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

Tara Dhatu Season of Sangha FaceBook Fun with Friends

We have been playing some fun Q&A with FaceBook friends.

See some of the answers below… Join the fun on FaceBook, click here

Season of Sangha question #1

Hope Jinishian: I met Tara in Bali and it was love at first sight. Tara Dhatu practices and the Buddha Goddess Tara have propelled me all over the world this past year deepening, healing, guiding, consoling and inspiring, Culminating in the recent sharing of the Motivation Prayer, Refuge and Bodhicitta, Shantideva Prayer, White Tara of the Six Shields, Calling Tara from the Heart and Om Ah Hum dances at His Holiness 17th Karmapa’s Monastery in Woodstock, NY with Prema Dasara and MyriTara Naves, landing me a job here within a few days. Om Ah Hum! Speechless and joyful, happy and turned around. Grateful and…Om Tare! Love, Hope

Jasmine Ginter: I was looking for a retreat and a friend suggested Tara retreat on Kauai. It was (and still is) a compelling mix of spiritual, movement, and healing female goddess energy in a beautiful location. And I dove in!

Lydia San Riv: I was leaving in chile, just before I started my Doula certification, and two pregnant women were there… Was so magical. I continue dancing in Chile until I moves to Barcelona, and now it’s very difficult to find a group where I can dance.

Kylie Slavik: awesome! it was literally RIGHT down the street from my house and it was sort of mixed with DUP which I was into – so i just walked on down the street and totally fell in love

Adrienne Wyman: Bonnie Grey Meyer, Karen Metta Fleischer, Marie Elena Gaspari, Denise Weatherwax and I started dancing together. Hillside Church, El Cerritos CA.

Phyllis Danu: I had been reading a book about women and Buddhism. In this book the author mentioned Tara and quoted her mantra. So I started using her mantra, with a little tune that I made up I guess – don’t recall it now. I asked Tara to bring more of her practice into my life. Very shortly after this my dear friend told me she was going to a weekend retreat at The Abode of the Message called The Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara. I told her I would go with her. That was in spring 2002.

Catherine Walker: About 7years ago i saw a little black n white flyer advertising an introduction to Tara Dancing at Chandrakiriti Meditation Centrei.I went and after that was offered the leadership of the group, and my life hasn’t been the same since either!

Teresa Newberry: I was in a belly dance class and someone described the dance offering that was to given for HH the Dalai Lama and I knew I had to see it. I went and watching the dance stirred something deeply in my being and I determined that I would dance the Mandala. The next year when Prema returned to Tucson, I experienced the Mandala dancing as Auspicious Beauty and that was the beginning of a deep and beautiful path!

Sherry Harris: Taking a drumming class by African drummers Isa Marie was sponsoring, I spotted a postcard flyer, ‘Feet on the Earth’ for dancing Tara in Koke’e on Kaua’i. I called the # and spoke with Eana. Learning about Tara and the divine dance of her qualities over the weekend, I found myself wrapped in a Sari and part of a public offering that sweetened my soul and moved me so deeply. Been dancing in her footsteps ever since!

Parvati Forrest Anee Burke: My mom was dancing and called me up Sat and said she was doing the most amazing thing (she could not explain it) and said I had to throw my best friend in the car and come see the offering. I was in love immediately, even though I had no idea what I had just experienced. My life was never the same again!

Tara Mantra Accumulation Invitation Attunement

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Phyllis Moses writes:

One tried and true method of bring these practices deeper within so that we can always feel the joy and freedom of our True Nature dancing in our life is accumulating mantra. We simply repeat the mantra and count (generally on a mala of 108 beads, and there are also ‘counters’ that can be put on the mala so we can keep track up to 1 million). We do this to enliven our own inherent joy and capabilities. The definition of mantra is – that which protects the mind, that which protects your own mind from negativity (anyone else ever hear the voice of the  self critic? ; )  Mantra is the essence of sound (hence each syllable is called a seed syllable), and when we repeat the whole mantra it’s like watering seeds that can then ripen and sprout. What are we ripening? Our own essence, which is none other than Tara! We can start with this suggested visualization as a way to ‘get a feel’ for the love and devotion in our hearts, and to have a focus of one of the qualities Tara exemplifies.

Let’s focus on Tara # 2 – Creative Wisdom (Loter Yangchenma). She is known as Melodious Liberator, Source of Wisdom, the essence of creativity. She is white and shining brilliantly like the light of a thousand full autumn moons, and thousands of shimmering stars. She inspires us to meet life with creativity. One aspect of this creative mind is the power to see every circumstance, no matter how difficult, as an act of empowerment. We can ask our creative mind, “How can I meet this circumstance with wisdom and compassion?” – rather than becoming discouraged or despondent. Ultimately, the shimmering of stars represents the shimmering of love, compassion, wisdom, courage, and commitment radiating beneficial qualities to all beings. These are the qualities that our noble teachers reflect to us, they are more than poetic vision, they are  possibilities inherent within each of us.

We can cultivate these qualities by visualizing Tara, she is white symbolizing her activity of pacifying. In the center of the blue lotus flower she is holding by her left ear we visualize a mirror (in Tibetan, melong – symbolizing emptiness and pure consciousness) in which all wisdom is completely reflected. See the white light from the center of the mirror radiating in every direction. Begin to recite  Tara’s mantra (Om Tare Tutare Ture Soha), seeing the white light from Tara’s heart and from the mirror, emanating in ten directions. The light dispels all ignorance, gathers all the knowledge and wisdom that can benefit sentient beings, and returns back to the mirror. Then again from the mirror, light and wisdom radiate, filling every part of our bodies, and we feel that inner glow of compassion, wisdom, and love –  feeling this healing for all beings.  Then dissolve the visualization, sit in meditation for as long as possible, and then dedicate the merit.

Notice for yourself how it feels when you do 1 mala round, 2 malas….or half a day. The Tibetans say that doing 1 million mantras helps us to actualize the deity. Stay sincere with yourself, maybe some days might be 3 mantra repetitions – it’s all good! Notice how the contemplation helps inform your life circumstances, if we even remember to bring in this tool during a rough patch (and no judgement if we don’t remember). These are tools to help us come closer to actualizing our own Light. Which we know the world surely needs of each of us.

May all beings be well and happy.

May all beings know peace and joy.

May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

Samdong Rinpoche Celebrates the Tara Dance

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In 1998 fifty Tara Dancers from 11 countries of origin traveled to India and Nepal to dance the Mandala of the 21 Praises of Tara for the Tibetan Refugees. One of the stops was the sacred land of Sarnath, where Shakyamuni Buddha gave his first teaching after his enlightenment experience in Bodhgaya

Samdhong RinpocheThe group offered the dance at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. They were invited by the Director, Samdhong Rinpoche, who several years later became the first President of the Tibetan People in exile. His addressed to the audience and performers after the dance was recently transcribed  from the video “The Quiet Revolution”.

 

 

I don’t know how to address you. Shall I address you all the 21 Taras? My Deity? Or shall I address you the wonderful artists? The performers?

I am indeed very happy to be able to witness this excellent performance of Tara dance. And I think this is the blessing of Tara Deity.

A very new initiative; for my knowledge it is for the first time I have heard and have witnessed a dance of 21 Taras.

It is therefore you all deserve my sincere congratulations, appreciation.   And I believe that it would benefit all sentient beings, to receive blessings, to receive prayers, through this manifestation.

I appreciate each one of you for performing excellently.

The composition of this performance is of international stature. Almost each part of the continents of the world are represented in this group. That is really very important. This signifies the unity and integrity of humanity all over the globe. And signifies that this dance performance can dispel the divisions, conflicts and hatred among mankind, and humanity all over the globe can live with loving kindness and compassion, together, to benefit to entire sentient beings.

I once again thank you all on behalf of my student community, my colleagues and my own self for this wonderful performance. And I dedicate the merits, which we all earned and created together in this evening for the devotion to Tara for attainment of Buddhahood to all sentient beings. All may live in peace. Thank you.

Eulogy for a Great Master of Odissi Sacred Dance Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena

GurujiMy beloved Odissi teacher, Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena, has passed away. My sister dancer friend Elizabeth Burnett, who has a school for orphans in Puri, Orissa, wrote of his March 26th passing, “He was preparing for a dance festival at Khira Chora Gopinath Temple. He had been fasting as was his habit on such days and doing puja. He felt a little funny and got up and just had a heart attack and left like a golden bird! ”

Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena pakawaj

I studied with Guruji in Madras as his private student every day for four years. He was an amazing teacher and I could never repay the gift that he gave me.

Guruji’s style was lyrical and subtle. He was a master at leading each dancer into a personal expression of Odissi. He was deeply devotional. Every day he would arrive at my house, and say a prayer before each picture of the deities I had on the wall of the main room where we danced. He would settle himself before the altar I would have meticulously arranged with fresh flowers, incense burning and an oil lamp flickering. I would place his drum before him, touch his feet, and then we would both be transported into the heavenly realm of music and dance.dancing - temple copy

When my husband first offered to sponsor me in whatever study I chose, I was naturally drawn to Indian dance. There were a number of styles and possibilities but when I saw Guruji’s class at the esteemed Kalakshetra Academy, I was smitten.

I immediately asked him to accept me as a private student. He refused, but did invite me to join his class at Kalakshetra. It was a very intimidating prospect. The class had been going for two years. I knew nothing about Indian dance. But I was determined, so three times a week I would gather with the 10 other young women, some of them professional dancers, in a little screened-in thatched shack. The floor was polished concrete and we would stamp away. I stayed in the back, scrambling to figure out what they were doing. It was so complicated; rhythmic patterns, body shapes, midriff, hands eyes, and all of this had to be infused with feeling. Classes were held in three different languages….Guruji’s native Oriya, the local Tamil and the universal Sanskrit/Hindi. Guruji spoke little English at the time and there were no translators.

Yamuna & children copyI would chase the other dancers around begging them to show me any little piece of the puzzle I could understand. Then I would practice for hours. After a month of this, Guruji approached me and said he had never seen anyone learn as fast as I did. He said that he would come to my house the next day. Being accepted in this way was the equivalent of being accepted into his family and indeed I was soon to meet his beautiful wife, Yamuna, and his three sons. We became very close.

foto001Guruji had a beautiful voice and was a master pakawaj (drum) player. He was immeasurably sensitive and I learned how to coax exquisite feminine expressions out of my coarse western woman ways. Many of the movements were so subtle he would take my hands and place them on his body so I could feel where the movement originated.

