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Cave In The Snow [Paperback]

Vicki Mackenzie
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 19 1999
The story of Tenzin Palmo, an Englishwoman, the daughter of a fishmonger from London's East End, who spent 12 years alone in a cave 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas and became a world-renowned spiritual leader and champion of the right of women to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Diane Perry grew up in London's East End. At the age of 18 however, she read a book on Buddhism and realised that this might fill a long-sensed void in her life. In 1963, at the age of 20, she went to India, where she eventually entered a monastery. Being the only woman amongst hundreds of monks, she began her battle against the prejudice that has excluded women from enlightenment for thousands of years. In 1976 she secluded herself in a remote cave 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas, where she stayed for 12 years between the ages of 33 and 45. In this mountain hideaway she faced unimaginable cold, wild animals, floods, snow and rockfalls, grew her own food and slept in a traditional wooden meditation box, three feet square - she never lay down. In 1988 she emerged from the cave with a determination to build a convent in northern India to revive the Togdenma lineage, a long-forgotten female spiritual elite.

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It sounds like a legend out of medieval Tibet: the ascetic who leaves home to join the Buddhist order, then spends 12 years in a cave, 15 hours a day in a meditation box. This is no legend, but you could call Tenzin Palmo legendary in her single-minded pursuit of higher realizations. From the East End of London to halfway up the Himalayas, she is now back in society, attempting to pull medieval Tibetan Buddhism into the modern era--women's rights and all. As biographer Vickie Mackenzie says by way of background, a group of elite women practitioners called "Togdemnas" still existed just decades ago. Tenzin Palmo, having studied with her male counterparts, is now canvassing the planet, welcoming women into full participation in Tibetan Buddhism and building support for an academy of Togdemnas that she plans to establish in the Himalayas. Mackenzie helps raise awareness for women's roles in Tibetan Buddhism by going into some detail about obstacles still faced by women as well as heroines who have overcome those obstacles, such as Yeshe Tsogyel (Sky Dancer) and Machig Lapdron, a mother who started her own lineage. If Mackenzie has it her way, it won't be long before Tenzin Palmo joins that list of heroines. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Very possibly, the central figures of these two books?one German, the other British?met during their Buddhist training and charitable work. They undergo similar transformations, abandoning established middle-class lives to adhere to strict Buddhist rules of self-denial, meditation, and hardship. Khema, however, escaped Nazi Germany and had a remarkably peripatetic life that entailed two marriages and much travel. Her telling of her search for Buddhism and life as a nun dwells on the facts of her travels and good works rather than inner thoughts. Despite professions of humility and selflessness, she appears arrogant and proud. But perhaps this impression comes from the process of dictation and a translation from German that is full of cliches and inappropriate expressions. On the other hand, in Cave in the Snow, Mackenzie, a journalist with a special interest in Buddhism, recounts with passion and beauty the story of Tenzin Palmo (nee Diane Perry), which involved 12 years of living in an Indian cave, snowbound for eight months of each year. She delves into Palmo's motivations, feelings, thoughts, and teachings, presenting the facts of her life while preserving the anguish, desire, conviction, and conflict that accompanied her conversion to Buddhism. The result is thoroughly engrossing.?Kitty Chen Dean, Nassau Coll., Garden City, NY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Inspiring May 9 2010
I am deeply moved by Tenzin Palmo's life story. I practice Insight Meditation, and being a woman, I look for stories by other woman practitioners on the Buddhist path that I can indentify with and perhaps aspire to. Definitely Tenzin Palmo is one such woman. I enjoyed her life story, from her English beginnings to her early days as a Tibetan nun in India to her time in her cave to her teachings that came after. I thoroughly enjoyed getting glimpses of her core teachings in the later chapters of the book. And also, the debate of the role of women in Western Buddhism, as well as, being provided with information on some of the other Buddhist women teachers who have chosen to get married and have children with-in their spiritual path. And I think her current quest to build a Tibetan nunnery is so wonderful and inspiring. I highly recommend this inspiring read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Power to women!!! June 4 2001
This is an informational and fascinating book. Tenzin Palmo is certainly an unusual person, but she is a beacon for anyone, man or woman, who wants to achieve what the official dogma denies s/he can achieve!
The writing is a bit on the clunky side, but who cares? That's not the point--the point is the Enlightenment, and the fact that Tenzin Palmo would let nothing stand between her and it.
Also, even though I follow the Theravadin path, I found the descriptions and information of Tibetan Buddhism fascinating, and the Dalai Lama comes off even more wonderful and sympathetic than I've ever seen. He does care about the plight of women, in his tradition and out.
