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I’m not sure I would've read this book so fast if not for the audio version. The writing is very plain and contains lots of attributions such as “she stated” and “she commented,” like a newspaper article. Also, for those who are unable to read books that take the supernatural seriously (and I’m one such person), it can be difficult to accept all of the Tibetan Buddhism mysticism. All that said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and learning about Tenzin Palmo’s journey from young woman in England to Buddhist nun. What makes the book so engaging, in addition to adventures like being buried in her cave under an avalanche, is its strong and unapologetic feminism. She vows to attain enlightenment in female form “no matter how many lifetimes it takes.” I especially liked when she made the Dalai Lama cry when she explained all of the sexism women must face when pursuing Tibetan Buddhism. Excerpt: “What she had promised was to become a female Buddha, and female Buddhas (like female Christs and female Mohammeds) were decidedly thin on the ground. Certainly there had been plenty of acclaimed women mystics and saints in all parts of the world, but the full flowering of human divinity had, for the past few thousand years at least, been deemed the exclusive domain of the male. The female body, for some reason, had been seen as an unfit or unworthy vessel to contain the most sacred. Now Tenzin Palmo was publicly announcing she was intending to overthrow all that.” The audio version includes two half-hour talks given by Tenzin Palmo in Israel. Grade: A
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Born in 1943, Tenzin Palmo is a world-renowned spiritual leader, but she started life as Diane Perry living up above her father's fish-shop in the East End. Her mother dabbled in spiritualism - Diane was used to witnessing levitation - but otherwise there was nothing unusual about her upbringing. There certainly is about Tenzin Palmo, as Diane Perry became.
She has devoted herself with spectacular single mindedness to seeking Enlightenment and to the tenets of Buddhism. During a long spiritual career in which she has championed the right of women to achieve spiritual Enlightenment, for 12 years she lived in a cave 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas enduring temperatures well below zero, near suffocation during snowfalls and exercising the most stringent form of meditation. For months at a time she completed 12 hours of meditation in every 24 inside a meditation box. The experience is beyond the imagining of most people, but Tenzin Palmo who hungers for meaning and believes her way of life can help all suffering people and bring them to bliss is no ordinary person.
Whether you are Buddhist or not, whether you embrace another religion or no religion at all, you cannot fail to be deeply impressed by this astonishing testament. Do you feel sympathy with Tenzin's mother who couldn't help exclaiming the first time she saw her daughter's shaved head, 'My poor little shorn lamb!'? Do you believe in the rainbow death when a devout person shrinks so much after death that all that remains are bits of hair and nails as bursts of strange coloured lights emanate from where the body lies? It doesn't matter whether you believe or not, but your ideas will be stimulated. You will meet a woman with astounding determination who will show you the beauties of Buddhist philosophy which has no God the Father or the equivalent at its centre but what she calls 'a genderless absolute'.
Her biography is produced by the newly launched Dharma Audiobooks which specialises in Buddhist topics from all traditions.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I've learnt that Buddhism is a religion as any other with the obligatory "path to perfection", evangelisation in a form of "bring enlightenment to everyone" and saints to pray to, like St. Palmo who is presented by the author in an unbearable resemblance to christian saint. Not what I was looking for after listening Alan Watts or Confessions Of A Wayward Monk. In words of the St. Palmo we are lazy and that's why we need to put effort into our spiritual development. Folks who listened or read Mr. Watts will know what it means. (Typed on a phone, apologies for the form)
1 of 4 people found this review helpful