Guruji’s ability to transform himself into any number of dancing deities was like watching a master of shape shifting. All of this was done with the deepest sense of devotion. To dance as the deity was the most precious offering one could make.

devadasi puriThe dance of the Maharanis (sacred dancers) in Orissa was essential to the life of the people. The dancer was “married” to the god, Jaganath, and danced as the Mother of the Universe before him. If the dancer did not dance, the god did not eat. If the god did not eat the rain did not fall and the people did not eat.

Guruji had long desired to bring his students to his birth village, Remuna, to dance at the sacred temple of Khira Chora Gopinath. Several months after my private classes began I was invited to join him and four of his senior dancers to make an offering there.

Version 2Remuna is deep in the countryside of Orissa. Guruji’s father, a farmer, was in his cucumber field when we arrived. Standing barefoot and bare-chested in his field, he looked like a noble man on his own estate. His mother was short and round and beaming with love. She was so happy to see her son and to welcome his students into her home. The house was made of mud walls and thatched roof. There were all kinds of nooks and crannies, small side rooms. It was an extended family home and there must have been twenty people including numerous children in and out. We visitors were tucked into various rooms and corners, Guruji was very solicitous for his western students.

We had a sumptuous meal, we sat with the family on mats on the floor with Guruji’s mom and his sister-in-law serving us on banana leaf plates. We ate with our hands. Since there was no electricity, we carried candles and kerosene lamps into our rooms and were quickly asleep with the exhaustion of travel and new impressions.

The next day, we went to the Khira Chora temple and were touched by the enthusiastic reception. Guruji was a favored child when he lived at home, starring in local renditions of sacred plays. He ran away to gain instruction in dance and it was deeply rewarding for all of them to have him return as a successful performer and teacher.

Version 3The building was old and permeated with mystery and wondrous stories of visiting saints and the appearance of the Khira Chora Gopinath himself. Gopi means cowherd girl and nath is Lord. Therefore we knew this was a Krishna temple as that is one of his most popular titles, Lord of the Cow Herd Girls. Chora means thief and Khira is a prized Indian sweet dish made of rice cooked in condensed milk and sugar with almonds and raisins. The legend is that the area was famous for its Khira, especially at one devotee’s house, who would always put a container of the best Khira in her shrine as an offering to Lord Krishna. Every night, she locked the shrine and every morning when she opened the door, the Khira would be gone. Wanting to catch the thief, she sat up one night watching and sure enough, it was Lord Krishna himself who was stealing her sweet.

When we got back to Guruji’s home for lunch, we were told that the villagers wanted to give us a display of their dance. Everyone was very excited about this. The young men set off on bicycles to pick up essential supplies and Guruji organized for someone to bring some folding chairs. We were puzzled, wondering where this dance would take place. All the rooms of the house were very small. We ate on the veranda and that was not very big.

Around sunset, Guruji directed his family to organize the chairs by the side of the road. The road was just a dirt track. We had been brought there by taxi the day before but had not seen another car pass that way. A few bullock carts, a few bicycles, lots of walkers…..but no automobile traffic. As night settled in, Guruji had torches placed on both sides of the road and ordered us into our chairs. We became aware of a primal drumbeat, that seemed to come from a great distance. As it approached, we also heard men chanting, weaving their voices around this deep-throated sound. Finally we saw them coming around a far bend in the road. Young boys held torches and led the procession, followed by two men with enormous round-faced, flat drums hanging from their necks in front of their bodies. They swayed as they walked and pounded the drums with padded sticks.Version 2

Behind the drums walked the village men, each one carrying a long pole. They were bare chested, bare foot, with only a half lungie tied around their waist. The singing got louder as they approached and then they were in front of us. The torch bearers drove the pointed ends of their torches into the ground and the men faced us, first whispering a prayer and doing some simple mudras. Guruji explained that they were going to do a dance that was famous in this part of Orissa. It was actually a martial art. The men were going to fight with the sticks. Then, without further introduction, they began. Sometimes there were just two men fighting with each other. Then another pair of men would join and they would change partners. The striking of the sticks was rhythmic, but also quite aggressive and Guruji moved our seats back a few times when it looked like things were getting especially hot between a couple of the contenders.

There were young boys on the edge of puberty who were drawn into the circle by the mature men and you could see the way they were being trained. Old men were also invited in to the fight and careful consideration was given to their limited abilities. But when the young men went for each other it was terrifying and things grew to a crescendo with all the men paired off and fighting. In the midst of this cacophony and chaos, coming from the other side of the road, as if from a great distance we heard the sound of a different drum.  The voices of the village women began weaving their way into the dynamic atmosphere. The men, pair by pair, ended their fight and sat down around us as the women entered the arena, following their torch bearers and their drums.

They were in two lines holding each other around the waist. They were dressed in a single piece of cloth, a village sari that went just below the knee and wrapped around their waist and breasts. They did not have any choli or slip under their saris. They were very dark skinned with exquisite facial features and their singing was mesmerizing. The two lines snaked around each other. The movement was simple and after a time the women on the end of the lines took our hands, and pulled us into their weaving, swaying, undulating dance. We entered their trance time, dance time, time disappeared.

Several years later, Guruji started his own dance school in Cuttuck, Orissa, and I joined him there. After years of preparation, he declared that I was ready for the ceremony of Mancha Pravesha. This ceremony represented the marriage of the dancer to the god. In modern times, it had become a formality, a way of a dance teacher presenting his latest dancer of significant accomplishment.

It was currently the style to rent a large hall and invite all the dignitaries of the city. But I was not especially interested in establishing my name as a dancer. I wanted to have my ceremony in the Kheera Chora Gopi Nath temple. Guruji was delighted with the idea.

The area certainly had an atmosphere of Krishna and his play with the Gopis. There was a magic in the air, fairy dust, and looking through the sunbeams bouncing off the leaves,  you could see the Gopis laughing and playing with the Blue Skinned God, Krishna.

The priests of the temple were simple folk and this was a very big deal for them. A foreign woman would receive the shawl, blessed by the God, representing her marriage to Him and her willingness to serve Him with the beauty of her dancing body. They were enthralled.

I merged completely with their delight and wandered about the simple compound, melting with devotion.

preparationforjourneyThe day of the celebration started with a deep mediation in a nearby Shiva shrine. I was in a very peaceful mood when I entered the temple and the simple ceremony of being married to Lord Krishna was enacted by the priest and Guruji. They had draped the precious silk shawl that I bought for this occasion over the shoulders of Lord Krishna and he wore it throughout the morning devotions. Then the priest, chanting beautiful prayers, took it from Krishna and placed it around my shoulders. It was an ecstatic moment and I walked out into the blazing sunshine shimmering with joy.

As I skipped down the steps, I noticed a great deal of kerfuffle in the courtyard. A small army of villagers were draping the elegantly carved stone walls of the temple with pink and blue satin bunting. I was appalled and ran to Guruji. He was delighted. It was his idea and I didn’t dare be critical about whatever he planned. It was a ceremony celebrating him as a teacher as well as me as a student and he had his standards. Then I noticed a huge generator over by the outer wall and several police men hanging around. Guruji explained that the electricity would surely go out during the performance and that he had to have his musicians amplified, they expected this.

The police were there to keep the villagers out of the temple complex when I was dancing. The mayor of the small town was coming and they didn’t want the riff raff making too much noise.

I could not have been more disappointed. Guruji bustled off to oversee the bunting and I drooped my way over to the Natya Mandir.

In ancient times, the dancer danced on this elevated stone platform, directly in front of the inner sanctum. When the doors to the temple were open, you could see Krishna dancing, surrounded by his milkmaids.

The roof of the mandir is held up by elegantly carved stone pillars, so I was protected from the blazing midday sun. Everyone soon left the compound, time for afternoon lunch and nap. I fell into a deep meditation, feeling disappointment boiling in my body, boiling in my blood, hot tears pouring down my cheeks.

Overwhelmed with so much emotional pain, I thought of all the years of preparation, the sacrifices, the dreams, all destroyed by pink and blue bunting. As I suffered, I happened to look up and I saw that the door to the temple was open and Krishna was looking directly at me. There was so much light I was blind to everything but him. My heart was beating wildly, and then I felt something in me let go.

I realized that none of the details mattered. Everything was being done with so much love, so much care, what did it matter. The same intensity of suffering burst into an explosion of bliss. The temple melted into light. I melted into light. There was nothing but joy.

Later in the afternoon, my friend Ananda came to help me dress. The layers of intricately sewn silk, traditpremamanchapravesh3 copyionally dyed and woven went on first. Then the silver jewelry, the traditional pieces representing a dancer’s accomplishments. The elaborate crown, carved from balsa reeds, mimicked a halo of jasmine flowers. Next came makeup, with eyes exaggerated and ruby lips. Then hands and feet were adorned with red dye in simple patterns. I picked up my ropes of ghungaroos (54 bells on each ankle) and after pressing them to my eyes to take their blessing. I wrapped them carefully.

I was ready. I could hear the musicians tuning. Guruji sat behind his pakawaj. (double headed drum) His brother Tarani, the main singer, sat next to him. The violinist and the flautist were professionals. As I walked into the temple, I could hear the roar of the generator and I smiled to myself thinking of the afternoon’s meditation. I could also see sitting all around the outside wall of the temple the local folk, chattering loudly. They became very animated when they saw me. The police men brandished their clubs. I smiled.

premadancing copyI assumed the position of entry. Guruji nodded and the drum roll announced the opening dance. I was so filled with joy that I could not stop smiling. The pieces rolled one into the other. I knew them like the back of my hand. I was ecstatic, dancing to honor my teacher, dancing for the honored guests, dancing for the villagers, dancing for Krishna, dancing as a sublime expression of liberation, beauty, harmony, joy.

And then my teacher was garlanding me, the mayor garlanded me, the crowds roared and I could not stop smiling. Unattachment leads to great bliss. What a blessed day.

And so now I am faced with the ultimate unattachment, to accept that my beloved Guruji has left us to join the gods and goddesses he served with such devotion.

