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Columnists - Yeshe Chodon - Buddhist Tradition

Yeshe Chodon

Buddhist Tradition series

Red Tara Practice

1999 by Yeshe Chodon

Red Tara The being who has been Tara through many lifetimes set her aspiration to be the ultimate in compassion. Her vow is to protect all beings if they do nothing more than call her name.

This month I have the temerity to write about Red Tara practice, unhampered, as Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the Car Talk brothers, would say, by the thought process. My qualifications are minimal at best: I attended a weekend Red Tara Empowerment a few weekends ago, and I bought a few books. I have done a short version of the practice daily since the ceremony, but have not attended longer sessions, although those are available in my city.

Perhaps my protestations of humility will make up for my hutzpah.

How can I summarize this experience which has so profoundly deepened my faith and my joy in practice? The results are exactly as stated by the teachers, and they are astonishing. The four qualities: equanimity, compassion, love, and joy become more consistent within the personality. One glimpses, and for periods of time enters, "the pure state of the Noble Mother Tara, the state of perfect bliss, complete awareness, and unobstructed compassion."

Q. Why should one participate in Red Tara practice?
A. Quoting Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche:

The heaviness and solidity of phenomena, including your own corporeal form, give way to the recognition that the essential nature of all phenomena is emptiness, wisdom, and compassion. As you return to the recognition of your original pure Buddha nature, your own compassion becomes unobstructed. What is a greater miracle than this?

Q. How long does it take?
Rinpoche says it is possible to attain this awareness within our current lifetime.

The blessings of Tara practice come so quickly that you can regain recognition of your original non-dual awareness in this very lifetime, or at least at the moment of death.

Q. What obligation or commitment must I make?
A. A commitment to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. A commitment to daily practice following the empowerment. A commitment to bodichitta motivation. In their mercy, the lamas have provided short versions of the practice we can fit into our frenetic lives.

No text is meant to stand on its own. To understand Tara practice, it is essential to receive oral transmission by a qualified teacher.However, the following provide excellent introduction to the subject:
Red Tara Commentary Red Tara Commentary: Red Tara: An Open Door to Bliss and Ultimate Awareness by Chagdud Khadro is a clear introduction to Tara practice. Chagdud Khadro, whose birth name is Jane Tromge, is the wife of His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche. She is herself a lama of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Both Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche and Chagdud Kahdro travel the world giving empowerments and teachings.

Her book is available online at Padma Publishing: http://www.padmabooks.com/PPBOOKS.HTM which is the publishing arm of the Chagdud Gonpa Foundation.

Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche Tara: A Red Tara Practice is a small booklet translated in accordance with the oral instructions of Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, also available through Padma Publishing. This is briefer, but contains concise introduction, and is another essential resource.

Red Tara: The Wish-Fulfilling Essence with Tsog Tape available at http://www.tibetantreasures.com/Tthtml/Pptapes.htm

Tara practice involves prayers, symbolic offerings, studying the nature of Tara, and visualizing Tara. Then one experiences oneself as Tara.

Quoting Chagdud Khadro:

Empowerment is necessary for this stage, self-visualization...it is empowerment that enables us to actualize Tara's qualities of enlightened body, speech and mind. The process begins by studying representations of Tara. This is not confusing the representation with the reality of Tara. The representation would be a painting or diagram or written description or oral explanation. The reality of Tara is the female Buddha, she who was, "at the level of absolute truth"..."simultaneously the princess who paid homage to a buddha and the mother of that buddha."

She is represented thus:
Red Tara, (Tibetan: drol ma mar mo): Red in colour with one face and two hands, the right hand is in the mudra (gesture) of supreme generosity holding a red vase extended across the knee. The left hand is held to the heart with the thumb and forefinger holding the stem of a red and blue utpala flower blossoming at the left ear. Slightly fierce, with three eyes and youthful, she is adorned with flowing silks of green and blue, adorned with gold and jewel ornaments, gold tiara and the like; seated with the right leg slightly extended in a relaxed manner and the left drawn up. On a moon disc and multi-coloured lotus seat encircled by a blue-orange nimbus and an red areola she sits surrounded by a lush green landscape. At the front, in a golden bowl, auspicious fruit is offered.

So we begin by examining these details of the paintings,statues, or drawings which symbolize spiritual attainments and qualities.

Then we recite prayers of refuge, of bodhichitta intention, and invocation of blessings. The lama confers certain blessings at stages of the ceremony. We make symbolic offerings at other times. One is constantly engaged; there is no lengthy silent meditation.

The ceremony draws to an end as do all Tibetan Buddhist ceremonies, with prayers of dedication. Quoting Chagdud Khadro:

So few beings have the opportunity to generate merit; most ...are completely enveloped in karmic patterns that create harm for others and more suffering for themselves. Practitioners are among the fortunate few...Like a raindrop dissolving into the ocean, one's merit becomes part of the limitless benefit the buddhas and bodhisattvas emanate for sentient beings.

Dedicating the merit protects practitioners from developing false pride in practice and from undercutting, by nonvirtue, the merit they have generated.

Then one has the opportunity to wish for the enlightenment of all beings. Other ending prayers are offered.

In my case, over the ensuing weeks I came to feel the compassion, generosity, and constancy of Tara's protection. I did not look for it nor anticipate it, but most surely it was as Chagdud Khadro says:"Once we have made our commitment of faith in Tara, an extraordinary sense of blessing and protection envelops us."


Lama Inge Sandvoss I had the good fortune (or was it the result of lifetimes of karma?) to receive the Red Tara empowerment from Lama Inge Sandvoss. Her impeccable rendering of the teachings, and her contagious joy are combined with patience and openness. Lama Inge was trained by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche and is today director of Padma Ling, a Buddhist center in Spokane, Washington. (509) 747-1559 vip@worldpeacenet.com

http://www.snowcrest.net/chagdud/main/events.htm Listing of all the Chagdud Gonpa Foundation centers and their events. Follow these links to find a center in your region. Many of these centers list Red Tara practice in their calendars.

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Yeshe Chodon's Column previously published at: Suite101.com

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