News From the Dancing Taras

Teaching the Mandala Dance of Tara has been an exhilarating, inspiring, and deeply rewarding experience. For the last 26 years I have traveled about this beautiful ball of earth sharing the profound practice of Tara’s Dance. Every day I receive letters from students and friends describing their experiences with the dance. It is a journey of consciousness. On these pages I will share with you some of the stories and pictures from our Tara Dhatu family. I will also share some insights about the practice as it reveals itself to me. Feel free to comment, to question, to contribute Prema Dasara

Read More: Monlam Day 4, May 26, 2018

Greetings from Brasilia–so glad you have connected with us today!

Our morning was left open so we could enjoy a local fair, and I hear that the artisanal offerings there were plentiful despite the trucker’s strike which was still in place. Prajwal Ratna taught again and one Tara reported learning from him how to create sacred gesture or mudra from the heart instead of as a habitual movement. Prajwal is a priest from the Newar tribe and for him, as he explained in a lively dialogue with Gen Lekshe and our community a few nights ago, the dance is the spiritual path, a way of engaging fully with the enlightened energies embodied by the deities. What a privilege it has been to have him with us!

The mantra recitation continued, as our practitioners transitioned with patience and grace from the hotel, to the our new Monlam location: these efforts have enabled the mantra to keep flowing day and night, in two hour shifts. Another magnificent blessing for us and for the world. Om Tare!

Each day we were guided to fulfill the sadhana Prema had assembled for us. Based on a Mind Treasure of the great yogi, Chokjur Lingpa, we danced and chanted through all the elements of the practice. From the preliminaries to the dedication of merit to cap our day, Prema guided us with love and endless patience. Through various configurations of the mandalas, dealing skillfully with the arising circumstances and challenges, she embodied for us the Wisdom of Accomplishment–everything done in the right time, in the right way, with the right amount of effort.

Every day we are filled with gratitude for the team of Brazilian Taras, led by Myri, who have worked tirelessly to make this Monlam possible. They have encountered many challenges and we see them smiling, doing their very best to make this experience a positive one for us in all ways. We bow to their devotion and efforts and are deeply appreciative of what they have done for us.

In the evening we were blessed with a dance of Vajrapani by Prajwal–blue and ferocious, shaking the earth with his wisdom wrath. We also enjoyed a traditional song and a Tibetan opera aria and dance by our young Nepalese Tara, Sonam. Her grace and sincerity touched us all and evoked the colors and sounds of her homeland.

If you are facing challenges today, what do you need to address them? Tara is the Swift Protectress, coming in an instant to the aid of all who call Her. What protection do you long for? With sincerity, ask for what you need, what you are aspiring to for yourself, your loved ones and for the world. Recite the Tara mantra and dedicate your practice so that all beings may receive the pure medicine of the dharma and face their challenges with exactly what they need in this moment!

OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

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

Read More: Monlam Day 3, May 25, 2018

Our last day at the retreat center before leaving for our next location in the city of Brasilia…

At our inspiring morning practice, Prema gave us a teaching on working with challenging circumstances. The current situation in Brazil is delicate. The truckers’ are striking, cars are lined up for miles to get gas.  Flights being grounded as a result of fuel shortage. As in other parts of the world, people are resisting and voicing their dissatisfaction. For us, the question is: how do we step into this climate of unrest in a way that maintains our ability to be of greatest benefit, our hearts open and compassionate? 

 

Prema talked about her experience of being robbed in the past and how her teacher, Lama Tenzin, instructed her to pray for the thieves so that they might enjoy the very possessions they had taken from her! What a concept! To illustrate the reason behind that approach, she told the traditional story of the farmer and his horse. His response to his neighbors’ assessments of his changes in fortune was always the word “maybe.” We never truly know whether what arises is positive or negative until the entire story plays out, so rather than be attached to specific results, maintaining an open mind and a compassionate heart are the best antidotes to the suffering  that we experience when our expectations are not realized.

She reminded us that we listened to our hearts in coming to this monlam. We have had ecstatic moments as well as challenges so far, and in going forward there is no guarantee of how everything will evolve. This applies to our daily lives as well. In each moment, we bring what we have, and no one can ask any more of us than that.

Prema once asked Tai Situ Rinpoche, one of the greatest Tibetan Buddhist teachers of our time, what vow we should take and he said, “do your best”. We don’t know how the situation will evolve with the flights and departures from here, but we aspire to meet what does arise with love, and exclaim, “Om Tare!”

 

In answer to a question about the mantra recitation that we are maintaining day and night during the Monlam, Prema said that we can use mantra to eliminate restrictions in the mind and open to blessings that are available to us. One of her main teachers, Lama Tenzin, said that daily practice maintains your meditation abilities while in retreat it is possible to generate intense insight.

The meditators here are holding a vajra in one hand and a green cord attached to the image of  Tara at the center of our altar. Holding the vajra represents the  compassionate action of the practice. The cord starts with the statue of Tara because she is our Vajra Mystress, the head of our lineage, and saying the mantra builds connection with Her. At the end of the Monlam, we will cut the cord and give a piece to each of us as well as stones from Mandala. All of these sacred objects are props to help us remember: our job is to take into the world the blessings that we have received here.

After our morning practice we received the good news that our buses had enough gas to bring us to town. We finished our packing for the drive to Brasilia. Om Tare!

We checked into the Manhattan hotel, a very comfortable and lovely residence. We had a few hours to unpack and have an early dinner as the local team organized the meeting space for our practice. Our comfortable luxury bus dropped us at a light-filled circular building, with wood floors and glorious, exposed beams. We delighted in knowing that this was our new home for the rest of the Monlam.

The evening offerings opened with a dance and a chant by several women from indigenous tribes of the area.   Prema explained that wherever she offers the dances publicly she invites representatives of indigenous people to open the event in order to honor not only the local spirits but also the local and original population.

An electrifying dance by Prajwal followed—the protector Mahakala, which Prema explained is the essence of Ferocious Compassion. The stage shook as Prajwal wove a magnetic web around us.

The Praises were then danced by the masked Taras, and I stood behind as a protector, ensuring the integrity of the crescent moon configuration after each praise. The dancers who have been working with the masks continue to report how profound the practice is. The masks will stay with Myri in Brazil this year and she will offer two trainings, one in Brasilia and one in the far south city of Caxias.  Mekare has several invitations to do mask work next year. Stay in touch with Tara Dhatu for dates.

Another set of offerings found our beautiful, pregnant Brazilian Tara, Dani, in the center of the circle, embodying the Goddess.

After the masks, the three mandala configuration of the Praises turned and we concluded the evening with a powerful dedication of merit. It was an exhausting and exhilarating day, and we felt that once again magic had occurred. Om Tare!

What is your aspiration for your community, your country and the world? What prayer to Tara is in your heart today? With sincerity, ask for what you need, what you are aspiring to for yourself, your loved ones and for the world. Recite the Tara mantra and dedicate your practice to the peace, healing and joy of all sentient beings!

OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

 

Read More: Monlam Day 2, May 24, 2018

Glad you are with us today!

Prajwal continued teaching his morning class, which was deeply appreciated.

Dressed in white, we opened the morning with our preliminary practices—Beloved Tara, Refuge and Bodhicitta, and Shantideva. We then invoked Mother Tara, took refuge in her and danced Dukkar, to create a protective umbrella around our temple. Calling Tara from the Heart, we remembered that everything arises in the mind, and we deepened our sense of interconnectedness.

After a break, we changed into our gold skirts and cholis and draped beautiful scarves in preparation for  dancing the Eight Precious Offerings. We engaged in the extensive seven purifications and offered the traditional ringed mandala, every stone representing a universe.

The Dakinis once again poured their wisdom nectar into the top of our heads. Prema gave us a teaching about the power of offerings and their role in our development.  Why do we offer? To generate the refined energy called merit.

There are three main gifts inherent in this merit: our mind becomes more stable and clear, so we see the interconnectedness of all beings. As a result, we become more naturally generous. Secondly, it allows us to appreciate what we already have—the richness of our lives. When we feel into that space, once again, generosity can more easily arise. Thirdly, the practice of generosity and the merit it creates energizes us for our work in the world— we are empowered to carry out our enlightened activities.

Is there anywhere you feel stuck? Anything you would like to accomplish but don’t have the energy to realize? Experiment with the practice of generosity as described in yesterday’s post to generate the circumstances most auspicious for your activity.

After lunch we worked on the mandalas of the 21 Praises, walking through the positions, then dancing them to stabilize our orientation. We danced in a beautiful configuration of three mandalas. The sensation of dancing in a Mandala that was turning, next to two other turning mandalas, was extremely powerful! I danced gold Auspicious Beauty and felt connected to the earth and the gifts bestowed by the inexhaustible and fertile abundance of Enlightened mind.

At 4:00 PM, the offering goddesses danced, then the masked dancers followed by the three mandalas offering the 21 Praises to Tara. Prema has set practice goals for the Monlam, so every day we strive to accomplish them. I was talking to another Tara and we were marveling how wonderful it is to be able to accomplish practice in this delightful and nourishing way. We were sharing how the beauty of the sacred dances and chants were helping us to become more naturally disciplined.

It reminded me of the attraction aspect of our visualization: Tara is adorned with silks to attract others to her. In the same way, Prema has created practices that delight the senses, so that practice becomes a form of divine enjoyment. Of course there are days or periods of resistance for most of us, but I feel much of that is counteracted by the sacred sensory enjoyment of the music and movement.

In the evening, we were graced with Myri and Vesta dancing a new, Eight Auspicious Symbols Dance.  As with the Five Wisdom Dakinis, there was a feeling of being in a pure land and receiving teachings from the Enlightened Ones. I can’t wait to learn it! Prema told us about the meaning of the symbols, which you can read about here, and explained the Jungian idea that they have manifested from the collective unconscious over time in different cultures as carriers of universal significance.

The three mandalas then danced again, and it was my first experience watching, instead of dancing in, a Mandala Offering. One after another, radiant Taras were born and displayed their qualities. It was deeply moving to see the sangha sisters I am getting to know transform completely into their divine manifestations. Abha, Carolina and so many others who I have observed as soft spoken and gentle emerged blazing and majestic as Noble Tara in her various forms. So powerful–Om Tare!

To conclude the evening,  Gen Lekshe Tsomo gave us a teaching about merit, building on what Prema had offered in the morning. She emphasized the importance of dedicating the merit we have generated during the day so it is not dispersed, and generating refuge and bodhicitta before we go to sleep. Her advice was to try to sleep mindfully, and to investigate dream yoga if we feel we would like to deepen this.

In the morning, the recommendation was to dedicate the merit we generated while sleeping and start the day with refuge and bodhicitta once again. In this way we engage with presence in all aspects of our experience. We also discussed the meditative power of our dance lineage. Concluding the evening with chanting Om Mani Peme Hum on a melody that came to Gen Lekshe at the waterfall on the retreat center grounds, we welcomed a night of rest after such a full, rich day together.

