Filed in Tibetan

No Excuses

There are no obstacles, just opportunities. Take them now.

An interview with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo on the eve of her retirement

Wisdom Collection

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Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo was born Diane Perry during the Blitz, in 1943, the daughter of an East End charlady and a fishmonger. She decided she was a Buddhist in 1961, at the age of eighteen, traveled by sea to India in search of a teacher, and met her root guru, the eighth Khamtrul Rinpoche, on her twenty-first birthday. She became the second Western woman to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun three weeks later. At thirty-three, with her lama’s blessing, Tenzin Palmo took up residence in a six-by-six-foot cave, 13,200 feet up in the Himalayan valley of Lahaul, and lived there for twelve years. Since then, she has given her uniquely practical teachings around the world in an effort to raise awareness and funds for the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery, in Himachel Pradesh, India, which she founded in 2000.

Lucy Powell interviewed the sixty-six-year-old nun while she was in London this year, giving her final teaching tour before retiring to India.


Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

Your example is at once inspirational—that a Westerner, and a woman, could meditate in solitary retreat for such a prolonged period—and dispiriting: unless we can sit in a Himalayan cave for over a decade, we won’t make any real progress on the path. Certainly we have to do the work. This is true. It is really very impressive how many excuses we can invent for why we aren’t sitting. This idea we have that when things are perfect, then we’ll start practicing—things will never be perfect. This is samsara!

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