"Something radical had happened to Freda Bedi in her middle age, because she turned her back on her fame, her work, and her family and had become the first Western Tibetan Buddhist nun. I learned that she had started a school for the young reincarnated lamas when they were refugees newly arrived in India, to teach them English and the ways of the world. One of her pupils was Zopa Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe's heart disciple, who had taught me first in Kopan and subsequently in other venues around the world. Freda had plucked him out of a terrible disease-ridden refugee camp, a skinny kid wracked with tuberculosis, provided him with medicines, new robes, a sponsor, and the beginnings of a Western education.

"Maybe that was why Lama Yeshe, always full of gratitude, had bowed before her.

"Other tidbits about Freda came my way. Strangely, this subtle amassing of information gathered momentum as time went by, as though something I was not conscious of was buiding up. I discovered that she had been a freedom fighter for the cause of Indian independence, joining Gandhi's powerful movement in defiance of her own people, the British. And she had gone to jail for her trouble, the first Englishwoman to do so. My journalist's antennae began to twitch. Maybe there was a story here. Freda was becoming increasingly interesting.

"As my experience with the Tibetan Buddhist world grew, I heard something about Freda that surprised me. Among the Tibetans it was whispered that Freda was regarded as an emanation of Tara, the female Buddha of Compassion in Action. Tara, (beloved of all Tibetans, religious or not) was hailed as the Divine Mother, to whom they all prayed when in need. It was Tara, rather than the historical male Shakyamuni Buddha, whom they called upon whenever they were in danger, sad, frightened, or sick, because they knew Tara did not merely sit and listen compassionately to their pleas; she got up and did something. This ability to act and act quickly was regarded as a quintessential female quality."