Tonasket is a small town in the high desert of central Washington. state, about 10 miles south of the Canadian border. It is a place where a deep vein of various spiritual traditions underlies everyday life.
This June a prominent Buddhist group, the Pamtingpa Buddhist Center, sponsored their 2nd Annual Tara Festival. Their teacher, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, asked them to have this festival every year as a way to offer back to their community. They did not hesitate to comply. They are a dedicated group and work tirelessly to manifest the qualities of wisdom and compassion in their community.
Beautiful sateen costumes for the dance offering were hand sewn by members of Pamtingpa. We danced in and with the open elements on Pamtingpa land, within site of the nearly completed Stupa, whose construction began last year. The dance offered us so many lessons as metaphors of life! When I introduced the Dance, I was asked to address the people that did not know much about Buddhism. I said that Tara is the like the Wind, free, open and touches everywhere. In an interview with the Dalai Lama and Taradhatu, his Holiness said that when we move the winds in our body, we call upon Tara and affect the subtle body by moving into our Wisdom channels.
About half way through the dance, the wind picked up and became ferocious ~ the Tara thangkha that was hung behind the dancers (about 6’ wide by 12’ long) started flapping briskly, like a sail. Then it cut loose from it’s base and was flapping in the wind! It was distracting to say the least, especially since it was on a wooden frame with a metal pole through the top and pvc poles through the bottom. I did not want anyone to get hurt, and yet I knew we had to stay the course to complete our offering. Although there were no dance ‘protectors’ as part of our offering, our real life protectors in the form of four men stepped in to wrestle the Tara thangkha free from it’s frame and roll it up so as not to harm anyone or be ripped to pieces.
We completed the dance, the wind settled down, and at the end we invited the audience into the circle to share and sing the Prayer of Motivation. We dedicated our offering to all those across the planet who are being displaced and harmed by out of control elements. May all beings everywhere feel safe and held by our precious Mother Earth and Mother Tara!
Someone from the audience shared their experience …. they thought the energy felt a little ‘constricted’ at first, but when the wind picked up and the Tara thangkha blew off, he felt like the energy really opened everything up. Certainly by the end we all felt a level of bliss and clarity and spaciousness. Tara’s essence manifested through the natural elements. We didn’t need the physical representation of the thangkha. Yes, the dharma wheel was turning once again, blessed by the One who blazes with glory!!