Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chinnamasta I lament

With Chinnamasta I lament. 

 Chinnamasta makes me a little sad.  She reminds me that I never had children.  I haven't fed anyone with my body.  She makes me remember how I don't feel like a complete woman because I haven't given birth or nutured with my body.  My decision and my loss all at the same time.

Chinnamasta also reminds me how we need friends.  She is flanked by her girlfriends and that is so important.

Her story also reminded a little of the Jataka tale of the Tigress, when the incarnation of Buddha feeds her and her young with his own body.

It also brings to mind the Jataka tale of Rupavati the incarnation of Buddha that feeds starving children and their mother by cutting off her breasts.  But the difference for me is that she feeds herself too.

 It makes me think when we women take care of everyone we can't forget about ourselves.

Reflections on the Many Forms of Tara

My recent connections to Tara have astonished me.  Could they really be coincidences or is the goddess calling to me in both her Buddhist and Hindu forms? I came into contact with Tara three times consciously in a 24 hour period, but I realize now I was in contact in other unconscious ways.

My three encounters were as follows: first, a lecture on Mahavidya Tara by Laura Amazzone that I listened to on a Friday morning, second, a tarot card I drew of White Tara that Friday evening, and third, an email newsletter from Trudy Goodman at Insight LA Saturday morning talking about Green Tara.
Mahavidya Tara

Reading about Tara in N.N. Bhatacharya’s book The Indian Mother Goddess, I discovered that she is the prajnaparamita.  I have been chanting as my meditation practice for a couple of months now the prajnaparamita mantra from the Heart Sutra.

The mantra is:


I knew that the Heart Sutra that Chris Chapple gave us in the “Following the Buddhist Dharma” class I have been taking started “The Bodhisattva of Compassion . . .”  I didn’t know that some people considered that Bodhisattva to be Tara. Therefore, without being aware of it, I have been chanting one of Tara’s mantras regularly.


Tara has several other mantras.  Laura Amazzone mentioned in her the class that Tara’s mantra is OM.

In Harish Johari’s book,  Tools for Tantra her mantra is written as:


Mahavidya Tara

I have also come across this mantra for green Tara: OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVAHA

Green Tara

and this one for White Tara:


White Tara

 I have a lot of interests and a lot of personalities.  Tara, too, has many personalities and forms; there is green, yellow, red, white and blue Tara, Ugra-Tara, Nilasaraswati, etc...


Blue Tara

I am deeply satisfied that Tara exists in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Taoism according to Bhattacharya’s book, The Indian Goddess. According to Madhukhanna (p.30), “Tara was most probably an indigenous tribal deity who commanded special worship in the Northern Himalayan belt in countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Tibet, China, Mongolia up to Indo-China. The pan-Himalayan indigenous religions also played a major role in the formation of Hindu and Buddhist cultures.” I read on the internet that the oldest reference to the goddess Tara is found in an ancient saga of Finland thought to be five thousand years old. The saga describes of a group known as Tar, the Women of Wisdom. The Celts called their Great Goddess Tara.
The Druidess

Roman Terra

The Roman Earth Mother goddess Terra’s name sounds very close to Tara. Bodhisattva Tara reminds me of the Madonna della Misericordia I have seen in many churches and museums in Italy; here, Mary is The Virgin of Mercy who towers over a group of people that she shelters and protects under an outspread cloak.

Madonna della Misericordia

I read in N.N. Bhattacharya’s book that Tara became known as Kuan-Yin in China, replacing the pre-buddhistic mother goddess Si-Wang-Mu (the representation of Yin or the feminine principle).

This is very interesting to me because I teach Yin Yoga out of the Taoist tradition.  When I began to read Yoni Shakti, I thought, “Womb Yoga? Isn’t that just what Yin Yoga is?”