A fantastic read! But it does make you want to go on retreat--NOW!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading March 5 2001
Although I am usually most interested in books relating to Taoism and the martial arts, this book caught my attention. The story of a British woman spending 12 years in a small cave at 13,000 feet in Tibet meditating was one I had to read. Although some readers have said that the author's style turned them off, I must say I had no problem with it. It took me a day to read this book, and I will probably go back and read it again. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that thinks it may be interesting- a GREAT read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The story shines through! Jan. 13 2001
It would seem difficult to commend sufficiently the merit of this book. Despite lackluster writing by journalist Vicki MacKenzie (whose fascinating book on lama Osel, the surprising tulku recently discovered in Spain, seemed affected arbitrarily by the same lack of dynamism in the writing) the story of Tenzin Palmo shines through, and witnesses to a kind of freedom that is the stuff of legend, and a harbinger of peace. Her presence is clear on every page, distinct and standing and shining on its own power, and perhaps in that way MacKenzie's notably waveless style serves the book well. The book is assembled beautifully, MacKenzie takes her time in just the right places; the final few chapters take up a kind of ecstatic explosion of joy, rumbling to a final free-flying celebration of a remarkable woman's life and freedom. I enjoyed it immensely; and what really calls, and remains a part of us is the woman, this rather great personage of achievement, the lama of freedom- Tenzin Palmo! Her teaching is without any superfluous edges, one finds on nearly every page of this book an immensely grateful and happily intelligent woman, one worth considering for the quality of her genuine spiritual impact. One of the more satisfying books I've read this year, its minimalist decor notwithstanding; not that the writing is so impoverished, but a little bloodless, as I say. But take heart, Tendzin Palmo is a bountiful journey! 4 glad stars!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Enlightening Jan. 12 2001
I felt that I was gaining enlightenment just by reading this book. Tenzin Palmo is truly extraordinary. This is a great book for anyone, whether or not they are interested in Buddhism.
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2.0 out of 5 stars This could have been a contender! Dec 28 2000
A potentially interesting and inspiring story, masacred by a journalist. While Ms. Mackenzie sees, she has a problem to smell, hear and feel. Even though we get into the Cave, she never pulls her reader into the mind and body of the Protagonist; and, while Tenzin Palmo has undoubtedly plenty to say, she says a precious little.
The definition of Enlightement, why to get it and what to do with it after you get it - is hardly there, and the accomplishment of it by the Protagonist, has been circumvented.
Has Tenzin Palmo been truly Enlightened, or just Entertained/never bored? One has to wonder. And, why should Tenzin Palmo seek "Enlightement" while those who already have it, behave like dirty old men? And why those (dirty old men), who supposedly believe in Reincarnation, treat women like dirt? Have they ever been or will plan to be women themselves and get back what they dished out? Where is their logic or even their respect for Karma (cause and effect) pertaining to their actions? Are they truly practicing what they preaching? Or, as Dalai Lama himself says: "Spy on your guru for ten years or more before you can trust him?" Are things in the spiritual enlightement world even worse than in Corporate America or in the Oval Office?
Is twelve years in the Cave (Tensin Palmo), or twelve years on the Rock like the Birdman (of Alcatraz), Machine-gun Kelly or even Al Capone the passport to Enlightement? And, moreover, why Tenzin Palmo, who left the world of the Mammon, is returning to it now, begging? Absence of Indian visa or the lack of computer skills?
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars More hagiography than biography
Tenzin Palmo's story is certainly an inspiring one - a great accomplishment for any Westerner and all the more so for a woman, alone in Asia (where women, generally, are not quite... Read more
Published on Oct. 11 2010 by Kieran Fox
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a book you won't forget, once you read it
Not only the book is written reasonably well but Tenzin Palmo's life story is so touching that you probably won't stop reading until you reach the last sentence. Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2001 by Alain MARIE
5.0 out of 5 stars Cave in The Snow is hot stuff!
This biography of the first western woman Tibetan Buddhist lama, child of the second half of the 20th Century & seeker of spiritual perfection is delightful, frank, detailed... Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2000 by Rebecca Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars inspiring tale of a woman's faith
Tenzin Palmo, this book's subject, is a character you will never forget. Full of faith, insight and strength, her dedication to persuing the Path has determined her life and... Read more
Published on July 26 2000 by L. Rephann
5.0 out of 5 stars A difficult but dazzling spiritual journey
Despite Vicki Mackenzie's breathless tabloid style (which she comes by honestly, as a British tabloid journalist), this book works brilliantly ... Read more
Published on July 6 2000 by Julia
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully inspiring
A truly inspiring book. Written without sentimentality, it describes the life of Tenzim Palmo and her quest to receive enlightenment. Read more
Published on May 16 2000 by "netsu"
5.0 out of 5 stars Once in a Lifetime
This is one of the most inspiring books I have read in years. Tenzin Palmo's life path is beautifully described and includes her personal as well as spiritual perspectives. Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2000 by Joan M. Shafer
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