Tribute to Ani Tsultrim Palmo

Ani Palmo was surrounded at all times by the love and care of all of us at Gampo Abbey and the larger sangha, her family.


Ani T. Palmo.
Old-world Laughter.
Fresh new-world laughter.

Ani T. Palmo.
Old-world simplicity.
From the old country.
Always new.





“Dear, will you please pass the sugar—”


Ani Palmo, Dharma Mom

November 2, 2010

Thank you, all of her friends and dharma family, for the tremendous generosity and care you have shown Ani Palmo these last few years.

When I first met Ani Palmo in 1992, I was a mess. Never having meditated, I came to the abbey for a dathun and was determined to wake up by the end of the month. Predictably, I fell apart. Fortunately she took me under her wing. She fed me sardines and treats. She let me nap on her bed under the windowsill in her room and eventually she put me to work in the garden. I considered her my mother and never doubted her kindness and loving intentions.

Over the years I have kept more or less in touch, though I know I could have been a better son. When I saw her for the last time last fall, she didn’t hide the fact that she was somewhat disheartened by the burden of her protracted illness but she remained profoundly committed to the dharma and to all who were in her life, including Ryan, who took such good care of her. I am sad that Ani Palmo has finally left us but I’m so grateful to have been held by her wide, wide heart.

With deep love and thanks, I’ll pray for you Ani Palmo; your dharma son, John (Smythe)

Memories of Palmo

October 31, 2010

I came to Gampo Abbey in the fall of 1993, I think it was November. Before that my life had basically fallen apart — not in a very traumatic way, but things just opened up. I had no current job, no relationship, not even a place to live, when I came to the Abbey. The first three weeks there were a horror trip. I didn’t know anybody, I slept in the dorm, I unsucessfully tried to adapt to the strict discipline of a monastery, and I tried to do some of my overdue prostations. After three weeks Palmo came back from some trip — and it was like the sun coming up in the morning! She smiled at me, she hugged me (we had met before, in Vienna, where I am from), she made some jokes, and all in all, quite a bit of my initial depression lifted. I also got a room of my own, soon. I could finally begin to settle in.

I saw her regularly from then on. I had meditation interviews with her, and at some point I developed a strong aversion against her, against her stubbornness (being stubborn myself). I think I even wrote her a letter full of reproaches. She did not respond. At the end of February, we all gathered outside of Sopa Choling, the Three Year Retreat Facility close to Gampo Abbey. Palmo had to do the ritual for opening the retreat from outside, she was the only one present who had the appropriate level of practice. It was freezing that day, very, very, cold, but sunny. I clearly remember her sitting there with some table in front of her, outside Sopa Choling in the snow, reciting a long Tibetan text, before the retreatants could finally come out, or we could enter, whatever. Pema Chodron was in that group of retreatants, among a lot of other great people. When I left the Abbey two months later I had somewhat mixed feelings about Palmo. But now I really regret that I never reconnected to her. She was a vital part of one of the most intense periods of my life. And I regret my sometimes negative attitude towards her. I would like to thank all the people who contributed to this tribute page, especially Dennis Hunter/Zopa Tharchin for the vivid description of Palmo’s last hours. It is so encouraging to read how a real practitioner dies. I bow to Ani Palmo and to you all. Thank you.

Norbert Hasenoehrl

Ani Palmo

October 31, 2010

I met Ani Palmo for the first time in Prague airport as she and I were to staff a Dathun in the Czech Republic. This was around 1992, and what was strange about our meeting was that I saw this woman in purple robes and went up and she and I kissed one another.

Saying: ” You are the first nun I’ve ever kissed” I mentioned that I was also not in the habit of kissing strange women either – and we laughed and became firm friends at once.

The Dathun where we first met was an interesting one. I had lived in Poland for two years and helped kick-start a Shambhala group and ST Levels in Krakow and there were Poles coming to this Dathun, which was to have a Shambhala Training flavour and not a Buddhist one. This had been the for a few of the Poles, a few of whom were devout Catholics and I felt protective of them. Somehow Ani Palmo had not picked this up, and insisted that the Poles took Buddhist Precepts each day regardless. It didn’t matter much. Her Buddhism seemed very Polish in the sense of devout and simple.