IMG_8263Several years ago I led a group of dancers to India. I had not seen or heard from Guruji in many years. Visiting Puri, the most sacred village in Orissa, my friend Elizabeth told me that Guruji had moved back to Orissa. He had been teaching in Delhi and every time I passed through that city, I was unable to meet him. Now he was retired to his beloved Remuna and had a small dance studio there. Elizabeth gave me a current phone number and I was able IMG_8244to connect with his oldest son Biswa. Arrangements were made and Guruji, Yamuna, Biswa and his wife met us at one of my most sacred places in India, the Temple of the 64 Yoginis.

We were all ecstatic. We prayed together. And then my students and I offered dance to Guruji and the deities in the temple. Guruji was delighted to see that the movements he had so carefully taught me were reflected in the dances I had created and in the students I had shared them with.DSC00751IMG_0297

That evening, Guruji accompanied us to one of the temples of Bhubaneswar, where a festival of Odissi dance was being held. I was pleased to see the respect the dignitaries of the art world paid him.

DSCN3887The next day I danced for him and he danced for us at our hotel. When we said goodbye, I touchedDSCN3838 his feet in reverence, never knowing it would be for the last time.

How fleeting this life. How precious this connection that provided me with the movement vocabulary that I have used to create dances of exquisite beauty and powerful inspiration. Whenever I dance, I think of my Guruji, the gifts he gave us, the preciousness of moving our bodies in a way that celebrates life and devotes our beauty and awakening to the highest ideals.

Sarva Mangalam Guruji. May All Be Auspicious For You

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Tara Dances in Java at the Sakyadhita Conference

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Most of our Bali pilgrims opted to join us at the 14th Sakyadhita International Conference in a lush resort outside of Yogyakarta.

 

 

 

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It was a short hop from Bali to Java. Our small plane was filled with tribal elders from some of the remote island tribes enroute to meet with the government of the country to discuss issues. The sounds and smells were quite exotic!! As we flew through the clouds we could see the peaks of several volcanos venting. We were riding on the mythical Garuda into a new world.

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We arrived and were treated with loving attention, whisked into a huge bus and ferried to the Sambi Resort. Our rooms were lovely. The grounds were exquisite with a little river running through the center and sculpted gardens and walkways. They were pulsing with one thousand mostly women, many of them nuns, from all over the world, greeting each other with glee.

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The focus of the conference was to discuss creating better connections between Dharma and the social and political dimensions of women’s experience. For one week we explored through meditation, educational presentations, workshops, interactive discussions, cultural exchanges and spontaneous conversations how compassion and spiritual development can help shape a more just and peaceful world.

Over many centuries, Buddhist women have made significant contributions to the spiritual and social well-being of their communities. Nevertheless, Buddhist women are frequently excluded from the processes that shape their communities, such as negotiations among religious, governmental, and social leaders. Since 1987 Sakyadhita has been addressing these concerns methodically and it is very moving to see the women share their strategies with each other.

IMG_0169The first order of business was a magnificent feat of organization….the entire 1000 members of the conference were transported to the royal palace to meet the Sultan/Governor of the area. We were seated in a lovely pavilion and treated to welcome talks, food and drink, and then a tour of the royal palace. It was a very powerful way to start the conference.

 

 

The days were organized with panels in the morning and early afternoon presenting papers and 2015 SAKYADHITA yogyakarta_dancing of tara_photo by Yeonsuk KA-GAGYO05discussing topics. Mid afternoon were a wide range of workshops from learning the art of batik, to learning the art of meditation. We were part of the workshop offerings. There were many wonderful things being offered and it was difficult for people to choose but despite the competition, our workshops were filled to overflowing.

 

2015 SAKYADHITA yogyakarta_dancing of tara_photo by Yeonsuk KA-GAGYO_122We led one group in dancing the Qualities of Green Tara. Another afternoon we concentrated on White Tara. But I think the most popular and amusing event of all was teaching Tara Tames the Eight Fears, a dance drama that I wrote for children. Attendees to the conference were from 40 different countries and I knew that we were going to bog down in translation. So I simply started dancing and singing with the music acting out all the parts. We were given a charming little spot next to the river. I wasn’t anticipating a big crowd but I was so wrong.

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The small space quickly filled up with laughing dancing friends. People continued to gather and dance with us on walkways, hills and gardens surrounding us. By the time we got to dancing the “Demon of Doubt” there were almost a hundred people surrounding us chanting with glee, “Namoh Arya Tara”!!!

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According to the schedule we were to offer the Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara at one of the sacred temples in the area. We invited anyone who was willing to practice with us every morning for an hour to join the mandala. We were given an open air pavilion, on the highest level of the resort.

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We looked right out onto the smoking volcano, Mount Merapi. the most active volcano in Indonesia.

After practicing the praises Myri and I taught the group our new “Dancing Tara From The Heart”, inspired by a Dzogchen Sadhana of Dudjom Lingpa. By the end of practice we were all in an altered state.

 

DSCF5109At the end of the conference we went with about half of the attendees on pilgrimage to some of the ancient Buddhist sites of the area. Java was a famous seat of Buddhist practice and learning from the second century until the 14th century. It was breathtaking to wander these ancient monuments.

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Our first stop was a sunrise meditation at Borobodur. the largest Buddhist temple in the world. We spent all morning meditating and walking contemplatively around the massive structure, enjoying the exquisite reliefs, endless depictions of the Buddhist Way.

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After a lavish meal the buses bounced us through the countryside to one treat after another. One of the temples we explored was devoted to White Tara, a practice brought to the area by Atisha, famous for bringing Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet. We danced Tara on the grounds, a joyous, uplifting experience.

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The pilgrimage climaxed with an offering of the Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara in front of the Manjushri Temple complex. All the arrangements that we had been promised, a stage, etc were not in evidence…..we were pointed to a grassy area where there were a few chairs stacked, a few rolls of mats and a few trees to escape the sun.

Tara_042_NAM4246The dancers didn’t miss a beat. We had brought some sheets “just in case” and created a dressing room held up by dancers and supporters. Once we decided on the direction, facing the audience, the temple behind us, we rolled out the mats for our audience, organized some chairs and walked through the mandala to center ourselves.

 

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Parvati meets Tenzin Palmo, President of Sakyadhita, who enjoyed the offering immensely.

We managed the sound through my little blue tooth speaker and one of the conference attendees amplified it through a speaker she happened to have with her. Letting go of all preconceived ideas of the way it was supposed to be we all entered a state of profound bliss, dancing and singing Tara’s Praises. Audience and dancers, all were transported.

 

 

 

We have an invitation to bring our precious dharma dances to the next Sakyadhita Conference to be held in Hong Kong. Let me know if you want to join us. I am also seeking sponsorship for two of our senior teachers to attend. Let me know if you would like to make a donation to help me realize this .

We join hearts with this precious gathering of dynamic women and cheer them on in their endeavors of providing equal opportunity in the dharma for all.

Om Tare

If you want to enjoy more images of the Conference here are a couple of links……

… a short video by Ari Amphel about the 14th Sakyadhita Conference

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GRw_hiaiJ28

…a link to Olivier Adam’s professional photos

https://www.flickr.com/gp/134511549@N02/yBkP08

 

 

The Quest For a Crown Maker

IMG_0774Another Bali adventure with Mekare!!

Balinese Crowns~  What a glorious site to behold! Most are made of intricately carved leather painted with real gold. Extraordinary and luscious.  For Tara, however, we cannot use leather, so I began the quest to find a crown maker who worked in metal. The search involved friends and family asking friends and family, many motorbike rides through the countryside to other villages, often in rain showers through emerald green rice fields following directions given word of mouth from a friend to a friend to a friend.

The search was full of adventures but after weeks, only crown makers who used leather had been found. And then Oka suddenly suggested we look in the village of Bangli. He had an intuition that someone was there. Bingo. Friends of family confirmed this intuition. So early one bright morning we set off, Budi, Oka, and I. It was priceless.

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Budi, the Crown Maker and Oka

After unexpected shop closings, more mysterious Balinese directions, and help from divine guidance we arrived way down a side road at a little shop, in the magical world of the crown maker.

The crowns were amazing. Gleaming gold. The shop was little. Three women were working at a table making the golden attachments that go on wedding crowns and dancer’s crowns that shimmer and shake.  And the man who makes the crowns was so very beautiful.

A fun pow-wow began.  Oka and Budi translating and telling what I needed….. five points, five different color stones. Between the three of us in Balinese, Bahasa Indonesian and pantomime, magic happened. The crown maker brought out his designs and we talked of how to modify them to make them into “Tara Crowns”. It was a wonderful collaboration, full of joy and inspiration and such fun.  I will never forget, after all had been discussed, dear Budi listening intently and writing the list to give to the crownmaker in Bahasa as I stood there envisioning the crowns on the Taras and speaking aloud in English.

#1 ” … this one with red stone in center … Swift Protection, # 2 … this other one with white stone in center…. Creative Wisdom….OH!  I see… #12.. this other one with gold stone in center…  Auspicious Beauty… Yes Yes Yes…. that other one…. that is Irresistible Truth.

Oka came over… took my hand and said….  “This one for the Buddha, Mekare, for Complete white tara crownEnlightenment” Yes! Exactly. We all beamed at each other.

And then, I said, “Budi, I really need to know prices.” Oka and the crown maker spoke. They translated for me.  800,000 Rupiah a piece… around $65 each, much more than was budgeted for crowns. But I beamed at the crown maker who is so kind and lovely.  I said that the crowns are amazing and that I would send this information to the director of the project who was in Brazil and that we would call when I knew what was possible. We all shook hands and bowed. And we took off in the car.

After about 15 minutes, I had the courage to ask… “Are the leather crowns that price?”

No, usually a little cheaper. But depending on the elaborate carving.. some can be more expensive.”  Ok…   the courage to ask more…. I said, “I am confused.  I have to ask you, do Balinese pay that for their crowns? Or is that a price for foreigners?”

Budi looked at me, a bit confused too, and said…. “We don’t buy crowns. We RENT them!”

For Dances and Theater and Weddings and Ceremony, crowns are RENTED.

They are fantastic quality, precious, and honored. And rented.

Nothing cheap. Nothing to only last briefly. But wonderful, beautifully made. Whether in leather or in metal.

As Budi laughed and said… “No one has crowns at home.”