I subsequently learned from  Gen Lekshe Tsomo that the term “Ani,” which I have heard used over the years in referring to nuns, is in fact a condescending form of address which can be translated as “auntie.” I thought I would share this as many of us belong to Tibetan Buddhist sanghas. The better way of addressing a teacher such as Gen Lekshe is with the word “Gen” (which means teacher) or Venerable. She has devoted her life to improving the condition of Buddhist nuns, particularly in Asia, who were traditionally treated as inferior to their male counterparts. Let’s support her work of empowerment by not perpetuating through our words the unjust hierarchy which is now obsolete. Om Tare!

How are you today, tonight? What prayer to Tara is in your heart? With sincerity, ask for what you need, what you are aspiring to for yourself, your loved ones and for the world. Recite the Tara mantra and dedicate your practice to the peace, healing and joy of all sentient beings!

OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

Text by Anjali, Photos by Amber Roniger

Read More: Day 1 Monlam May 23, 2018

Greetings from Paradise on Earth. After years of aspirations, devoted work and planning, today the Monlam begins! Om Tare!

Guided by Lama Sonam from the dharma center in Brasilia, we opened the Monlam with prayers for auspiciousness, blessing and dispelling obstacles. We made many offerings, including Riwo Sangchö, and we danced the Eight Precious Offerings. Myri Dakini and four of her Brazilian students had prepared The Dance of the Five Wisdom Dakinis. Exquisite in their individual choreographies, each one dancing with a small copper pitcher, they empowered us with the nectar of the five purified emotions: white Space Dakini blessed us with mirror-like wisdom, blue Water Dakini empowered us with the wisdom of the dharmadatu, gold Earth Dakini brought us the wisdom of equality, red Fire Dakini poured her nectar of discriminating awareness wisdom and green Air Dakini blessed us with the wisdom of accomplishment. The meditations narrated by Prema on the soundtrack took us deep into the transformation of our five main habitual tendencies into their corresponding powers. The combination of the music, narration and dance transported us into a pure land where we received teachings from the Dakinis themselves, and we share those blessings with you!

Prema also gave us a teaching on the power of generosity that underlies our Festival. What is a Monlam? It is a time of intensive practice that generates a tremendous amount of the refined energy we call merit. If we do not make direct offerings, we can invoke the offering goddesses to make them for us. The idea is to transcend our limited notion of what is possible and give from our heart in physical and visualized offerings.

Prema also gave instructions to the masked dancers to remain grounded within the experience of an elevated state. This is in keeping with the Tibetan tradition of anchoring in presence at all times, regardless of the quality of the experience arising. We can apply these instructions to our daily lives, remaining connected to whatever grounds us and reminds us of our true nature, like a mantra.

Prema introduced the masked version of the Mandala Dance Of the 21 Praises of Tara offering, the first of its kind, as a”herstoric” as opposed to “historic” event. In Asia in particular, women have been banned from sacred dance, so the offering brought with it a precious historical dimension. We have already alluded to the power of the masked dances, and we will offer video asap as well.

His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche, one of Prema’s main teachers, told her that given how conservative Tibetans are, the fact she created a masked version of the 21 Praises was a demonstration of her maturity in the dharma–she was taking the teachings in an entirely new direction. It was so exciting to be part of this and see Prema and Mekare’s vision, so lovingly and devotedly created, blossom before our very eyes!

In the evening, we were blessed with a dance by Prajwal Ratna: he embodied Avalokiteshvara, the Lord of Compassion, out of whose tears, according to legend, Tara was born. Prajwal gave us another experience of a deity coming to life, overflowing with the heart of compassion and the calm majesty of an enlightened being entirely dedicated to others. Fittingly, the next dance was a green Tara dance by Vesta, one of Myri Dakini’s students. She inspired us with her grace and sincere expression of the dharma.

We also offered another group of Mandalas as well, practicing the configuration of three turning at the same time. The room sparkled with a sea of gold, and we concluded the evening with profound gratitude for the bountiful gifts of the day and a dedication of all the merit we had generated.

What can you offer today for the benefit of your community, of the world? You can also invoke the Offering Goddesses and visualize vast, golden clouds of offerings, dedicating the merit you create to the realization of peace, healing and joy for the world. Join the celebration daily by touching into this blog, reciting the Green Tara Mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA, making offerings, and dedicating these gifts to the realization of peace, healing, ultimate liberation. Om Tare!

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

 

Read More: Pre-Monlam Day 3 May 22, 2018

 

The excitement is building—the Monlam starts tomorrow! Today is a day of practice and preparation centered around the Mandala of masked dancers.

As we described yesterday, the practice of mask dancing is a spiritual path in itself. The relationship between a dancer and her mask has many levels, and Mekare has been teaching us layer after layer of the practice. And this is just the beginning…

Our morning included the preliminaries and Dukkar, to set our intentions for the day and invoke the Thousand-armed and Thousand-eyed White Umbrella Protectress.

In the afternoon, we set up three mandalas, two of which will dance with masks. Prema painstakingly and lovingly tried to honor the many the requests made by the dancers in terms of the Praises they wanted to dance and whether they were ready to engage fully with the masks. Despite the shape of the temple, which required further orientation the next day, we managed to complete three mandalas turning simultaneously. My own experience of leading the third mandala, supported by Prema and Noelle, revealed what has been accomplished already in my practice and what I need to focus on next in my training.

After lunch, dressed in gold, the first two groups and a few alternates experienced the process of mask dancing from the meticulous costuming with headdress and wig, robes, to the reverent relationship with the mask. Each masked dancer was paired with an attendant from group two. Over the next few days, they will exchange positions.

Noelle worked tirelessly with Mekare to adjust the costumes, headdresses and masks. So much love, care, and devotion, and patience, too, as the configuration and performance glitches were worked through. As an audience member for the first run-through, I can say that watching the 22 masked manifestations felt like we had called Tara from the heart, and she appeared: the power and presence and magnetic quality of the masked dancers truly made the outside world to fall away… Magical!

Dancers reported merging with the masks, having very different sense of space, and Mekare had said that the experience creates an altered state. As a result, the protectors or attendants helped the first group stay grounded and shift positions after the birth of each new Tara. Tomorrow we will try the birth from the center of the crescent moon mandala.

Prema reminded us that in witnessing the Mandala Dance we have the opportunity to experience letting go of self obsession, and realize our true nature. Every aspect of the experience—watching, dancing, or meditating, creates a powerful field of energy. And you can join us in offering prayers for peace and healing for yourselves and the world!

In the afternoon, Prema led us again to the white circular temple on the hill—our last day there: I was writing yesterday’s blog but was told it was beautiful!

In the evening, Prema guided us through a  Vajrasattva meditation in preparation for the Monlam. Then we had the blessing of watching Prajwal Ratna dance Vajrasattva. The son of Prema’s teacher, he is the lineage holder of the Nepalese Charya Nritya,  a Vajrayana Buddhist dance tradition. We were also blessed by a teaching on the Buddhist philosophical foundation of Vajrasattva practice by Venerable Karma Lekshe Tsomo, an inspiring American born nun, scholar and social activist in the Tibetan tradition who has devoted her life to improving the condition of Buddhist nuns, particularly in Asia. She created Sakyadhita, which you can read about here.

We concluded the evening dancing three mandalas simultaneously, and I was able to dance Transformer of Poison, who consumes negativity and turns it into the energy of wisdom, compassion and power.

What is your prayer today for yourself and for the world? Join the celebration daily by touching into this blog, reciting the Green Tara Mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA, and dedicating your prayers to the realization of peace, healing, ultimate liberation. Om Tare!

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

Photos by Amber Roniger, text by Anjali

Read More: Pre-Monlam Day 3 (Tuesday) May 22, 2018

Premliminaries

Dukkar–Portuguese an English

Setting up the mandalas: 3 groups two that would have masks–amazing job as usual of honoring everyone’s request–got through three mandalas turning simultaneously. My own experience leading the mandala and personal process–a deep teaching

after lunch, dressed in gold, first two groups and few alternates experienced the mask dancing from the meticulous costuming and reverent relationship with the mask to, to the order: hair tied low in back, mask on, headdress and wig, the protector for each Tara was from group 2

Costume adjustments with Noelle

Masks–creascent moon arrangement with Tara’s birthed from right: learning expereince

Felt like we had called Tara and she was now here: power and presence, magnetic quality, and the outside world falls away… Truly magical!

Dancers reported merging with the masks, having another sense of space, and Mekare had said that the experience creates an altered state. As a result, the protectors (group 2) helped the first group stay grounded and shift positions after the birth of each new Tara. Tomorrow will try the birth from the center and dancing with the masks in the spiral configuration.

Teaching: witnessing the Mandala you have the opportunity to experience letting go of self obsession. Incredible opportunity in audience. Whatever you are doing–watching, dancing, meditating creates a powerful field of energy. Join us in offering prayer for peace, healing

Then we left for the temple–insert description–

Then VS meditation guided, Prawal, Nun’s teaching (Sakyadita creator), VS, and 3 mandalas

 

 

 

Read More: Pre-Monlam Day 2 May 21, 2018

 

Welcome to Pre-Monlam Day 2! We hope you feel connected to us here at the Paradise on Earth Retreat Center in Brazil–we are so happy to be able to share the experience with you and to know that you are thinking of us, too!

Yesterday was full and rich. We began morning practice with establishing Motivation, Refuge and Bodhicitta, aligning ourselves with our reasons for being here–in our lives and on retreat–as well as with our sources of refuge. We affirmed our vast motivation to lead every single sentient being to Enlightenment.

We then continued with the White Umbrella Protectress form of Tara, Dukkar. At a certain point in the dance, we walk radiating the power of the implements Dukkar holds, her right hand in the refuge mudra turning the wheel of the dharma and bestowing teachings and the left hand holding the umbrella of protection. The experience is one of constant flow of enlightened activity—wonderful opportunity to let go of the controlling mind and allowing the body’s inherent wisdom to align itself with the movements.

We also worked on our costuming throughout the day, which will have a variety of options: the base is a gold wheel skirt and choli (cropped short sleeve top traditionally used in the Indian sari). Noelle and Dani (Shrivasvati) were the seamstress dakinis, patiently adjusting their creations to allow us to feel completely comfortable. Over the base will be layered either a sari or a large scarf. In the evening, we learned how tie to the scarves in a variety of different ways to suggest the draping and regal majesty of the sari without actually wearing one.

Our morning concluded with all the dancers, divided into three groups, singing the Tara mantra with “Faith, Surrender, Send out Light” in preparation for the actual mandala. Before our lunch break, we also set up the mantra rotation list as during the Monlam, there will be a 24 hour Green Tara mantra recitation. Join us by doing a mantra recitation session and let us know on the Tara Dhatu Facebook Page how many mantras you have accumulated. The generation of merit in this way is a powerful method of calling forth the energy that will best support our practice and and our lives.