She used to remark that she had had to do two whole Ngondros as she “had so much ego” to work with. Her mother was still living in Poland then and she was able to visit her and found that healing for them both. When she went on pilgrimage in India some years later she stayed with us in London both ways and bought us a leaf from the tree under which the Lord Buddha became Enlightened which still lives on our shrine; and one morning over breakfast she was thrilled when I started to recite the best-loved poem of Poland’s great poet Mickiewicz, (Pan Tadeusz). We recited it together and she was moved and thrilled to remember her Polish. She was kind, simple, good-hearted, stubborn, and great good fun to be with and she will surely be hugely missed.

Peter Conradi, London, UK

Unforgettable Ani Palmo

October 30, 2010

We met in Bodhgaya, in 1995 at a seminar for Western nuns where Ani-la was making a presentation about Gampo Abbey and I would shortly be ordained in the Gelugpa tradition, on condition, stated Lama Zopa, that I stay for 4 years in a monastery. Meeting, living and working with Ani-la is one of the many blessings of life as a nun. It was never easy for she “was going to make a real nun of me” and, even for a high achiever such as her, the task was sobering and we had to learn together under Ani Pema´s compassionate care.

Ani-la cared for form, for becoming robes, elegant environment, tasty food, discipline, rituals and was an accomplished teacher of elegance and detail and I had such a long way to go… Hard as it was to make progress, she always warmly welcomed me in her cabin with sharp insights, delightful tidbits and the supreme teaching of, over many years, dealing with life and death matter-of-factly. I cherish every moment spent with her, as much as the hardships endured to become a real nun. Dear Ani-la, I am still trying… may your journeys bring happiness to all the sentient beings you devotedly cared for.

In loving memory, tenzin namdrol (Brazil).

Prayers with Ani Palmo

October 25, 2010

I was just directed to this tribute page to Ani Palmo. We first met about 30 years ago when she came to receive empowerments with us from our teacher Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche in Wappingers Falls, New York. We reconnected at Gampo Abbey in the fall of 1990 when I came to help out for 3 months before the start of the first phase of the 3 year retreat. I will share this fond recollection with all of you. I requested getsul ordination from Thrangu Rinpoche during his visit to Gampo Abbey in 1990, and when Anila found out that my getsul name would be the same as my genyen name, Sherab Dorje, which I had received from Kalu Rinpoche, she forcefully objected: “you have to change your name again!” Both Thrangu Rinpoche and I laughed at her vehement citation of the â??rules’ and explained why it was important to keep the name in honor of Kalu Rinpoche, our great teacher who had passed away. She immediately dropped her view, and went to her room to bring back and offer me a small picture of Kalu Rinpoche on which he had signed his name for her in gold ink. That photo holds a prominent place in my personal shrine to this day.

That was her style: in the end, her big heart always won out. I am so delighted to learn that she passed from this life in exactly that fashion. I aspire to follow her example and do the same, whenever my work in this life is done.

Tulku Sherdor
Executive Director
Blazing Wisdom Institute


October 28, 2010

This past week we have lost three powerful women protector-dakinis to space:
Magnificent, regal, grand-madonna Beverly
Wild, insightful, monastic magpie, Polish chatchka queen, Palmo
Ratna retreat lady of food, furniture, and furnishings, gentle elegant artist, Connie
Thinking of them:

Let’s celebrate these three great women of Cape Breton Shambhala,
Dancing and laughing in space,
The circle of dakinis.

Offering great feasts and torma,
And, abandoning attachment,
May you roam in the wilderness of the expanse,
Guided by the Ocean of Dharma,
May you benefit many beings.

