Read More: Conclusion of Monlam, May 27, 2018

So happy to be connecting with all of you one last time and to have the opportunity to share the exciting conclusion of the Monlam!

Dressed in white for our preliminary morning practices, we danced and chanted Beloved Tara, and Refuge and Bodhicitta. We then invoked Mother Tara and recited the Seven Purifications. Next, we cast a protective circle with a visualized vajra in our right hand and phurba in our left, as our umdze chanted the mantras of protection. We continued with Dukkar and Calling Tara from the Heart. Dancing Calling Tara from the Heart together is a blissful experience–the words inspired by a Dudjom Rinpoche sadhana are so evocative and powerful that they, along with the choreography, take us to the very core of our being.

We were then led into chanting The Daily Prayer about the fundamental nature of our mind: we are, in fact, limitless – it is only misperception that limits our understanding of who we are and what we can become. Prema reminded us that this prayer is the essence of our practice, which strives to dissolve the veils of the mind and align us with the truth. For us, this series of practices in the morning has become a powerful way of recreating the foundation daily for the offering rituals that followed.

Determining the mandalas for later in the day was a Herculean task. Prema strives to give everyone a chance to dance the Praise they feel called to do as well as increase the training of new dance leaders. I am learning to unwind the mandala, so I requested Tara #1, Swift Protection.

We were happy to head for lunch. Our two big buses took us to a delicious meal in town–a multi-colored buffet with selections to satisfy everyone.

After lunch, we began the offerings, which included  the Eight Precious Offerings, the Dance of the Five Wisdom Dakinis, and offering the  copper mandala composed of precious stones representing infinite universes. We offered the Twenty One Praises of Tara with the masked dancers and the turning of three concurrent Mandalas!  It was incredibly powerful and as full a schedule as it sounds–the accumulation of offerings, real and visualized, filled the space with a sense of generosity, richness, and profound accomplishment.

 

 

We chanted sections of the text, which gave us an opportunity to connect deeply with the meaning behind the offerings. Guided by her powerful experience in Lourdes and a life-long commitment to exploring the many faces of the Divine, Prema included not only the traditional Buddhist sources of refuge, but all realized beings of all spiritual traditions, so we offered to an infinite array of Enlightened Ones from all times and all cultures.

In the same way, the long life prayer we offered to Prema–a traditional Tibetan way of directing of the energy raised through practice to the long life and good health of the teacher and the lineage–can be used to celebrate and pray for all authentic wisdom teachings, teachers and lineages. Who are your sources of refuge? They can all be included!

My particular wish for this prayer is that we use it to strengthen our communities and safeguard our lineage, of which we are all holders, by practicing it after dedicating our daily practice to the happiness and freedom of all beings. It was purposely shortened from a longer version to only 2 minutes in order to encourage us to practice it. You can download the music from the Tara Dhatu website here and dance it with your circles: I will make a video available soon to demonstrate the simple choreography.

 

Throughout our time at Paradise on Earth and in Brasilia, our talented and tireless musicians filled our hearts with joy, and their presence gave vitality and inspiration to every moment of our practice.

To seal the energy we raised over the course of the retreat and Monlam, we dedicated the merit we generated to the healing, empowering and awakening of all beings and to peace for Mother Earth.

Willing hands cut the mantra cord and put the mandala stones in little pouches. Prema and team gave every person who approached, including audience members, these tokens of remembrance, a physical witness to the wonder that we created together.

As we reflected on the Monlam, we realized the magnitude of the undertaking and the sincere effort that had been made to fulfill Prema’s vision for this Festival of Prayer, Festival of Peace.

So many people contributed to make this event happen, and we all felt deep gratitude, particularly to Myri for all her hard work and determination. Om Tare!

As I look through the photos many of us have taken, I see once again the truth of the teachings: Taras are many–21 does not begin to cover the variety:

 

Prema’s final prayer for us was to promote harmony in our sanghas, in our communities through forgiveness, compassion and patience. We all make mistakes. The question is, are we going to respond with judgement and blame or with love? Ferocious Compassion tells us that sometimes we need to be firm and clear when someone is harming themselves or others. We can say no and set boundaries, true–in fact we have to, for our own benefit and the benefit of others. But we can strive, as our guiding principle, to bring people together, to resolve conflict, to forgive. Together, we can do so much! And we have to. The world needs us!

Directing the power of the mantra OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA and the merit of this Monlam with us, is an opportunity for deep healing. We are interconnected. We need each other not only to survive but to thrive. Let’s keep dancing together, hand in hand, to embody the kindness and peace we aspire to see reflected back to us by our neighbors, our sangha, our families, and our planet.

May all be auspicious! Sarva Mangalam!

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

Svaha, Soha!

Photos by Amber Roniger, Abha, and community, and text by Anjali