Kwan Yin

Dr. Uma Dinsmore-Tuli relates Tara to menstruation (p.257). “Tara helps us to understand the intensities of menstrual suffering as opportunities to develop that state of awareness that enables us to clearly understand our internal challenges and shifts. By understanding the siddhi of transformation that Tara brings, we may better access the vast potential power which conscious menstruation offers us...These women have re-discovered that practicing awareness of menstrual cycles, in the form of shifting dream worlds, emotional states and the physical changes that accompany monthly cycles, is a form of feminine meditative consciousness…we can begin to understand how the rhythm of the cycles of our inner world may hold within them the wisdom to unlock the conscious awareness of the rhythm of the cosmos and our place with in it, we literally experience “yoga” because we see our connection to these wider cycles. This expansion of consciousness beyond our selves: it is a spiritual teaching of menstruation.”

Mahavidya Tara 

I have never experienced “conscious menstruation”, but I am going to now try.  I haven’t had until recently what Dr. Dinsmore-Tuli calls “cycle awareness.” I was on the pill for 27 years until getting off of it last fall.  My periods were always irregular and my cramps were intense.  My every hope was that I would not get my period and many times in my life I only had two or three periods a year and this was when I was on the pill. I never considered before this idea of Dr. Dinsmore-Tuli’s that one could (p.258) “have a deep acceptance of their menstrual cycle as a source of spiritual guidance.” I always considered my period a terrible bother, a curse. So I am having an enormous mental shift and spiritual awakening when I read about menstruation in Yoni Shakti.

Mahavidya Tara
Many sources say Tara’s name means star. I am attracted to Tara in her stellar form because I need guidance.  I am not sure what direction I am going in and have made a lot of mistakes of late.  I hope

Blue Tara
Tara can guide me like the North Star guided my people more than a century ago to freedom. Tara is the goddess of transformation and she has incredible strength and fierceness which I would like to draw on. Kinsley writes in the Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas (p.98): “Nearly every description of Tara in Hindu sources stresses her fierce, often horrifying appearance . . .”

Kinsley continues that Tara’s name means “she who liberates”. Harish Johari explains the name Tara comes from the Sanskrit root tr which means to take across.  He elaborates on page 95, “She who takes one across the ocean of the world of relative existence (samsara) is Tara.”  He continues on page 97 that “Tara is the mahavidya which is the embodiment of rasa (emotions) and expression which is speech...Tantra clearly mentions that siddhi of Tara can be achieved without any meditation, japa, worship, sacrifice, practice or purification of elements . . . The aspirant who adopts Tara as deity is not bothered by any rules and regulations (yama or niyamas). He does not need to observe any discipline.  Remembering her only is sufficient.  This makes her the goddess for anyone and everyone.” This is great news that Tara will come without any ceremony when we call her.

White Tara

Harish Johari also writes in Tools for Tantra (p.95) about the balance of Tara exemplified in her Yantra.

Tara Yantra

Balance is something I truly need in life. I find work takes over everything and I get out of balance very fast. “Meditation on this vermillion triangle, which forms the background of the golden bindu, creates green.  Thus we see that the meditation on the green bhupur creates vermillion and the meditation on the vermillion triangle produces green. This balance is the key to Tara.  It is balance which is tark (carrier). The boat (tarini) is able to float and travel across because of this balance.” Kinsley says she is depicted sometimes with an oar in her hand “emphasizing her role in ferrying her devotees across the river of samsara.” As a former college rower, I related to this metaphor.

In Pupul Jayakar’s book, The Earth Mother, she elaborates on how in tantric texts the goddesses were source of all colors and Tara was representative of dark blue.  Dark blue is my favorite time of day either after dusk or before dawn.  I get up very early in the morning and sometimes the sky is an amazing Indigo color.  This color makes me joyful to be alive.  From now on I will consider it the color of Tara.

Blue Tara

I need the compassionate Tara in her Buddhist form to help me through my confusion of what to do with my life. She is said according to Kinsley (p. 166) rescues devotees from “desperate predicaments as being lost in an impenetrable forest, foundering in a storm at sea, being under threat of imminent execution, or being trapped and bound in prison.” I love the idea I read in Kinsley’s book that the Avalokitesvara sheds a tear of compassion for all beings and the tear becomes Tara.