In the afternoon, we alternated between costuming sessions with the saris, practice sessions for Calling Tara from the Heart and The Eight Precious Offerings, and mask work with Mekare, while the musicians rehearsed and our newest Taras became familiar with the foundation practices.

I had the opportunity to experience the mask for the first time. We reverently approached the table and Mekare gave us the background of the creation of the masks (read more about the masks here). Mask making and mask dancing are spiritual paths and each part of the mask—from the carving of the wood, to the painting of the face and eyes is imbued with sacred power through the motivation of the mask makers and the recitation of mantra. The end result: 22 extraordinary masks including the central Tara and the 21 Manifestations were available for us to connect with and begin to inhabit. I was drawn to the copper Radiant Health and in Mekare’s profound explanation found myself deeply touched by the essence of her Praise. For me, the eye-heart connection was a empowerment, and Tara 20 answered the question I asked her. Om Tare!

After dinner–and did I mention the vegetarian and vegan food is delightful?–Barbara Gach led us in an energetic and joyful improvised dance. After dancing Calling Tara from the Heart and Om Ah Hum, I had the opportunity to teach the short version of the Long Life Prayer for Prema (it is available as an mp3 download here, along with all the other music we have been dancing to). I reminded the dancers that the goal of the prayer is not worship of an individual, but the teacher as a vehicle of the teachings. Singing and dancing this prayer, we can invoke all our teachers, lineages and communities. Based on the traditional Tibetan custom of offering a prayer to safeguard the long life and good health of the teacher, the lineage and the community, this prayer was written, composed and choreographed with the intention of providing our sangha with a short daily prayer to seal our practice after the dedication. We were able to dance the prayer through in English and Spanish, and look forward to the Portuguese version which will be forthcoming!

We were then blessed with two mask dances by Mekare. In the dimness of late evening, by the light of flickering candles, we recited the mantra in preparation for Mekare’s arrival while she entered into the sacred space of the mask and costuming backstage. When she emerged, first as Destroyer of Attachment, then as Ferocious Compassion, we were riveted by her magnetic presence and potent gestures. If you have the opportunity to attend one of her upcoming workshops, don’t miss it!

And do connect in–you are with us every step of the way! What is your intention for the Monlam? What is your prayer for yourself and for the world? Join the celebration daily by touching into this blog, reciting the Green Tara Mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA, and dedicating your prayers to the intention you have set. Om Tare!

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

Photos by Amber Roniger, text by Anjali

READ MORE: Arriving at Paraiso Na Terra May 19 2018

We are so happy to be connecting with all of you from beautiful Paradise on Earth retreat center in Brazil! May our prayers for the world unite as one voice!

As clouds gathered and prepared a shower of blessings for Mother Earth, we gathered to dance and sing Beloved Tara, Motivation and Shantideva in Portuguese and English simultaneously. Realizing Prema’s long held vision of offering translations that were rhythmically aligned to allow for a multilingual experience, we manifested our interconnectedness in this beautiful way.

The precious advice Prema then gave us applies not only to our situation here at the retreat, but also to our daily lives. She encouraged us to see the obstacles that arise as valuable opportunities for transformation, to work gently with ourselves in accepting that circumstances may not always appear as expected, and to be kind with ourselves and others. When we feel frustrated, instead of suffering in silence or lashing out in anger, we can ask for help and take care of ourselves.

When nearly 100 Taras from North and South America, Nepal, New Zealand and Russia gathered afterwards in a circle for introductions, we saw how the Divine Mother manifests across cultures and geography. We then spoke our intentions for the Monlam into the circle, offering heartfelt prayers for peace, healing, awakening, love, animal welfare, joy and fun (from one of our children participants), among many others. What is your prayer for the Monlam–your deepest aspiration for yourself and for the world? You may write it down in your journal or place a card with this prayer on your altar and dedicate your practice to its realization.

Over the course of the next week, we invite you to be part of the celebration by touching into this blog, reciting the Green Tara Mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA, and dedicating your prayers to the intention you have set today. Om Tare!

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

 

    Written by Anjali, Photographs by Amber Roniger

Read More: Pre-Monlam Day 1 May 20, 2018

Sunny skies and cool temperatures welcomed us to Day 1 Pre-Monlam. 

After generating our Motivation and dancing refuge and bodhicitta through Shantideva, Myri Dakini taught us the practice of Dukkar, Thousand-armed and Thousand-eyed White Umbrella Tara. In this lineage, Mother Tara appears as a Protectress to bestow upon us the confidence to move through life fearlessly. As the Power of Compassionate Action, Dukkar holds an implement in each of her hands to dispel, subjugate and transform all negativity. This beautiful dance guides us through Dukkar’s blessings of the five elements, earth, water, fire, air and space, and we embody her skillful activities. The dancers in the circle end fingertips to fingertips, forming a majestic protective umbrella to shelter all beings.

Prema’s instructions to us about the retreat extended once again beyond its confines: she reminded us about bringing awareness into our response to circumstances: the circumstances are not the problem, our attitude is.  When we align ourselves with what is, we perceive the perfection of the present moment. It may not correspond to what we expected, so it is up to us to greet it with an open mind and heart. The question is: are we going to turn towards the heart of love or turn our back on it and suffer? It is our choice.

The afternoon was dedicated to learning how to relate to and dance with the sacred masks Mekare had created in Bali. I will be experiencing them for the first time this afternoon and will write about it in the next post! We also practiced the Eight Precious Offerings dance, our sangha brother Frank painted prayer flags with the names of all our dear donors, a number of us learned how to adorn ourselves in saris, and the men practiced the Dance of the Qualities to prepare for dancing as Protectors in the Mandala.

The afternoon ended with a magical gathering: as the winds rose, we spiraled into the circular temple at the top of the hill, bowing before a shrine to Tara. There we danced Motivation, Shantideva, Refuge and Bodhicitta, and the Dance of the Qualities in a seamless alternation of English and Portuguese. Our united voices filled the room and radiated out through the open door into the surrounding countryside. Devotion and joy filled our hearts as we connected to ourselves, to each other and to Mother Tara. Om Tare!

In the evening, we were led through a joyful and energetic series of sambas by Dani, one of our dear Brazilian Taras. We then learned a beautiful short Vajrasattva, and the inspired Calling Tara from the Heart. Afterwards, we danced Om Ah Hum, an empowering offering dance based on a song by Tina Turner,  and concluded with a Four Immeasurables dedication based on a traditional Tibetan melody offered by Claire, a dear New Zealand Tara.

What is your intention for the Monlam? What is your prayer for yourself and for the world? Join the celebration daily by touching into this blog, reciting the Green Tara Mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA, and dedicating your prayers to the intention you have set. Om Tare!

May all beings be happy!

May all beings be free!

 

Photos by Amber Roniger, Text by Anjali

This precious statue of Tara was donated by the local dharma center to grace the center of our altar throughout the Monlam.

Live From The Tara Peace & Prayer Monlam Festival in Brazil

Read More: Conclusion of Monlam, May 27, 2018

Read More: Monlam Day 4, May 26, 2018

Read More: Monlam Day 3, May 25, 2018

Read More: Monlam Day 2, May 24, 2018

Read More: Monlam Day 1, May 23, 2018

Read More: Pre-Monlam Day 3 May 22, 2018

Read More: Pre-Monlam Day 2 May 21, 2018

Read More: Pre-Monlam Day 1 May 20, 2018

Read More: Arriving at Paraiso Na Terra May 19, 2018

Beginning May 19th…

Our dear Sangha Sister Anjali has traveled from Texas to participate in the 2018 Tara Dhatu Peace and Prayer Monlam festival in Brazil and she is making daily posts to share the offerings with the wider sangha. She has begun posting during the pre-Monlam retreat at Paraiso Na Terra in the countryside outside of Brasilia. Check this page daily from May 19th-May 27th.

We are all connected in the heart of Mother Tara.

The prayers of the 108 gathering in Brazil will be amplified by our heart community spread out across this blue green ball of earth.

May our offerings bring great benefit, inspiration, nourishment, and the perfect remedy to all that ails the beings of every nation and every species as well as to Mother Earth herself.

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

Tara is Dancing in the Heart of Acadiana!

Adrianne LaBry Smith is a Tara Dhatu Level 3 Teacher. In 2005 she was inspired to join the Tara Dhatu Educational Program after participating in a Tara Mandala Weekend led by Prema and her niece, Jessica Zebrine. She is a close student of Khentrul Lodrö Thaye Rinpoche, who encourages her to share the dance of Tara. This November she offered her first public presentation of Tara’s Mandala close to her home in an area of French Louisiana known as the Heart of Acadiana.   She writes….

As I began the process of organizing the weekend I faced many obstacles, including finding the perfect venue. I kept receiving the message from various sources, “It is important that you offer this now, don’t worry about how perfect it is. Just do it!” Fortunately, Michael Cooper, the owner of Community Acupuncture of Acadiana, graciously offered a space. The Tara Mandala Offering is in alignment with his vision to impact the local community in positive ways. His business logo is a fully open lotus, which may not be of note in other areas of the country, but is definitely not a common sight on local business advertisements in South Louisiana! The setting was just right for our Mandala of nine.

This tiny wooden building was built circa 1902, originally for use as Saul (Bernard’s) Grocery Store. The Bernard family has ties to my French family of origin, the LaBry family. This past June I had set an intention to be of benefit in any way I could to clear negative karma and bring healing to my ancestry. Holding my ancestors in mind I was especially aware of the suffering experienced by and the suffering caused by my twice-great grandfather, Aristide LaBry and his family. A teacher and an artist like me, Aristide, was the first LaBry in my ancestral line on American soil, and in the mid 1800s lived less than a mile from this location.

The Bernard family members were inter-married with the LaBry family. I am dismayed to admit, these families participated in the atrocious enslavement of other human beings; a fact that I cannot erase from history, but I can strive to heal. Dancing on this property that once belonged to a family connected to mine, I opened to reveal the negativity held within my own heart-mind, guiding the dancers to face our own obscurations, to purify our own emotions, and dancing to send out light to heal and balance this community and the world!

The effort exhibited by the dancers was truly inspiring. Because of the size of our Mandala, each of the participants had to dance at least two Tara praises and some had to dance three! It was a lot to expect of them, yet they faced the challenge with Invincible Courage, and Impeccable Virtue!

We also had the extra challenge of incorporating a tenth participant, Jennifer, who is visually impaired. Jennifer attends our monthly Tara Dance meetings, sitting as Tara in the center of the circle on a “lotus” (meditation cushion), holding her hands in Tara’s gestures of supreme generosity and True Refuge. She signed up for the weekend knowing she might not be able to dance in the Mandala, but wanted to be in the energy, experience the meditations, and receive teachings on Tara. The other workshop participants insisted they could work together to include Jennifer in the Mandala, and we made adjustments so she could dance as Complete Enlightenment.

