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Buddhadharma : Summer 2006
buddhadharma| 27 |summer 2006 for ourselves. For example, I believe the Tibetan problem has to be solved by the Tibetans; others can only help. Similarly, male problems can only be solved by men; women can only help. And female problems can only be solved by women; men can only help. In Tibetan Buddhism, we recognize that enlightenment com- prises both feminine and masculine aspects. We say that enlight- enment is not possible without both wisdom and compassion, which we sometimes refer to as wisdom and method. Wisdom, or the recognition of emptiness, is connected with the feminine, because the empty nature of reality is the basis, or mother, of all. As the Heart Sutra says, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. In other words, there is no form or reality apart from empti- ness. In that sense, emptiness is the mother of all. And wisdom, which is the recognition of this truth, is associated with empti- ness. Accordingly, when we speak about the wisdom aspect of enlightenment, we associate this with the feminine principle. And just as one can never produce a child without a mother, compassion without wisdom, no matter how strong, may not be enough to produce enlightenment. Female deities The feminine aspect of enlightenment is represented by female deities. We see female images at every level of Tibetan art. There are peaceful forms like Tara, semi-wrathful forms like Vajra- yogini, and wrathful forms such as the female protector Palden Lhamo. Each of these has a male counterpart, because male and female aspects are both necessary for enlightenment. In fact, both are necessary throughout the spiritual path. The union of masculine and feminine energies is key to our ultimate spiritual freedom. Without the male or female aspect, there is no enlightenment: there is no union of wisdom and method; there is no union of clear light and illusion body; there is no union of mind and body. We can also see this combination of energies during the period of accumulating merit. There are two types of merit. Wisdom merit develops the mind of a buddha, while the activi- ties related to compassion, or method merit, develop the body of a buddha. At the level of enlightenment, there is no longer a dualistic distinction between body and mind. You might say they both function at the same frequency. But we need both, and both aspects must be developed until we achieve enlightenment. Compassion and wisdom are the foundation of our spiritual work. They also bring the ultimate result. These depend on both male and female elements. When you look at Buddhist practices as they have developed, they appear to favor the male practitioner. As I said before, these practices developed in male-dominated cultures. (For example, the word for “woman” in Tibetan means “lower birth.”) In Tibetan Buddhism, although both a male and a female deity practice are considered necessary for enlightenment, the male deities received more emphasis. The female deities such as Vajrayogini were kept very secret. In the monasteries, they didn’t want to encourage monks to meditate on the images of beautiful female figures. Having been a monk, I can understand that this could definitely have been a distraction! So to help uphold the monastic vows, the deities were mostly male. Three Tara practices Tara is a buddha herself and can fully serve as an object of ref- uge. The object of refuge doesn’t have to be a yellow Oriental man with a golden robe. This is an important point. Although Vajrayogini has extraordinary qualities, her prac- tice is not for everyone. Such a practice involves many differ- ent vows and commitments, and this can be quite difficult for people. Tara, however, can be practiced by everyone and this practice brings great benefit. Through Tara practice, we can build up a connection with this ever-present enlightened being as someone to take refuge in, someone to pray to, and someone to inspire our lives and touch our hearts. Fortunately we have a number of Tara practices to suit the needs of different individuals. I will briefly introduce some of these practices in the hope that they will be of some benefit. These practices involve visualization: we visualize Tara not as a painting or mirage, but as a fully enlightened being with the qualities of wisdom and compassion that can help you to help yourself. In Tibetan Buddhism, we associate particular colors with everything that exists. For example, the traditional elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space are each associated with cer- tain colors. We also associate particular colors with states of mind. We visualize these colors and the elements associated with them in their pure, uncontaminated, and fully vital form. In these practices, we visualize these colors in the form of light and liquid streaming forth from Tara to fully revitalize and protect us. Healing the elements Through Tara, we can learn how to heal ourselves, which involves healing the elements. Why healing the elements? First, you might ask, what does it mean to be alive? We are alive because the mind or consciousness remains in the physical body. As long as this physical body is synchronized with the mind, we call it life. When it is disconnected, we call it death. A healthy life depends on synchronization of mind and body. The mind and body both need to be balanced. A healthy mind is a balanced mind. If you lose your mental balance, you become cuckoo or a vegetable. The body also needs to be balanced. In traditional Eastern medicine, the body is said to be composed of five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. If the elements of the body are unbalanced, we can have problems that affect not only the body, but also the state of our minds. The earth element represents the bones and flesh of the body. The water element is the fluids in the body. Fire is the element that controls digestion. The air element is related to the energy of circulation – of the blood, oxygen, and nervous system. And you need the space element within the body for the simple rea- son that otherwise everything would be smashed. iTemno.672,ColleCTionofSHelleyanddonaldRubin,WWW.HimalayanaRT.oRG