Her Eminence Jetsün Chimey Luding Rinpoche
H.E. Sakya Jetsün Chimey Luding Rinpoche was born into the Drolma Podrang, or Tara Palace of the Sakya Khon family in 1938, the year of the earth tiger. She began her dharma studies at the age of five. His Holiness Sakya Trizin was born when she was six years old. According to the tradition in her family, she took novice ordination when she was “old enough to scare crows away” at the age of seven. When she was ten years old, she made her first retreat. She meditated on the form of Vajrapani known as Bhutadamara, and in one month completed one million recitations of the short mantra, HUM VAJRA PHAT, and one hundred thousand recitations of the long mantra. In her eleventh year, her father, Kunga Rinchen, sent her on her first teaching assignment. She spent the fourth through the tenth Tibetan months among the nomads on the northern plains of Tibet , giving transmissions and teachings on Phowa, or transference of consciousness, as well as conducting torma offerings, performing lhasang, or incense offerings, and giving other teachings and empowerments. The third woman in the history of Tibet to have transmitted the Lam Dre (the Path and Fruit) teachings, a fully accomplished guru and lineage holder, she is known for her teachings on Vajrayogini and is considered an emanation of that yidam of enlightened feminine energy.
This was 1951, and it was here that she made one of the first of her well-known mos or divinations. There was a large monastery in the area where she was giving the teachings, and this was the time of political troubles surrounding the Radring regent. The abbot of the local monastery, Kardor Rinpoche, had sided with the Radring regent and for this he had been imprisoned by the Tibetan government. An earnest and worried delegation from this monastery requested an audience with the Sakya Jetsunma and asked her to do a mo to determine when their abbot would be released from prison. She made a divination with dice and recommended that the members of the monastery perform the four mandala puja of Green Tara, and recite the Twenty-One praises to Tara one hundred thousand times.
In 1952, during a visit to Lhasa when the Dalai Lama recognized and confirmed her brother as the Sakya Trizin, a group of monks requested an audience with her. They thanked her sincerely and profusely, and when she inquired the reason for this thanks, having forgotten about the incident and the mo, they told her that they had followed her instructions, and that their abbot had been released the day after they had completed the one hundred thousandth recitation of the Twenty-One Praises.
Her younger brother had died when she was four years old. Her mother died in 1948 when Jetsun was nine and His Holiness two. Their younger sister died in 1951 at age eight and their father died less than a month later, during an epidemic in Sakya. This meant that the teachings that would normally be conferred by their father would have to be offered by another guru. Their aunt took them to Ngor, where they received the Lamdre from the great Kangsar abbot, Ngawang Lodro Shenpen Nyingpo, Dampa Rinpoche.
In 1952, following the Dalai Lama’s recognition of her brother as the Sakya Trizin, their original plan to take teaching from the great Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro in Kham had to be altered since His Holiness could not venture too far away from Sakya and his duties. Instead, they went again to the great abbot of Ngor, Dampa Rinpoche, who lived closer by, for the Lamdre Lobshe (the intimate transmission of the Path and its Fruition), teachings central to the Sakya lineage. Unfortunately, he died before he could complete this transmission, and that task was taken over by the Kangsar Shabdrung, Ngawang Lodro Tenzin Ngingpo. Jetsun relates that from the time the Dalai Lama conferred recognition on her brother, ” His Holiness and I were constantly in each other’s company, and wherever he went, I went and I was always with him.”
From this time on until they fled to India they received the same teachings and made the same retreats. At the same time that she and His Holiness received the Lamdre Lobshe transmissions from the Kangsar abbots, they also received lung or scriptural transmissions for the biography of Ngorchen Kunchok Lhundrup from the Ngor abbot of the Phende house, Phende Khenpo, Ngawang Khedrup Gyatso. This was 1953.
In 1954 they received the transmission of the Druptap Kuntu from the Khangsar Shabdrung, Ngawang Lodro Tenzin Nyingpo. (the Druptap Kuntu is a large collection of empowerments and sadhanas from all four classes of tantra, compiled in the 19th century by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and his principle student, Jamyang Loter Wangpo).
When Jetsunma was sixteen, she and His Holiness undertook the full retreat of Hevajra. Their teacher also went into retreat with them. Although they did the retreat in separate rooms, they kept contact through notes passed back and forth, and began on the same day and ended on the same day. They performed all the requisite recitations of the different Hevajra mantras, as well as the mantras of Nairatmya. They remained in this retreat for seven and a half months, and followed it with a one month retreat on Vajra Garuda, during which she recited the mantra one million, five hundred thousand times. When they had finished this retreat, Jetsun Kushok’s aunt requested her to do a seven-day retreat on Ling Gesar in order to develop her powers of divination by foreseeing the future in a mirror, and she completed this also.
