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Lama Tsultrim Allione is an author and teacher who has studied in Tibetan Buddhism's Karma Kagyu lineage. She was born in 1947 in Maine under the name Joan Rousmanière Ewing. She first travelled to India and Nepal in 1967, returned in 1969 and January 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 such as Machig Labdrön (founder of the Chöd practice), Ayu Khandro 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 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."
In 2009, Lama Tsultrim Allione was selected by an esteemed committee of scholars and practitioners to receive the international “Outstanding Woman in Buddhism” Award given in Bangkok, Thailand.
Lama Tsultrim is enjoying being the grandmother of six and has completed her new book, Wisdom Rising: Journey into the Mandala of the Empowered Feminine, published by Simon and Schuster in May 2018. At the same time, Lama Tsultrim continues to guide Tara Mandala and thousands of students around the world. Her writings and teachings come from her sublime Tibetan lamas as well as her experience as a Western woman and mother. She is known for her ability to translate the wisdom of the ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition into clear teachings that are relatable and relevant to Western audiences.
Recognition as an Emanation of Machig Labdrön
In Tibetan Buddhism it is believed that once beings such as Machig Labdrön attain 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 of 200,7 Allione led a pilgrimage to Nepal and Tibet which included a visit to Sangri Khangmar (Sangri County) where Machig Labdrön lived from the age of 37 to 99. At the site, Allione was recognized as an emanation of Machig Labdrön by the resident Lama, Karma Dorje Rinpoche, the 7th incarnation of the brother of Mikyö Dorje, the 8th Karmapa. Lama Karma Nyitön Kunkhyab Chökyi Dorje offered Allione 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 Labdrön to establish the Chod practice in Tibet in the 11th Century). Commenting on the recognition as Machig Labdrön, Lama Tsultrim 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.
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, Apho Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, Lama Wangdu, Tulku Sang-Ngag Rinpoche and Adzom Paylo Rinpoche.
- Allione, Tsultrim (2000). Women of Wisdom (2nd ed.). Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 978-1-55939-141-2.
- Allione, Tsultrim (1999). Places She Lives. USA: Penguin. ISBN 0-670-84762-3.
- Allione, Tsultrim (2008). Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict. Little Brown and Company;. ISBN 978-0-316-01313-0.
- Allione, Tsultrim (2018). Wisdom Rising: Journey Into the Mandala of the Empowered Feminine. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781501115035
- Allione, Tsultrim (2000). Cutting Through Fear. USA: Sounds True Inc. ISBN 978-1-56455-765-0.
- Allione, Tsultrim (2004). The Mandala of the Enlightened Feminine: Awaken the Wisdom of the Five Dakinis. Sounds True Inc. ISBN 978-1-59179-062-4.
- Allione, Tsultrim (2018) Wisdom Rising: Journey into the Mandala of the Empowered Feminine Audible Audiobook – Unabridged ©2018 Simon and Schuster (P)2018 Joan E Allione
- "...my previous name, Joan Rousmaniere Ewing, sounds foreign to me, and I feel more comfortable with the name Tsultrim..." – Tsultrim Allione, Women of Wisdom, page 20.
- Allione, Tsultrim (2008). Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict. Little Brown and Company. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-316-01313-0.
- Praise for the book
- Allione, Tsultrim (2008). Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict. Little Brown and Company. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-316-01313-0.
- THE SNOW LION NEWSLETTER
- "Snow Lion:Buddhist News and Catalog" (PDF). Snow Lion Publications. Autumn 2007. p. 11. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
- What is a Demon? Tsultrim Allione: "When Machig Labdrön was directly asked by her son Tönyon Samdrup to define demons, she replied this way: “That which is called a demon is not some great black thing that petrifies whoever sees it. A demon is anything that obstructs the achievement of freedom…. There is no greater devil than this fixation to a self. So until this ego-fixation is cut off, all the demons wait with open mouths. For this reason, you need to exert yourself at a skillful method to sever the devil of ego-fixation."
- Women of Wisdom extract (Machig Lapdron's life and teaching)
- Feeding Your Demons extract)
- Kapala Training
- Lama Tsultrim Allione podcast
- Tara Mandala
- Machig Labdron's Cave (Part III — Pilgrimage to Nepal and Tibet)
- Inviting the demon. (Milarepa, Tibetan Buddhism) (The Shadowissue) Judith Simmer-Brown, Parabola Vol.22 No.2 (Summer 1997) pp. 12–18
- Feeding Your Demons: Life and Work of Lama Tsultrim Allione. Video documentary