By the end of the first day of practice, there was an air of transformation. Arising as Worthy of Honor, each dancer demonstrated such willingness to address her own thoughts and emotions as they arose. The poisons of inadequacy, of fear and anxiety, of self-judgment, and the judgment of others were transmuted into Radiant Health and Auspicious Beauty.

By the time of the Mandala Offering on Sunday these All Victorious dancers had engaged in profound concentration with pure motivation for the benefit of all beings. In their offering of the Mandala they revealed Irresistible Truth, magnetizing the audience and drawing them into the dance. Though our audience was small, everyone joined in our closing Dances of Universal Peace, and Bliss and Joy was made manifest as the light of Wisdom, Compassion, and Power cascaded out from the heart of a lotus, beyond the walls of this small wooden building, from the

 

Heart of Acadiana

Om Tare

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Tara is Dancing in Virginia

By Rev. Jacquelyn Sendak Zavaleta

Having shared the Introduction to Tara and the Dharma dances of Tara Dhatu in Virginia Beach for many years, we had a solid group of interested people attending this year’s Tara Dance programs.  Our series of classes were opened with a hosting by Tara White and her husband Mike.

 

I started the evening by showing “The Quiet Revolution”, a video covering some of the story of the Tara dance.  Many participants were very moved by the video.

Prior to our visit Tara had reorganized her home to dedicate a Tara shrine room. We consecrated the space by chanting the Green and White Tara mantras, then bathing in the profound meditation and music of White Tara and the Six Shields.  Rigdzin taught a Guru Yoga practice of Tara and basic Buddhist practices such as dedication of merit.

The next Sunday we introduced the Tara practice at the Fellowship of the Inner Light Church. It was a very mixed group of attendees, some new to Tara and Buddhist teachings, others experienced practitioners. Many had attended my Tara teachings in prior years.

One young lady said she had come to my Tara dance event a couple of years ago and liked it so much that she drove 5 hours to participate. She brought her boyfriend who was a good sport, dancing without knowing any details of what he was getting into.

We focused on White Tara and her healing aspects.  The White Tara and the Shields dance brought a number of people to tears.  We ended with a group chanting White Tara’s Mantra and directing the energy generated to do hands on healing.

The dance of Tara’s Qualities was so well like that the group asked to repeat it.  The church’s scheduler said she would put me on the calendar for next year. Something wonderful to look forward to!

Om Tare!!

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Dancing Tara with Prema and Myri in Europe

Almost a year ago I was asked, if I could go anywhere before I died where would I go. Bubbling up from my far distant childhood I realized, I would like to visit Fatima and Lourdes. That vision set in motion a series of events that ended in Myri and I teaching Tara throughout Europe this summer, and yes, visiting Fatima and Lourdes.

Portugal – Lisbon

We started our journey in Lisbon, Portugal. Vera, a woman well known for her own spiritual circle was intrigued with our work. A very close student of hers recommended us, and with great courage and faith she invited us to lead a weekend workshop in the South of Portugal. It was a wonderful experience.

Portugal-Fatima

 Fatima is very close to Lisbon so on our return from retreat we went directly to the shrine of Mary. Vera had a lovely student who opened her home to us so we could really soak in the atmosphere. The first day we visited the main cathedral. Mary and a heralding angel had appeared to three peasant children, giving her message of peace and redemption to the world. The second day we went to a shrine area in an olive forest. It was a sacred experience and I really understood deeply how we all need to be devoted to living love and peace.

France-Lourdes

Our next stop was to be a tiny, new retreat center in southern France, just a few hours from Lourdes. We decided to go Lourdes first and were so glad we did as the retreat center had some issues, cancelled the workshop and instead, paid for us to stay a few extra days in Lourdes. I am so grateful. It was a profound experience, bathing in the devotions of people from all over the world,

bathing in the sacred healing waters. There were so many signs that showed us our devotions to Tara and to Mary were the same. We experienced the ritual of complete immersion, feeling the tender love of Our Lady of Mercy.

 

 

France-Paris

We stopped off in Paris for a few days, and had a wonderful time doing touristy things, like taking an elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, breathing in the power of the Chartres Cathedral!!!

Netherlands – Amsterdam

Esther Scheller met us at the airport and whisked us away to her mother’s apartment. Esther had never had any experience of the Tara Dance and it was with so much joy that we gathered a lovely circle of dancers to introduce Tara and the Mandala. It was especially poignant for me to be in this beautiful city where I lived from 1969-1971.

Scotland – Edinburgh    

Sara Rashani Trevelyan was the gracious hostess for our time in this timeless city. She introduced us to the Rosslyn Chapel, inspiration for the provocative book The Da Vinci Code. The weekend workshop was held in an exquisite little center outside the city. We were joined by a feisty nun in the Tibetan tradition who loved the dance and was hoping to make it part of her center.

 

Russia – Perm

 

Perm is in the Ural mountains of Russia where a group of Tara dancers have been dancing Tara for eleven years. We were greeted with much enthusiasm and our ten days in the area were filled with joyful gatherings, explorations of the area and a powerful mandala of 22 dancers.

Switzerland – Bern

Navigating through Europe on a shoestring budget and the time constraints of being somewhere else every weekend had it’s challenges. Getting from Perm to Bern we decided to land in Zurich and train to Bern. The reality of that was far more complicated than we could imagine. But truly magic happened to save us from our folly.

Renske, one of the workshop attendees in Amsterdam, decided she would drive to Zurich, pick us up at the airport and take us to Bern. At the same time we had serendipitously, the night before we flew into Zurich, connected with our old friend Marge from South of Brazil who had moved to Zurich some years ago. She decided to meet us at the airport and take us all home with her to her sweet apartment on a crystal river. She joined our merry band and Renske drove all four of us to Bern. One of Marge’s Zen mentors, Barbara Wegmueller, was so happy to see us she joined in dancing Tara with us, and then housed and fed us when we went exploring.

Hildi Thalman had arranged for us to give a workshop and performance at the House of Religions, a modern institution housing eight different religious groups. The director was retiring and she asked Myri and I to perform at a gathering held in her honor. We had a lovely day to ourselves exploring the beauty of this lovely city. We went to one of the lake parks and felt that we truly touched the heart of this remarkable country.

Greece – Mykonos, Santorini, Athens

Myri’s one request, if we went to Europe, could we please spend some time in Greece. It was really just a hop from Switzerland and we had a lovely time resting and exploring the islands of Mykonos and Santorini.

 

We ended with a couple of days in Athens, paying homage to divine mother Athena and hopping on a plane to NY City.

 

 

New York – Brewster, Woodstock, Hartford

Hope Jinishian had done an amazing job of organizing our time in the North East. Professor Neela Bhattacharya picked us up at JFK and whisked us off to her lovely home in Brewster. We did a rollicking evening of introducing Tara to her living room packed with friends.

Hope drove us up to Woodstock where we immersed ourselves in teaching “Calling Tara From the Heart”. We had the precious opportunity of dancing for Khenpo Karthar, who blessed me as the old Tara and Myri as the small Tara.

Then it was off to Malou’s center in Hartford where she introduced us to a beautiful sadhana of Khenpo Tsustrim Gyamptso, with the idea that we could create a dance around the practice. So many blessings.

Washington – Orcas Island

We ended our tour in beautiful Orcas Island. Julia Sanders-Dobos arranged a workshop of “Calling Tara”. It was the perfect way to end our epic tour.

I am so grateful for the unfolding joys and gifts of sharing this precious work. Meeting dancers from so many different cultures, traditions, ages, experience reinforced my sense of our international Tara Dhatu – Realm of the Enlightened Feminine.

It is not a place, it is a state of mind. It is universal. It is the essence of wisdom and compassion, alive and well in this wild and wonderful world. I pray that Tara’s gifts continue to unfold in our lives and lead us deeper into the essence of our possibilities.

May All Beings We Well

May All Beings Be Happy

May All Beings Live in Peace

May All Beings Be Free.

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Myri On Tour, Dancing Tara in Chile and S. Brazil

Myri Dakini Naves is an outstanding dancer and a sincere dharma practitioner. In Tara Dhatu South America she is the moving force of all the accomplishments. Because of her careful nurturing we have circles of Tara Dancers all over Brazil and Chile. She is our Assistant Director of Tara Dhatu’s Educational Program and teaches the movement and the dharma with joy and depth. This year she engaged in a five week teaching tour encompassing Chile and the South of Brazil. She writes… 

Following in Prema’s Footsteps

“Just as the trunk of an ordinary tree lying in the soil of the Malayan forest absorbs the scent of sandalwood from the damp leaves and branches, so you will remember who you follow. “Patrul Rinpoche

Tara inside us, Tara that we are, Tara around us.

Tara in the elements; earth, water, fire, air,

Dancing within infinite space!

What a wonderful opportunity it was to share Tara’s dances in so many different communities. I delighted in opening, throughout this journey, the path of dedication, mind training, and the open heart.. Our dancing bodies provided the means for a transformation of consciousness. Together we supported each other, in all our differences, our ways of being. Keeping the teachings revealed through the dance, we dove deep to reveal the inner treasure.

Tara is Dancing in Chile

My first flight was to Santiago, Chile. A committed group of Tara Dancers have been diligently developing the sangha of Tara Dhatu in Chile. Maria Concepción, Atma, Valentina and Flavia came to the retreat this year in Brazil and felt the call to deepen in the path of Tara. They made all the arrangements for my eight days in the country. It was an incredible experience.

I was so happy to be able to connect with Vera, the first student/teacher from Chile who invited me to teach there in 2010. Three years ago she had a great personal challenge and finally, this year, was able to return to dance with us.

My first class was in the heart of Santiago, the capitol city of the country, sharing the Dance of The 8 Precious Offerings. The next day we went to a beautiful retreat center outside the city, a precious place where the presence of Mother Mary welcomed us. The center wrapped around a beautiful garden with a statue of Mary surrounded by white flowers. Mary and Tara, the two faces of the Divine Mother. We danced the Mandala of the Praises, it was very powerful.

After the retreat we had breakfast with Maria, a medicine woman of the Mapuche, the indigenous culture of Chile. It was very interesting. She came with her husband Jose, and following the tradition of the Mapuche, greeted the trees, the cat, everything on the path from their car to the house we were in. They stopped at the door and questioned Flavia. They have certain criteria for entering a strangers house and must know that they are meeting with mutual respect.

We then sat at the table and talked about her work and ours. She works with a circle of women to keep the customs of the Mapuche. She believes the circles of women meeting all over the world will help the earth. She was cautious with us, but over time developed trust. She works with all kind of medicine for women. The Chilean government killed a lot of the tribals so they are very careful.