Soon after she left this retreat, in 1955, a crowd of monks from Kham arrived in Sakya, and requested the Lamdre teachings from His Holiness, who because of his own schedule was unable to accommodate them. Their aunt then urged Jetsun Kushok, who was then sixteen, to give the teaching herself. The Lamdre is a complete cycle which encompasses the full range of Buddhist teachings, from Hinayana through Mahayana and up to and including Vajrayana. It revolves around the central mandala or the Virupa transmission of Hevajra. Jetsun Kushok bestowed the short version of the Lamdre by Ngawang Chodruk, as well as the lung for all the various practices and ceremonies connected with the Sakya lineage. The whole teaching lasted around three months. Thus she became the third woman in Sakya history to have transmitted the Lamdre, and in 1956 when she and His Holiness went to Lhasa to receive the middle-length teaching on the Lam Rim from the Dalai Lama, she headed the procession, crowned with the Sakya hat worn by high Sakya lineage holders and proceeded by a golden umbrella.
It was also in 1956 that she and His Holiness received the full Nyingma transmissions of Long Chen Nying Tik from Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, who was in Lhasa at that time. Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro came to Sakya later that year to give them the Chak Mey Nam Zhi, or the Four Uninterrupted Practices, which those who have received the full Lamdre teachings are supposed to practice on a daily basis. They are: 1)The Lam Dus Hevajra sadhana, 2) the Vajrayogini sadhana, 3) the Bir Sung or Virupa Protection meditation, and 4) the Lam Zap or Profound Path Guruyoga meditation.
In early 1957, Jetsun Kushok, her brother, and entourage went to India on a pilgrimage at the same time as the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama went to India . It was here that she fist conceived the idea of learning English in a Western-style school, but her teacher was scandalized and wouldn’t hear of it. In 1958, her brother was enthroned at Sakya as His Holiness the Sakya Trizin. Several months after that, after the obvious loss of Tibet to the Communist Chinese, Jetsun Kushok, His Holiness, their aunt, and a handful of attendants fled to India .
In India, Jetsun Kushok describes herself as being quite a tomboy. She studied the Nang Sum (the three visions) and the Dom Sum Rabye (the vows of Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana) by Sakya Pandita. However, it became increasingly difficult for her live with the outer discipline of a nun in India without the support of monastic life. She found herself the object of ridicule and scorn because of her shaved head and robes, and after consulting the Dalai Lama and her brother, decided to give back her robes, although she continued in the inner deportment of a nun.
She began taking English lessons from a Christian missionary, and there met Luding Sey Kusho, who was the brother of Ngor Luding Khen. Since the Luding succession is a blood lineage, and the Luding family was an offshoot of the Sakya Khon family, her aunt and several older family attendants conceived of the plan that she should marry Sey Kushok. While she refused at first, she was convinced at last, since a male child of their union was needed to become the Luding Shabdrung. She was married to Rinchen Luding in 1964.
Their third child, a son born in 1967, was different from the others. Jetsün Kushok reports that he didn’t cry like the other children and that he would wake up and amuse himself by making mudras with his hands and mumbling to himself as though he were reciting texts. When he was three or four, he showed real interest in becoming a monk and took delight in being around ordained people. When there were religious ceremonies he would far prefer attending them than playing with other children. This was the child that became the Luding Shabdrung.
Leaving the four-year-old Shabdrung Rinpoche behind in the care of his uncles, H.E. Sakya Jetsun Rinpoche went with her husband and three young sons to Canada and settled on a farm as laborers in Taber, Alberta in 1971. In 1973 they came to Vancouver, British Columbia. They now live in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver.
At first she did not teach at all, needing to care for her young family and earn a living. However, when His Holiness and Dezhung Rinpoche began teaching in New York, they were repeatedly asked about authentic, living, women lineage holders. They both requested her to begin teaching again. Since then she has founded a dharma center in Vancouver, Sakya Thubten Tsechen Ling, and another in Oakland, California, Sakya Dechen Ling. She visits the other member centers of Palden Sakya (the association of Sakya Dharma Centers in the United States ) in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Washington DC . She has also taught in Singapore and Hawaii . It has long been H.E. Sakya Jetsun Rinpoche’s intent to spend the rest of her life in retreat practicing the Vajrayogini meditations. It is also her wish to build a retreat center at the site of her retreat. Between her own practice sessions she will give guidance and instruction to the individuals in residence there. The retreat will be known as Kacho Ling, the name of Vajrayogini’s pure field of activity. Practitioners will be able to stay at the facility from one month to a full lifetime of retreat and seclusion.
