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Ask Ani Choying Drolma how she made the transition from battered daughter of poor Tibetan refugees to international singing sensation, founder of the Nuns’ Welfare Foundation of Nepal, and coauthor of Singing for Freedom, an unabashedly candid autobiography that made waves in France before being published in a dozen other countries (an English translation was published in June 2009 in Australia and New Zealand by Murdoch Books), and she will tell you that the boundless kindness and unconditional love of her teacher, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, were her salvation.

In Ani Choying’s culture, humility is a cardinal quality. But the custom of humility often translates as low expectations and the unquestioned acceptance of male dominion. Choying could not reconcile herself to this imbalance of power, which she experienced first as a young girl subjected to daily beatings by her father—even while she tried her best to help with the housework and care for her little brothers—and later as a teenage nun in a religion that has traditionally made much of its monks.

Ani Choying’s special qualities have made it possible for her to break the mold. Along with an indomitable, feisty spirit, she has a magnificent voice, a willingness to experiment (she was the first nun to drive in Nepal), and an intense desire to help other people realize their potential. Under the umbrella of the Nuns’ Welfare Foundation, her many projects in Nepal include running the Arya Tara School for young nuns, supporting a home for elderly mothers abandoned by their families, and founding a clinic for people with kidney ailments.

Last April, Pamela Gayle White visited with Ani Choying Drolma at her home in Boudhanath, Nepal, a few minutes’ walk from the Great Stupa.

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