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Buddhadharma : Spring 2012
SPRING 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 43 Gloria Steinem: In reading about your life, I’ve been astounded by the degree to which we share certain parallels. We both had mothers who were very supportive of us and also very interested in spirituality. My mother was a theosophist. And so were both of my grandmothers. We both went to India, though in very different ways. I went to India for a couple of years after I graduated from college, mainly because I was trying not to get married. Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo: I am also very grateful to my mother. She was an extraordinary woman. More and more, as I age, I look back and remem- ber her responses to very difficult situations and how skillful she was. We were spiritualists—with séances every week in our house—and I’m very grateful for that because death and what comes afterward was an everyday topic of conversation. Steinem: You were interested in Asia at a young age, drawn to individual people who came from Asia and drawn aesthetically to it. Palmo: Yes. I grew up in London and sometimes my mother would take me to Chinatown just so I could see some Oriental people. Later I went to work at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University, and there were so many people from so many different countries, all interested in really interesting things. Steinem: I think the theosophy in my life drew me to earlier, pre-patriarchal traditions—Native American traditions, the Dalits in India, and later on the Khwe and the San in South Africa. Look- ing back, because theosophy was so woman-led and so egalitarian, I think I was unconsciously drawn in that direction. Now we’re both engaged in the same thing: we’re trying to include the Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and Gloria Steinem onstage at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York.