Today, she has a special mandate to teach and provide a role model to all practitioners, but especially to women on the path.
Her Eminence Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche
The Yogini Project’s Interview Series with Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche
The Yogini Project Interview: Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche 2013
The Yogini Project Interview: Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche 2012
H.E. Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche’s Support for The Yogini Project
“Genuine compassion is egoless. It is the inherent essence expressed, inseparable from awareness. This natural essence, which is genuine compassion, does not need to be formulated or even expressed as something like “compassion.” We see this exemplified in our great teachers. Their genuine compassion does not require phrases and expressions or even actions. Just their presence, who they are, is nothing other than the quintessence of compassion. We, in contrast, have to invent and demonstrate compassion. Our contaminated compassion still requires effort and deliberation. That is conventional or general compassion. The good thing about the use of deliberate or conventional compassion is that it matures the mind so that ego- grasping diminishes. It definitely has that effect and is therefore a skillful method for developing awareness compassion.”
~ Her Eminence Mindrolling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
“Most people feel cozy enough in samsara. They do not really have the genuine aspiration to go beyond samsara; they just want samsara to be a little bit better. It is quite interesting that “samsara” became the name of a perfume. And it is like that. It seduces us into thinking that it is okay: samsara is not so bad; it smells nice! The underlying motivation to go beyond samsara is very rare, even for people who go to Dharma centers. There are many people who learn to meditate and so forth, but with the underlying motive that they hope to make themselves feel better. And if it ends up making them feel worse, instead of realizing that this may be a good sign, they think there is something wrong with Dharma. We are always looking to make ourselves comfortable in the prison house. We might think that if we get the cell wall painted a pretty shade of pale green, and put in a few pictures, it won’t be a prison any more.”
~ Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
Ani Pema Chödrön
“Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck.
This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”
~ Pema Chödrön
Sakya Dagmola Rinpoche
Dagmola Sakya was the first Tibetan woman ever to immigrate to America. Her full title reads Her Eminence Dag-Yum Kusho Sakya, which denotes her high-ranking status as the wife of one of the most eminent masters in the Sakya tradition, Dagchen Rinpoche. However, in the face of her disarming cheerfulness, friends and students quickly do away with the formality and lovingly call her Dagmola. She is one of the very few senior Tibetan ladies who were born in pre-Communist Tibet, but are now recognized as outstanding teachers and live in America. A combination of the most unlikely circumstances enabled Dagmola to become one of the first Tibetan women to teach in the West. Born 1936 in a tiny village in East Tibet, she was the only girl allowed to go to school. Instead of complying with the established system of arranged marriages, Dagchen Rinpoche fought for her hand. After barely escaping the Communist prosecution in Tibet with her family, she made a new home in Seattle with her five boys, while holding down a nine-to-five job at a blood bank. Her experience as a working mother of five resonates with many students. When students ask her for advice on how to combine a spiritual path with the stress of modern life, she does not need to put herself in their shoes – she knows the challenges only too well. “Practice is in every day life, not just sitting on the cushion,” Dagmola says. “Every move, every breath, every thought is practice.”
Source: Dakini Power website
Photo by Amy Gaskin.
Jetsunma Jamyang Drolma
Jamyang Drolma has been recognized as the reincarnation of Freda Bedi, Sister Palmo as she was known upon being ordained, the first women to receive full bhikshuni ordination in over 1000 years back in the early 1970s on the insistent urging of HH the 16th Karmapa. This is a rare occurrence of a recognized female tulku (reincarnation of an accomplished being) and the first we know of of a Tibetan being recognized as rebirth of a Westerner, and a woman at that!
Jetsunma finished 9 years of complete Shedra training at Namdrolling in South India and has just emerged in 2015 from 7 years of retreat at Tulku Sang-Ngak Rinpoche’s retreat center in Pharping. She has since been the Vajra Master for the retreatants at this retreat center, and is on the way to complete her aspiration to complete 10 years in retreat. She commented thather enthronement creates the positive conditions for the genuine Dharma she has to share to be heard.
She is currently a student at Harvard University, and is teaching shedra and granting instructions for advanced practices at Ewam’s summer drubchod and shedra in Montana, with Tulku Sang-Ngak Rinpoche.
A selection from our Yogini Project interview with Jetsunma Jamyang Drolma, conducted with her the day before she was empowered as a Jetsunma in Pharping, Nepal, February 2015.
