Refuge and Bodhicitta
Khenpo's Bio
Tara Practice
Guru Rinpoche
Nyala Lineage
ODN Defined Tsok

Preliminary to the Seven Branches are the two vital aspects of refuge and the generation of the Bodhisattva attitude. These precede any other Dharma activity. The very first thing we do is to take refuge. Again, this is done with respect, here, to Green Tara. So we must have this visualization, first of all, fixed in our mind, realizing her to be present, and through that realization we take refuge in her.

When we take refuge, we're doing it not just by ourselves, but we visualize that all around us, and together with us, all other living beings are also taking refuge. Understanding the central importance of the refuge, we visualize that on our right side our father of this lifetime is bowing down and taking refuge, on our left our mother is there bowing down taking refuge, and around us all living beings without exception are also taking refuge, receiving the refuge and protection from Green Tara, but, principally, our mother and father, as they are those toward whom we owe the greatest debt of gratitude, because it is through their kindness that we came into this world and gained the present wonderful opportunity to receive the refuge, protection, and guidance of Green Tara.

With that in mind, we take Refuge. We ask for refuge from this moment on, until we attain enlightenment due to the help of Green Tara.

Having taken Refuge, we do the next central aspect of the practice, which is the generation of the Bodhisattva attitude. Both of these are preliminary to, precede, the seven other aspects of worship.

The generation of the Bodhisattva attitude means that we take refuge, we engage in the practice, we proceed on the path to enlightenment, not for our own sake, but putting away selfish goals, selfish motivation, we do so for the sake of all living beings. In other words, we're concerned to practice refuge, to attain enlightenment, not for our own sake alone, but rather for all living beings, and this is the Bodhisattva attitude.

This must be done not just in a formal manner, where we just say it, but rather it has to arise from the depths of our heart, we have to be engaging in this practice from the deepest motivation to benefit other living beings.

When we engage in this practice, starting from the very first, before we take refuge and generate this altruistic Bodhisattva attitude, and before we engage in the seven aspects of worship, it's vital that we realize that in front of us, in the sky, looking down upon us, observing us, being present for us, is Green Tara herself. She is the principal deity toward whom we are engaging in this practice, but she is not alone. Surrounding her on all sides are the twenty-one Taras. So, she is in the center, she is the principal one, but then you have all twenty-one Taras surrounding. And around them, on all sides, are the Buddhas of the past, the Buddhas of the present, the Buddhas of the future, the Buddhas of all ten directions -- throughout limitless space, in all ten directions, all of the Buddhas throughout the infinity of space are present. In addition to them, all of the Bodhisattvas are present. In addition to them are what are called the Shravakas and the Pratyekabuddhas, these are those who attain Arhatship, or liberation, following the lesser vehicle, the Hinayana. They are there, as are all other beings throughout space and time who have generated in their hearts this altruistic aspiration to attain perfect enlightenment for the sake of all living beings. That is, all those who've attained or generated the Bodhisattva attitude -- they too are present. We are going for refuge to all of these beings.

All of these deities, all of these enlightened beings that we are visualizing in front of us in the sky, are not just there in empty space, but are there in the pure land of Green Tara. That pure land is called Yulod Kurpa, which means "the Turquoise-colored Pureland". This is her heavenly, or celestial, paradise, which is complete with all aspects of a diving paradise, and is characterized by this turquoise color. This entire assembly arises here in this green pure land. This is the name of Her celestial paradise, where living beings go to attain enlightenment. Something should be said about this turquoise-colored paradise. It resembles some sort of fantastic heavenly rock 'n roll party. The deities there are filled with bliss, spending their time in dance and song, special enlightened dance and song, so that if ordinary beings even perceive it, even see it, they are filled with a sense of happiness and faith.

When we're visualizing Green Tara and the enlightened deities, this is the setting, the environment in which they arise, these enlightened beings in this land where all of the beings are so happy and are engaged in dancing and singing. We should understand of this paradise of Green Tara that if we were to go there, if we were born there, our experience would have not even a hint of any of the miseries we have on earth, certainly none of the miseries of birth, sickness, old-age, and death.

As a matter of fact, all of the deities there (if we were to look at their appearance, we would say that they're sixteen years old, never getting older, never getting younger) have bodies that are like a sixteen year old's. They're engaged in dancing and singing, but every sound made in the dances and the songs is a Dharma sound; in other words, it brings enlightenment to those who hear it. No other sounds are there. The music is played by what are called the "gandharvas". A gandharva is a celestial or heavenly musician. So this is the nature of the pure land of turquoise color.

The process by which we're doing this, at first, is what we call a process of imagination. In other words, we are imagining such a sight in front of us in the sky, Green Tara, all of these enlightened beings, and this fabulous heavenly Pureland of enjoyment and music, and so forth. We're imagining this, we're generating it from our imagination to begin with, but what we do then, the key thing that's done, then, is the invocation (it's the same word you would use for invitation).

We're actually asking that Green Tara manifest herself from where she is, and all of the other living beings we invite, we invoke their presence, and through their compassion and their enlightened activity, they come and they inhabit our visualization. In other words, the actual Green Tara comes and enters into the imagined, the visualized Green Tara, and they become undifferentiated. So that's the actual Green Tara there, it's not just imagined, but we invoke her presence and through Her compassion She comes. Likewise, all the other enlightened beings, and the pure land itself, manifest in front of us in reality, not just through imagination.

We engage in this process of the invocation of the deities into the visualized assembled field of refuge. The process is the same as if we were inviting an honored guest. First, we set the table. We prepare the seats, the cushions, and everything else. Then we invite the guest. We now have a place where they can sit and things we can offer to them. So, first, we do that work of setting up the visualization, and then we invoke the deities, ask them to come, to manifest themselves, to enter into this visualization.

After we have done this, after they have entered into the visualization and are actually present, then we engage in the various aspects of worship that we described before, the seven-fold aspects of worship.

After engaging in these seven aspects of worship, from the bowing down to the dedication, we engage in some other types of worship; for instance, making a prayer request that Green Tara and the other enlightened beings bestow or facilitate a state of peace and happiness in this world.

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