JASHAR WOONG DRUBDEY
Ani Yoesel Choden was born in Pemagatshel, Bhutan in 1921 and, out of profound devotion to the Buddha Dharma, went to Zham Goenpa, Minjey, Lhuentse to receive the precious teachings from Lama Gyeltshen Marpo, one of the best-known Buddhist ascetics in Eastern Bhutan and predecessor of H.E. Gyeltshen Trulku Rinpoche. She was so learned that she became one of his closest disciples.
Upon her return to Pemagatsel, Ani Yoesel Choden first joined the other nuns who had remained in Goenpa Singma, and, after a short while, she decided to leave the community to dedicate her life to meditation. She spent four years meditating at the top of a mountain in Pemagatshel.
While she was meditating, a rainbow would appear every day at the same location at a reach in front of her. Intrigued, she sent a couple of nuns to go to the place where the rainbow appeared and inspect the area. Once the nuns reached the said location, they lit a fire and the smoke ascended to the sky. Observing from the top of the mountain, Ani Yoesel Choden considered this specific location to be auspicious for a retreat centre and preserve Lama Gyeltshen Marpo’s teachings. There, in 1958, Jashar Woong Retreat Centre which means “the place where the rainbow appears” was established.
During Ani Yoesel Choden’stime, this retreat centre hosted forty disciples, twenty-five nuns and fifteen lay monks. When H.E. Gyeltshen Trulku Rinpoche was nineteen years old, he met Ani Yoesel Choden for the first time at her retreat centre. She had been then meditating for forty years. During their encounter Ani Yoesel Choden requested that, at her death, Rinpoche maintains the care of Jashar Woong. Ten years later, they met again but Ani Yoesel Choden’s health, then of great age, had been deteriorating. She passed away a year later.
Following her passing in 1982, Jashar Woong was left abandoned.
In 1990, the nearby community, lay monks and remaining close nun disciples of Ani Yoesel Choden appealed to Rinpoche to revive the retreat centre. With great compassion and remembering Ani Yoesel Choden’s past request, Rinpoche took over the renovation of the retreat centre and revived Jashar Woong. The revival of Jashar Woong brought back many followers.
The retreat centreis located in a remote area with limited road access. For over fifty years, the nuns had been carrying heavy loads of water and food supplies and walking long distances before reaching back to the retreat centre. In 1995, Rinpoche decided to further expand by establishing an additional building lower down in the mountain to facilitate the supply of water and food to the retreating nuns at Jashar Woong. He took residence there and gave teachings to nuns in preparation of their meditation. In 2008, Rinpoche undertook the construction of the nunnery. He designed the entire structure himself and, with great efforts and diligence, completed the construction of the nunnery in 2016.
The nunnery includes a temple, dormitory for the nuns and a guest house. Today, Jashar Woong and the nunnery host over forty-five disciples, twenty-two of which are currently undergoing between three to nine-year intensive meditation retreats.
In 2009, the reincarnation of Ani Yoesel Choden was formally recognized through Choezang Lhamo by H.H. the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa. Choezang Lhamo was born in Samdrup Jongkhar, Bhutan and as a small child she could describe Jashar Woong in great details without having ever set foot there. However, despite these extraordinary abilities, at that time, nobody was there to recognize a female Trulku. On the other hand, another boy simultaneously claimed to be the reincarnation of Ani Yoesel Choden and in view of the dilemma, H.E. Gyeltshen Trulku Rinpoche requested that H.H. the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa verifies the authenticity of both children’s claimed status. H.H. the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa confirmed Choezang Lhamo to be the sole reincarnation of Ani Yoesel Choden and sealed her status as a Trulku during the first Annual Drukpa Council in 2009.