For the full interview, visit the Yogini Archives:
For a glimpse of Jetsunma’s enthronement and some heart advice, see…
The Enthronement of Jetsunma Jamyang Drolma
For more on Freda Bedi & her recognition as her tulku…
Freda Bedi & Jetsunma Jamyang Drolma
Sangyum Kamala Rinpoche
The Yogini Project Interview with Sangyum Kamala Rinpoche (Selected Excerpts)
Sangyum~la Encourages Women To Reach Their Fullest Potential
On Marrying His Holiness Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche
Advice for Retreat Time Periods
Sangyum Kamala was born in the village of Pangi, near to Manali, in the northern Indian State of Himachal Pradesh into an extraordinary Dharma lineage. Her father, Tulshuk Lingpa, (pictured above) was renowned as a Terton in the Nyingma Lineage. He journeyed in Sikkim and propagated the Buddhist teachings throughout Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and India in both conventional and charismatic styles. Her mother, Phunsok Choedon was a great practitioner and dakini who devoted her entire life to Dharma practice. When she passed away at age 83, her body remained in meditation for 7 days, and a circular rainbow appeared in the sky over her room.
Sangyum was raised in an environment infused with Dharma practice, the blessings of faith and the power of Secret Mantra. She met her root Guru HH Dudjom Rinpoche together with Chatral Rinpoche in Simla at age 13. Her father was also a student of HH Dudjom Rinpoche, and her grandfather was Gyachok Lingpa, a famous Terton and doctor from Golok, Serta, and was a student of Dudjom Lingpa. At the age of 20, she married Chatral Sangye Dorje, the greatest living Dzogchen master today. They have now been married for 50 years.
During her entire life, especially the half century spent with Rinpoche, she has received an uninterrupted stream of Dharma teaching and transmission, and has practiced mainly in the Dudjom Tersar and also in the Longchen Nyingtik traditions. Sangyum Rinpoche has constantly supported the retreat practice of countless sublime yogis and yoginis throughout Nepal and India under the guidance of Chatral Rinpoche, and especially she has demonstrated her deep compassion by caring for the humblest of the humble in both material and spiritual ways. She carries on Chatral Rinpoche’s example of freeing lives every year in Calcutta by releasing millions of fish into the Ganges and has constructed numerous stupas, prayer wheels, and other holy supports in both India and Nepal.
Sangyum has 3 daughters. The oldest and youngest are both married to tulkus, and the middle is unmarried. She has two granddaughters.
Photo by Yvon Chausseblanche at the time of The Yogini Project Interview with Sangyum Kamala, September 2012.
The Yogini Project Interview with Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel (Selected Excerpts)
Prajnaparamita: Mother Of All Buddhas
Motherhood and Dharma Practice
Spiritual Life As A Child
Benefits Of Silence
Fear and Fearlessness
“Elizabeth and I met in Nepal. We were very young, deeply in love, and learning about life, as well as learning how to integrate the Buddhadharma into our lives. I was in the privileged position of knowing more about the Buddhist teachings, having had exposure to the study and practice of the Dharma with many great masters of our time. I was able to share that with Elizabeth, and she became my first Dharma student.
Over the many years of our life together, which included coming to the West, raising our son, and starting Mangala Shri Bhuti, our Dharma community, we made an effort to be true to ourselves in the vision of the Dharma, amid a worldly life. In keeping with these principles, Elizabeth was able to do an immense amount of study of the classical texts of Indian and Tibetan philosophy. While in school, she would rise at four o’clock every morning in order to have a full session of practice before the family awoke. Later, when we moved to Crestone, Colorado, she began seven years of intensive practice, at her retreat cabin in the mountains near the family home. Throughout this time, she continued to contribute to our community by serving as an example and guiding students in retreat. Her dedication to study and practice has paved the way for many others to move forward on their paths.
In recent years I’ve encouraged Elizabeth to step up and become a teacher of our lineage, and for whomever seeks her guidance. I suggested that it would be wonderful if she were to write a book, because Buddhism in the West needs to be established by Western teachers who are able to fully embody the wisdom of the lineage and the teachings. Elizabeth has put her heart and soul into bringing the teachings to life in her own experience, and I feel now is the right and auspicious time for Elizabeth to step forward as a teacher. I’m so glad she is traveling around to teach and this book has come to be.
Her book captures all that she has learned about the Buddhadharma, without watering down the meaning. She makes clear how relevant the teachings are to one’s own transformation, and I’m confident that others will be easily able to relate this to their own experience. I’ve read ‘The Power of an Open Question’ thoroughly, and I highly value its essence and the meaningful effect I can foresee it having on others.”
~ Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, from his Foreward to “The Power of an Open Question”
Lama Tsultrim Allione
“Born in 1947 as Joan Rousmaniere Ewing, Lama Tsultrim was raised by her parents, James Ewing, a small-town New England newspaper publisher, and Ruth D. Ewing, a labor mediator. Her maternal grandparents both received PhD. degrees in philosophy at Harvard University. Her grandmother was the fifth women in history to receive a PhD. from Harvard. This same grandmother, Frances R. Ewing, gave Lama Tsultrim her first book on Buddhism when she was only fifteen years old, planting a seed that would come to fruition in a life devoted to Buddhist teachings. Her paternal grandfather was Oscar Ewing, a lawyer and politician who, as a cabinet member under President Truman, sought universal health care, but due to the political climate had to settle for what became Medicare.
Lama Tsultrim grew up in Maine and New Hampshire with her older sister, Carolyn, and younger brother, Thomas. At nineteen, in 1967, having read every book available at the time about Tibet, she traveled to Nepal and India with her college friend, now filmmaker, Victress Hitchcock, who created the films ‘Blessings’ and ‘When the Iron Bird Flies.’
Meeting the Tibetan refugees in Nepal, Lama Tsultrim had a feeling that she was ‘home.’ She began to sit each morning in the Kagyu monastery (next to Swayambhu stupa) in Kathmandu and observe the rituals… [After this,] Lama Tsultrim left on an arduous journey, hitch-hiking across Northern India to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. After arriving in Dharamsala she began a lifelong study of Tibetan Buddhism.
After a six month stay in India and Nepal, Lama Tsultrim returned to America and went back to college, but felt that the wisdom she longed to learn was not being taught in American Universities, and in 1969 made her way to the first Tibetan monastery established in the West: Samye Ling, an old Scottish country house in Dumfriesshire, Scotland.
She stayed there for six months and met Trungpa Rinpoche, arriving the day he returned from the hospital after a car accident, and shortly before his departure to the United States. She received from him ‘The Sadhana of Mahamudra,’ which he had composed at Taksang in Bhutan. In the sadhana (Tantric meditation practice) the line, “The only offering I can make is to follow your example,” struck her as significant. Leaving Samye Ling for Nepal at the end of 1969, she practiced ‘The Sadhana of Mahamudra’ daily while traveling overland in a VW bus with five other people from London to Kathmandu, where she met H.H. 16th Karmapa, a great master and committed monk. Karmapa spotted Lama Tsultrim in a large crowd at Swayambhu and made prophecies that she would benefit beings through the Dharma. Unaware of this at the time, but feeling spontaneous devotion to His Holiness, she recalled the line from the sadhana and decided to follow his example by becoming a monastic.
At the age of 22, on the full moon of January 1970 in Bodhgaya, India, she was ordained as Karma Tsultrim Chödron by the 16th Karmapa, Rigpai Dorje, along with the four main reincarnate tulkus: H.E. Tai Situ, H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul, H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and H.E. Sharmar Rinpoche as her witnesses. She was the first American ordained by H.H. Karmapa and he became her root Lama.
She returned to Nepal and studied with Sapchu Rinpoche and many of the great masters who had escaped from Tibet, including Lama Thupten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. She received Phowa from Gyalwa Gyamtso and Sapchu Rinpoche.
In 1971 she traveled to Darjeeling and studied the ngöndro (Preliminary Practices) and Chenrizig practice extensively with Khabje Kalu Rinpoche. Here she met many other great Tibetan masters, such as Khabje Chatral Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche and Drukpa Thugse Rinpoche. At this time she went to see His Holiness Karmapa in Sikkim at Rumtek monastery, where she, as a foreigner, was allowed to stay for only one week, and was not able to see him again. Until his death in 1981, however, Karmapa appeared often in Lama Tsultrim’s dreams giving her teachings and empowerments.
Lama Tsultrim continued to Bodhgaya for the winter of 1971, reconnecting with Baba Ram Dass and meeting his followers who were there practicing the first Goenka Vipassana courses. She then went to Sarnath, where she met Nyichang Rinpoche, and studied Buddhist philosophy with him. That spring she traveled to Himachial Pradesh where she met H.E. Khamtrul Rinpoche and, in Manali, encountered her heart teacher Apho Rinpoche, grandson of the great yogi Shakya Shri. Here she practiced and completed half of her first ngöndro and received Shine Lhakthong (Shamatha/Vipassana) teachings. Then in late 1972, at the age of 25, Lama Tsultrim returned to America and went directly to Trungpa Rinpoche’s center in Vermont, Tail of the Tiger (now called ‘Karmê Chöling’). She went directly into retreat to finish the ngöndro. In her time at Tail of the Tiger she met Allen Ginsberg and went on to travel with him in a Volkswagon Bug around Wyoming and Montana. Then, again, with him and Ram Dass, she traveled through Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. Allen Ginsberg later asked her to be his meditation instructor.
