Dianne Perry led an average childhood in London's East End until, in her teens, she became convinced there must be a spiritual dimension to life of a kind unavailable to her. After reading a book on Buddhism she realized that this was what she had been seeking and left England for India at the age of twenty.
After considerable searching she entered a monastery. The only woman among hundreds of men, she grew determined to break down the prejudices that had excluded women from the path to enlightenment for thousands of years. She left after six years, set on attaining enlightenment in the body of a woman; a totally radical objective. She decided to seclude herself in a remote cave, 12,00 feet up in the Himalayas. For twelve years she faced unimaginable cold, wild animals, floods 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 determined to build a convent in northern India, and to revive the Togdenma lineage, a long-forgotten female spiritual elite. From living as a mendicant of $80 a year, she became a globe-trotting fundraiser. Tenzin Palmo has agreed to tell her story only to Vicki Mackenzie.
Vicki Mackenzie has been a journalist for thirty years. She is the author of Reincarnation: The Boy Lama and Reborn in the West: The Reincarnation Masters.