddhist nuns.
Venerable Lobsang Kunsang is very kind seeking to locate a woman who was a nun many years ago and who knew Venerable Thubten Poem.
Susanna Parodi Corona has kindly offered to take the time to remember Venerable Thubten Poem in words and also share an old photograph.
My Vajra sister Thubten Pemo
By Susanna Parodi Corona
Thubten Pemo, my Vajra sister, had been ordained for a few years by the time I arrived in Kopan for the 8th Course in November 1976. She was sitting in the front with other nuns.
I was 22 years old from Italy and this tall and beautiful nun from New York was striking me!
She had a small home in Kopan that she built with all her savings. She was a teacher, an American teacher who was very precise. She was paying a lot of attention to the details and particularly the details of the monastic life.
When I took ordination in 1977, part of my job was to cook for the western Sangha, so I had the opportunity to get to know her better.
She was always typing and transcribing the teachings. Her typing was very fast just like a musician playing the piano.
Later on, unfortunately, she got Hepatitis A and became very ill. I tried to cook special food for her, and she was always kind and grateful.
I remember she taught me how to offer food to a Sangha member, like for example instead of asking, "Do you want soup?" we should say, "May I offer you some food?," or, "Could you give me the opportunity to create Merits by offering you some food?" She used to say that monks and nuns should not "want"... and we should help them in this process.
After I disrobed, she wrote me a very nice card that I still keep somewhere, but I can't find it now. She wrote something like, "Our wisdom is like the light of a candle, Susanna, project it and it will start a big fire!" and featured a candle on the card.
She had laughter that could be heard from afar and was contagious. Once, when we were in France following the Lamas and I was cooking for them, she had no place to stay, so I invited her to share our room. However, she had to say her prayers and read her Sadhanas, so she sat outside in the corridor to do so. The light was on a timer and would turn off every two minutes, so she kept turning it back on. We had to tell her to stop or we wouldn't be able to sleep due to the light and the noise of the switch, we had to sleep a little in order to bring the first tea to Rinpoche very very early in the morning. She was frustrated and we were also frustrated.
In the morning, however, with a cake and cappuccino, we were quickly settled in a good mood and understood that no matter what, we would always be sisters forever. Lama Yeshe heard about this, he laughed a lot and was delighted.
Thubten Pemo did a lot of Dharma practices, and I know she is now in Pure Land.
Susanna Parodi Corona
Ven. Thubten Pemo, from New York, was among the first students of Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Ordained by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in 1974, she spent many years studying and practicing in India. She was a holder of a mystical mirror-reading divination lineage and renowned for her wish-fulfilling jola (a type of bag often carried by monks and nuns). Ven. Pemo passed away in March 2023 (we are still confirming the exact date of her passing) at her home in Santa Cruz, California, USA.