As a close student of Lama Tsultrim, and a long-time volunteer at Tara Mandala, I am shocked to see some of the things being said on this thread (especially by you, Greg). The idea that LT or Tara Mandala staffers are "profiting" from the retreat costs and fundraisers is a little absurd. Especially if you have never actually set foot on the land. They started with a humble complex of yurts (are those too fancy, too?), outdoor showers, an outdoor kitchen, and wooden platforms. Eventually they built the Nyala Pema Duddul stupa out of rocks found on the land (no rocks were even cut, except for a simple Snow Lion carving on the throne), which served as the first "permanent" structure on the land. All was well and good, but the seasonal restrictions of the rocky mountains and the ever-growing sangha made it necessary to build some more lasting structures. So, with the help of A LOT of generous donors (which there is no shortage of in America...let's be real...), we built the community building (containing an INDOOR kitchen and office space for the resident staff members), a very simple dormitory (so people who may not be physically able to camp in a tent or drive 20 miles on a dirt road in the middle of winter could stay on the land), and a temple. The temple is unsurprisingly the most extravagant of the buildings, but is that really a problem? It's the world's first Tibetan Buddhist temple completely devoted to the Sacred Feminine (a life-long mission of Lama Tsultrim's...something that has been personally endorsed by HH The Karmapa, ChNNR, Adzom Paylo Rinpoche, etc.), and it is still a work in progress. There are no lavish chandeliers, no giant statues... just a beautiful, simple Tibetan-style gompa. The paintings are gorgeous, because they were done by Lama Gyurme Ruojie, a much-loved member of our family. The reason the project was so expensive had a lot to do with the ecologically-friendly building style, the self-sustained heating system and plumbing, the remote location, and the fact that it's big enough to accommodate the number of people who wish to take part in Tara Mandala's events.
Fundamentally, if you're going to knock TM for having a pretty temple, then fine. But that's a pretty minor offense, if you ask me.
Now, as far as affordability... I am 22, and have been studying with Lama Tsultrim since I was 13. Since my parents lived in a neighboring town, I grew up with the Tara Mandala family. Now, I've never been wealthy. To this day, I struggle greatly with financial issues, massive debt, and even occasional serious hunger. The ONLY person who has always been there for me, in more ways than I could possibly mention, is Lama Tsultrim. I have never been denied teachings or retreats, have always been given a place to stay, and have been given the opportunity to take part in experiences that I would have NEVER had access to without her generosity. I'm not a unique case, either. There are a lot of us, devoted students with very little to offer except our devotion and sincere practice. She and Dave (who passed away with incredible signs of realization) built a community for everybody, not just the rich folk that have made contributions to the building projects.
By the way:
5-Star hotels charge that sort of money for semi board and accomodation AND it is not in a tent AND they PAY staff to ensure the smooth running of the facilities AND they have to maintain the facilities AND they still make a (hefty) profit.
So let's get real here for a second.
Yes, let's get real, Greg... Tara Mandala provides three organic vegetarian meals a day, pays about a dozen year-round resident staff members (they also pay for their housing, most of which are rather nice cabins), provides stipends to long-term volunteers, maintains gorgeous & sustainable facilities in the middle of nowhere, and uses any extra money to support the countless dharma activities that go on at Tara Mandala...including a publishing company. Is it really so crazy that a three-day retreat with Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche costs a $204 minimum? Come on, man. Check yourself.
I am personally hurt by some of the slanderous things that have been said here against a woman who has done more for Dharma in the west than anybody I have ever met. Lama Tsultrim is a dakini if there ever has been one. To imply that she is personally profiting from the operational costs at Tara Mandala is ridiculous, especially since those of you who are making such accusations have never met her or been to Tara Mandala.