After a year in the United States, Trungpa Rinpoche sent Lama Tsultrim back to India, as his emissary, to invite His Holiness Karmapa to the United States. During this visit she received the Dam Ngag Dzod Empowerments from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a ceremony that took three months in Tashi Jong, hosted by H.E. Khamtrul Rinpoche. Then she returned to Manali to be with Apho Rinpoche (pictured) and there learned her first Chöd practice of Naro Sang Chöd from Gegyen Khyentse. At this time she made the difficult decision to return her monastic vows and shortly afterwards married Paul Kloppenburg from Holland in while in Delhi. They then returned to America and moved to Vashon Island in the Puget Sound South of Seattle.
On Vashon Island, Lama Tsultrim and her husband began to study with the great, all-knowing, Deshung Rinpoche. It was during this period that she gave birth to her two daughters Sherab (1974) and Aloka (1975). The family then moved to Boulder to study with Trungpa Rinpoche. Here she separated from her husband and became one of the first meditation instructors trained by Trungpa Rinpoche. She began to teach at Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) and worked for Trungpa Rinpoche’s organization, at that time called, Vajradhatu (now Shambhala International). She was in the first group to receive the Vajra Varahi Empowerment from Trungpa Rinpoche and was also asked to become a Vajrayana instructor.
In 1978, while working at Naropa, Lama Tsultrim met Italian documentary filmmaker, Costanzo Allione, who became her second husband. She moved to Italy with her two daughters, where she met Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche with whom she studied and practiced Dzogchen teachings for the next eighteen years. In 1980 she gave birth to twins: a boy, Costanzo, and a girl, Chiara. When they were two and a half months old, Chiara died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
This event triggered a need to find the life stories of women teachers from the Buddhist tradition, and so Lama Tsultrim began research for her first book, ‘Women of Wisdom,’ a groundbreaking book on the lives of great Tibetan women practitioners, published in 1984. At this time Lama Tsultrim earned her Master’s degree in Buddhist Studies/Women’s Studies from Antioch University. After leaving her Italian husband in 1986, she moved back to the United States and began teaching widely, under Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. She met her third husband David Petit (pictured below) in 1988. David taught dance and theater at the Waldorf School in Spring Valley, NY that her children attended. This marriage proved to be a true partnership on every level and until David’s sudden death in 2010. They worked together on many projects, primarily Tara Mandala.
In 1993, after her children had reached adulthood, Lama Tsultrim recalled her vision, formulated in Manali in 1972, to create a western retreat center where meditation could be practiced as it had been in Tibet. She envisioned a place that would explore the interface between Western psychology and Buddhism. On Sept 18, 1993, following dreams and visions she and her husband, David, found the beautiful 700 acres of rolling hills, flowering meadows, and forests that became Tara Mandala. The land, located in Pagosa Springs in Southwest Colorado, has many special features including ridges and views of two snow mountain ranges.
In June of 1994, Lama Tsultrim and David moved to the land with a group of supporters and began to hold retreats, build retreat cabins and host visiting teachers. In 1999, the first stupa on the land was consecrated by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, dedicated to Nyala Pema Duddul, great Dzogchen master, who took rainbow body in 1872. The community lived on the land for ten years before any permanent buildings were built; retreats were held in large tents and yurts. Between 2005 to 2008, three buildings were completed at Tara Mandala: the Community Building, which houses the kitchen, dining room, offices, store, and bathing facilities; Prajna Residence Hall, which houses forty people in spacious sunlit rooms; and the extraordinary three-story mandala-shaped Tara Temple.
From the time she learned the Chöd from Gegyen Khyentse in 1972, Lama Tsultrim has felt a deep connection to Machig Labdrön. In 1981 Lama Tsultrim had a vision of Machig while practicing Chöd with Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. The vision lead to the discovery and translation of Machig’s biography for ‘Women of Wisdom.’
For many years, Lama Tsultrim focused her teachings on the lineage of Machig Labdrön, the 11th century Tibetan yogini who founded the Chöd lineage. While teaching Norbu Rinpoche’s Chöd, she developed the five steps of Feeding Your Demons that developed into the creation of her book ‘Feeding Your Demons’ (Little Brown 2008).