And Oka explained to me, that the crowns are made of Copper, then dipped in Silver, then dipped in Gold.  The alchemy of metals. We had spoken of this a bit in our first long day of Tara teachings. When I had told him of Radiant Health and Copper, he had told me that in Bali the 3 precious metals are Gold / Blood,  Silver/ Lymph, and Copper/Sweat and we had had a wondrous discussion of spirit and health and body and alchemy.

CeleneNow, here we were again. The most precious combination of metals within a crown placed upon the crown of a human being. I was in awe of the power and majesty of this. The activation of the inner sovereign. The glow of enlightened mind. The revelation of the Goddess within. Glorious. Magical.

I immediately wrote Prema in Brazil and told her the story and recommended, if it was at all possible, to have these crowns made for Tara. She did not hesitate. Two days later, she sent me an email saying “Yes!”.  Oka and Budi and I were so happy. We made that call to the crown maker, smiling in joy.

The Blessing of the Crowns

priest and wife

Though he will forever lovingly be “The Crown maker” to me, he is called Jero Mangku. I like that too. Those are names of a priest. And there was something I knew I wanted to ask him when Budi and I returned to Bangli ~  If there was a day during our retreat that was auspicious for a blessing of the crowns!

The Balinese dancers have a special purification ceremony and blessing of their headdresses before they dance.  Similar to the ceremony mask dancers have for their masks.  It is a very profound ceremony. I wanted to offer this ceremony as part of the retreat.  So I asked, and the beloved Crownmaker, Jero Mangku, smiled in deep appreciation. Budi translated. He said he was very happy that such an important act to the Balinese was also important to me. He checked the Balinese calendar (which is a most extraordinary astrological “bible”!)

“Yes, Absolutely. The powerful day of the Dark of the Moon.”

We could do the ceremony sometime between 6 AM and Midnight on Tuesday, June 16th.

I was ecstatic. I then asked a friend, Putra, one of the dearest beings I have ever met, and a priest and puppeteer, which is a most sacred of combinations in Bali, if he would do the ceremony for the Crowns. I knew his energy would be a sublime gift to our group. Was he available?  Yes!

The ceremony is first a purification of the crowns… cleansing them of any astral energies making offeringsaccumulated during their creation, from the process and the environment, etc. Then a blessing of power in which Taksu is invoked to enter the crowns.  When Taksu is invoked into a crown, headdress, or mask, it imbues the object with a potent and precious spiritual power and the dancer is thus empowered when she/he wears it.

We gathered around the complex and extremely beautiful altar. There were tears of wonder in the eyes of those in our group. The flowers and holy water gifted their gifts, Putra chanted the mantras of blessing, and the crowns glowed… and glowed…. and glowed…. brighter and brighter. The wind blew softly. And Taksu entered.

There was no doubt that this ceremony blessed and empowered the exquisite crowns of copper, silver, and gold that the crown maker had so lovingly made.  A set of 22 beautiful crowns made for Tara, that will empower and bless Tara Dancers all around the world, had been born!

Om Tare!!Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 12.12.23 PM

 

The Miracle of the Masks

DSCN5872A Letter from Mekare about the Tara Mask Project

How can words explain the mystery? That is always the question when attempting such a thing. And that is certainly true in the story of the making of a set of masks for the 21 Praises of Tara. What an incredible journey it has been. And it continues.

All over the world mask dance rituals have been conduits power and blessing. Magical and mystical, the roots of mask dancing are

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Oka’s brother demonstrates the power and presence of the mask.

ancient.  The mask is a tool of shape shifting, power, and a portal into another world. A mask powerfully enables a dancer to embody the energy of another being. Most people first think of a mask as a way to conceal, but in actuality masks are tools of deep transformation, offering the dancer a unique way of transcending usual states of consciousness and entering a profound spiritual state.

I began my life’s journey with masks in 1996 in Bali, in the studio of Ida Bagus Anom.  A direct transmission from a mask flooded through my being and I have never been the same since. As Anom says, “The relationship between a dancer and the mask is infinite”.

I am on the path of the infinite, in relationship with the magic of the mask. By 2002 I was performing solo masked dance ritual pieces and exploring the myriad of ways in which healing, awareness, and empowerment can happen through mask dancing.

When Prema asked me to go to Bali to find and work with a mask maker to create masks for Tara to be danced at the Tara Dance Monlam, I was immediately excited. This project combined three of my great loves ~ masks, Bali and Tara. Tara Dhatu sponsored, I returned to beloved Bali in March 2015.

Less than 48 hours after arriving I ventured to Mas, the village of the woodcarvers. I had decided not to contact any of the mask makers to make appointments quite yet for I knew that I was just meant to wander that day, get reacquainted with Bali, and remember the magic that happened for me there many years ago. I was to open to experience, not plan anything. As I wandered through the village, reveling in just being back in Bali, breathing deeply, I said prayers to Tara to guide me to exactly where I needed to be, to meet exactly who I needed to meet.

Suddenly, I felt called to turn around and walk back the way I came.  This seemed a bit unusual, but I followed that feeling. I crossed the street, wandered in and out of a few shops. I was walking past a man standing on a terrace in front of a shop of wooden sculptures. I could see no masks inside the shop.  But the man…. I felt I knew him…. he was so compelling to me….. he looked image2familiar…. soul familiar…. so very beautiful. I turned to look at him and we smiled. He gestured for me to enter. And I did.

It was an open airy room with carved sculptures, no masks.  But I did not want to leave. We kept smiling at each other. There was a feeling in the air I will never be able to put into words. I suddenly turned to him and said “I feel like I know you” And he said he felt the same way about me. We began to speak of life and death, art and magic. Suddenly, I asked his name. He replied, “Oka”.

“Oka, the mask maker?” I replied, totally surprised in delight. “Yes” and he smiled into my eyes.  “Oka!! I am Mekare, the woman who contacted you about the masks for Tara!” Months ago Prema had connected with an American woman who lived in Bali and worked with some mask makers. She had introduced Prema to Oka. Prema had him make a mask as a sample and mail it to me. I knew immediately, when I saw that mask, that I could work with him.

He stared and grinned. I stared and grinned. And then we hugged a big hug and burst into joyous laughter. It was a most magical moment. We know each other. Somehow. From somewhere. From sometime. And we were meant to meet again now. As one of my bee sisters would say, “we had an appointment with destiny.”

Oka told me that he had been carving and suddenly felt compelled to walk outside for a break. I told him I had suddenly felt compelled to turn around and cross the street.  We burst into DSCN4189laughter and hugged again.  And then he invited me to come into the inner courtyard and sit with him on his carving mat. That spot quickly became my favorite place in Bali.

We spoke of our personal journeys with the mask.  We spoke of our relationship with Tara.  He had carved a beautiful sculpture of Tara many years ago and she had touched him. He said it was when he was “oh so very young.” And then he told me about the wood that had just “come”.

Sacred masks in Bali are made with the wood of the Pule tree.  Many of the sacred aspects of the mask are breathed into the mask by the spirit of Pule.  A few days prior to my arrival in Bali, in a huge wind, a large Pule tree fell and the master mask makers of Mas received its holy wood. Oka now had the wood he needed to carve many masks. Before that tree fell, he did not have enough to make the masks of Tara.

It is considered very auspicious when a tree falls without the hand of man, offering itself. The image1wind had blessed us all.  I smiled at him. “It is said that Tara rides the wind, Oka. The wind is her element!”  He took my hands and said…. “Together we will make these masks, you and I and Tara and the spirit of the wood!”

I returned often to Oka’s carving mat giving him the teachings of each Tara. Oka had asked if I had pictures of each of the Taras. I explained that most of the thangkas and paintings of the Taras all had the same Buddha face, but that in our dance we embodied the expressions of the qualities and we wanted these expressions on the masks.

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He asked how he would know these expressions. I replied, “With this!” and gestured to my face and my body. “I will transmit them to you!”  We both grinned.  Those days were truly some of the happiest of my life. I would give the teaching of a specific Tara and dance her energy and expression, then we would talk about the essence of that quality.  Our lively discussions explored elements of Tibetan Buddhism and elements of Balinese Hindu/Animism and the journey of the human soul. It was a remarkable time. We then made simple rustic sketches of expressions with notations and the mantra.

It was a week before Balinese New Year, Nyepi. Oka said he would begin carving after the New Year. The excitement was palpable!

Sacred masks in Bali are created with extreme care and awareness. From a block of holy wood emerges the face of the deity. Masks go through many stages of carving and sanding, and then many layers of paint are applied. For high holy masks such as the Barong, the process takes several months of carving and painting and the mask is painted with over 40 layers of paint. When the masks are complete, a beautiful and powerful ritual of cleansing and blessing is performed. In this ceremony the deity is invited to fully enter the mask. The mask becomes the “mouthpiece of the deity in the world”. It is extraordinary.

Eight of the masks of Tara have now been completed and others are in different stages of carving. DSCF4961Because of Oka’s mission of goodwill to Australia, we were not able to continue our work during the time the Tara Dhatu pilgrims were in Bali.

Oka and I are committed to completing this project. The energy of Tara is still vibrating in the creative process.  I asked Oka what he needed from me the most and he told me to continue sending him energy from my daily Tara practice to empower and bless our creation. And to return soon to Bali to work with him to fine-tune the expressions during the final carving stage and assist in selecting the nuanced colors to paint each of the masks.

There have been so many people involved in the creation of these masks, from Buddhist practitioners with many years experience to those who had never heard of Tara before. There have been many changes over the years, many delays, many interesting tales, twists, and turns. And most of all much much magic.  In the words of dear Budi, a wonderful young Balinese man who was my driver, translator, protector and friend, who quickly became what I call my “international executive assistant”, a young man who learned more about Tara than most ever will by being by mask2my side through one adventure after another… whenever a major delay happened… He would smile at me and say “Do not worry. It is all in Tara’s time.”

In this world in which we live, during these most challenging and profound times of change and evolution, it is more important than ever to support each other, to support the wisdom teachings, the creative arts, and the evolution and enlightenment of all beings. To acknowledge each and every being with love and tenderness, to offer refuge and inspiration, to bless and empower all.

From my heart I send you a sip of magic from this most amazing Tara cup, for her magicDSCF4963 and her light are flowing with great strength into these masks and into all who are involved in their creation in any way.  Fourteen more masks are to be completed, making a full set of twenty-two (Central Tara and Her 21 Emanations), twenty-two faces of the Buddha Tara.

