In 2010, Lama Tsultrim Allione travelled to Dartsedo, Tibet (known as Kangding by the Chinese and on modern maps) accompanied by her son Costanzo Allione and the translator Sarah Plazas (née Schneider) to meet Do Dasal Wangmo, the last living descendant of the unparalleled siddha and Dzogchen master Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje.
“Do Dasal Wangmo is the last living descendant in the family lineage of Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (1800-1866), as his great-granddaughter. Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje was a famous, magical, and unconventional master who discovered the terma cycle of Dzinpa Rangdröl (Self-Liberation of Clinging). The teachings and practices of Dzinpa Rangdröl have been passed down in two main streams of lineage–through the descendants of Do Khyentse, in the lineage known as the family lineage, and through Do Khyentse’s direct disciples, in the lineage known as the disciple’s lineage. Dasal Wangmo holds both of these lineages. In addition to holding these two lineages, Dasal Wangmo is also recognized as the reincarnation of Do Khyentse’s sister, Losal Dölma (1802-1861), a highly realized woman, who played a critical role in the revelation of the Dzinpa Rangdröl, and was its main lineage holder or chödag.” Because Lama Tsultrim has, in recent years, devoted her energy to rooting the Dzinpa Rangdröl lineage in the West, she had a deep yearning to meet the current lineage holder and last living descendant of Do Khyentse.
Lama Tsultrim recalls their first meeting: “Dasal Wangmo herself, a short stout figure, sat in an old overstuffed armchair, wrapped in traditional nun’s robes with a lap blanket across her knees. We approached and offered her katas (traditional white scarves) and our various gifts. She received them graciously and told her attendant to put them in the sun room. I noticed her luminous warm presence and wild eyes. She wore strong glasses, and when I met her, her eyes seemed to go in different directions. I couldn’t tell whether she was looking at me or away from me. Although old, she had a beautiful glow, and when she took my hand, I noticed her soft and sensitive touch.”
Alak Zenkar Rinpoche, Dasal Wangmo’s root teacher and also the current incarnation of Do Khyentse, arranged for Lama Tsultrim and company to receive teachings from Dasal Wangmo. “Without Zenkar Rinpoche’s insistence, she definitely would not have given the transmissions. She rarely, and only reluctantly, gives any Buddhist teachings, and only does so if commanded by her teachers. She identifies herself as a doctor, not a Dharma teacher; this may be because she is a woman or part of the secret behavior of a dakini.
“She considers the practice of medicine to be her main activity in this life. However, at times in the past, when Alak Zenkar Rinpoche ordered her to, she has given the empowerments and teachings in the lineage of Do Khyentse. She always resists teaching and refused to give us answers even to simple questions about the ngöndro (preliminary practices). However, she practices meditation constantly and is known by her disciples to be a great yogini and a terton (treasure revealer). She has received hundreds of termas (spiritual treasure teachings), mostly to do with King Gesar of Ling. Most of these she would write out but then throw them into the fire, saying there were enough termas in the world.”
In the extensive introduction to “Luminous Moonlight: The Biography of Do Dasal Wangmo,” Lama Tsultrim recalls her emotional farewell to Do Dasal Wangmo. “After several weeks of the giving transmission of Dzinpa Rangdröl every weekend, Do Dasal Wangmo had a recurrence of Bell’s Palsy, which made speaking difficult and prevented the completion of the transmission, which would require hours of speaking. So she called us to say goodbye. This time, when we went to her apartment with Chönyi (her closest disciple), she wasn’t in her outer room where we had first encountered her weeks before. We were led inside to her private bedroom. This is where she ‘sleeps,’ although Chönyi said she doesn’t actually lie down and sleep at night.
“When we entered, she was sitting on her bed, bathed in golden light that was coming through the window behind her. It was an amazing experience to go through the chilly dark sitting room where we had first met her, into her bright bedroom, which was like a psychedelic pure land. Around the top edge of the wall were pictures of all her teachers. Below them were her texts, wrapped in red, gold, orange, and pink, lain across the top of her shrine like undulating snakes. On her shrine were four beautiful statues and many offerings. There were electric butter lamps on her shrine: the flames looked like a crystal and flickered. Lotus-shaped electric lamps acted as light offerings and a vast array of fake flowers, somehow beautiful in her world, were in front of the shrine as offerings. She wore a golden-orange shirt with a fleece blanket wrapped around her waist.
“She could still speak, although the partial paralysis of her face from Bell’s Palsy made it difficult. I started to cry because I was worried that the strain of giving the transmission to us each weekend had caused the Bell’s Palsy. We were assured she had this condition before, and it wasn’t caused by the strain of her time with us. We were all moved by being in her presence in her inner sanctum, knowing we might not see her again. Tears began to pour down my face–tears of grief, tears for Tibet, tears of sadness to leave her, tears of gratitude, all mixed together…
“I felt the link, from Yeshe Tsogyal in the eighth century, to Machig Labdrön in the eleventh century, to Do Khyentse’s sister Losal Dölma in the nineteenth century, to Dasal Wangmo in the twenty-first century, to us.”
There are few stories of female masters from Tibet, and even fewer autobiographies. Thanks to the unfathomable merit and profound pure intention of Lama Tsultrim Allione who works tirelessly in service of the dharma and for the benefit of beings, we have the rare opportunity to study the extraordinary life of Dasal Wangmo. Lama Tsultrim explains that by publishing the translation, she “hoped her story would inspire practitioners and give another piece of the history of the Dzinpa Rangdröl lineage to the world.”
We are delighted soon to add Do Dasal Wangmo to our “Wisdom Dakini” section, thanks to Lama Tsultrim Allione and the wonderful translator Sarah Schneider.