Interview with Drubpön Chödön

DC01The retreat master (Drubpön) Konchog Chödön was born in Kham, a region in eastern Tibet. From childhood she had the desire to be a nun. Soon after joining the Drikung Kagyu Nunnery Samtenling at the age of 24 years, she undertook a Three Year Retreat in Almora under the direction of Drubpön Konchok Yeshi. Subsequently, she completed a one-year retreat under the guidance of HH the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, called Naropa Nugu Chödrup retreat. Under the guidance of Drubpön Thondrup Palden she again took part in a Three Year Retreat, this time at the holy mountain Lapchi in Nepal. The third Three Year Retreat about the Fivefold Path of Mahamudra and the Six Yogas of Naropa, she completed under the guidance of Drubpön Thondrup Palden in Almora.

Drubpon Chödön received a compehensive Dharma training in the Drikung Kagyu tradition in Samtenling. Since June 2013, she is Drubpön of the Milarepa Retreat Center.



Drubpon Chödön Tells a Little About Herself and Her Career

Drubpön Chödön, would you tell us a bit about your childhood and how your wish to become a nun arose?

DC: I grew up in the country. My parents were farmers and nomads. I have a large family, with five brothers – four older and one younger. I lost my father when I was four. Even as a child I had the wish to become a nun. There was no particular reason - it probably comes from karmic impressions from previous lives. But in our vicinity there were only monasteries, so I actually wished to become a monk. But I was a girl and there were no nunneries. As I had no opportunity, I tended yaks and other animals.

Why did you choose the nunnery Samtenling in Dehradun, India?

DC: I received my ordination vows from Penor Rinpoche in Kathmandu. From there I went to Tso Pema via Bodhgaya. There, and then a bit later in Dharamsala, I encountered H.H. Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang. I was deeply inspired by him, and I therefore went to his nunnery in Dehradun.

How did you spend your initial period in Samtenling, and when did it become clear to you that you wanted to participate in a traditional Three Year Retreat?

DC: In Samtenling it was just as I imagined life in a nunnery to be. At first I was given teachings on Shantideva’s “Bodhicaryavatara” (“The Way of the Bodhisattva”). When I heard that H.H. Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang was sending ordained sangha members to Almora for the first Three Year Retreat, I wanted to participate but didn’t think he would choose me. But during an audience with him, he said to me that I surely had an interest in the retreat. I confirmed this and was very happy.

As we are offering the traditional Three Year Retreat here in the Milarepa Retreat Center, it would interest us very much if you would tell us a bit about what daily life in the retreat in Almora was like.

DC: Our day began at three in the morning, we had four sessions spread out over the day and went to bed at nine in the evening. We had a cook, so we didn’t have to deal with preparing our meals, our food was placed before our doors. I liked living in a small meditation hut, because I’m small myself. And I didn’t feel alone - I had lots of acquaintances around me. It was good that we lived separately; otherwise there would have been too many distractions.

You have done the Three Year Retreat three times. How does such a wish arise? And how did the quality of your meditation change during the following retreats?

DC: Who of us knows if we’re going to die tomorrow? The benefit one gets from Dharma is equal to the amount one practices, there is no disadvantage. Who can tell me whether I’ll get a precious rebirth as a human being again? I have spent very little time in retreat. Others spend their whole lives in retreat. You can’t be in retreat for too long, only for a time that’s too short. No matter the length – I enjoy being in retreat, but that’s not possible. One has to go here and there. If for example, we take a look at the life of Milarepa: he spent his entire time in the mountains and meditated. If one can spend one’s life in such a way, it’s incredibly good, isn’t it? Counting the years one has spent in retreat isn’t important, what’s essential is whether one has gained insight and experience. One doesn’t know much about meditation at the outset, but then one gradually gets used to it. One should abide in Samadhi every moment, but lots of thoughts arise. The point is not to meditate, but to develop the habit of doing so. By developing the habit, one meditates. One observes the nature of mind and conceptual thinking. The thoughts aren’t bad, they are not our enemies that we try to destroy. We just observe their nature.

You began as meditation master (drubpön) in the Milarepa Retreat Center in Schneverdingen in May of this year. Through your long experience in meditation you will certainly introduce various meditation techniques to western students that might ease interested people’s access to meditation. How do you view this?

DC: I don’t have anything special that I can explain. I can only pass on what I have learned about meditation. I believe that I am able to pass on my experiences.

You haven’t been long in Germany; can you tell us whether the adjustment has been difficult?

That’s difficult to say. I haven’t had all that much experience yet. This country is very clean, the shops and restaurants are unbelievably clean and one can see many people of extremely diverse nationalities here, unlike in India. The weather here is more or less like Lapchi. I don’t understand the German language, so that’s somewhat difficult. It would be good if I could understand the language.

Drubpön Chödön, in autumn of this year, you will offer an open study group in the Milarepa Retreat Center – what is the benefit of this group?

DC: When we study Phagmodrupa’s text, we learn, for instance, something about the precious human body, about karma, the law of cause and effect, about the disadvantages of the cycle of existence and about the purification of negative acts. And we learn that we experience suffering when we commit negative actions and happiness when we perform positive ones. So, I think it’s very important to study this text.

Thank you very much, Drubpön Chödön, and we all wish you a wonderful stay at Milarepa Retreat Center.

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