We need to raise $7000 in order to complete this project. To Contribute to supporting the Tara Dhatu Tara Mask Project

click here

Send an email to   info@taradhato.org   informing us that your donation is for the Masks of Tara.

With love and a litany of gratitude

Mekare

 

I would like to thank, first and foremost, the Buddha Tara, for her immense wisdom, compassion, and power. It is for Her that these masks are made.

Gratitude to Prema Dasara for her very being, her wisdom, her dance, and for her commitment to bringing the teachings of Tara ever more into this world in profoundly beautiful and creative ways.

Many thanks to Tara dancer Lena Grace and the amazing mask maker Lauren Raine who contributed so much energy, expertise, and love to the evolving vision of the masks of Tara.

Thank you – Suksma – Terima Kasih – to the extraordinary and precious Balinese mask makers Ida Bagus Oka and Ida Bagus Anom. I bow to your hearts and the skill of your art. You inspire me with every breath you take.

Gratitude to my personal deity yoga dance teachers on the inner plane… His Holiness the Karmapa, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, Yeshe Tsogyal, the Bee Mistress, and the Dakini.

And to Dayu, Budi, Made, SuSanti, Komang, Ricka, Putra, Choc-in, Sally, Linda, and Sika  ~ my Balinese family, who throughout this work have been protectors, creative assistants, mentors, and most of all beloved friends.

And gratitude for YOU… all of you, each and every one.  You know who you are.

Om Tare Tutare Ture Soha

 

Offerings and the Invisible

IMG_0019Offerings connect us with the invisible. Every Balinese knows that in addition to our concrete reality perceptible to the senses, there is the invisible reality. Though hidden and secret it can be sensed.

Tunggal, the unthinkable, the inconceivable, he who cannot be imagined is the supreme god of Indonesian Hinduism.  He is known to most modern Balinese as the “All-In-One God”. This divinity, who is emptiness, emanates countless bodies to provide an underlying order in the visible world, the dimensions of time, space, matter and energy

A simple daily household offering is presented to Tunggal every day as a form of thanks for the peace given to the world. The philosophy behind these offerings is self-sacrifice, they take time, effort and resources to prepare.bali offerings

Siwa with his consort Durga, Wisnu with his consort Sri and Brahma with his consort Saraswate are primary emanations.

Each local temple, each household shrine, has it’s own gods and goddesses. Many are deified ancestors. These numinous beings impinge on the visible world in peculiarly individualized and localized ways.

There are also demonic, malign or destructive aspects of the invisible world that require attention.

Spiritually infused objects mediate between the visible and invisible worlds. Sacred and magical, the artisan priest invokes invisible forces with mantras, purifying the objects to eliminate any harmful influences. They are then brought to life, inviting invisible forces of blessing to enter and make it useful.DSCF5025

These objects must be periodically cleaned, dressed and fed with offerings. Without such treatment the invisible forces within them vanish.IMG_0784

Positive invisible forces are drawn to fragrant smells, harmonious sounds, profusions of color. Power results from this kind of maintenance of connection with the invisible world. One must have firmness of purpose and a mastery of fear, maintain disciplined intent and inner calm.

 

For the rest of the story about our engagement in Bali

click here

 

 

Taksu

The following information was taken from a web page, “Exploring Taksu & Meditation – Mysterious Power and the Tools to Realize It” by Leonard Swanson

DSCF4994I came across the concept of Taksu, a word without an adequate English translation. Some call it charisma, others call it spiritual power.

There is no doubt as to the respect Taksu wields in Balinese culture; dancers with Taksu capture the eyes of the audience, Balians with Taksu heal their patients with mysterious power, speakers with Taksu become fascinating and inspirational.DSCF4917

Taksu is the divine unity of the performer and the performance. Taksu is a magical feeling.

Taksu comes from the Goddess Sang Hyang Semara, the goddess of love, the deeper love of the soul: the wish for others to be happy and peaceful. Taksu is not born from emotional attachment, but from a genuine wish for well-being.

A physical place can have Taksu. People claim that the Island of Bali has Taksu, an aura of mysterious charm.

Taksu is about character and the wholehearted intention of a spiritual practitioner.

Bali – Tara’s Pilgrimage in the Island of Wonder

DSCF5039June 2015 Myri and I took a group of pilgrims to Bali, land of beauty and mystery. Mekare Fiske had been commissioned to engage a mask maker to create 22 Masks of Tara in preparation for Tara Dhatu’s Festival of Prayer. We were to learn how to dance in them and then offer the dance as a gift to the Balinese people. Here is the story of some of our adventures….

There is a feeling in the air in Bali,  a sparkle, an aliveness that is unique to the island. One is constantly surrounded by an exuberance of beauty; statues, flowers, people. And everywhereIMG_0002 you look there are offerings, simple things for the most part … a tiny tray made out of woven coconut palm containing a bit of incense, a few flowers, chunks of food, sacred herbs …. Found in front of shops, at street corners, at the entrance to homes.

To the Balinese our world is filled with countless unseen beings. We are in constant communication with them, and making offerings insures that they are happy and all goes well.

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Myri and I arrived in Ubud, the Balinese city known as a center of the arts, a few days before the pilgrimage was to start, meeting with Solomon, our our adventurous and creative guide.

 

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Our retreat center, the Melati Hotel, was lovely. It had been years since my residence in Bali, studying sacred dance. I wanted our pilgrims to have the opportunity to experience the way the Balinese live, in beautiful, garden filled compounds, with separate buildings for kitchen, etc. The Melati lived up to my hopes and dreams.

Our first order of business was to get a lavish massage, ending in a flower infused bath. Ahhhhhh. We then sat down to map out what our guide had planned for us.mekare

Second order of business was to meet with Mekare, who had been working diligently to get masks and costumes made for our pilgrims. We met on our balcony, overlooking the gardens. The process of getting the masks made had been quite intense for Mekare. Intensely wonderful and intensely frustrating. Click here for her incredible mask making story……

Mekare tearfully explained that our mask maker, Oka, had not returned from teaching in New Zealand as planned. She had no idea when he would be back in Bali, or what had detained him.  Our pilgrims would not even get to meet him!  Weeks later when Oka returned, he explained to Mekare that while in New Zealand the Indonesian government had requested that he travel on to Australia as one of the master artisans in a mission of goodwill following the execution of two young Australian drug dealers. Therefore his trip was suddenly unexpectedly extended.

So the first big shock of the pilgrimage was to realize that we were not going to have ANY masks for the pilgrims to work with, and no contact with the mask maker. While I was digesting that, Mekare shared another shocking piece of information…..a western woman teacher had been picked up by the Immigration police for not having a “work” permit, was held in jail, and fined thousands of dollars.

DSC_2034My head was spinning. We had 21 magnificent friends joining us on this grand adventure and they were set to arrive shortly. We had been planning to plaster Ubud with posters inviting the Balinese to come and dance with us. We took a big step back and decided to be as discreet as possible.

Everyone was thrilled to be in beautiful Bali, the massages and flower petal bath soothed the long distance travelers. We prepared everyone for  our first adventure together by supplying them with the pieces of Balinese temple garb we would need, so we could be blessed in the sacred waters of Tampak Siring.DSC_1666

The next morning we went fully clothed into the sacred waters, standing under the carved spouts, praying for our personal cleansing and asking for blessings on our journey.

Our pilgrims were wonderfully supportive about the situation without the masks…especially since Mekare told the story of the creation of the crowns   that we would be wearing. The blessing of the crowns was to be one of the highlights of our time in Bali for it truly put us directly in touch with the unseen blessings available to the open heart.

DSCN4297Every day unfolded in wonder. We started at 7 AM with chi-lel and meditation. After a simple breakfast we entered the dancing mandala of Tara. Our dance meeting room was exquisite. Open to the gardens and rice paddies surrounding us, with a sprung wooden floor and high thatched ceiling, the sweet breezes kept us comfortable as we dove deeply into the practice of Dancing Tara.IMG_0773

 

Every day we  had adventures prepared for us…..it could be a meal in some exotic location, a private dance, a visit to a sacred spot, an exploration of the wondrous arts and crafts of the country. And then of course there was shopping. What a cornucopia of beautiful things to buy.

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Our drivers were the essence of patience as we jostled our way in and out of their vehicles. We grew quite close with them as we shared the glories and the challenges of travel.

Mekare presented the costumes and we had the delightful experience of meeting Shade who assured us that everyone would be comfortably fitted. We swirled together in silky, shining, sparkling delight.

Then there were the wigs. Mekare had found an online source for inexpensive wigs …. after all, if we were wearing masks, wigs would be necessary. We had them shipped to Aimee and Don in New York and they most graciously carried them to Bali for us.

DSCN4044DSCN4009We danced wherever we went. One of our peak experiences was at the Great Mother Temple of Besaki. We drove high into the mountains to this most sacred temple compound, the place from which the blessings of all the deities in the Balinese pantheon flow.

The temple is built on six levels, representing deepening  levels of practice, and as we traveled up the ancient stone steps we felt like we were being called deeper into the heart of the Great Mother. Facing the powerful Agung Mountain we made formal, traditional offerings.

And then we Danced Tara. Tara was truly with us when we were ready to offer our dance. We magnetized the local Balinese people who were curious to see and watch, and feel our level of devotion.

One of the most profound experiences we shared was the blessing of the crowns. Mekare had arranged for a priest, Putra, a dear friend of hers, to bless the crowns with us. We assembled in our beautiful shrine room, kissed by a light breeze. The crowns were laid out before us in all their Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 12.12.23 PMmagnificence. Copper, dipped in silver, dipped in gold, adorned with sparkling “jewels”….

The priest and his lovely wife placed an array of offerings around the crowns. He explained that after the blessing the crowns should be considered sacred objects. The Balinese believe that objects that are infused with mantra and meditation can mediate between the visible and invisible worlds. The artist has the possibility of invoking invisible forces for protection and empowerment.

DSCN6601The priest then introduced us to Taksu. It is a difficult word to translate as it implies the indescribable essence of spirit. Some call it charisma, others call it spiritual power. Dancers with DSC_2829Taksu capture the eyes of the audience, speakers with Taksu are fascinating and inspirational. Taksu is the divine unity of the performer and the performance. Taksu comes from the wish for others to be happy and peaceful.