~ Da-o Chopel 10/24/10

I have two great memories of Ani-la

October 23, 2010

I lived at Gampo Abbey for 6 months in 2002-2003, working as the Network Administrator. During Yarne that year, there was a wonderful Christian Nun with us. On Christmas Day, one of the others Gampo Abbey nuns came to us during lunch and said “Merry Christmas” to Ani Palmo. Without a moments hesitation she responded with “What should I think of this…I am a Buddhist!” There was no malice or insult in her voice, just an absolute question, which was left in the air. She looked at me and started laughing.

The second instance was while I was at her lodge one snowy day. She was having problems with her computer, so I stopped by. After doing my thing, she thanked me, and as I turned around I noticed the stacks of neatly wrapped and placed texts on her wall shelves. I had never seen so many texts, so I was standing there in awe. She laughed and said something to the effect that she read too many things and was forgetting them all. She then unwrapped a tiny little case and took out this little tiny brown ball and asked for my hand. She placed it in my hand and told me to eat it. I did so, without even asking her what it was. She smiled and told me that the Dalai Lama was now inside of me. I was pretty green in the Sangha and had never heard of “dutsie”, still not sure how to spell it! I am not sure if she was amused by my reaction, or lack of one. I walked back to the main house and told my computer co-worker Sheldron that Ani-la had given me something called dutsie…she explained…I smiled nervously…one of my favourite memories of the Abbey!

Greg Demmons
Rinchen Gyatso
Kyoto, Japan

Om Ah Hum: The Passing of Ani Tsultrim Palmo

October 23, 2010

By some unexpected turn of events or karmic connections, I found myself to be the only person physically present with Ani Tsultrim Palmo at the time she passed away. I want to share a bit about what I observed with Ani Palmo in her final moments. Many people who knew her have talked about what a powerful practitioner and teacher Ani Palmo was in life, and I can confirm that in death she was no less. What I witnessed on the morning of Tuesday, October 19 was the passing of a Buddhist practitioner of the strongest kind, whose faith and determination and commitment to the Dharma did not waver even in the midst of what were surely the most challenging circumstances she had ever faced.

Ani Palmo died while listening to a recording that Ani Pema Chodron had made especially for her of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The section she was listening to at the time was the instructions on dying, letting go of attachments to this life and relaxing into the space of death and the empty-luminous nature of mind. Although Ani Pema was not physically present in the room, with her voice guiding Ani Palmo lovingly through each step of the dying process, it was very much as though Ani Pema *was* present — even more than I was — holding Ani Palmo’s hand and coaching her skillfully, and I was simply there to witness this.

When I walked into the hospital room that morning, less than two hours before she passed, Ani Palmo was still conscious and she was speaking with great urgency in what seemed to be her native Polish, although it was hard to tell. I think I assumed at first that she just wasn’t making sense anymore, and I didn’t try too much to follow. But after a few minutes, I did recognize, quite clearly, several of the words she was saying: “Om! Ah! Hum!” And so I began to sing the “Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum” mantra to her. Ani Palmo quieted down then, and listened to that mantra for a bit; but two or three more times, she piped up with another “Om! Ah! Hum!” In fact, those three syllables of the Padmasambhava mantra were really her last clearly spoken words.

In retrospect, I realize now that Ani Palmo wasn’t just babbling when I walked into that hospital room, less than two hours before her death; she was in fact practicing intensely. In spite of the complete deterioration of her body, having probably 3% of her total lung capacity remaining; and in spite of the unbelievable amount of medication she was on to ease her pain; and in spite of whatever fear and anxiety she might have been feeling — in spite of all those things stacked against her, she still had the strength and the clarity and the willpower and the focus to practice “like her hair was on fire.”

They say that the hearing is the last of the senses to leave us at death. In her final moments, even as her senses were leaving her and she was no longer responsive to touch, it was quite clear to me that Ani Palmo was still listening to Ani Pema’s voice guiding her through the dying process. When Ani Pema would say Ani Palmo’s name, she would often make a non-verbal sound, like a recognition or a response. Right up to the very end, I had the distinct feeling that she was still in there, still alert, listening and practicing just as Ani Pema was instructing. I know that she had listened to that recording countless times before, rehearsing for this moment again and again so that when the real thing finally came, it would be familiar and natural.