While on pilgrimage in Tibet in 2007, Lama Tsultrim was recognized as an emanation of Machig Labdrön by the resident Lama of Zangri Khangmar (Machig’s monastery in Tibet). Before Lama Tsultrim’s arrival, the resident Lama had had a dream of a white Dakini coming from the West loudly sounding a damaru (drum used in Chöd). There were other indicative signs during the visit such as rainbows that stayed for hours, rain after a long drought, etc. After these signs manifested, Lama Karma Dorje Rinpoche, tulku of the brother of the second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, made the announcement of the recognition and gave Lama Tsultrim Machig’s relics to bring back to Tara Mandala, professing that the future of Machig’s lineage would be in the West.
The pilgrimage group then returned to Nepal where Lama Tsering Wangdu, who holds the lineage of Machig from Tingri Langkhor, the seat of Phadampa Sangye in Tibet, and is abbot of the Shelkar Chode monastery in Kathmandu, which is dedicated to Machig Labdrön’s lineage, was waiting for them. He had also had a dream. Three days before the group arrived, he dreamed of Machig Labdrön and her entire lineage in the sky above him. Machig said to him, ‘In three days I will be there.’ When the pilgrimage group arrived he gave the Machig Chöd Empowerment at his monastery and saw Machig Labdrön dissolve into Lama Tsultrim’s heart through the top of her head. While visiting Tara Mandala in 2008, he gave Lama Tsultrim the title of ‘Lama’ and wrote a recognition letter of her as an emanation of Machig Labdrön, a long life prayer, and praises of her.. Lama Wangdu subsequently came to Tara Mandala and wrote a Long Life Prayer for Lama Tsultrim and a recognition letter of her as an emanation of Machig Labdrön.
Since 2008, Sang-ngag Rinpoche has been establishing the lineage of Dzinpa Rangdröl, a terma from Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje, at Tara Mandala. This cycle combines the lineage of Machig Labdrön, Phadampa Sangye, and the practice of Chöd with Dzogchen teachings. It is a complete cycle, beginning with Ngöndro (preparatory practices), and extending through the most advanced Dzogchen teachings. Throughout the years Sang-ngag Rinpoche has been extremely helpful and supportive of Tara Mandala, first helping with the building of the stupa, then with the filling and blessing of the vase offering to the earth and water spirits placed under the temple foundation. He also oversaw the ceremonial filling of the Sertog (gold pinnacle on top of the temple). With the establishment of the Dzinpa Rangdröl cycle, Sang-ngag Rinpoche has guided Tara Mandala’s three-year retreatants, and the Tsogyel Karmo White Dakini Drubchen held every year. In 2009 he wrote a song in praise of Tara Mandala, a long life prayer for Lama Tsultrim in 2010, and a beautiful Tsog song about Dzinpa Rangdröl in 2011. He has kindly overseen many ceremonies and necessary rituals at Tara Mandala and has taught extensively on many topics as well.
In 2008, Lama Tsultrim Allione authored ‘Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict’ (Little, Brown Co. 2008). This book connects the wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism with the western concept of the psyche, addressing major cultural issues and the roots of our suffering. This national bestseller is based on Lama Tsultrim’s pioneering technique that uses five steps to nurture the parts of ourselves that we usually fight against. The book offers a personal and collective new paradigm for “feeding; not fighting” inner and outer demons. She has developed a training program that combines the demon work with Machig Labdrön’s lineage practices, called Kapala Training. Kapala Training has become an international program.”
In 2009 Lama Tsultrim was selected by a panel of distinguished Buddhist scholars and practitioners from the Association for the Promotion for the Status of Women in Bangkok, Thailand as a recipient of the 2009 Award for Outstanding Women in Buddhism.
Chagdud Khadro met His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche in March 1978, married him in November 1979, and remained his devoted student for twenty-three years. At the time of her ordination as a lama in 1997, Rinpoche invested her as the future Spiritual Director of Chagdud Gonpa Brasil. Since Rinpoche’s Parinirvana in 2002, she has focused on maintaining the high caliber of Vajrayana training he had established.
During her time with Rinpoche, Khadro received constant training from him both in organizing dharma activities and in the teachings and practice of Vajrayana. She was among the collaborators for his autobiography Lord of the Dance and with his guidance, she compiled commentaries of his teachings on the Dudjom Tersar Ngondro, the Longsal Nyingpo Phowa, and the concise version of Apong Terton’s Red Tara. Formerly the managing editor of Padma Publishing in the United States, Khadro has edited many translations of Tibetan works.
Chagdud Khadro has been tireless in upholding his legacy. She has guided the construction of a Zangdog Palri (Guru Rinpoche Pureland), works with translation and publishing of texts in Portuguese and Spanish, helped establish Sítio Esperança, a school and educational project in the state of Minas Gerais, and continued to support spiritual care for the dying and there caregivers. Khadro supervises the activities and teaches in all the Chagdud Gonpa Brasil centers and Chagdud Gonpa Hispanoamérica. She also teaches in Europe, United States and Australia.
