Portrait of the nun, Kheychok Palmo, Trongsa, Bhutan. June 6, 2005.
“Contentment is the supreme of all wealth. It is the greatest gift.” These were the words of Kheychok Palmo, 29, a teacher at the Karma Drubdey Gompa Nunnery and Retreat Center in Trongsa, Bhutan, who I photographed while working on a documentary project, "Women in Pursuit of Spiritual Enlightenment." Belief in reincarnation is fundamental in Buddhist philosophies, and many Bhutanese women, including nuns, wish to come back in future lives as men. This wish is because many women in Bhutan believe that men have better lives, access to more education and rights, and overall live with more respect in their society. Kheychok Palmo, however, believes differently. In an interview with her on the subject, she articulated her beliefs with a quiet confidence: “I will always want to be reborn as a woman, never as a man, because I feel one can benefit as a man already, and only a few women can benefit in female form. Women need to receive more benefits, and so many men already do well in the world.”