“From that moment on, when I went back to London I just decided that this was going to be my life from now on. I was going to return to India, I was going to study Tibetan, and I was going to go and see him teach. So, from that very short moment in time, which some people may have regarded as really relatively nothing, for me was a really pivotal moment.”
“I was kind of playing with that [title of Dakini Translations], in that although I was not saying I am a dakini, isn’t it kind of funny there is an assumption by some that I’m using that word to apply to myself? Because obviously we’re in a culture now where many are applying this word to themselves and they are happy when someone says they are a dakini. Yet, it’s often based on really superficial things like how young and pretty they are. I just felt it was kind of being ironic yet also being serious at the same time……. So, although I wasn’t saying I am a dakini, I was also thinking, on the other hand, that if I were one, then I would hope and expect that if a dakini were running a translations website it would be very playful!”
—Adele Tomlin (Guru Viking interview, September 2022)
Happy to share and announce that a new video interview with myself and Steve James, founder of Guru Viking podcasts website can be viewed on the Guru Viking Youtube channel here:
It will also be published on the Guru Viking website here.
The interview took place online at the end of September 2022 (before I went to Bhutan) after Steve got in touch to invite me saying he was an admirer of my work. I was happy to accept as I was already aware of the Guru Viking website, having seen some of my Dharma friends being interviewed by him before. Previous interviewees include an eclectic, wide and varied mix of writers, yogis and practitioners from the worlds of meditation, Buddhism, yoga and spiritual/mystic pursuits.
In the interview, which starts off with more biographical questions about my life of an ‘ordinary and classic’ childhood in England, with a promising London ‘career’ as a lawyer and strategist, to the journey of visiting India to study yoga and philosophy for the first time, and becoming a Buddhist after meeting and taking refuge in a private audience with the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje in 2005. Then, how this life-changing event, led to my studying Tibetan and Buddhist philosophy.
The second half of the interview then goes into more detail about the work of a Dharma translator, in particular considering the translation I did of Tāranātha’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra and my brief explanation of the difference between the shentong (empty-of-other) and rangtong (empty-of-self) view as explained in Tibetan Buddhist texts by masters like Tāranātha. (N.B a couple of times I say mis-speak rangtong as empty of other, but hopefully most of you will get that meant to say empty-of-self).
The interview ends with some discussion and observations about the patriarchal sexism in Buddhism, including translation and academia, and research that I (and others) have done (or are doing) on forgotten, or overlooked female lineages and traditions etc. As well as the all-too common phenomena of all-male panels and visual depictions of lineage trees. Finally, we end on the humour and irony within Dakini Translations, not only in terms of its name but also in terms of my posts, which include music and humour whenever possible, and as the very essence of Dakini nature: playful, wise, joyful yet sharp!
The topics are listed on the video timestamps as:
00:00 – Intro
01:05 – Endorsed by scholars
02:53 – Miranda Shaw
03:48 – Adele’s upbringing
04:35 – Training as a barrister and entering the city of London
07:39 – Dissatisfaction with life and training in yoga and philosophy
08:53 – Life changing meeting with the 17th Karmapa
14:47 – Reaction of friends and family
15:33 – Learning Tibetan to be closer to the guru
17:33 – Studying Tibetan in Nepal and India
20:28 – Discovering a talent for the Tibetan language
21:46 – The power of past life connections
28:22 – Studying Tibetology at the University of Hamburg
30:08 – Adele adjusts to the academic rigour at Hamburg
32:29 – The importance of practice experience when translating Vajrayana texts
34:54 – Publishes her first critical edition translation
36:30 – Philological and philosophical challenges of translating Taranatha’s commentary on the Heart Sutra
41:04 – Rangtong vs Shentong
48:13 – The implications of the shentong view for practice
54:11 – Taranatha’s shentong reading of the Heart Sutra
55:08 – Frustration with gatekeeping in academia and founding dakinitranslations dot com
01:00:25 – Making Buddhist translation and research accessible and relatable
01:03:16 – Ethics of profiting from dharma
01:04:23 – The secret of Adele’s prolific output
01:06:33 – How Adele chooses which texts to translate
01:11:14 – Research into forgotten female mystics and masters
01:15:39 – Humour in Vajrayana and pointing out all male panels
01:18:36 – Male dominated lineage trees
01:20:08 – ‘Dakini Translations’ and British humour
I plan to make a transcript of the interview at some point, and will upload it to this website (and share it with Guru Viking too) when I do.
Guru Viking and its Founder, Steve James
Steve James, the founder (and a Brit like myself), is also a musician and composer, who lives on a house-boat in the UK, and provides free meditation classes online and much more, as can be seen on his bio at https://www.guruviking.com/about and Youtube channel here. Steve was also interviewed recently, which can be viewed on both those platforms.
I will write soon about another podcast interview I did recently, in which I discuss the philosophical and practice-focused topics of love, tantra, sex, union, consorts, being a mother and Vajrayana and tantric practice and more. For other audio/videos related to myself and this website, see the section: Dakini Orations/Videos.
May female practitioners, teachers, lineages and the feminine energy principle be restored to its natural balance in Vajrayana and Buddhism!
Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin. 11th November 2022.
Baker, Ian (2021) Ep100: Emancipated Passion of Kaula Tantra
Brown, Mick (2005) Dance of 17 Lives: The Incredible True Story of Tibet’s 17th Karmapa (Bloomsbury).
Shaw, Miranda (1995) Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism (Princeton University Press).
Tomlin, Adele (2021):