Twelve Tenma Sisters

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Twelve Tenma Sisters (Skt. sthāvarā; Tib. བསྟན་མ་བཅུ་གཉིས་, Wyl. bstan ma bcu gnyis) — female protector deities of Tibet, bound under oath by Guru Padmasambhava at Asura cave, in present day Pharping, Nepal[1]. They consist of the Four Female Demons (Tib. Dümo Shyi), the Four Menmos (Tib. Menmo Shyi) and the Four Yakshinis (Skt.; Tib. Nöjin Shyi). They are called the "Twelve Mother and Sister Tenmas" because they take care of us like a mother or like older sisters. They are accompanied by the divisions of hundred thousand female assistants.

There are several lists of the Twelve Tenmas. The Palchen Düpa from the Longchen Nyingtik cycle gives:

  1. Tseringma
  2. Töna Dorje Yamakyong
  3. Nöjin Gang la Kunzangmo
  4. Drokchen Khordul Gekkyi Tso
  5. Jomo Gangrar Chenchikma
  6. Changna Khading Lumo Gyal
  7. Kharak Dorje Khyung Tsunma. She is said to reside on Jomo Kharak, a mountain range in Tsang. Together with the five sisters of long life, she is the special protector of the Tukdrup Barché Künsel terma cycle, rediscovered by Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa.[2]
  8. Machen Pomrar Drakmogyal
  9. Gongtsun Demo Bökham Kyong
  10. Dragtsan Dorje Menchikma
  11. Jomo Nakgyal Yarmo Sil
  12. Wuna Dorje Zulemen

Alternative Listing

According to Ratna Lingpa’s Tukdrub Yangdü, the Twelve Tenma[3] belong to the classes of dümo, nöjin, and menmo.

As it says in the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo, their specific task entrusted to them by Guru Rinpoche, the great master of Uddiyana, was for the specific purpose of guarding the borders of the four directions so that invasions or harm from non-dharmic influences would not enter Tibet and Kham.

  • Four dümo:
  1. Great Sovereign - Dorje Kundrakma
  2. Glorious Hari - Dorje Yama Kyong
  3. Turquoise Mist of Snow Mountains - Dorje Kuntu Zang
  4. Tamer of the Hordes of the Vast Pastures - Dorje Gek kyi Tso
  • Four nöjin:
  1. Fleshless White Glacier - Dorje Yudrönma
  2. Kharak Khyung Tsün - Dorje Palgyi Yum
  3. Sky Soarer of the Great Treasures - Dorje Lumo
  4. Mari Rabjam - Dorje Drakmo Gyal
  • Four menmo:
  1. Kongtsün Demo - Dorje Bö Kham Kyong
  2. Tsenla Rölpe - Dorje Menchikma
  3. Turquoise Bell - Dorje Zulema
  4. Mentsün Ugchö - Dorje Yarmo Sil

Alternative Translations

  • Twelve Subterranean Goddesses (Dorje & Coleman)
  • Twelve Established Goddesses (R. Mayer)
  • Twelve Immovable Goddesses

Further Reading

  • For detailed alternative listings see Oracles & Demons of Tibet by Rene de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, pp. 181-217, published by Book Faith India, ISBN: 81-7303-039-1


  1. Source: Tulku Tenpo, Word Commentary to Rigdzin Düpa Inner Sadhana
  2. Dilgo Khyentse, Brilliant Moon (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2008), note 4, page 306.
  3. The notes on Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo, Entering the Path of Wisdom, by Jamyang Drakpa, as recorded by Jokhyab Rinpoche, from Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo, Vol. 2, published by Rangjung Yeshe Publications, ISBN 962-7341-33-9, page205. Original source mentioned in the notes is Ratna Linpa’s Tukdrub Yangdü.