Through our prayers and offerings we were inviting the crowns to be infused with Taksu and thereby whenever they are worn they will inspire the dancer with this ineffable blessing.

Our last night in Ubud we presented the mandala in full costume. Several young Balinese dancers set up in one of our DSCN6088hotel rooms to put make-up Balinese style on all of our dancers. They organized the wigs so that we had our Buddha top knots in place, and helped to adjust the crowns.

Solomon had put out the word to all of his extensive network and we had a lovely audience. The priest opened our ceremonial dance offering, blessing each dancer as we entered the dance space. It was a powerful and blessed experience to dance Tara for the Balinese.DSCN6268

 

 

The next day we headed up over the mountains to the other side of the island for three days at a lovely beach resort.

 

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We cavorted in sacred waters, prayed in a lavish Buddhist temple, and danced Tara on the last evening as a prayer of gratitude for this amazing set of experiences.

We will return when the masks are done, to ceremonially invest them with spiritual power, inviting the Taksu to take residence within them.

 

 

I offer my great gratitude to Mekare, Solomon and Myri for all of theirDSC_3005 heroic efforts to make this pilgrimage possible, and to the brave pilgrims who joined us. I especially offer my gratitude to Mother Tara who inspired this adventure with Bali and the masks, and to the wonderful Balinese who served us and prayed with us throughout this magical journey. I look forward to return with another group of brave souls to learn how to dance with the masks. May we all be infused with inspiring and uplifting Taksu.

Om Tare!!!

 

 

 

A Rainbow of Colors ~ A Costume Adventure in Bali

DSCN4928Mekare shares another Tara adventure in Bali

Such a creative kaleidoscope of mask, crown, and costume adventures!  I had met Oka, the mask maker within 48 hours of arriving in Bali.  The crown maker was found after weeks of searching. Even more weeks of searching were required to find a seamstress. Fortunately I had learned how to wait and surrender to the Balinese world of time out of time. Once again it proved to be magical and perfect.

I could not understand why it seemed impossible to find a seamstress or tailor. It just did not make sense to me. There are so many tailors on the island, but none that I approached were able to help me. I reminded myself that those mysteries that keep us on long twisting trails for no apparent reason, most often give extraordinary gifts. And so it was with this.  The path to the temple IS the temple.

Once again friends and family spoke with friends and family. The search was on. DSCN6529 Budi and I traveled by motorbike this way and that way. We met with seamstresses in busy shops in Ubud who spoke English and worked with foreigners daily. We visited tailors way out in the rice fields who spoke no English at all. We visited a beautiful woman, a friend of Solomon’s, in another village, who ran a large business of clothes-making for overseas customers. None of them could commit to making costumes for Tara. Everyone was overbooked and not willing to take on the project. It was later in April, when I finally realized why.  April is wedding month in Bali. Every seamstress and tailor was overwhelmed with work all of March and April.

DSCN5908We had heard mention of a woman on the outskirts of Ubud. We had visited her shop twice near the beginning of our search and no one was there. Shop was open, vibrantly colored cloth was stacked and patterns to be cut were laid out on a table, but no person had answered as we called into the courtyard. After three weeks of heads shaking no, I suddenly had the inspiration to go back to that shop.  Just one more time.  Just to see. Perhaps. Maybe…

So we did. We returned. And on that day, magic happened.

The owner of the shop is Nithi. And that day, she was there. I explained what I wanted and she immediately said yes. And the reason for the “Yes”? She loves Tara!!  She told me to return to meet with her daughter Shade who is the creative director. Shade is not only an extremely talented seamstress and designer, but an exquisite being. I feel the energy and blessing of White Tara whenever I am with her.DSCN5976

For the next month, Budi and I traveled far and explored the Muslim cloth markets in Sulawesi and the huge fabric stores of Kuta, searching for the right colors with the right texture and weight for draping for the flowing tops, and the golds for the cholis and pants. It was quite an experience and much like finding a needle in a haystack. The haystack being hundreds and hundreds of bolts of fabric.

 

I was standing in the middle of a room full of endless bolts, tired and a bit bleary-eyed, surrounded by six salesclerks holding layers of cloth we had already chosen, when the energy of Tara moved through me and I saw the exact colors needed for three of the Tara’s peeping from the stacks. They were shining boldly getting my attention. The last color to find was the fabric for Triumphant Joy.

DSC_2795We took one more journey to the Muslim market, walking in and out of every shop, when Budi suddenly pointed high up toward a shelf.  “Isn’t that the color, Mekare?”  It was a vivid experience of Triumphant Bliss and Joy!

We returned with bags overflowing with beauty to Shade’s shop, where she and I pulled one piece after another from the bags and began to conjure.  Prema had sent basic patterns, but wanted them unique and special.  As with Oka, I shared with Shade the teachings of each of the Praises. She would sit with the color of that particular Tara draped over her lap, listening intently as I spoke of the quality and the energy of that Tara. I would see her eyes suddenly shine brightly as she saw the costume arise in her mind.  It was a very precious time.

And so the jewel colored costumes were made, just as the crowns and the masks, with such joy and love.  With the sharing of the teachings, the sharing of cultures, and the sharing of hearts.DSCN5816

Tara’s Mandala turning in every possible way.

Once again I bow in infinite gratitude to all the amazing beings who helped in countless ways, having such fun and sharing so much, to make all of this possible.

I give thanks for the powerful teachings of “jam karet”, often translated as “rubber time” or even better, “relaxed time”. This Indonesian concept of time actually means that things are supposed to happen in a relaxed manner, without rush, without pressure.  So different from life in the West, “jam karet” can certainly take some getting used to.  But the gift of this is the teaching to slow down and accept that while things do not happen quickly, they do happen, and in exactly the right way.

Ahhh…..

 

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New Year’s Greetings & Blessings From Nepal

Every year Tara Dhatu and members send Andrea Abinanti donations for the many pujas she arranges during the holiday season. Donors names are read out, along with the names of those who died during the year, and those who ask for special prayers for special needs. This is the first of three of Andrea’s reports….
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I realize I’m a bit late with sending  New Year greetings for the western year of 2016. However, Tibetan New Year is on Feb. 9th, Nepali New Year is in April … so we here in Nepal get three chances to send New Year greetings to all…

When the earthquake shook Nepal on April 25th…it slightly damaged the stupa, thus we were not able to have it painted as we have done for many years.  When I look at the fissures in the lime, I don’t see any cracks.  I have heard some special photo needs to be taken so they can see if the inside of the dome is damaged or not. Fortunately Tarthang Tulku’s daughter Tsering Palmo renovated the stupa in 2010 thus you can not see any major damage…what a blessing!!!
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My friend Kari and I are getting ready to start the lighting of the lamps encircling the base of the stupa.
Nepal NY 2016eThe wicks were first soaked in oil, to make them easy to light…and then more oil was added for them to burn longer…
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After all the lamps had been lit, I read out this prayer .

 

 

 

May this light dispel the darkness of ignorance…
May it awaken the mind…
May it bring luminous, clear wisdom…
And awaken the joy within…
May it dispel all obstacles…
All confusion …
May all pride, selfishness and impurities be dispelled…

May this light free the mind of all fears…
May our lives be filled with stability and peacefulness
May all necessities be sufficient…especially in Nepal where there is so much need!!!
May our bodies be healthy and strong…
Filled with vitality!
By the innate pure wisdom of this light, may all be auspicious and pure!
May the warmth of  this light fill one’s heart with boundless compassion.

We send these blessings out for our family,  our friends and all being.

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From Swayambhu, we continued on to Manjushri Hill, the hill on which I live. Around this stupa we also lit lamps. Before heading up to the monastery to light the last of the butter lamp offerings for the day, we gathered for a group photo.
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A thousand lamps were offered…we sent the light out to all!
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Again we dedicated the merit of all the offerings to those who passed away this year…
to those who need healing and to all those who generously contributed, making it possible for all the wonderful prayers and offerings to be made, as well as to all their family and friends…

After offering the lamps, we went into the gompa for tea,

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biscuits and to make offerings to the monks.  The protector puja, Manangi Khangtso was performed with the hope that all obstacles for this year will be removed!

The final activity of the day was the hanging of prayer flags…may the prayers of auspiciousness be sent to all!!!
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Lha Gya Lo *** Lha Gya Lo *** Lha Gya Lo

May all the gods be happy with the offerings made!!!

The tsampa flour is thrown to the divine with strong prayers that

by pleasing the gods auspiciousness may pervade in all the realms!

May this New Year be filled with happiness, good health and success!!!

Much love to all…
Andrea

Dancing Tara Deep Down Under

P1010439 Catherine Callaghan (center), Level 2 Tara Dhatu Teacher, Nelson, South Island, New Zealand reports…

Judy (right), Liz (left) and I danced White Tara and the Six Shields at the Saturday opening of the two day Evolve Spiritual Festival in Nelson. As always, White Tara wove her powerful presence!

P1010447The setting at Evolve was delightful, with midmorning sun warming us, busy stalls offering goodies surrounding the periphery of the grassed seating area, and the stage as a focal point.  This is the second year that we have been asked to open the Saturday sessions and we felt quite honored.

When we went off stage after the dance there were sounds of uninhibited, utter joy from a woman with physical and mental disabilities, that left no doubt about the power of the White Tara dance. She recognized the essence of love, wisdom and power as it penetrated her being.  Her wild guttural sounds expressed her profound  thanks for what she had received. She had indeed been dancing with us! P1010440

Jace Hobbs, a gentleman who came back stage after the dance with tears in his eyes, told us, “With the White Tara blessing dance I truly appreciated the intention to bring healing, health, and happiness from the feminine perspective.  I could feel the good intentions, the yearning for others to be healthy, happy, safe from harm.  I sensed that the movements evoked the spirit of the prayer and I connected deeply with wishing good things for people everywhere. This way of expressing my inner longing brought that well-wishing into my heart and touched me deeply.

A young woman singer at the Festival described how she had begun watching us, while having a very sore throat.  As she became engaged in our prayer she felt a powerful transformation and at the end of the prayer her sore throat was gone!

May Mother Tara’s blessings of long live and good health be all pervasive, bringing inspiration, joy and healing to all.

 

Lamas Dance Tara at KTD

Khenpo elf and HopeThis year our merry Tara band was joined by Hope Jinishian. A resident of New England, Hope KTD Holiday party was volunteering and studying the dharma early this year at KTD, His Holiness the Karmapa’s monastery in upstate New York.