She asked Flavia to make sure the Tara Dancers of Chile brought the flag of the Mapuche to the Monlam so we can keep connected.

Her husband said that I have a great heart, that I live what I teach. They acknowledged that their lives, like ours, were devoted to empowering the women, bring blessings to the earth, balancing the elements.

Next we had a meeting with all the teachers of our Educational Program. I was able to guide them, answer questions, share teachings. The Tara Dhatu sanga of Chile grows and new students keep entering the Educational Program.

My last event in Chile was at Viña del Mar, in the South of the country. There I connected with Valentina’s group and taught Gold Tara.

On to the South of Brazil

The next day I flew to Porto Alegre in the far south of Brazil. There are several groups in the area and we had a lot of agendas. We drove several hours to the city of Caxias. Michele had opened her own dance studio and we had a glorious weekend of classes and performance.

I returned to Porto Alegre with Edith. She and Lia have been working with the children at Lia’s school. I offered one session of Dancing Tara to their adult circle and one session to the children of Lia’s school. It was so precious with the children. They danced a few verses of Tara Tames the 8 Fears as an offering to me, and then I taught them to do the mudras of the 8 Precious Offerings. Children love to play with their hands. We then danced Manjushri to awaken their intelligence and the Wind Horse, a piece of music that Prema created to Chenrezig, Lord of Compassion. We had a great time.

Santa Cruz du Sul

The next day I took a bus even further south to Santa Cruz du Sul. Luciana has been gathering a sincere group of dancers. We dove into a medley of dances; Dukkar – the 1000 Armed White Umbrella Tara, the 8 Precious Offerings, , Calling Tara From the Heart, Vajrasattva.

The Perfect End to a Perfect Tour

I returned to Porto Alegre to get a plane to Guarapari, Victoria, a town a little south east of Rio. Daisen and Celeste had organized a day of teachings for me. They started this group with Daisen’s daughter, Grazielle, and I enjoyed giving a full introduction to Tara’s Mandala. By special request we danced through Medicine Buddha and Vajrasattva. And then in the evening I gave a little performance.

I also had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time at the beautiful beach. What a relief it was to relax in the arms of mother ocean.

 

The last day of my tour Daisen and a small group of dancers went to a Zen monastery and danced in the beauty and the peace of this special place. Daisen is a member of the sangha there and arranged for us to meet with the priest. We were discussing our aspirations to have a retreat center for dancing Tara somewhere in Brazil and he mentioned that the monastery might have just the place. We looked at the lovely grounds that are available to us and I went home dreaming of Tara Ling, our own retreat center with Prema as resident teacher half the year.

And so another year comes to a close and I think of all the wonderful experiences I had dancing and praying for our world. How much learning, how much growth. Every city where I shared Tara’s dances felt the support of our beloved Prema, who always inspires and guides us, directing us to uncover our true nature.
I have great gratitude to all who created the conditions favorable to my journey and pray that Tara’s Wheel of Blessings continues to turn.

Om Tare Tutare Ture Svaha

Myri Dakini Naves

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Tara is Dancing in the Bay Area, California

Floods, Hurricanes and Fires Oh My!!!

Pia Hagan is a Level 3 Tara Dhatu Teacher in the Bay Area of  California. Many of you remember Pia as one of our most excellent Master Chefs at our Annual Camp in Kauai. Pia organized and offered a Mandala at Terra’s Temple in Berkeley September 2nd & 3rd. She writes….

Such a crazy time in the world, I have to admit when I booked Terra’s Temple way back in May, I had no idea how many ladies would commit and it was a test of my faith as I prepared for the weekend. This was not an easy one to pull off but I know the power of this Prayer and knew that dancing the Mandala would help to stabilize us!

With the flooding in Texas and hurricanes in full force in Puerto Rico we 19 dancers focused our prayers to pacifying Mother Earth. Because of the timings of Terra’s Temple we had to set up Saturday morning, skipping the usual Friday evening orientation. We set up quickly, engaged in the preliminary practices. And the temperature kept rising. It was 95 degrees by noon. We were sweltering.! We placed everyone into their praise and took a break.

We were so lucky to have Jade, a professional dancer and a long time Tara Dancer give us instruction on dancing a praise. She had a way of making everyone comfortable and shared some key observations. We all enjoyed the confidence she shared with her beautiful and sometimes funny movements.

Then we had Jade, Karen Metta and Deborah Ursula dance Ferocious Compassion to show the individuality of each dancer. It was quite a treat to see the diversity in the heart of these three experienced Tara Dancers!

A few days before the event Parvati had driven in from Arizona! She supported me in keeping things on track. It was a trial by fire as the Temple literally continued to heat up. I was reminded, there is a moment in the Mandala we call “cooking our beans” as emotion intensifies. Self confidence is tested. It is the provocative nature of this work with Mother Tara.

The group was wilting despite the fan Ridgzon brought us and the ice Barbara distributed. Many of us wondered why we were there!

We stopped early and as I drove home to Pacifica I went over what was important and chanted Tara’s Mantra across the bridge.

Fortunately Sunday it had cooled down. We began the morning with each dancer offering her personal prayer for the world. We were moved by the heartfelt intentions of each Tara and from this place we danced all the way through the Mandala!

It was amazing to see the seven women who had never danced the Mandala go deep into the practice!

We offered the Mandala in the afternoon. It was so beautiful. Our intentions were clear. I felt Tara’s loving support and rejoiced as we all witnessed each woman transform!

We ended the day with the dance of White Tara Of The Six Shields. The participants who did not know the dance sat in the center of our circle and we invited anyone from the audience to sit with them.

Many tears were cried as those of us who knew the dance sent our blessings into the circle and then out into the world.

I feel blessed to have been able to share these prayers of Tara. I am grateful for the group of woman who danced through the heat and limited time!!

We had no idea that in a few short weeks we were to face blazing fires here in Northern California.

We dedicate our prayers and our dance to all those affected by the flooding, the hurricanes and the fires. We send the power of our prayers to all those affected by the wars. We send the power of our prayers to all those who continue to fight and pray for our waters to be cleansed and respected. We send the power of our prayers to our Mother Earth, that she may be fertile and at peace for the next generations to come.

May all the Elements be balanced on this Earth and within ourselves.

May we come together and know peace.

I dedicate this Mandala especially to Lama Kunga Rinpoche of Ewam Choden who was not able to be with us but as always he sent his special blessing and loving support. For many years he graced the Tara Dance Offerings in the Bay Area and the Tara Empowerments he give us after each offering have stayed in my heart.

Om Tare Tu Tare Ture Soha

Love, Pia

 

 

Parvati Leads Tara’s Mandala – Seattle, Phoenix, Woodstock

Parvati Forrest Anee Burke is one of our most senior teachers. Her dedication has led her to be our Central Coordinator, holding together the reins of our international Tara Dhatu. This Fall she offered three weekend mandalas of the Mandala Dance of Tara. She writes….

 Thank you Prema and Mother Tara for the amazing and beautiful, powerful and empowering teachings and sangha.  Recently a new friend asked me why I am drawn to this work and the answer is clear… I see so much transformation of poisons in my own life and the life of others. In a thirteen hour weekend retreat I have seen those with a chronic tone of discomfort in their being relax into an open hearted presence. I have seen precious and nourishing connections made countless times.  Each weekend is unique with its gifts and challenges and Tara always shows up!  In a world with so much confusion and suffering, this precious practice brings so much goodness and it is my joy and honor to serve Tara and the world by sharing the Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara again and again.  May these offerings bring much joy, inspiration, and benefit and may the merit support the aspirations of our teachers, in particular, the May23-27, 2018 Peace and Prayer Monlam Festival in Brasilia, Brazil.

Dancing Tara in Seattle for Dagmola

The annual October offering held at the Sakya Monastery in Seattle was rich and beautiful with regular participants mixed with some who had not danced a Mandala in years, and others who were totally new to this form of Tara practice. We had thirteen plus me in the Mandala, a valiant protector, and a couple Tara elves supporting us.

Dagmola glowed with joy. She explained to the audience that what they had witnessed was not just a performance but a precious offering. They were able to witness the emanations of Tara, dancing for them through the retreat participants. She lingered to visit with the dancers.

The next morning Gail Fredrickson took me to have a little visit with Dagmola in her home. Gail is Dagmola’s close student making the arrangements every year for the Mandala Dance to happen at Sakya in fulfillment of Dagmola’s aspiration.

Dagmola shared some of her recent journey to Tibet. She gave a blessing to the Monlam, happy that we are engaging in such a powerful practice.

Dancing Tara in Phoenix

The annual Phoenix retreat in November was luscious and glorious with a number of traveling Taras joining us from Tucson, NY, TX, and a couple from the bay area in addition to our local community.  We chose not to have a public offering in order to allow for a retreat that could go deep into the Mandala, meditations, and supporting practices. It also created a very intimate space where all were able to bring in their deepest concerns of heart and mind. The result was really special.

We had the gift of Shivadam’s ever skillful and patient, beautiful musical support.  Participants were able to connect deeply with one another and carry the personal concerns weighing on hearts and minds into the final offering. It was powerful and empowering weekend and offering.

Dancing Tara in Woodstock New York

The Woodstock Mandala was a triumph, resonant with the quality of Tara, The All Victorious, in sync with Hope, our valiant organizer’s, praise attunement.  For Hope, the thirteen hour weekend workshop format was a new experience and she bravely agreed to take on the additional layer of complexity by bringing Shivadam to do the music live.

 

The payoff was big with a gorgeous Mandala offering!  Shivadam served us skillfully and tirelessly throughout the weekend. He was joined by two more talented musicians for the offering, Avainash on drums and Lee Marabai with opening kirtan, vocals, shruti box and bells.  The group was a lovely mix of totally new Taras and those who has danced again and again through the years. We had 18 in the Mandala and I was so touched by the presence of each and every dancer… each one bringing a lifetime of experiences with them into the offering.  We were supported by a wonderfully brave protector who was totally new to dancing Tara but popped in and out of the Mandala in practices as we needed him and held the protector post skillfully for the offering.

The Woodstock area experienced a 40-50 degree drop in temperature just as we dove into the weekend and our Yurt meeting spot had snow on the ground outside.  The propane gas heater was intense with noise and fumes and we went from sweltering heat to freezing cold. What a wild adventure. The wise community of Taras harvested these challenging circumstances and began to reflect on these extremes as reflections of the conditions on this planet at this time as well as the many realms unseen by us in this human life.

As the leader of the Mandala and workshop, I invoked the Tara of Creative Wisdom to understand how best to work with the challenges as they arose. The key, as Prema and I have often discussed, is to just not panic. Do the practice and hold space through which the possibilities present themselves. And I was gifted with a group of dancers that were all valiant and resilient! Eh Ma Ho.

The audience of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery (KTD) and kirtan community members was so loving and welcoming. We had an exalted offering ending with some Dances of Universal Peace led skillfully by Shivadam.

