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