The Ven. Gelongma Karma Khechog Palmo, daughter of Francis Edwin Houlston and Nellie Diana Swan, was born in Derby, England, on the 5th of February, 1911 and given the name of Freda Marie.

Educated at the Parkfields Cedars Schools in Derby, she later obtained an M.A. degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St. Hugh's College, Oxford University. It was here that she met her husband, an Indian aristocrat of the Bedi family, direct descendant of the Sikh dynasty of Gurus initiated by Guru Baba Nanak.

Her life in India, since she settled there in 1934, has been a busy and varied one. Apart from bringing up two sons and a daughter (who are now all married - the second son, Kabir Bedi, is a well-known film star) she was professor of English at Srinagar in Kashmir; editor of the magazine "Social Welfare" of the Ministry of Welfare; on the administrative staff of the United Nations Social Services Planning Commission to Burma; advisor on Tibetan Refugees to the Ministry of External Affairs.

She also won the National Prize for a book of Children's Verse which was translated into Urdu, in 1957.

After coming into contact with Buddhism in Burma, she became a pupil of the Vice President of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, Ven. Dayadaw U Thittila Aggamahapandita, in 1953. Acting in an official capacity, she attended the Buddha Jayanti (2500th Anniversary) in New Delhi in 1956, as well as Buddhist conferences in Bangkok, Sarnath and Malaysia. Since 1958 she has been devoted to the service of the Tibetan refugees in India, particularly the lamas and nuns.

 She founded:

Friends of Buddhism (1953 - 1962) in New Delhi

Tibetan Friendship Group (1960 - continuing)

Young Lama's Home School, Dalhousie, India (1961 - 1965),

Mahayana Monastic House (1965 - continuing),

Mahayana Buddhist Nunnery, Tilokpur )1963 - continuing).

 In 1953 she took personal vows of a Brahmacarya and in 1958 the Eight Precepts Upasika Vows. After taking the Bodhisattva Vow from his Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa, head of the Karyudpa Order of Tibetan Buddhism, in 1963, she left home and accepted the ordination of a Buddhist nun from him on August 1st, 1966. In 1972, at Hong Kong, she became the first Tibetan Buddhist nun in many centuries to receive the Bhikkhuni Ordination - hence the title of Gelongma.

 Since then she has undertaken several tours to the West, each of them covering wider ground: to Britain and the Continent, the U.S.A. and Canada. She visited the centres set up by the Kargyudpa Rinpoches (Precious Ones), Ven. Chogyam Trungpa and Akong Tulku at Samyê-Ling in Scotland and in the U.S.A., lecturing and giving religious instructions and initiations. Many groups invited her to give talks and she met leading thinkers, such as Prof. Huston Smith author of "The Religions of Man", the poet Allen Ginsberg, John Giorni's group in New York, Dr. Pilgrim, and others.

In 1974-75, she accompanied His Holiness Karmapa and a group of his followers on a further extensive tour, which lasted five months and covered the United States, Canada and Europe. Many new centres were opened as a consequence of this and enormous interest was stimulated amongst searchers after a better way of life. The tour ended with a visit to the Pope in Rome.

Sister Palmo, as she is affectionately called by her followers in the West (to the Tibetan refugees she is simply known as "Mummy") came to South Africa in 1972 and, as always, left a stream of admiring friends behind. She has promised to return this year, abut the end of September, bringing with her a Tibetan Lama, the Ven. Ayang Rinpoche, as well as an attendant monk and nun. They will tour for six weeks, visiting the main centres and giving lectures and meditation instructions to interested groups and people. Short stops in Rhodesia and Zambia are also envisaged.

[1] This Curriculum Vitae was prepared and printed in Cape Town, for the 1974 visit of Sister Palmo to South Africa. Instead of updating the document I have decided to leave it in its archival form - and perhaps elsewhere, eventually create and more fully representative biography.