Gradually I began to see pauses between Ani Palmo’s out-breath and her next in-breath, and these pauses grew from three seconds at first, then to five, then to ten, then to fifteen seconds. Then there came a moment when she simply did not breathe in again. After all her struggle with illness and pain over the past years, in her final moment she slipped across the threshold of death in such a peaceful way that I was left waiting for her to take in another breath. I waited a couple of minutes before calling in the nurse to confirm that she was gone. At last, Ani Palmo’s long and painful struggle with this physical body was over.

Being there to see how strongly she continued to practice right up to the threshold of death, and no doubt beyond, and witnessing how her Dharma sister and teacher Ani Pema Chodron so skillfully and lovingly guided her through the dying process with the sound of her voice and the instructions of the lineage, was a gift and a profound teaching that I will contemplate for the rest of my life.

With love and gratitude to Ani Palmo and Ani Pema, Dennis Hunter (Zopa Tharchin)

Tsultrim’s death

October 23, 2010

Just read of Ani Tsultrim’s death initially could only say oh no that can not be, I thought she would be the winner in that game as she was indefatigable, humourous in a effusive Polish manner, and quite a whirlwind of mega teaching activity.

She was my MI on a dathun at Gampo Abbey in 1991 and was very ship-shape and straightforward with her advice.

Remember her and Pema doing a mock meditation interview together at the end of the dathun â?”this was a laugh a minute affair with Tsultrim acting the nutty student.

Yes what a legendary figure for the dharma in America.

She is irreplaceable and broke the proverbial mold to the umpteenth degree.

Rita Ashworth

Ani Pamlo

October 22, 2010

Ani Palmo and I have been very close heart friends and dharma sisters ever since she took her novice vows. Although she always regarded me as something of a teacher for her, nevertheless ours was a very genuine friendship with all the ups and downs, sweetness, sadness and roughness of a true friendship. About 8 years ago, when she thought she was dying of throat cancer, we began to prepare by saying our goodbyes and by her having me read the Tibetan Book Of The Dead into a tape recorder, so she could listen to it over and over and prepare herself. In the intervening years we must have said our final tearful farewell at least 6 times, and she must have listened to that tape at least 100 times. Gradually within that process, I know that she did prepare herself well for the end. When I left last time neither of us shed a tear, but simply embraced with great love knowing that whenever her time came, it was simply the end of her Polish-Buddhist-Nun incarnation and the beginning of yet another journey. She was very very ready to let go. So in some ways this is truly NO-BIG-DEAL. Yet, in another way, I will miss her very very much. I will miss her humor, her courage, her chocolates and cookies, her photos and her tenderness. Indeed, I will miss her very very much. I love you Ani Palmo and wish you “Bon Voyage” and the broad smile of your guru to guide you on your way.
-Ani Pema

Dear noble sangha,

October 22, 2010

With sadness we at Gampo Abbey must let you know that, after a long and courageous struggle with COPD (emphysema), our beloved senior monastic Ani Tsultrim Palmo passed away yesterday, October 19 at 11:52 am Atlantic Time. During her last few days in hospital in Cheticamp, NS, not far from Gampo Abbey, she was attended to with great care by the staff there, many of whom have known her for several years. She was also wakefully accompanied 24 hours a day by the residents of Gampo Abbey and by other sangha members who live in the area. She was surrounded at all times by the love and care of all of us at Gampo Abbey and the larger sangha, her family. At the moment of her passing she was listening to the voice of her beloved sister in the dharma and teacher, Ani Pema Chodron, who had recorded the Tibetan Book of the Dead in preparation for this day.

The community will practice in the presence of Ani Palmo’s body in the main shrine room at Gampo Abbey for the next three days. A sukhavati will be held on Friday, October 22, at 10 am Atlantic Time. Those in the area are welcome to attend. If you plan to attend the sukhavati, please let our office know so we can plan for seating arrangements. The office phone is (902) 224-2752 and email is

With love and great appreciation for all of you,
Barbara Badessi
Gampo Abbey