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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
FORUM | UNSEEN REALIZED BEINGS 71 to cultivate this relationship with a deity? Or is visualization really at the heart of it? ROB PREECE: I guess for a lot of us, the place where we first come in contact with these practices is in some sort of guided meditation process, such as a visualiza- tion or initiation. I don’t think that’s the only way we might begin to open up our relationship; in some respects, you could say that just seeing a thangka and hav- ing some strong resonance with it begins to open the relationship, but there’s no doubt that visualization practice is one of the main ways in which that starts to awaken. Because of the complexity of those practices that enable us to make connection, that’s also where we as West- erners sometimes encounter challenges. It’s not always straightforward. What Lama Tsultrim described about the visualization process is cen- tral to what are called sadhana prac- tices, or sadhana, which could loosely be translated as a means or method of accomplishment. ACHARYA GAYLON FERGUSON: Yes, the visualizations and mantras of sadhanas are a “means of realization.” ROB PREECE: That’s very often the way that we begin to cultivate the relation- ship. There are various rituals, prayers, mantras, and so on within that. In terms of my own practice, having started at a time when most of this was done in Tibetan, I had to translate that into English and then try and do the visual- izations at the same time, which was all very difficult. As a Westerner, over the years I’ve had to simplify that and try and enter into a relationship with those practices in a more embodied way. BUDDHADHARMA: In addition to simpli- fying, can these practices also be adapted for modern cultures? For example, the deities are usually depicted using tradi- tional Indian and Tibetan iconography. Is it important for Western practitioners to visualize the deities in their traditional forms, or is there room for these images to be adapted to different cultures? ACHARYA GAYLON FERGUSON: Tr adi- tional samayasattva and jnanasattva— let’s call it “practice with form”— are always inseparable from a formless aspect of sadhana practice. That form- less aspect of the relationship with this presence isn’t just about visualizing, iconography, and so on. The essence of those forms is something formless. And that formlessness is continually, experi- entially radiating as Mother Tara and all kinds of compassionately awake beings. LAMA TSULTRIM ALLIONE: If we go back to the structure of a sadhana practice, it begins with emptiness as well, so at the opposite | Tara 8, 2010