The Sacred Feminine, Shallow Holes and Practicing In our Daily Life-
My interview with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
After a few tries I had finally get to have a written interview with my dear teacher Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. I follow her work and study under her for many years now. Her life story is really impressive and her teaching style is very deep, obviously coming for real experience, and still very relatable.
Here are my questions and her wonderful answers:
1. It is not hard to notice that a lot of spiritual activities and centers are often organized and
attended by more women than men. Nevertheless, until very recent history, spirituality was
very much a male-dominated area of life. How do you think this shift came to be and how
does it influence our practice today and the future of spirituality?
Previous to this modern era women were usually left under-educated and relegated to subservient roles within society including religious organisations. Nowadays as women are becoming more self-reliant and able to think and act for themselves, they are also stepping forward in areas where previously they would not have been welcomed.
Since women are usually more open to an interest in spiritual matters and more in tune with their emotions, including devotion and compassion, and nowadays they are also more free to pursue their interests, they converge at spiritual centres and often reveal a natural talent for organisation as well as for teaching.
Traditionally all the religious texts were written by men for other men so of course they present only the male point of view. Hence the misogyny throughout religions. But now that women are gaining the knowledge and confidence to write books and teach in accordance with their own experience, the tone changes to a more feminine voice which helps to balance the mainly male chorus.
2. As a western practitioner we are often influenced by more than one spiritual tradition. What
are your thoughts on spiritual evolution under just one teacher and tradition, versus a multi-
teacher, multi-disciplinary spiritual growth?
Traditionally it is considered that we need to follow one spiritual path because we need to stay focused in order to go deeper and connect with a living lineage. Consider a desert with an underground lake. In order to reach this water source we need to keep digging in one spot. If we continually dig shallow holes all over the desert surface (“No water here, let’s try over there!”) we just end up with a plain full of dry holes.
Also if we are always mixing and matching we tend to choose those parts of a tradition that feel comfortable and suit us (i.e. are ego-friendly) which may not be at all what we really need spiritually.
Personally I feel that we need to have a committed tradition and then from within that we can enhance our understanding and practice by incorporating or studying other approaches. For instance many Catholic monastics practise Buddhist meditation (to make themselves better Catholics) while Sufis and Buddhists get along well too [Bufis]. Most religions are strong on some points and weaker on others so we can learn from each other while remaining dedicated to our own chosen path.
3. And on a practical note: many of the people in my audience are very motivated to practice
regularly but find it hard to find the time and space to really keep up to their resolutions. Do
you have any advice for us?
It is important to understand that ‘practice’ does not just mean sitting on our cushion or listening to spiritual talks. Our daily life must become our practice. This is a huge subject and I cannot deal with it here, but we must remember that we need to cultivate our compassion, loving kindness, patience, generosity, ethics etc. and where better than in our daily meetings with others – family, work colleagues, friends and everyone we meet. All these encounters with others are our opportunity to practise kindness and awareness. We can develop our mindfulness under all circumstances and thus our daily life becomes our spiritual practice. No excuses not to have enough time!