Prema, in previous years, had offered the Tara Dance to the respected Khenpo Kharthar Rinpoche who is one of the main teachers in the tradition upheld there.

Hope had been invited by one of Tara Dhatu’s Student Teachers, Marie Giguere, to help teach a group of children Tara Tames the Eight Fears at a family day event of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche . She became intrigued with the idea of Tara dancing and with the blessing and encouragement of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche  she attended the Bali and Java pilgrimage, the Kauai retreat and the Arizona retreat.

Back home on the East Coast, with all this experience, Hope has started sharing the Tara dances as she travels between friends, family and her Tibetan Buddhist sanghas. She was invited to lead some of the Tara dances during KTD’s annual holiday party. She writes….

All the lamas who were at the party happily danced with me. There were about forty people of all ages dancing. Khenpo Tenkyong, in the elf hat, leads the KTD Monastery. He is innovative, super smart and a tonglen master among having many other gifts. He has brought wonderful energy to KTD in the past year.

Hope is pictured here with Khenpo Karma Tenkyong. Thanks to Amber Roniger for capturing these joyful photo moments.)

 

 

Dancing Tara in Seattle Story

Dagmola is considered an emanation of White Tara. She is a kind and respected friend and teacher.

Dagmola Kushog, The revered Mother of the Sakya Clan, requested that the Tara Dance be performed once a year in the Sakya monastery in Seattle. Parvati Forrest Burke, Assistant Director of Tara Dhatu’s Student Teacher Program, fulfilled this year’s request. The weekend dance workshop was held at a private home. Parvati writes…..

Our week-end began early Thursday night.  Her Eminence Jamyang Sakya, familiarly known as Dagmola, gave an empowerment of Green Tara. The Sakya temple is a remarkable and beautiful place, adorned by much deep and profound spiritual practice and teachings as well as magnificent traditional Tibetan painting and statuary. In this setting of romance and beauty Dagmola performed a powerful and illuminating ceremony with care and elegance. She gave each person present a transmission of Mother Tara, Her body, speech, and mind.

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Tara is Dancing in Golden Bay, Aotearoa

P1010341 Catherine Callaghan has been leading the Tara Dances in New Zealand for six years. An accomplished dance teacher, she has ongoing circles of Tara dance in Nelson, South Island and Golden Bay. They recently offered the mandala at the Shambhala Center in Golden Bay and ended the year at a private beach front residence. Her students have written eloquently about their experiences….

Jo Leyland writes…

From Golden Bay Shore

I sit writing this under a tree on the beach at Pakawau, Golden Bay. The tide is coming into this wide, expansive, sloping bay and a group of black swans are gently bobbing on the ripples in front of me. Last night we celebrated the year end together here, the Golden Bay – Nelson Taras, dancing White Tara with a group of young women from Shambhala. One of them had seen our offering there last month, of the Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara, and had been so moved that she brought friends to learn and share Tara’s dances.

The November offering at Shambhala was pure magic, connecting and sharing with lovely P1010348women.

This summer I was blessed to attend the retreat on Kauai. I encountered a Hawaiian saying that perfectly describes an experience dancing in the Mandala of Tara. ‘He wa’a he moku, he moku he wa’a’. This loosely translates as ‘A canoe is an island, an island is a canoe’. When you paddle together as a crew and you are all in perfect sync, your waka (canoe) seems to fly through the water and you are one. These are precious moments when that happens. They rely on hard work and team training, knowing each other, playing to each others strengths and giving each other support within our shared space. Om Tare!!!

Myrriah writes…

It was a privilege to dance Tara at the beautiful Shambhala Buddhist Meditation Centre in Onekaka New Zealand. The hall overlooks the ocean and is a wonderful setting for the Tara prayer and ritual dance. There were 11 participants from Nelson and the Golden Bay region. The altar was magnificent.

Dancing the beautiful and moving prayer, praising the 21 emanations of Tara, is a magical ceremony of hope and renewal.

Bree Ormond writes

Catherine, it is with a joyous and open heart I offer my thanks to you for holding the container for us all this weekend. We felt embraced in love and light. You showed us what we are capable of when connected to Tara.

The spiral was created and the energy grew throughout the weekend as we wove and spun and focused the energy to send out to all the world. The Dance continues in my heart and I am filled with Tara’s power, compassion and wisdom as i step into everyday reality. Thank you.

Kathy Lunzman writes…

Catherine, I just wanted to let you know how utterly transformative the work you offer is. I will never be the same: the whole world is more vibrant, detailed in every aspect. It has afforded me a breakthrough to develop my Compassion, Courage and Joy. I shall always be grateful.

Liz Burn writes…

Stretching on the cushions in the meditation hall, looking out across the expansive waters of Te Tai Tapu, we opened to receive Catherine’s guidance in coordinating the Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara. Dance, color, devotion, connection, meditation … I open Prema Dasara’s book, Dancing Tara – A Manual of Practice to understand in my head what my heart experiences in the dance. It is my great good fortune to be connecting to the essence of True Refuge and Remover of Sorrow.

I lie back to stretch and my head feels like it is nestling into a female lap. Odd yet so easy to let go into the warmth of a mother, unconditional, protective love. Oh, there it is in Prema’s book, a section on dreaming, encouraging us to invoke Tara’s help, protection and guidance by nestling in Her lap before falling asleep.

I will always remember this experience as a blessing. Through giving myself to the practices, I enjoyed an exploration of my own potential. May I always be able to rest in the nurturing lap of Tara.

Catherine writes….

Our Mandala Weekend together was a moving experience of open heart, beauty and transformation.

I began by welcoming all who gathered with several chants in Maori. As the indigenous culture of Aotearoa, honoring the ancestors in this way set the stage for our workshop. “Wahine Toa, Wahine o te Atua o Tara (Courageous Women, Women of Tara)” led to “Whakataka te Hau” a beautiful waiata dedicated to settling inner and outer conditions.

Throughout the weekend, everyone gave their undivided attention. Strong and dedicated we held this profound space within us. I am so grateful for everyone who made our offering a success.  Being in Tara’s Pure Land with these dedicated women was indeed an exceptional opportunity.

Om Tare!!

 

 

Myri Leads Cincinnati Sangha in Dancing Tara

Myri Dakini

Myri Dakini

Nita Rose

Nita-Rose

Nita-Rose has been leading a circle of dancing Taras at her sacred abode in Cincinnati for several years. She invited Myri Dakini to share a weekend of Tara Dhatu dances. She writes…

Our Tara Sangha in Cincinnati experienced an incredibly beautiful week-end workshop this October led by Myri Dakini. It was something sacred, something powerful, something beyond words … the deep connection of a community who collectively turn the mind towards awakening … using the methods of powerful visualization, uniting the voice in mantra, the sound filling the room as with one voice… the dance … a moving meditation …. swaying bodies swirling and turning and linking arms … embodying ancient spiritual practices through movement so beautifully choreographed …

When immersed like this, with the community in one pointed concentration, led by a devoted and skillfully trained teacher, it creates an incredible energy.  It felt as if we were in another time and place, as if we were transported into a heavenly realm … wrapped in a blissful embrace … held in the arms of the Divine Mother.

Cincinati group

The participants have been writing to me as they continue to experience the lingering fragrance of this week-end of devotional, sacred dance.

I am so grateful to Prema for creating this expression of the teachings, this profound method of embodying the practice as a community.

I echo the refuge prayer with heart felt sincerity. I am inspired, my path supported by my won

derful teachers.  I am deeply grateful for Prema’s dedication as she continues to turn the wheel of the dharma by training teachers like Myri who are able to led workshops with the skill and the power that set up the conditions for a truly transformative experience.

With Gratitude,

Nita-Rose

Kauai, HI Annual Retreat 13-21 Aug 2016

Kauai banner

~See Below for 2016 SPECIAL OFFER ~

Kauai is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Jagged peaks covered with brilliant green rainforest dive into the brilliant

blue Pacific Ocean. Haena is a remote area on the North Shore.

Nestled in the neighborhood, right on a golden sand beach is the

YMCA Camp Naue.

During this eight day retreat, Prema Dasara and Guest Teachers will guide the group in celebrating the divine feminine through music and dance, meditation and dharma dialogue. Focus of the camp will be on the 21 Aspects of the Great Mother Tara.

~SPECIAL OFFER~

The First 15 Tara Dhatu Members

!!!Full camp for just $595!!!

*All invited: Become a member for just $21  to

take advantage of this special offer!*

Tara Dhatu Members after the first 15 people   =              $695

Non-Tara Dhatu Members before June 15th =             $800

Non-Tara Members after June 15th =                         $850

Please visit our webpage with full details and registration details of this international retreat ~ Click Here ~

VIDEO 11/11/11 – Prema leads Maui Taras in Mandala Dance Offering

Prema leads a group of Maui Taras

in offering the Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara

at a celebration event 11/11/11

Brasilia – Retreat Into the Heart of Tara

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Ricardo rehearses the three teenagers before recording.

Back in Brasilia we focused our attention on getting some songs recorded in Portuguese before           heading out to our annual retreat. Ricardo gathered a group of young teenage girls with Maya and Maira’s young sons to put some vocals to the chorus in Tara Tames the 8 Fears.

Songbirds Aradna and Ivana

Songbirds Aradna and Ivana

 

Just before the retreat Ivana arrived from Argentina to record some of our dance music in Spanish. It is so exciting to have these dance pieces available in Portuguese and Spanish on the Tara Dhatu South America Web Site.

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Our Annual Tara Dance Retreat in Paraiso na Terra (Paradise on Earth) was a powerful experience. Half of the group were very new and half of the group were very experienced. We had women from all over Brazil, a group from Chile, and a couple of Taras from Argentina.

DSCN3931Everyone bonded together the way Tara’s do.

The retreat center is on the cerrado, the high plateau. With rolling hills in the distance, the retreat area is on a flat plain covered with brush and wild flowers. The land is carved with a rushing river creating 11751815_721914364585636_6249960927340336038_nnumerous waterfalls and pools of crystal water. The center is on a large tract of land, owned by the Theosophical Society. Wild life abounds. Last year we were blessed by the appearance of a wolf, a rare sighting in the area. This year we were visited by two snakes and an owl. Our host, Oswaldo, informs us when something is present and handles each situation with great respect for the local wild life.

