Our last day at the retreat center before leaving for our next location in the city of Brasilia…
At our inspiring morning practice, Prema gave us a teaching on working with challenging circumstances. The current situation in Brazil is delicate. The truckers’ are striking, cars are lined up for miles to get gas. Flights being grounded as a result of fuel shortage. As in other parts of the world, people are resisting and voicing their dissatisfaction. For us, the question is: how do we step into this climate of unrest in a way that maintains our ability to be of greatest benefit, our hearts open and compassionate?
Prema talked about her experience of being robbed in the past and how her teacher, Lama Tenzin, instructed her to pray for the thieves so that they might enjoy the very possessions they had taken from her! What a concept! To illustrate the reason behind that approach, she told the traditional story of the farmer and his horse. His response to his neighbors’ assessments of his changes in fortune was always the word “maybe.” We never truly know whether what arises is positive or negative until the entire story plays out, so rather than be attached to specific results, maintaining an open mind and a compassionate heart are the best antidotes to the suffering that we experience when our expectations are not realized.
She reminded us that we listened to our hearts in coming to this monlam. We have had ecstatic moments as well as challenges so far, and in going forward there is no guarantee of how everything will evolve. This applies to our daily lives as well. In each moment, we bring what we have, and no one can ask any more of us than that.
Prema once asked Tai Situ Rinpoche, one of the greatest Tibetan Buddhist teachers of our time, what vow we should take and he said, “do your best”. We don’t know how the situation will evolve with the flights and departures from here, but we aspire to meet what does arise with love, and exclaim, “Om Tare!”
In answer to a question about the mantra recitation that we are maintaining day and night during the Monlam, Prema said that we can use mantra to eliminate restrictions in the mind and open to blessings that are available to us. One of her main teachers, Lama Tenzin, said that daily practice maintains your meditation abilities while in retreat it is possible to generate intense insight.
The meditators here are holding a vajra in one hand and a green cord attached to the image of Tara at the center of our altar. Holding the vajra represents the compassionate action of the practice. The cord starts with the statue of Tara because she is our Vajra Mystress, the head of our lineage, and saying the mantra builds connection with Her. At the end of the Monlam, we will cut the cord and give a piece to each of us as well as stones from Mandala. All of these sacred objects are props to help us remember: our job is to take into the world the blessings that we have received here.
After our morning practice we received the good news that our buses had enough gas to bring us to town. We finished our packing for the drive to Brasilia. Om Tare!
We checked into the Manhattan hotel, a very comfortable and lovely residence. We had a few hours to unpack and have an early dinner as the local team organized the meeting space for our practice. Our comfortable luxury bus dropped us at a light-filled circular building, with wood floors and glorious, exposed beams. We delighted in knowing that this was our new home for the rest of the Monlam.
The evening offerings opened with a dance and a chant by several women from indigenous tribes of the area. Prema explained that wherever she offers the dances publicly she invites representatives of indigenous people to open the event in order to honor not only the local spirits but also the local and original population.
An electrifying dance by Prajwal followed—the protector Mahakala, which Prema explained is the essence of Ferocious Compassion. The stage shook as Prajwal wove a magnetic web around us.
The Praises were then danced by the masked Taras, and I stood behind as a protector, ensuring the integrity of the crescent moon configuration after each praise. The dancers who have been working with the masks continue to report how profound the practice is. The masks will stay with Myri in Brazil this year and she will offer two trainings, one in Brasilia and one in the far south city of Caxias. Mekare has several invitations to do mask work next year. Stay in touch with Tara Dhatu for dates.
Another set of offerings found our beautiful, pregnant Brazilian Tara, Dani, in the center of the circle, embodying the Goddess.
After the masks, the three mandala configuration of the Praises turned and we concluded the evening with a powerful dedication of merit. It was an exhausting and exhilarating day, and we felt that once again magic had occurred. Om Tare!
What is your aspiration for your community, your country and the world? What prayer to Tara is in your heart today? With sincerity, ask for what you need, what you are aspiring to for yourself, your loved ones and for the world. Recite the Tara mantra and dedicate your practice to the peace, healing and joy of all sentient beings!
OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA
May all beings be happy!
May all beings be free!