Lama Tsultrim Allione, a 15-year resident of Pagosa Springs and former Tibetan Buddhist nun, has recently been selected by the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Committee’s panel of distinguished Buddhist scholars and practitioners as Outstanding Woman in Buddhism for 2009.
She was honored at The Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards Ceremony held in honor of the United Nations International Women’s Day. The ceremony was held at the Association for the Promotion for the Status of Women in Don Muang, Bangkok, Thailand, over the weekend of March 6.
The Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards are part of an international women’s movement calling for change and celebrating the acts of courage and determination by women in the history of Buddhism.
Lama Tsultrim was ordained in Bodhgaya, India in January of 1970 by His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa, the second highest Lama in Tibet after the Dalai Lama. At the age of 22, she became the first American to be ordained in the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
Originally Joan Rousmaniere Ewing, daughter of a small town newspaper publisher from New Hampshire, James and Ruth Ewing, and granddaughter of Frances Rousmaniere Dewing, the fifth woman to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard-Radcliff University, Lama Tsultrim has devoted her life to bridging East and West.
After four years in the Himalayas studying Buddhism and the Tibetan language she returned her vows and has, since then, continued her path as a lay person in the West, becoming the mother of three children: Sherab Kloppenburg of Telluride, Aloka Sands of Los Angeles, and Costanzo Allione who is in a yearlong retreat at Tara Mandala. She is author of two books: “Women of Wisdom,” (Snowlion Publications) biographies of great Tibetan women teachers and “Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict,” (Little Brown, 2008) a Western adaptation of the 11th century Tibetan yogini Machig Labdrön’s teachings.
In 1993, she and her husband, David Petit, founded Tara Mandala, a 700-acre retreat center in Burns Canyon, southwest of Pagosa Springs. Currently, their community is nearing completion of the largest Buddhist temple in the Southwest. This three-story temple is mandala shaped, with large carved outer doors in each direction, and houses a library, offices, translation and meeting rooms as well as the large, octagonal temple room. The construction has been supported by many local builders as well as the work of artisans who have been brought from Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. The temple is dedicated to the divine feminine of the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, in the form of the 21 Taras, different aspects the female Buddha of compassionate action.