Chagdud Khadro’s Schedule: Chagdud Gonpa Brasil Website
Traleg Khandro Felicity Lodro
The Yogini Project Interview with Traleg Khandro (Selected Excerpts)
Traleg Khandro on Spiritual Proclivities
Traleg Khandro on Meeting Traleg Rinpoche
Life Lessons from Traleg Rinpoche
Traleg Khandro Felicity Lodro, long-time student and wife to the late Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche IX, is the Director of E-Vam Institute New York and Yeshe Nyima Centre in Sydney Australia. Khandro studied Buddhism under Traleg Rinpoche’s guidance for 30 years and has undertaken numerous long meditation retreats during that time. At Rinpoche’s request Khandro received traditional LuJong (Tibetan Yoga) training and is also a qualified Hatha Yoga instructor. Khandro has been teaching Buddhism and LuJong for several years throughout Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
A letter from Traleg Khandro: ‘Life and Practice after the Passing of Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche‘
Venerable Robina Courtin
“Radically working with your own mind”
An Interview with Venerable Robina Courtin about her life and work by Michaela Haas
Venerable Robina Courtin is a dynamic and candid Dharma teacher. Ordained since the late 1970s, the former Australian singer has worked full time since then for Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s FPMT. She has served as editorial director of Wisdom Publications, editor of Mandala Magazine, and the executive director of Liberation Prison Project. She does not really have a home, but travels tirelessly to teach around the world. Her life and work with prisoners have been featured in the documentary films Chasing Buddha and Key to Freedom. In her book Why Buddhism? Vicki Mackenzie describes her as “funny, dynamic, affectionate, kind, outrageous, her speech frequently dotted with expletives. All this plus her ability to move across the ground at a million miles per minute proved conclusively that you do not necessarily have to be quiet, serene and passive to be Buddhist.”
In this interview with Dakini Power author Michaela Haas, Ven. Robina says: “I’m radically working on my own mind. Not believing in the way things appear to us: you can’t get more radical than that.”
Michaela Haas: How did you transition from being a Kung Fu fighter to a Buddhist nun?
Robina Courtin: Well, the longest distance was from Catholic to Buddhist nun. Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, I went to Church every day. I loved God. I thought a lot about the nature of God, the universe and what makes it tick. From the moment I first went to Mass I knew I wanted to be a priest. Everybody laughed at me and said I had to become a nun instead. I was so little I couldn’t understand the reason. When I was twelve, I begged my mother to let me be a nun like my hero St. Thérèseof Lisieux, who became a nun when she was 14. I obviously had a strong connection with the religious way of seeing things and, I suppose, with Tibetan Buddhism: I didn’t think of God as my creator, which is interesting. And at the convent I went to throughout all my school years, for our uniform we had a saffron yellow blouse and a maroon twinset. Very familiar!
MH: How did your parents react when you first wanted to be a Buddhist nun?
RC: My mother had to go through quite a bit before then. When I gave up God for boys, she cried. When I went to London in the late 60s and gave up my classical singing studies for involvement in the radical left, she cried. Then I got into black politics, and she cried. Then I became a radical lesbian separatist feminist, and she really, really cried. So by the time I told her I wanted to become a Buddhist nun when I was 31, she didn’t have any tears left. But she always came around: so kind.
MH: I am intrigued how you could go from being such a political and radical person to not being interested in these topics anymore at all.
RC: I’m just the same radical person. I’m radically working on my own mind. Not believing in the way things appear to us: you can’t get more radical than that. How women are treated in Buddhism, full ordination for nuns, whatever – all of these issues are important. But I want to look at the internal component, not the external. I want to uproot the causes of all suffering, which are mental. In that, I am more radical than ever.
Excerpt from interview with Robina Courtin. For full interview, see the Dakini Power website.
See the trailer for “Chasing Buddha” – A film on Venerable Robina Courtin here.
“We must practice the teachings to attain the result. It isn’t sufficient to just hear the Dharma. We have to actively apply it in our daily lives and in our relationships with others. This means we try to be mindful and notice when disturbing attitudes arise. Then, we apply the remedies enabling us to perceive the situation clearly. If sick people have medicine but don’t take it, they aren’t cured. Similarly, we may have an elaborate shrine at home and a huge library of Dharma books, but if we don’t apply patience when we meet a person who annoys us, we’ve missed the opportunity to practice.”
~ Venerable Thubten Chodron
Thubten Chodron is founder of Sravasti Abbey, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the U.S. where nuns, monks, and lay students can practice the Buddha’s teachings.