At the same time as our retreat was beginning there was the culmination of a retreat to the1000 Armed Chenrezig Nyugne practice at the KTD monastary across the street. We felt that we were dancing in sync with that powerful practice of wisdom, compassion, and inspiration throughout our time there.  As a delightful and perfect surprise, just as we finished our offering a Sri Lankan man from the monastery community appeared exclaiming, “Om Tare” and inviting us all to a freshly cooked, hot dinner at the monastery. A perfect ending to complete our offering and beautiful way to send out dancers back out into the world… with hearts, minds, and belly’s full and deeply nourished!

Om Ah Hung!

May we continue to turn the wheels of Tara’s love and light.

May the rays of Mother Tara’s blessings spread far and wide.

May all beings be nourished, blessed by the One Who Blazes With Glory!

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Dancing Tara in Woodstock

 Dance in the Mandala of Tara

In Woodstock, NY

Fri Intro Evening open to all at KTD Monastary

With the weekend workshop and offering across from the KTD Monastery

November 10 to 12

Shivadam and Parvati at the Konark Temple, India

Parvati  Leading

Live music with Shivadam.

Public offering  Sunday

November 12 at 4:30 pm.

Public  Offering Free with requested offering

Spots still available for the full weekend  workshop and scholarships available.

The KTD monastery just finished consecrating eight stupas across from our workshop space.

May all beings benefit from our sincere prayers.

Click Here To Register

 For more information contact Hope

Hope Jinishian is a Tara Dhatu Student Teacher who has for the past several years supported Tara Dhatu in many ways.  We have been encouraging her to start a circle of dancing Taras in her area (Woodstock, NY) and this September 30th she did!! The Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery is the North American seat of His Holiness the Karmapa and has always offered a warm welcome to the Tara Dance. Lama Lodro was offering a weekend of stories of White and Green Tara and she invited Hope to share the dances after her Friday night introduction.    Hope writes…..

I’m happy to share that my offering at the opening evening of the Green and White Tara stories retreat with Lama Lodro at KTD Monastery on September 30th was a success. I had the full attention of a group of 30 practitioners at the start of their retreat and Lama Lodro invited everyone to receive the Tara dance teachings and instructions as a practice and meditation. She fully participated herself.

I taught Prayer of Motivation, Refuge and Bodhicitta and the Dance of the 21 Qualities and took time to break down the different components of the Qualities dance. Everyone stayed fully engaged, danced well and sang the mantra and all the prayers full out.

The Dance Studio where the Mandala workshop will take place.

I received a lot of positive feedback. I felt that these past couple of years of

study and practice with Tara Dhatu events and at KTD paid off in a strong synthesis of a vibrant, centered, meaningful experience with the group.

Several of the retreatants were from Hartford and said they were available to participate in a monthly circle there. And we have a few who would like to join the mandala dance retreat weekend in November.

Seems it was a rich experience as several people sought me out over the weekend to share.

Here’s a nice snippet of an email from a woman who wrote to me after the group..

I just wanted to tell you again, how much I enjoyed the Tara Dance/Movement Practice last evening. I’ve never participated in this type of practice and found myself becoming captivated by the movements, rhythm and repetition of the music and lyrics. I appreciate you taking the time and having the interest in sharing this with everyone.

A Precious Meeting in the Heart of Tara

September 10th the Maui Tara Dancers had the good fortune to present a sacred dance offering to the respected and beloved dharma teacher, Anam Thubten.  Eighteen dancers of all ages and experience offered the Tara Dhatu preliminary practices.

Anam gave his loving attention and the simple offering was ecstatic.

The Sacred Earth Temple is a beautiful room, blessed by countless offerings of sacred music and dance.

Behind Anam, an enormous crystal amplified his peaceful, joyful presence.

Several months ago Anam had written a powerful poem to Tara and wanted to share it with the dancers. He then taught a melody of Her mantra that was precious to him.

We rearranged our group, half of the dancers experienced enough to dance the new, powerful practice, “Calling Tara From the Heart” in a crescent moon configuration, the other half sat to the side, offering the mudras like a powerful background chorus.

We were all transported. Anam was visibly moved by the offering. He told us that he has seen many sacred dances but truly felt our hearts, our compassion and devotion. He could see that it wasn’t about the ego or about what great dancers we were (although he said we were all beautiful dancers) but it is about the practice, dedication and heart.

He said that the dance put him into an altered state. He recognized that we were working with sadhana, a form of spiritual training. He declared our dance offering “liberation on seeing and liberation on hearing”.

He loved the variety of dancers, from 13 year old Camry to several women in their 70’s. He laughed and said we were all wonder women! Indeed that is what we felt like, certainly we were women in wonder of it all.

 

Om Tare!!!

Dancing Tara for Dagmola on Maui

While on tour in Europe I received a message from my dear dharma friend and teacher, Dagmola Kushog. Some members of her family had made arrangements to spend some days on Maui and Dagmola wanted to know if the Tara Dancers would like her to give some teachings. I contacted the group and they were very excited to meet, receive teachings and dance for Dagmola.’’ 

It was a fabulous group effort. I worked as closely as possible with them, deciding on the programs, the outreach. They gathered together and worked out the endless details. Georgianna of the Maui Dharma Center arranged for an evening of presentation at the Center and the resident Lama Gyaltsen attended the dance offering.

Here are some of the dancer’s impressions of the experience…

Dear Prema,

Thank you for your love, support and guidance!  It was a fabulous event! People really enjoyed the Tara Dance and got a lot out of Dagmola’s teachings. It was a  GREAT experience for me to lead the dances. There is always so much more to learn as a leader – but I can see that this is the only way to really learn – through experience.  Great appreciation for how you lead and make it look so easy.

Barbara Gach

Our dance offering to Dagmola and Lama Gyaltsen was extraordinary!  We exchanged many heartfelt blessings, and loved her bright smile of joy!

What an honor it was to present this most auspicious offering.  The entire experience, including the talks at the Dharma Center and at Laura’s, the personal one-on-one interviews,  the auspicious dancing, and the personal Tara initiation given to each dancer from Dagmola touched my heart and soul deeply and profoundly, and will remain with me forever. Dagmola changed the vibration of my life.

Deborah Pozin

My heart is overflowing with gratitude. It was an amazing experience.  A special thank you to each of my Tara sisters for their unique contributions, bringing their hearts and wisdom to the offering.

Ali Naralani 

I longed to be dancing with you, but it was a joy to see all in their Tara radiance!

Linda G

Oh Prema it was so sublime! I really love Dagmola. I was happy to lead Shantideva’s Prayer. It was good to have the challenge of having to do it on our own.  We are fortunate to have you here with us much of the time.  We had to flex our Tara muscles.  It was amazing, the infinite number of details gracefully handled by a bevy of Taras.

Thank you Tara and Tara Sisters for this sublime experience.

 Sea Lily

Thank you Prema for birthing and teaching Tara ‘s dances. Thank you Barbara for organizing and leading the dances. Thank you Laura for offering your home and coordinating everything. Thank you Dagmola for your wisdom and blessings!

What an unforgettable evening!

Rita Massey

 

 

 

Creating A Brighter Future: A Bright Nepal Report

It’s a New Year!

The Nepali school year transitions from one to the next around the middle of April every year.  This year’s transition was a big one for the children of Bright Nepal as they moved from Pabitra’s private home/hostel to the school’s hostel. Pabitra continues to manage their personal and financial affairs and is regularly found volunteering at the school these days as well.

In May of every year, the school has an award ceremony that is a reflection of their work during the previous school year. (The picture above shows the children with the gifts they received for their awards).  This year we had several Bright Nepal children at the top of their class.  AND the big news is that Bright Nepal’s, Kincho Chomo Tamang who is 9 years old and in the 3rd grade, came in as the number one student in the entire school.  Kincho comes from an uneducated, impoverished farming family of 5 who are refugees from Tibet.   GO BRIGHT NEPAL TEAM!!! – and that means several of you who have donated to this program!!!  We couldn’t do it without you- you do make a difference. DEEP GRATITUDE TO ALL OF YOU. . .  And if you want to really get a perspective of the difference you make and be even more inspired, please watch the short “Girl Effect” video below.

Kincho with her trophy for being the top student of Lord Buddha Secondary School in Kathmandu, Nepal

With the recent transition, came additional costs, bringing each students expenses to $80 a month. And so we have been in the process of bringing on additional godparents as sponsors to help make up the difference.  As an organization, Bright Nepal is completely run by volunteers which includes Pabitra on the ground with the children, Angela Bennett as the godparent program coordinator and Anahata Iradah, who not only assists with the godparent program, but also fundraisers to make up for the gaps (we don’t always have the amount of godparents/sponsors we need and there are unexpected medical costs at times etc),  We are currently still in need of godparents/sponsors that can donate $40/month for the children below.  Please email Angela if you or anyone you know is interested: angelinATL99@gmail.com.  Blessings!

 

Annual Aug Kauai Tara Retreat Special Offer & Reflections

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For many years Tara Dhatu has hosted and annual camp on the beautiful island of Kauai.  Situated in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet, the rustic camp YMCA Naue provides the Tara community a perfect spot to dive deeply into Tara’s Pureland in a spot situated perfectly on the ocean and beneath the majestic misty mountains.

Below community members share reflections of their experience of the special retreat.

You are invited to join us for the Aug 12-20th, 2017.

Not registered yet?  Tara Dhatu members are invited to join or renew membership by July 15th 2017, grab a friend, register and you both will receive a $50 discount on the full week retreat.

That is a full week of Tara retreat in paradise for just $645!!!

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Click Here to Read More about this year’s retreat and register

Clare (right) with Nikki (left) 2015

Clare (right) with Nikki (left) lotus heart dancers

Clare from New Zealand shares:

Kauai Camp comes to mind often. Sleeping in my own tent, by the sea surrounded with love and lushness and waking in the morning  for another of 10 days with our beautiful teachers. Camping with the buddhas and devas and living ‘as if’ in Paradise – what’s not to love? It was such a privilege  to be on that sacred beachland in a real and natural way, blessing and being blessed by the elements, connecting with other lovely souls, dancing our dreams and wishes for humanity and all else that calls Earth home. The memories of Camp 2015 are still rich in me.

 

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Sea Lily (second from the right in blue pants) and Adrianne (in the center) dance with their fire dakini Tara sisters after the 2016 public  Mandala offering.

SeaLily who lives on Maui shares:

The Tara Retreat on Kauai is a life-saving annual pilgrimage that reorients my mind and stabilizes my emotions.  Through the Tara practice, I let go of all that is burdensome, transforming fear and confusion into wisdom, compassion and power.  The camp is a place to dive deeply into the practice and be part of the evolution of the dances of the Feminine Divine.

