NOTE: This interview excerpt is transcript only
Lama Tsultrim Allione, author and international teacher, is the founder and spiritual director of Tara Mandala, which hosts one of the world’s rare temples constructed to honor the feminine Buddha. Lama Tsultrim was one of the first western women ordained a Tibetan nun, and is believed to be an emanation of Machig Labdrön. Lama Tsultrim’s teachings arise from the blessings of her 40-year dedication to the Buddhist teachings and her experience as a woman and a mother. Through her restorative leadership, she has re-introduced the practice of “feeding your demons” and is facilitating “wisdom rising." An enlightened presence radiating essential teachings, Lama Tsultrim speaks to wholeness and guides us to restore balance to the sacredness of Life.
On Leading Transcript
Seana Lowe Steffen, host: From your perspective, what is the state of our world?
Lama Tsultrim Allione, guest: A little question. What is the state of our world? Out of balance. The elements are out of balance, and that’s why we have the weather that we have, the extremes. It’s out of balance economically and it’s out of balance socially. And I think that it’s a moment of potential great turning, a great shift. It’s a moment of questioning, where some of the things that have been assumed for centuries are being questioned. It’s really a kind of a tipping point. I’m optimistic, which might be unrealistic. I think it’s important to be optimistic, because if we are pessimistic we don’t leave room for the positive to occur.
Seana: What does it mean when you say that we are, "at war with ourselves," and how is that reflected in the state of the world?
Lama Tsultrim: We’ve been living by the myth of the hero who destroys evil, the myth of St. George and the Dragon or Hercules and the Hydra. That myth that there’s a good and an evil, and that there’s a battle that the hero wins, which has created a state of being split and at war with the elements of ourselves. So with the difficult parts of ourselves or our society, rather than being in dialogue and seeing what the need is and seeing the need that is being expressed there, the hero’s myth is a battle to try to destroy it. But as we see in the myth of Hydra and Hercules, every time we cut off one head two more appear. We see this in the war against terrorism, literally, not two more but 12 more.
Seana: In Feeding Your Demons you say, “I feel we are in desperate need of a new paradigm that inspires us to stop fighting against ourselves and each other. I would like to see a world in which people no longer think that the best alternative is to destroy whatever opposes them.” What is the new paradigm?
Lama Tsultrim: It’s feeding your demons. It’s moving from a model of fighting to feeding, and so that can be quite literal, or it can be more in the sense of, with the enemy, trying to find out what the real need is. Why are they fighting? What is the real need? What’s at the root of it?... The paradigm is the paradigm of feeding not fighting. It’s a paradigm of dialogue, talking to the enemy, trying to find mutual compromise. A lot of it has to do with communication rather than aggression.
Seana: What does sustainability mean to you?
Lama Tsultrim: It means creating a cycle which doesn’t destroy itself. Anything which is unsustainable means that it can’t continue. So sustainability means creating cycles and situations that feed themselves rather than destroy themselves. Sustainability also means that those who are involved feel supported. So it’s not only the humans but the animals and all the elements feel supported to be what they are, to express themselves and to play their part. It means life can go on. If something’s not sustainable it can’t go on.
Seana: What do you believe are the primary blocks to our achieving that?
Lama Tsultrim: Lack of connection to each other and our world and nature, and that leads to ignorant action, unaware action. It goes back to the paradigm that the world is here to use, that the resources are here for man. If you have a story that is about being able to own and control and use and abuse the world and that animals and everything else is here for man, that is going to lead to an unsustainable situation. Here we had such an incredibly rich country, and just think that within a couple hundred years we went through it, which is a very short time in the whole cycle of life on the planet. Not only here, all over the world there has been such a lack of honoring and awareness, living according to their myth that this was their right.
Seana: Above all else, what would you have all people understand at this time in our planet’s history?
Lama Tsultrim: The preciousness of our Earth and our lives and the lives of all beings. The sacredness of it. That this is what’s sacred, right here. This is it, and we need to make some fundamental changes to survive as a planet. And it’s going fast. Karma, that action creates reaction, that if you plant rice, you’ll get rice; if you plant wheat, you’ll get wheat. And so if we could all really understand karma, then I think our actions would change. Not karma in the sense people often talk about karma. Karma means action, so it’s what you’re doing now. You are creating the causes which will then, with the proper conditions, manifest as the future.
Seana: Above all else, what would you have all leadership do at this time in our planet’s history?
Lama Tsultrim: To think about the whole, and to move out of the national or partisan view into what’s most beneficial for all beings.
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Tsultrim Allione brings an eleventh-century Tibetan woman's practice to the West for the first time with Feeding Your Demons, an accessible and effective approach for dealing with negative emotions, fears, illness, and self-defeating patterns. Allione-one of only a few female Buddhist leaders in this country and comparable in American religious life to Pema Chodron - bridges this ancient Eastern practice with today's Western psyche. She explains that if we fight our demons, they only grow stronger. But if we feed them, nurture them, we can free ourselves from the battle. Through the clearly articulated practice outlined in Feeding Your Demons, we can learn to overcome any obstacle and achieve freedom and inner peace.
Tara Mandala is an international Vajrayana Buddhist community with its home base at 7,500 feet above sea level in the mountain of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. It is guided by Lama Tsultrim Allione author of Women of Wisdom and Feeding Your Demons. Lama Tsultrim has studied Tibetan Buddhism under traditional teachers for more than 45 years. Today, opportunities for quiet contemplation are rare, and places dedicated to long-term retreat are even more scarce. Meditation has a profound effect on the individual and its benefits emanate into the rest of the world.