This is what a blessing must be! Green Tara Retreat with Lama Nyigyam
“We develop the intention of an enlightened mind by becoming aware that all beings aspire to the same things–to happiness. They are all similar to us because they don’t want to suffer. They do not know the real causes of happiness–virtue–or the causes of suffering–harmful actions and delusion. Recalling their situation, we generate the wish that all these beings gain knowledge of the causes of happiness and suffering, that they abandon what has to be abandoned and adopt what has to be adopted.“ From the outset, Lama Nyigyam spelt out the importance of motivation, and with this instruction began the Green Tara retreat.
Green Tara embodies enlightened activity–traditionally we speak of the activity of all the buddhas. This female bodhisattva is characterized by her wish: a very long time ago she promised before a buddha to take rebirth in the form of a woman until the samsara was entirely emptied. “At the ultimate level there is no difference between a man and a woman,” Lama Nyigyam explains.” Most budddhas and bodhisattvas manifested in the male form; Tara had the wish to return in the form of a woman. Her activity first consisted in freeing herself from suffering to reach a temporary then definitive happiness–enlightenment. Because of this wish, she was named the Liberator.”
Bodhisattvas begin their spiritual path by generating the same motivation as the one described above–a vast intention that includes all sentient beings in order to bring them to full enlightenment. They then give themselves the means to set this motivation in motion until they actualize the capacity to benefit all beings in ways that are as concrete and vast as their initial motivation. This path is the same for all those aspiring to follow it: acquire motivation, make wishes for enlightenment and assemble the conditions to reach it. These are the origins of the activity of all buddhas and bodhisattvas on a path marked all along by the accumulation of beneficial activities (also called merit) and discernment. By taking Tara as the support for our meditation through practicing her ritual, we acquire the means to cultivate these same enlightened qualities in the stream of our being.
On this basis, Lama Nyigyam taught the praises to the 21 Taras, drawing on the commentary written by Sempa Dorje. This is quite unusual and deserves pointing out as the living author of this commentary plays an important role in our lineage. Professor Sempa Dorje is indeed a qualified master in Buddhist philosophy and in Sanskrit, and formerly taught at the University of Varanasi (Benares). He is one of the main teachers of Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa.
Referring to the commentary, Lama Nyigyam reviewed each of the 21 aspects of Tara, describing their multiple activities and different forms. As with all his teachings, the notion of transmission became palpable. Very little is left to appearance. Over the course of the retreat, it became evident that the words, sentences and notions taught transmitted something different from the initially perceived meaning. This must be what a blessing is all about: the emergence of another form of knowledge. Wisdom and compassion arise through the one who embodies them, and those on the receiving end must then develop confidence. In fact, when the conditions are gathered, something very ordinary takes places. This is what happened over the six days of retreat that alternated teachings, practice of the ritual and study sessions. Gradually, everyone was carried by the peaceful and sometimes challenging dynamic put in place by Lama Nyigyam.
On Sunday afternoon, the retreat ended with the transmission of empowerment, preceded by the ritual reading in the morning. Participants are now equipped to practice Tara in a more or less extensive way depending on their available time. I have the feeling that those present realized how listening to the Dharma is not an ordinary kind of listening; how reflection is essential to understand the meaning and how putting instructions into practice brings the whole perspective of what was received. Lama Nyigyam left as he arrived, with his simplicity and attention to each and every practitioner. And in turn, each left enriched with an inspiration: to follow in the footsteps of Tara.
Puntso, responsible for Dhagpo’s program