The excitement is building—the Monlam starts tomorrow! Today is a day of practice and preparation centered around the Mandala of masked dancers.
As we described yesterday, the practice of mask dancing is a spiritual path in itself. The relationship between a dancer and her mask has many levels, and Mekare has been teaching us layer after layer of the practice. And this is just the beginning…
Our morning included the preliminaries and Dukkar, to set our intentions for the day and invoke the Thousand-armed and Thousand-eyed White Umbrella Protectress.
In the afternoon, we set up three mandalas, two of which will dance with masks. Prema painstakingly and lovingly tried to honor the many the requests made by the dancers in terms of the Praises they wanted to dance and whether they were ready to engage fully with the masks. Despite the shape of the temple, which required further orientation the next day, we managed to complete three mandalas turning simultaneously. My own experience of leading the third mandala, supported by Prema and Noelle, revealed what has been accomplished already in my practice and what I need to focus on next in my training.
After lunch, dressed in gold, the first two groups and a few alternates experienced the process of mask dancing from the meticulous costuming with headdress and wig, robes, to the reverent relationship with the mask. Each masked dancer was paired with an attendant from group two. Over the next few days, they will exchange positions.
Noelle worked tirelessly with Mekare to adjust the costumes, headdresses and masks. So much love, care, and devotion, and patience, too, as the configuration and performance glitches were worked through. As an audience member for the first run-through, I can say that watching the 22 masked manifestations felt like we had called Tara from the heart, and she appeared: the power and presence and magnetic quality of the masked dancers truly made the outside world to fall away… Magical!
Dancers reported merging with the masks, having very different sense of space, and Mekare had said that the experience creates an altered state. As a result, the protectors or attendants helped the first group stay grounded and shift positions after the birth of each new Tara. Tomorrow we will try the birth from the center of the crescent moon mandala.
Prema reminded us that in witnessing the Mandala Dance we have the opportunity to experience letting go of self obsession, and realize our true nature. Every aspect of the experience—watching, dancing, or meditating, creates a powerful field of energy. And you can join us in offering prayers for peace and healing for yourselves and the world!
In the afternoon, Prema led us again to the white circular temple on the hill—our last day there: I was writing yesterday’s blog but was told it was beautiful!
In the evening, Prema guided us through a Vajrasattva meditation in preparation for the Monlam. Then we had the blessing of watching Prajwal Ratna dance Vajrasattva. The son of Prema’s teacher, he is the lineage holder of the Nepalese CharyaNritya, a Vajrayana Buddhist dance tradition. We were also blessed by a teaching on the Buddhist philosophical foundation of Vajrasattva practice by Venerable Karma Lekshe Tsomo, an inspiring American born nun, scholar and social activist in the Tibetan tradition who has devoted her life to improving the condition of Buddhist nuns, particularly in Asia. She created Sakyadhita, which you can read about here.
We concluded the evening dancing three mandalas simultaneously, and I was able to dance Transformer of Poison, who consumes negativity and turns it into the energy of wisdom, compassion and power.
What is your prayer today for yourself and for the world? Join the celebration daily by touching into this blog, reciting the Green Tara Mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA, and dedicating your prayers to the realization of peace, healing, ultimate liberation. Om Tare!
May all beings be happy!
May all beings be free!
Photos by Amber Roniger, text by Anjali