We were embraced by the blessings of Noble ladies, when, during the weekend of 17th-18th September, Choje Lama Rabsang kindly bestowed a White Tara empowerment and led a 21Taras practice day, at the request of the centre sangha, as per tradition.
Tara, ‘She who Liberates’, is a female deity associated with compassion and enlightened activity. There are many different forms of Tara, but the most widely practiced are: Green Tara, who is associated mainly with protection from fear; and White Tara, associated with longevity. Tara sadhanas are Kriya Tantra practices, or originate from Kriya Tantra, so it is believed important to observe the requirements of purity such as cleanliness and avoiding eating meat; hence why Tara practices are traditionally done in the morning before one has eaten any meat.
A weekend with Tara
It was a Facebook post earlier in the week that alerted me to the possibilities of last weekend – a whole weekend with Tara! My connection with Tara was immediate, and occurred several years ago before I knew anything much about Buddhism. For various reasons, my two attempts at receiving Green Tara empowerment at Palpung earlier in the year just hadn’t worked out, much to my disappointment. So when I found events and opportunities rapidly stacking up, I went with the flow, picked up the phone and asked Pauliina if it might also be possible to take Refuge with Lama Rabsang.
I arrived on Saturday morning, as ever never too sure who would be there, and not knowing if it would be possible to take Refuge. Pauliina’s wonderful warm welcome was the first thing I found, then the surprise of a couple of people I somehow hadn’t expected to see together with a range of new-to-me people from near and far. Before I knew what was happening, Lama had arrived and I was taking Refuge, held in the warm support of those around me, some of whom I hadn’t ever spoken to. That was pretty special. Then we went straight into the White Tara empowerment. For a simple little puja, White Tara packs an effective punch and receiving empowerment from our humble Lama was, well, powerful. And moving. The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur – a combination of totally present sharpness, and a strange spacy feeling of weariness that I get from high quality teachings and practice. Pauliina’s delicious dahl and rice at lunchtime was just what was needed. I took my supper up the hill above the centre and munched it looking at the cows and sky, somehow disorientated enough to optimistically wait for the sunset to appear in the south east. It didn’t. But I did eventually turn around!
After an early night and a good sleep we were up early for Green Tara, during which the 21 Praises to Tara are repeated 2, 3 and 7 times. Breakfast and the pattern for the rest of the day which involved people, still relative strangers but now with shared experiences, falling over themselves, each other and the kitchen stool to prepare food for one another. I failed to reach the porridge saucepan first, but greatly enjoyed the porridge which the winner prepared. I did better with one of the salads at lunchtime. What is it about sharing food preparation that makes a shared meal so enjoyable? The sessions for the day involved teaching, discussion and the 21 Praises to Tara repeated in groups of 7, with relaxed meditation in the important space between. As with all the very beautiful things in life, the magic is in the space.
All weekend, Lama Rabsang had insisted that we read everything at least once in English, so that we properly understood the power of the language, and the intention of the texts. Our final dedication of the benefits of our practice the weekend was in English, to Lama, his long life and his forthcoming personal retreat. His response – that we look after ourselves and be happy. It is our job here to be happy. We must deal with difficult practical things when they happen, so that we can return to the important task of being happy. It is the only thing we have to do.
I am writing this on the Thursday after the weekend, a weekend which essentially involved spending many intense well-wishing hours on the cushion, led by Lama Rabsang, who gave us his wise, kind and compassionate teachings. Adequate words have not yet formed that might convey to you what that was like, or the difference this weekend has made – and perhaps I won’t know for months yet, and even then will I be able to describe it? However, there is one observation that I can share with you. Before last weekend, I hadn’t realised that a shadow had fallen across my heart – it must have happened gradually over time. On Monday evening I suddenly noticed, because that shadow had gone.
Karma Pema Chotso