Khema Samavati is named after two famous Tibetan nuns; Khema who was known for her wisdom and Samavati who spread metta. Her mother was a deeply spiritual woman but was most focused on a daily basis raising Khema and her brother and sister. Her father worked as a builder in the village, he was well known because he once restored the monastery following a terrible hailstorm when Khema was a very young girl. Her mother would always take her along to the temples to make offerings to the local deities. Khema took great interest in her mother’s prayers in which her mother most often asked for health and happiness but sometimes for protection of her family and village. The village is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, and seasonal weather patterns can be harsh.
Now Khema is a 62 year old widow, her husband died in an avalanche 22 years ago while on pilgrimage. Having no children, Khema Samavati joined the nunnery the year following his death. For the first few years as a nun Khema Samavati was in charge of the cleaning of the small nunnery, which at the time housed seven nuns of whom Khema Samavati was the youngest. She served the nunnery whole heartedly and devoted herself to meditation and recitation of Suttras. After three years the head nun acknowledged Khema Samavati’s dedication to her meditation practice and sent her on a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya. There she met a lama who recognized that she held the potential for great skill in ritual performance and initiated her in the practice. The lama returned to her home village with her and spent several months instructing her in ritual practice. Over the span of five years he would return to her village every six months with new teachings for her, until he proclaimed Khema Samavati an adept in the performance of ritual. People from her village as well as surrounding villages (sometimes from even farther away) have sought after her in times of crisis and in times of celebration.
Khema Samavati in recent years has taken over as head nun. There are two nuns left who are senior to her but both are crippled and one is blind, they both agreed Khema should take over the daily operation of the nunnery. There are five younger nuns under her. One of the younger nuns is the neice of the village’s most productive farmer. She has been teaching Khema Samavati what she knows of cultivating the land surrounding the nunnery. In the season so far the nunnery has had success in growing vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs. It was a few years back Khema received a scroll outlining medicinal uses for certain herbs and the preparation of herbal remedies. Khema cultivated some of the herbs mentioned in the scroll and will try her hand in the preparation of medicine. Farming and healing are becoming her secondary skills.
The local police have been warning villagers of an impending hailstorm. It was forecast by a hail-master that this storm would be the worst the region has seen since the time the monastery was so badly damaged when Khema was young. The police were given instructions by the hail-master to reiterate to the villagers: no burning of sandalwood but especially not at sunset since that is the time of day at which the hail-spirits are most sensitive and sandalwood enrages them, and all must face South if they are praying to the local deity for protection because this will signify the need specifically for a guard against hail. The monks and nuns have been given special orders to collect large flat stones and set out marking the perimeter of the village including farm plots. This is so the hail-master can walk the area uttering the mantras that will inspire protection from his deity as soon as he has completed his 27 day retreat as part of the ritual for appeasing the spirits who bring hail.
Khema Samavati knows the ritualist who sells amulets at Sarnath’s Deer Park. She sent a pair of the younger nuns to purchase the protective amulets for each nun just as an extra precaution. There are ritual mantras with which Khema Samavati is familiar, that are used in the threat of such a bad hailstorm. She is teaching all of the nuns and monks the proper mantras to call for help of their local deity and the night before the hailstorm the group will spend hours chanting the mantras. This particular mantra is more powerful the louder it can be chanted. They will perform this group ritual for many hours leading through the night and into the morning. With the sunrise on the day the hailstorm has been forecast Khema will build a fire and offer dry wheat to the flames as the closing of the ritual. This is when the hailmaster will arrive and continue with his own rituals.