Beliefnet
Reprinted with permission from Spirituality & Health.

Tenzin Palmo was born in London in 1943, went to India in 1963, met her teacher, and a year later was one of the first Western women to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun. Her experiences during twelve years in solitude were charted in "Cave in the Snow: A Western Woman's Quest for Enlightenment." In this thoughtful and well-organized paperback, the author answers questions that always come up as she travels around the world trying to gather support for the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery Project. Here young women are given the opportunity to develop their intellectual and spiritual potential through a balanced traning of study, meditation, and service.

These talks were given in America and Australia. Some of the topics covered are ethics and the three trainings, the six realms, women and the path, calm abiding, awareness, difficult points for Westerners, the nature of mind, the role of the spiritual master, and visualizing the Deity. Tenzin Palmo has a lot to say about practice. For instance, in Buddhism, when a person does a good deed, she gives away the merit to others. Her explanation of this is very interesting: "We have a responsibility to do things not because we want to or because they will benefit us, but because many other people don't at this point know how to do these things. We must do them on their behalf. When we sit zazen, we're not just sitting for ourselves, we're sitting for all beings."

The same focus on the welfare of the other is at the heart of the practice of generosity. "People understand about generosity in the East. They believe that everything that comes about happens due to causes and conditions, so if they want to be prosperous, they have to create the causes for future prosperity. The cause of prosperity is generosity. Knowing this, they are very happy to give and very grateful to the recipient for enabling them to accumulate good karma. Not only does it help them to open up their hearts but it also plants seeds for their future prosperity. For this reason, when a person gives something the recipient doesn't say 'thank you,' because it is the giver who should give thanks for the opportunity to manifest generosity." In this approach, homeless people looking for help are saints enabling us to tenderize our hearts and to move on our way toward prosperity. Maybe the hard times so many well-heeled Americans are now experiencing could be seen as evidence of a generosity shortage in their lives. Tenzin Palmo sheds light on many other Buddhist practices in this edifying work.

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