These are carrots Oswaldo carved into goldfish to adorn our lunch buffet table.

These are carrots Oswaldo carved into goldfish to adorn our lunch buffet table.

He also carves vegetables into enchanting characters to surprise us when we go into the dining room for one of the luscious vegetarian meals

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Red Dakini Day we had a ritual fire to burn our attachments and increase our power to love.

Every day we celebrated a Buddha family by wearing the color of the element. We started with white Space Dakini day, the next day was devoted to gold Earth Dakini, then red Fire Dakini, Blue Water and Green Air. The wisdom wove about us as we formed our mandalas of Tara’s Praises. Introducing the new ladies to the dances, guiding the Student Teachers, Tara’s Pure Realm pulsed within and around us.

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Every day a group went off to the waterfalls.

 

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Every late afternoon we entered the marble pillared temple, resonant with sound, and meditated as sun set behind the rolling hills.

 

 

 

The last day we dressed in saris and danced for a small group of guests, and for the staff that had served us through the week.

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We felt the power of the blessings of Beloved Tara pulse through us into the world.

And with all our hearts we prayed,

DSC_0202May All Beings Be Happy

May All Beings Be Free

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Next year’s retreat in Brasilia is scheduled for

May 21-28th 2016

Hope you can join us!!!!

 

Tara is Dancing in Virginia

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Jacquelyn Sonam Lhamo has been introducing groups to dancing Tara for many years. She was recently in Virginia and this is her report…

Spreading Tara and Dharma dances is such a great joy.

For two years I have done Tara Dance programs at ARE, Edgar Cayce’s Organization Center in Virginia Beach, Va. This year Curtis, one of the attendees of these programs, helped set up two Tara and Dharma dance programs in the area. Acting as an ambassador of Tara, he got the word out to local dharma communities.

The first location was the Church of Inner Light in Virginia Beach. Most of the attendees were new to Tara’s dances. They truly enjoyed themselves. My talented sister, Annette, provided live piano music for us to dance to. The majority of attendees were Buddhist practitioners. Their interest in Tara was profound.

The second event happened at Sattvic Space. My hat is off in praising Maury who gracefully made the effort to find this  space for us to dance in Portsmouth,Virginia. A friend of my niece’s came to direct Tara’s healing energy in honor of the annual passing of her beloved dog. She was so inspired by the teachings.

I love sharing the dances in our Tara Dhatu program, they provide such a pleasant introduction to Buddhist teachings! Dancing our prayers helps embody and ground the Tara healing energies in our physical bodies and into the earth.

Dancing the dharma and Tara is fun as well as educational. One attendee felt the effects of our dancing days later and thanked me for all the connections she made enabling her to follow up continuing Buddhist practices. Dancing our prayers was so much fun I could have danced all night.

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The blessings of our dances in Virginia permeated the area and spread to all sentient beings. May the circle of Dancing in the Dharma continue to grow.

Headed South – From Ocean to Mountains Dancing Tara Brazil

 First Stop, Florianopolis, On the BeachFloripa

From Bahia to Brasilia, we had only a couple of weeks to catch our breath and then we headed off to one of our favorite cities, Florianopolis. This southern island paradise has three circles of dancing Taras. We were put in a lovely apartment on the beach and enjoyed many wonderful walks and swims. The weekend workshop group was large and willing to go deeply into every practice.

DSCF4738Gramado, in the Mountains

Our next flight took us further south. Myri had another R & R planned for us at Gramado, a city famous for its waterfall.DSCF4759 It took 800 steps to get down to the thundering bottom……and then 800 to get back up again.

Gramado is also famous for it’s chic shopping and unbelievable chocolate confections. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

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Khadro Ling – Tres Coroas11154847_10152734092447014_7453413432067143733_o

From there we were picked up by a convoy of Tara Dancers and taken to Tres Coroas home of Chagdud Rinpoche’s Gompa, Khadro Ling. Unfortunately Khadro, his wife and an old friend of mine, was not there but she had given instructions for us to be housed in her private apartment above the main shrine room. It was rather interesting knowing the last person to sleep in 10841936_10153304636059343_1283224144127927395_othe bed I was offered was Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. Myri’s bed was in the very top of the roof, surrounded by statues and paintings of deities.

We were treated with wonderful affection and respect 11157456_10153304640784343_7120674132437066005_ofrom Khadro’s staff. Our goal was to dance in front a group of statues that had been carved of the 21 Taras in Orissa. It was a powerful experience, dancing at Kadro Ling. We offered dances throughout the vast and powerful grounds. We hope to one day help consecrate the mandala of statues and dance the praises before them.

Caxias

Caxias was our next stop, a bustling tow11203145_811458085595177_1195777827663932815_nn a few hours drive from Khadro Ling. Michele Trentin is a professional dancer, the owner and main instructor of Rakaça Templo de Dança. Michele opened her dance school to us and we danced a powerful mandala weekend in her charming space. She has held an ongoing Tara Dance circle for the past year and each meeting the circle grows.

Her dance school specializes in Middle Eastern dance. Every other year she takes a group to Egypt. She has hinted at taking a group to dance Tara in Egypt. Doesn’t that sound like a powerful place to offer our dance.

 

 

Prema Dances Tara In Brazil

Myri Dakini

Myri Dakini

Myri met me at the airport in Salvadore, Bahia and we were whisked off to a hotel on the beach for two days of R and R. Having just come from a month of traveling and teaching across the mainland USA I was delighted to have the time to rest and prepare myself for the next stage of my round the world teaching Tara adventure.

It was quite a contrast, flying from snowy upstate New York to steamy equatorial weather. This first event of my Brazilian tour was a first in many ways. Myri had arranged for me to teach a group of adults in a four day retreat, how to teach children the dance drama I created, Tara Tames the 8 Fears.DSC08567

The retreat center was privately owned by a friend of Myri’s. Once an exclusive horse farm, the surroundings were elegant, the practice room  enormous. We were given a palatial house for our residence.

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The attendees were delighted with the material and danced with the abandon of children. They were also intrigued with the philosophy demonstrated through the dance drama and we had some lively discussions. The eight fears are our negative emotions personified by fearful elements in ancient Asian society.DSC08648

We started with a traditional gesture of dance that I modified from my Classical Indian Dance Training. I call it Earth Blessing.

Today I will do my best

I do it humbly

As I open to the world

I am a dancer

All the world is carried inside of me

Mother Earth, we ask your forgiveness and your blessing

Divine Ones, Angels, Buddhas, Protectors

Please come and make this a good class.

We then progressed through the preliminary dances of The Prayer of Motivation, Refuge and Bodhicitta and Shantideva’s Prayer, all in Portuguese. Myri had arranged for Ricardo to DSC08607provide live music and Maya as my most excellent translator.

Each session we focused on one of the fears. We started with the Snake of Jealousy, the easiest of the emotions for children to relate to. We then progressed through The Fire of Anger, The Lion of Arrogance, The Elephant of Ignorance, The Ocean of Desire, The Thief of Wrong Ideas, The DSC08597Prison of Greed and the Demon of Doubt.

The last day the group performed for the wonderful staff who arranged for our food and comfort, and the charming owner of the center.DSC08640

Tara Dhatu South America has taken this as one of their main projects, to raise the money for the music to be translated, recorded, the songbook to be printed, and the teachings to be recorded as a DVD. When we have all these materials developed we will establish a training program with the intent to take the mateDSC08550rial into the schools.

We ended the retreat with a day at the beach.

Om Tare!!!

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If you would like to be a part of this great project you can support it by purchasing the materials in Portuguese, or sponsoring a set of materials for an aspiring Student Teacher. Click Here

To make a donation to the project…go to www.taradhatu.org

scroll to the bottom, hit the donate button and send an email to info@taradhatu.org

May We All Sing and Dance Our Way Out of Fear

Northwesterners Dance Tara in Indonesia

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Kim Abbey was a member of our pilgrimage to Bali and Yogyacarta. Deeply involved in supporting the dharma in Seattle, Washington, she submitted an article about the pilgrimage to the Northwest Dharma news. She touches on some of the high points of our time together…..check it out!

 

http://northwestdharma.org/2015/09/northwesterners-dance-praises-to-taraat-the-14th-sakyadhita-conference-in-indonesia/#post-9165

Borobodur Stupa at dawn

 

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Update On Nepal Retreat House Restoration Project – Andrea Abinanti

For several years I have been planning to restore these dilapidated five retreat houses for the nuns on Manjushree Hill, one of the World Heritage Sites in Nepal.  I am Andrea Abinanti; I’ve been living in Nepal for 40 years and residing on this hill for 38.  After the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25th, 2015 all of these houses have become unlivable.  I was in my house when the earthquake hit, it was a terrifying experience and a miracle that it did not completely collapse.  As I’d been saying for years, ‘my house is held up by prayers.’  All of my friends were amazed it was still standing, though unlivable.  Six Newari (Nepali) nuns, myself and a helping Nepali family live in these retreat houses.  The nuns and myself perform daily rituals for the well being of all.  Because of the earthquake, this restoration project has now become an urgent issue for the practitioners’ dwellings to be restored quickly.

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After continuous tremors this retreat house had to be braced with bamboo and metal rods.  A corner crack is being filled so the rats can’t run in and out.

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The nun’s retreat house on the far side of the courtyard completely collapsed on the first day of the earthquake.

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Six nuns and Andrea standing in front of one of the nun’s retreat houses after the first earthquake.

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The proposed restoration will employ traditional building style and materials.

If you would like to make an offering towards this restoration project, please see below:

Tara Dhatu, a non-profit organization, has posted our project on their website.  Originally this was posted a month before the earthquake. You may click on the following link to find out more about the Retreat House project and how you can make a tax-deductible donation.

http://www.taradhatu.net/programs/swayambhu-retreat-house/

If you would like to see pictures of the houses after the earthquake, under Featured Articles, click on ‘Devastating Earthquakes in Nepal ~ A Call for Action’. Then click on ‘Read More About Tara Dhatu’s Community Relief Activity’. Next scroll down…among the projects they support, there is one titled ‘Photo Gallery Update from Andrea’.

Our organization is small and we can personally guarantee that all of the donations will go directly to the restoration of the nuns’ retreat houses.

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