Adrianne from Louisiana shares:

Words are inadequate to describe the bliss and joy of the experience.  Over 40 of us gathered from around the world to move deeper into the practice of Tara and the Dance of Her Mandala.  It was extraordinary!  Sincere connection with beautiful souls, united in our intention to develop our own Wisdom and Compassion for the benefit of all beings! 

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Ivy (in the center, wearing a green and blue dress just to the right of Prema) with her Tara Mandala dancing sisters after the 2016 offering dance.

Ivy from Wisconsin shares:

There is no place on the planet as beautiful and magical as the area where Camp Naue is located. To be able to dance, sing, learn, and rejoice there with our teacher Prema is a blessing. Sharing the divine feminine aspects of ourselves in Tara’s Mandala is transcendent.

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Ali, who lives on Maui, shares a special moment with María Concepción from Chile and Samara from Brazil.

Ali Carter: The Kauai retreat is fabulous because of the inspiring talks by Prema, the camaraderie with our sisters, and the physical location…ahhh…being right on the ocean in that most beautiful place on earth….At the retreat last year…I knew my prayers and intentions for healing and peace floated effortlessly through the universe…magnified by those beautiful waters of the pacific ocean; reverberating off the cliffs and mountains.    

 

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Siobhan, founder of OneMama.org, who lives in San Fransisco & Uganda shares:

Tara camp has become a must have in my ever increasing busy life over responsible life. There is a soul sisterhood in one of the most sacred places on earth that heals the chaos  of my hectic life every year. Tara camp is based in grounding spiritual practices, dances and community that stays with me all year. The one year I didn’t go in last 9 years was the one year that I almost lost everything dear to me. 

I feel like I just can’t put into words what this retreat brings to my practice… it puts it into action in such a lovely way!

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France (in black on the left) and retreat friends after a water blessing ceremony, Aug 2016.

France who lives in Lousianna shares: It was my first trip to Hawaii, and what a trip!  The YMCA is a peaceful property with gorgeous flowers and fabulous beaches. We had flexible schedule, the dances were fun and easy, the nature excursions were adventurous & nurturing, the food was great overall an amazing week at Tara Camp surrounded by wonderful people!!!

 

 

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Aerie (in the black skirt) and Siobhan

 

Aerie Waters of Maui shares:

I am imagining that we all wish to create an atmosphere of love, harmony and beauty, in which to live, breathe and have our being. Kauai Tara camp is in one of the most magnificent imaginable places in nature, where we dance and do our practices in an open air pavilion, by the ocean, drinking in the beauty with inner and outer cultivation. We live in harmony with our surroundings and one another, in an international and loving community of practitioners, sending  out our energy for the benefit of all beings. Who could ask for anything more??

 

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Jasmine and Mark

 

Jasmine Cheryle of Hawaii’s Big Island shares:

Kauai camp is a great way to deepen a connection to Tara and her qualities and to experience profound mind training methods in a relaxing, fun, beautiful environment. 

Aloha, OM TARE TUTARE TURE SOHA

 

 

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Amina (second from the left in purple and red) and Tara sisters on “fire day” 2011.

Amina of Tempe, Arizona shares:

It is great to get the time to dive deeply into the practices and dances in such a beautiful natural environment, close to the elements – earth, wind, water and fire – with women from all over the world.

 

 

 

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Jasmine Judith

 

Jasmine Judith of Arkansas and Costa Rica shares:

If you love Sufi Camp you’ll love Tara Camp even more! Tara Camp has all the wonderful fun, music, dancing, teachings, practices and food; but all one deity, one tradition. It allows me to go so much deeper into the heart of the great divine mother!

 

 

 

Andrea from Nepal shares:

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Andrea dancing on the beach after the public Mandala Offering, Aug 2015.

Two years ago I participated in the Tara Retreat on Kauai…a land of Paradise…

 

one of Tara’s Realms. Inspired by the musicians, into Tara’s realm we went… 

Isa with cave offerings 2015

Isa caring the groups offerings into the holy cave.

Into the realm of bliss and the divine. One day we went to the beach at the end of the road and danced in the ocean. a moment of relaxation… Offerings were  taken down to the local holy cave with an incredibly blissful natural pool of water.

After our divine swim, to the top we returned, manifesting as Tara and the blessings of Tara appeared in the sky as a double rainbow…

May Tara’s blessings flow through the ocean to all beings in every direction!!!

 

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Coming together in love, to nourish and heal.

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Cabins and tents between mountains and sea

 

 

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Sea Lion neighbor returns to the ocean after a beach nap

Trio of Mermaids and Sunset

Mermania Sunset bliss

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Swimming with sea turtles is always a blessing

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Divine music created by Atreya, Ricardo, and Jocelyn, Aug 2016.

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Eana offers an earth blessing Hula

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Fernanda does some yoga by the ocean, 2016.

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Tara is Dancing in New Zealand

catherine cCatherine Callaghan is one of our most active Student Teachers in New Zealand. She is based in Nelson, in the South Island. She recently led a workshop at the beautiful Chandrakirti Meditation Centre. Her students describe the event…

This has been an enlightening weekend for me, not only learning some sacred dances of Tara but also the history behind them and the centre. It was a wonderful weekend spent with some beautiful ladies and Catherine, our very inspiring Tara Dance Teacher.

Chandrakirti is wonderful. The Nalanda hall has the most amazing collection of Tara statues.

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I am not a practicing Buddhist, but my life values align with Buddhism. These sacred dances are very beautiful and graceful. Such a nice way to incorporate Tara’s teachings into my life, to absorb them through the heart and soul. I felt a sense of empowerment and connectedness with myself and the goddess within.

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I feel very blessed and grateful for this opportunity to experience this tradition. I know this is just the beginning of my Tara Journey. You don’t need to be able to dance or be a Buddhist, just be open to a new, wonderful and amazing experience. Thanks Catherine and my fellow Taras. Love you all.

Lesley Evan

On Discovering Tara

by Fiona Mackay

 

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Traveling to new places,

New faces, new path?

New fear? . . . no . . . same,

Arriving, alone again.

Beautiful garden,

Welcoming space,

Smiling faces greet me,

New friends, all decided.

Gompa Tara. . .

WOW!!!

Colours greet me now,

And serenity.

Words and welcome done,

The dance begins.

Tentatively I enter the space,

And learn to greet fellow Taras.

Sacred safe space.

Body I have,

Becomes body I am.

The goddess I feel,

And the goddess I become.

 

Turning, turning, reaching, evoking,

Movements learned . . . movements embodied.

Familiar and new,

Sinking out of the mind,

And into the expression.

Beautiful new words and concepts,

Imagine . . . Fierce Compassion,

And . . . Transforming Poisons.

Powerful feminine,

Felt and enjoyed.

Laughter! Joy! Abandon!

The fear dissolving,

Into passionate embrace,

Of femininity, resolve, and refuge.

Swift Protection and Invincible Courage,

Fells like a solid warmth in the belly,

Where the fear once lived.

Such strength in the movements,

Wrapped in intent and released.

Sister Taras undulating,

Swaying, stepping, turning . . .

Rhythmic voices join to honour,

The sacred presence of Tara in all.

Time dissolving into the now,

Of the breath . . . the beat,

The circling dancers,

Connecting to each other, the sacred space . . . the trees, birds, and universe . . .

. . . . And Tara.

 

Tara Dances at Texas Yoga Retreat

  AnjaliAnjali Maazel is a Tara Dhatu Student/teacher in Austin, Texas and was invited to teach at a weekend-long women’s yoga retreat entitled

“Wash, Rinse, Retreat!”. She writes…

The retreat was held in a magnificent Hindu temple complex in south Austin. The grounds are extensive and the room was spacious, peaceful and inspiring.6190737130_7cf5d7407e_z

The participants of my class were encouraged to dress for meeting and embodying the Goddess. The organizers gave each woman a golden scarf, a bindi and a green/blue beaded bracelet with a personal message of welcome.

Most of the women had little experience with Tara so I did some extensive introductions and invited everyone to be playful as they danced, focusing on the joy of sharing the experience.

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Such a wonderful evening! It was very rewarding and powerful to see people who had never encountered these teachings so uplifted.

I will never forget the first time I danced the Qualities. Here was Tara, and She was dancing! We were dancing as Tara!!!! I had seen classical Indian dance performances over the years and practiced many Tibetan sadhanas, but never thought of the two coming together, although it is so natural and so right. I saw some of that amazement with this group, and it was delightful.

Om Tare!

Long Life Prayer Music & Dance For Prema Dasara

Anjali and Prema

Prema and Anjali at the Palri Pema Od Ling temple in Austin

Anjali Maazel shares…

The beautiful recording of Mercedes Bahleda and Shivadam singing our Long Life Prayer for Prema, which is now available as a download in the Tara Dhatu Dance the Goddess Emporium (click here) , is the fruit of several years’ aspirations, dreaming, conversations, writing, practice, composition, choreography and fundraising. It has also been a personal journey for me.

I began dreaming about a long life prayer for Prema shortly after meeting her. I felt that the intention behind this tradition—to direct the energy raised during practice towards the longevity of the teacher, lineage, and spiritual community—was a powerful way to honor her as the vehicle of the Tara teachings and embodiment of Tara in our world. I also felt that this was an important way to redress the imbalance which has led more men than women to become authentic wisdom teachers, in the Buddhist tradition among others. Fortunately, progress is being made to redress it, and I wanted to contribute to this positive trend.

Anjali, Prema, Kathryn, and Elizabeth

Anjalim, Prema, Kathryn, and Elizabeth

Since the early 90’s, I had sung long life prayers to HH the Dalai Lama and other masters after dedicating practice in Tibetan Buddhist centers, and found the texts and the motivation inspiring. I also received teachings on the context in which to understand these long life prayers from the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche. l learned about common misconceptions regarding the person of the teacher, and the sacred relationship between an authentic teacher and student. In that tradition, prostrating to the teacher and honoring her are not about venerating the person of the teacher, but rather the teacher as vehicle for the teachings, as an embodiment of the teachings, as a precious link in the lineage, and as an embodiment of the deity we are connecting with. An authentic teacher will not require homage to be paid to her personally. In our world, there are some false gurus, and there is sometimes misplaced devotion as a result. However, when the authenticity of the teacher is verified—and Ken Mcleod’s section on the student-teacher relationship in Wake Up to Your Life has a comprehensive checklist—then the practice of devotion is placed in a clear container.

With this in mind, I aspired to write a long life prayer for Prema, and planted the seed in a conversation with the other two Austin Tara Circle teachers, Elizabeth Gergaud and Kathryn Henderson in 2014. A few months later, Elizabeth sent me several beautifully lyrical stanzas, and I thought it would be fitting, were we to offer the prayer to Prema during her next visit, to have it co-written by the three of us. I added a few stanzas, and Kathryn added one as well. In editing the final long version, I checked with traditional texts and also tried to convey the qualities unique to our lineage and to Prema’s skill as a teacher. In addition, I wanted to invoke the blessing of Vasudhara on Tara Dhatu as an organization. This was the final draft of the long version of the prayer:

Long Life Prayer for Prema Dasara

 Om Tare!

