Posted by Marion Leigh on March 21, 2014
Warmest wishes from Bodghaya. I mentioned in the last newsletter I was going on a pilgrimage to India - so here I am in the most iconographic mandalas for Buddhists - one tree.
It was just here, under the tree, in the morning on Holi, at the Aries full moon I made the essence of Lotus lily (Nymphaea stellata).
Often I have said that essences 'make' themselves. This one is a point in case.
Dear friend, Majella offered to accompany and assist, and indeed her help was invaluable. You have to picture the scene, hear the unceasing chanting, pilgrims doing kora (http://www.yowangdu.com/tibetan-buddhism/circumambulation.html) around the mahabodhi temple, the place - the tree - where Buddha awoke to enlightenment.
Green Tara shrine is carved into the temple's exterior and here we made flower offerings on arrival, a week earlier. And so it was these same flowers that I chose as the essence to be made. Apart from knowing it to be a member of the lotus family, anything I have learned about this flower comes after having made the essence. I need to keep my mind clear, without preconceived ideas.
One single blue flower, rare, I think, sat in the centre of the bowl. This is the Blue Lotus of India (since it is likened to the colour of Krishna). Lotus lily blooms at night and the moon is its ally, it is said. A pond full of kumuda (Sanskrit) is a favourite simile for beauty. In making the essence I had to keep moving the bowl to follow the sun. It is as if the flowers were wanting to be out of the suns light.
This is the essence of abundant blessings. Many bodhi tree leaves fell in the path of the essence bowl, during making the essence. It is a blessing to receive a falling leaf, with so many pilgrims hoping one will fall on them.
The other side of the coin, however, points to restlessness, confusion and over-fiery ness. This is the essence's indication in brief.
I have long been fascinated by the utpala flower which Green Tara holds in her left hand, so imagine my surprise when I researched and learned the essence was utpala! Of any flower that I could have imagined making an essence from, it would be this.
In terms of traditional, inspirational writing, I looked for a meaning of the flower in Tara's hand. In Buddhist religious practice, Green Tara's primary role is saviouress. She is believed to help her followers overcome dangers, fears and anxieties, and she is especially worshipped for her ability to overcome the most difficult of situations. Green Tara is intensely compassionate and acts quickly to help those who call upon her.
The iconography and role of Green Tara is illustrated in this medieval devotional hymn by the First Dalai Lama (1391-1474), in which Homage to Tara he refers to 'flower gods prodding us to effort'.
On a lotus seat, standing for realisation of voidness,
(You are) the emerald-coloured, one-faced, two-armed Lady
In youth's full bloom, right leg out, left drawn in,
Showing the union of wisdom and art - homage to you!
Like the outstretched branch of the heavenly turquoise tree,
Your supple right hand makes the boon- granting gesture,
Inviting the wise to a feast of supreme accomplishments,
As if to an entertainment - homage to you!
Your left hand gives us refuge, showing the Three Jewels;
It says, "You people who see a hundred dangers,
Don't be frightened-I shall swiftly save you!" - homage to you!
Both hands signal with blue utpala flowers,
"Samsaric beings! Cling not to worldly pleasures.
Enter the great city of liberation!"
Flower-gods prodding us to effort - homage to you!
The adventure continues. Tomorrow Tai Situpa Rinpoche will begin a second round of teachings. During the previous set, on the day of making lotus lily he instructed us in the Four Noble Truths.
With warmest wishes (from a VERY warm Bodghaya)