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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
58 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY the beings that inhabit it. I didn’t want to be afraid or in denial, as some around me were. I wanted to be empowered. I think it was a feeling of being helpless that spurred me into thinking about embracing the ways of communication I had learned in my community. But it wasn’t until I began practicing dharma that I felt I, too, could communicate with these beings—and that they would listen. Vajrayana Buddhism gave me permission to openly develop a relationship with this unseen world. And it gave me a language to express it. Yet nonmaterial enlightened beings are not limited to the Vajrayana tradition. Their world is the place of dharma protectors, yidams, and enlightened dakas and dakinis, but it is also the realm of the buddhas and bodhisattvas. These are the beings who express their commitment to help us achieve enlight- enment. Though we call them beings, they are none other than reflections of our own innate wisdom, our own basic mind, our buddhanature. And just as it can be difficult to recognize and abide in our true nature, it can be difficult to recognize these beings who are expressed from our true nature. Many of the rituals—prayers, chanting, fire pujas, meditations, and contem- plations—are skillful means to bring us into direct dialogue with them. From this dialogue, we understand that we are not alone, that we are being guided and protected. Several years ago, at the beginning of my practice, a lama offered a poignant teaching on the female buddha Tara. She said she related to Tara as a girlfriend she could simply speak out to. The practice of speaking to Tara in this way, or to any deity, has become the core of my deity practice. In essence, as I speak to the deity, I am speaking to my ultimate nature. As I deepen in my practice and tradition, I find myself recall- ing my early years in church. In particular, I am reminded that I have the agency to initiate a connection to a world that, to most, remains unseen. I am reminded that this connection is as simple as remembering these beings are there and listening. opposite | White Tara Ascending, 2007