 Like the Dakini’s warm breath,

You inspire and empower all you touch.

 Melting our hearts

Into compassionate action,

Skillful and wrathful to tame our minds,

You show us the path of peace.

 Freeing with joyful dancing,

Your teachings liberate,

Turning the wheel of the precious dharma,

You bring the source of bliss.

 Rainbow Light Goddess, 

Rainbow Light Dancer,

Lineage Holder of East and West,

Your rainbow light bridges all realms.

Daughter of the lineage of Tara herself,

Refuge for beings in the darkness of Samsara,

You embody the light of the Three Jewels,

Resplendent with the wisdom of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

 Prema Dasara, with Tara’s own face and hands,

May your life be long,

Supported in every way,

Surrounded by the Gurus, Devas and Dakinis.

 Radiant Vajra Dancer, glowing with health,

May Vasudhara shower you with treasure and abundance,

May Tara Dhatu shine in glory

For the benefit of all.

 Sublime Teacher, protector who dances the wisdom of the dakinis,

May the Divine Ones bless your body, speech and mind

With long life, good health and wisdom.

 Beautiful Dakini, may you be a guide for beings for eons to come,

May happiness and good fortune fill all the worlds.

 Soha!

Myri Danced LLP for Prema MM Spring 2017

Myri danced an offering of the full length Long Life Prayer for Prema and the Taras at the Spring Tara Dhatu Retreat at Mount Madonna.

 We read the prayer aloud as on offering to Prema during her visit to Austin in 2014, and shared it with a few students. Shortly thereafter, I began to dream about a shorter version, which could be sung and danced after the dedication in our daily practice to the happiness and freedom of all beings. I began to work on the text and asked for input from Kathryn and Elizabeth, who encouraged me. When the text was finished, I sent it to a group of student teachers for comments, emphasizing that I hoped this prayer would resonate broadly and become part of our practice. I began to feel that it could serve an important function for us, for Prema and for Tara Dhatu, and I loved the idea of concluding daily practice after the dedication with this final energetic seal.

I began looking for a melody, and fell in love with the 16 Offering Goddesses. I liked the simplicity  of the alternating chords and the connotations to the offering that a similar melody might have, so I wrote a melody which resembled it. Along with the melody, came the desire to create a choreography. Like the prayer and melody, the dance would honor our lineage, which at its root combines classical Indian, Tibetan and Western sensibilities. I looked for mudras we are familiar with in our practices, so that we could easily learn the dance, and I was inspired by the flowing beauty of Calling Tara from the Heart and White Tara of the Six Shields. Not knowing if what I was doing would speak to anyone else or if it was respectful in the way I intended, I called on Parvati and Myri. They encouraged me to pursue the idea, and Myri contributed the vajra mudra and the elegant Vajra “flip” above our heads for the “Radiant Vajra Dancer” portion of the text. At the same time, Myri told me she was choreographing the long version of the prayer with her own music. I have seen videos of this dance but have yet to enjoy her dance it in person. To know that the long version of the prayer inspired such a work of beauty and devotion was energizing—the project now felt not only viable but alive!

In the winter of 2016, I taught the short dance and song to our Austin group, and we offered it to Prema in the spring. My mother, who is a composer, spent many

LLP recording team Spring 2017

The recording team in the studio: (from right to left) Anjali, Mercedes, Shivadam, and Parvati

hours handwriting the score, so we could offer that as well.

The next aspiration was to record the music, and we thought it might be done while Prema was in Brazil in 2016. After talking to Ricardo, the Brazilian guitarist who has greatly contributed to so many of our favorite recordings, I understood that the melody I had composed was too close to a traditional melody many of the Brazilian dancers were familiar with. As I wanted to find music that would inspire as many of us as possible, I asked Ricardo for some ideas, and he offered a variation. I reworked it again, using some of the suggestions and adding some new material. The new melody required a refrain, so this was the resulting text:

Long Life Prayer for Prema Dasara

Om Tare!

Daughter of the lineage

Of Noble Tara,

Radiant Vajra Dancer,

Sublime Teacher,

Prema Dasara,

May your life be long,

Supported in every way!

Until all beings

Awaken into freedom,

May you remain with us and guide us,

Dancing in bliss and joy,

Surrounded by love,

Abundance and good health,

Surrounded by love,

Abundance and good health,

Manifesting Tara’s

Wisdom, Compassion and Power!

Soha!

LLP recording Spring 2017 Mercedes and Anjali

At Big Bug Sound recording studio, Anjali danced the prayer over and over again as Mercedes sang through various takes, working to get it all just right.

When the melody and dance were set in 2016, I began imagining Mercedes Bahleda, the singer we love from White Tara of the Six Shields and Calling Tara from the Heart, as the voice to carry this precious message. From this aspiration, and the joyful thought of surprising Prema with a recording, came the courage to contact her. Mercedes was delightful—inspired by our project, she agreed to do it! We worked on dates, places, and in the end, as she lived near Parvati and Shivadam outside of Phoenix, we decided to find a recording studio there. Shivadam offered his skill and devotion to the

LLP recording Spring 2017 Shivadam

Shivadam sang in the recording booth while the computer captured the rainbow dancing notes.

project. He and I, with Parvati’s input, worked for several weeks on orchestration and sound texture. I wanted a baritone male voice to sing an “Om” throughout the song : I felt the male energy should be present, as it is in the 16 Offering Goddesses as well as the two main Tara origin myths. For me, the “Om” in Prema’s translation—“All that Exists”—naturally contained the masculine and feminine. Shivadam’s voice was ideal for this, and his familiarity with Indian music and practice brought depth to the mantric sound.

Now all that was needed was funding. Here again, Parvati and Myri were the cheerleaders, and then Parvati became the doula of the fundraising effort. In a short amount of time, the community of student teachers—all of you!!!—contributed so generously, that I booked the studio and arrived in Phoenix a few weeks later in March 2017.

 

Shivadam works with Robert of Big Bug Studios to get the mix just right.

Shivadam works with Robert of Big Bug Studios to get the mix just right.

The experience of recording the long life prayer was magical. Shivadam had initiated me to the importance of preparing all details before entering the sound studio, so we arrived with a script, which we revised according to Mercedes’ own process. I worked with him, Mercedes and Robert, the sound engineer, to create in soundscapes what I had dreamt about for so many years. The dream was spun into sound with great precision and great love, and details were added that gave depth and sparkle to the initial vision.  Mercedes’ voice shimmered (as it does), and she layered her offering with some improvisation. The result is what you hear… That afternoon in the studio was an oasis of Bliss and Joy I will never forget. I felt great healing in my relationship to music and to past experiences with it, and felt Tara’s presence—her enveloping warmth and love.

The morning of my flight back to Austin, Robert, Shivadam and I re-mixed the song into its final version, with a few tweaks that addressed imbalances and enhanced key details. Spending the extra time proved invaluable, and we were grateful for Robert’s generosity.

I know some of you, the student teachers, led by Myri and Parvati, offered this version of the Long Life Prayer to Prema at the Mount Madonna retreat. Barbara Patton generously pulled together some cards and CDs at the last minute, which looked beautiful. And I have heard that you managed to keep the secret till the day of the offering and that Prema was surprised… Mission accomplished! Thank you to all of you who danced that day! When I heard about the offering, I felt that the energy directed towards Prema’s good health had also blessed me with a sense of completion. It had been a very long time since I had been able to shepherd a creative project to its fullest expression. On a personal level, the sense of fulfillment was profound, and my gratitude grew stronger.

Tara Dhatu 2017 by Celestine Star - Lundell LLP Offering

Prema sat patiently as she waited for the Taras at the Spring Mainland retreat to offer her the surprise they had been working on quietly throughout the week.

So you see—this project was the result of a group effort and brought with it many blessings. The support of our community, the encouragement of Parvati and Myri, the inspiration of Elizabeth and Kathryn, Shivadam’s musicianship, the Brazilian community’s suggestions, Mercedes’ ethereal voice, and the offering at Mount Madonna all played a vital part in bringing it to fruition. My particular prayer is this:

To conclude our daily practice, may we direct the energy of this chant and dance to Prema’s long life and good health, the harmony of our community and our own vitality, so that we may appreciate and support each other in bringing our gifts into the world for the benefit of all beings. Soha!

Tara Dhatu 2017 by Celestine Star - Lundell 4-1-17 LLP

With Hearts full of gratitude and dedicated to nurturing to the auspicious circumstances that will support Prema-ji, the Taras all over the world, and all wisdom teachings, we offer this prayer and dance for the benefit of all beings. Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

Bright Nepal ~ Girls Rising… with a little help from their friends

Education Changes the World

Bright Nepal Girls 

Begin the New School Year with BIG Changes

And they need your generous support! 

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“Money is like manure. 

It’s meant to be spread around encouraging young things to grow”

Dolly Levi (Hello Dolly!) 

BrightNepalGirls

NGO Bright Nepal rescues impoverished “at risk” girls, 

gives them a safe haven and educates them.  

Bright Nepal is part of the powerful, transformative “girl effect”. 

Make a one time US tax deductible contribution through Tara Dhatu:

Click Here to Make  One Time Donation to Bright Nepal

OR
Set up an ongoing monthly contribution to support Bright Nepal through Tara Dhatu and become a godparent to help sponsor a child for their monthly expenses:

 Click Here to make a $40/month Bright Nepal donation and cover 1/2 of a child’s monthly expenses

OR…

Click Here to make an $80/month Bright Nepal donation covers a child’s monthly expenses in full

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Due to recent financial and personal health stresses, Pabitra Lama, Bright Nepal‘s founder and director, has decided to make changes to the organization as we have come to know it. Instead of the girls living in the Bright Nepal hostel when school is in session, they have moved into the hostel that is connected to their school, the Lord Buddha Secondary School. This just happened at the start of the new school year on April 17th. Pabitra will continue to manage not only the finances to pay for the girls room, board, school supplies, school fees, and clothing (etc.) but she will be managing their overall wellbeing by checking on them weekly and organizing outings for them once a month. 

In order to be able to support this change, it’s become imperative that we find additional godparents (sponsors) for the girls 

as soon as possible.  At the moment, each girl has one godparent that has committed to donating $40/mth to support them in their pursuit of a better life.  This amount only covers about half of Bright Nepal’s current costs.  So, we are seeking partner godparents for each of the girls.  If you are interested, please contact Angela directly as soon as possible.  

If not, consider making a tax deductible donation
to help finance this change.

THANK YOU SO MUCH for your generous support
in whatever form you feel inspired to give it!
With Love

  ~ Angela and Anahata 

GirlsRising

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