Phyllis Moses has been dancing Tara for more than 20 years. She is a Level 2 Tara Dhatu Student Teacher and facilitates a circle of dancing Taras in Seattle, Washington. She was a staff member for the recent Tara Dhatu pilgrimage to India and Thailand.
I suppose when you go on the journey of your dreams for 7 weeks, the shifts that occur continue to permeate your psyche. It’s no wonder that even one month after returning from our Tara Dhatu pilgrimage to India I feel like I’m still trying to come back!
It’s taken a month to pour through hundreds of photos to make into a slideshow ~ which helped me to again immerse in the experience. What does it mean for me to ‘come back’? Authentic shifts of perception are one of the boons of being on the path. There is a quality of Being expressed by going on pilgrimage that feels outside of time or space.
To dance and sing the praises of Tara in the ancient and sacred land of Mother India where legend holds that She first appeared in the form of Tara was such an amazing gift. I relished all the beauty and colorfulness of the dancing Goddesses everywhere! It was powerful to feel the honoring of the feminine at the 64 Yogini Temple, and also see the contrast of the difficulties women of India are currently facing, and finally standing up to!
Over 20 years ago a teacher said to me that being on the spiritual path is like dying fabric indigo blue. To do that, you keep dipping the fabric into the dye and each time the fabric becomes darker…..until it is a rich indigo color.
This is what it felt like to be there. Refuge took on a new meaning. The outer landscape kept shifting, the smells, sounds, and chaos of India often jarring.
Traveling, living, eating, with 20 people certainly had some challenges, yet this actually was one of the precious aspects of the pilgrimage. I felt that it was a living, breathing lesson of tolerance, acceptance, flexibility, and resilience. We know we have to harmonize when we go to a weekend training to offer the dance. But to sustain this over six weeks is to be able to take these qualities into our everyday life. This is where the rubber meets the road, as they say!
One unique aspect was that I danced the same praise throughout the pilgrimage. This allowed the quality of Sublime Intelligence to really saturate my being. I have been dancing the same Mandala of Tara dance again and again, and even after all these years, it’s wondrous to see how different aspects of it light up and ‘ah-ha’…… that experiential taste of mind, vast….spacious….. the heart blossoming open, Tara infusing every breath.
It’s hard to pinpoint one favorite place, all the experiences were like pearls on a necklace. I will bring into focus our time in Tiruvannamalai. In this timeless place I felt as if I lived there forever. The mountain Arunachala was a mighty presence, standing tall and majestic. The part of town where we stayed, near Ramana Maharshi’s ashram, was filled with hundreds of people from all over the world who come there to bask and deepen in the waves of devotion.
We were blessed to be there for full moon. Every full moon up to 700,000 people come from all over to circumambulate the mountain! The power of that accumulated devotion is overwhelming.
The caves where Ramana Maharshi meditated were sublime. The morning before leaving I went to sit in one of the caves. I heard this sadhu who cares for the cave shrine singing the most enchanting raga. I didn’t know what he was saying, but I could feel the love in his heart pulling all the love out of everyone there.
Our last costumed mandala dance at the College of Engineering, felt like the culmination of all that we gathered before. At first we seemed so out of place. (90% young men, and a small group of women in the audience). Then Mother Tara spoke to me. She said to send prayers of healing to all these men that they honor the women, that there be harmony and equanimity between the sexes, that the love of the Goddess pour into each person there, that their heart be full so that they never feel the impulse to lash out in violence against anyone.
That evening many of us felt so in tune with the dance, the dancer became the dance. We were under a full moon out in the open warm air. At the end, everyone cheered. Some of the men came up to us with so much love and light in their eyes when we finished! It was so heart warming.
Our next chapter in the foothills of the Himalayas also left an indelible impression. Taking teachings from realized teachers in Tso Pema, visiting with Tai Situ Rinpoche, exploring the caves above Tso Pema ~ simply being surrounded by this culture of deep devotion and respect for the sublime and sacred, ignited a new level in the joys of practice.
When I returned home I felt shifts in the way that I related to my family, friends, my activities, even the grocery store clerks, and especially the way I felt while teaching my classes at the addiction recovery facility. There is an easier flow of compassion, more appreciation and gratitude for the gifts of this life and the grace to be able to share them. I look forward to teaching at Kauai summer camp and seeing everyone there!
With love and appreciation for everyone,
Phyllis was invited to write an article for the Northwester Dharma news. It captures some of the beauty and sense of what our mission was……