The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
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Lama Tsultrim Allione is an author and teacher who has studied in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage. She was born in 1947 in Maine, in the United States, and given the name Joan Rousmanière Ewing. She first travelled to India and Nepal in 1967, returned in 1969 and in 1970 she became one of the first American women to be ordained as a Tibetan nun. She was given her vows by the Karmapa, from the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, who gave her the name Karma Tsultrim Chodron. Allione gave back her monastic vows four years later and married. She has given birth to four children, one of whom died from sudden infant death syndrome. Tsultrim Allione continued her studies and Buddhist practice, which led to the 1984 publication of her book Women of Wisdom, a collection of the namtar of six Tibetan Buddhist yogini as Machig LabdrönMachig Lapdron (founder of the Chod practice), Ayu Khadro Dorje Paldron (1839–1953), Nangsa Obum, Jomo Menmo (1248–1283), Machig Ongjo and Drenchen Rema. This is the work she's most well known for and it has since been translated from English into several foreign languages and expanded in a revised 2nd edition. In 1993, with her husband, David Petit, Tsultrim Allione founded Tara Mandala, a retreat center in southern Colorado, in the United States. As well as offering retreats at Tara Mandala, Allione regularly teaches in the United States and in Europe. In 2007 Lama Tsultrim Allione was recognised as an emanation of Machig Labdrön.
In 2008 Lama Tsultrim Allione's book Feeding Your Demons was published, an approach based on the Chöd lineage of Machig Labdrön that Allione has practiced since 1973. Allione opens chapter five of the book by quoting Carl Jung as saying "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious." Mark Epstein has described her work as "a book that Carl Jung could only have dreamed of writing." Allione claims that "The process of feeding our demons is a method for bringing our shadow into consciousness and accessing the treasures it holds rather than repressing it.
Recognition as emanation
In Tibetan Buddhism it is believed that once a being such as Machig Labdron attains enlightenment, they are no longer subject to the limitation of one body and may emanate into many different dimensions and forms. An emanation continues the work of the original incarnation. In May and June 2007 Tsultrim Allione led a pilgrimage to Nepal and Tibet which included a visit to Zangri Khangmar in Tibet, where Machig Labdron lived from the age of 37 to 99. At the site, she was recognized as an emanation of Machig Labdron by the resident Lama, Karma Dorje Rinpoche, the 7th incarnation of the brother of Mikyo Dorje, the 8th Karmapa. Lama Karma Nyitön Kunkhyab Chökyi Dorje offered Tsultrim a self-arisen golden crystal phurba (ceremonial dagger), the only remaining tsa tsa made from the ashes of Machig's body (a mixture of clay and ash imprinted with an image of Machig dancing), texts of Machig's teachings, a hat with symbolic meaning designed by Machig, and various other treasures. Allione was also independently recognised as Machig's emanation in Nepal by Lama Tsering Wangdu Rinpoche, holder of the lineage of Dampa Sangye (who had worked with Machig Labdron to establish the Chod practice in Tibet in the 11th Century). Commenting on the recognition as Machig Labdron, Tsultrim Allione said she thought the purpose was
to make this new phase of collecting Machig's lineage more empowered. Recognition allows more energy to flow, and Machig's blessings can manifest more fully. It's a kind of mirroring from the outside validating our heartfelt intention to reinvigorate and spread Machig's lineage in the West. It also felt very natural. We will keep doing what we have been doing already, but the recognition creates an auspicious interdependence for the teachings.
Lama Tsultrim Allione has studied under a number of Nyingma and Kagyu teachers. Besides the 16th Karmapa (her root Lama) Allione's teachers have been: Sapchu Rinpoche, Abu Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and Ad.zom Rinpoche.