Blue Tara

I need Tara in her Hindu form to purify me and help me move on and transform. “Tara . . . represents the final destructive but purifying force that marks the transition from life to death or from one type of existence to another.” (Kinsley, Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas, p.103)

Kwan Yin

I relate to the last stanza of the Ramprasad’s poem “Please be gracious to the singer of this song”

Most compassionate Ma Tara!
You who bear all beings tenderly to truth!
Your feet of wisdom are the only vessel that can sail
Across this terrible sea of birth and death

This is how I feel sometimes.  I need a mother’s compassion.  I need forgiveness. I need to be brought tenderly to truth for my actions.  Sailing through the sea of birth and death for this whole life sometimes seems pointless and terribly difficult.  Tara with her indigo sky and prajnaparamita mantra help me to continue.


My favorite translation:
(Going, going, going on beyond, always going on beyond, always becoming Tara).



Sunday, November 30, 2014

New Moon Goddess Circle - Sagittarius

I lead an activity at Yogi Tree's New Moon Goddess Circle - Sagitarius. It was a Group Yantra for Courage and Confidence.   

New Moon Goddess: Questions for Self-Confidence and Courage Yantra

Use the answers to the questions below to help fill in the group Yantra. You can have many answers to each question.  Some questions may have the same answer.  Don’t worry about anything, this is your chance to explore and play!!!

What do I like about who I am?


What am I good at: skills and talents?


What positive characteristics do I have?


What have I achieved in my life: accomplishments? What are my successes in life?


What are some challenges I have overcome?


What do others say they like about me?



What are some attributes I like in others that I also share with them?


What risks am I afraid to take?


What am I dreaming about doing but I am scared to do?


What do I want that I can start visualizing achieving?


What is my large vision for my life?


People used these questions to make group Yantras:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gratitude Yantras for Thanksgiving

I led an Art/Yoga Fusion Workshop last weekend titled "Gratitude Yantra for Thanksgiving."

We began with a yoga practice for gratitude. Lots of forward Bends. Poses with hands in prayer/anjali mudra/namaste. Poses like modified Sun Salutations, Pyramid, Warrior 2, Humble Warrior, Revolved Side Angle, Prayer Twist, Forward Fold with Arms in Reverse Prayer, etc...

I then led a guided meditation based on one from the Chopra Center.

I set up the meditation with tools I learned in Yoga Nidra training like Internalization and Breathing and then moved to this Chopra Center meditation.  I had people say mentally "I am grateful"

Positions for Gratitude Meditation: Shavasana – if this is not comfortable pillow under head or or back hurts bend knees or put pillow or blanket under knees, lying on side if you are pregnant, Sitting in a chair, on the floor back to the wall. You might want a blanket because the body temperature tends to drop in Yoga Nidra. Also put a blanket under any area that is sensitive. Try to be aligned, symmetrical from feet to head. Feel your spine aligned. In shavansasana, arms away from sides palm up or down.  If anything is on you tight like glasses or a wrist watch you can take it off.  Eyes should be closed to avoid visual distraction. .  Say to yourself mentally “I am grateful”

(Relaxation): Take a full breath in with the exhalation think "thank you". Do this 2 more times…. Become aware of your body lying on the floor, on the chair or against the wall. Feel supported across the whole body. Feel the feet supported, Feel arms and hands supported, feel the legs supported, feel the shoulders and head supported. Feel every place where your body is supported to allow yourself to release more deeply into Gratitude.  Let go of all effort of holding the body.  

For a short time notice the rhythm of the breath. Now, extend the awareness outward listening for sounds in all directions.

Be aware of distant sounds.  . . sounds outside the room . . . sounds inside the room . .. sounds of the body… Become aware of the sound of your breath. In this meditation, it is best if the body remains still.  If you become uncomfortable you may move but come back to stillness as soon as you can.  Say to yourself mentally “I am practicing Gratitude."

Think about something in your life you are very grateful for, think about where you can feel that in your body

Bring awareness to things in your life that you are worthy of Gratitude.

Let thankfulness flow through the whole body.

And as it does sink into the feeling of Gratitude.

Surrender to it.

Notice how gratitude feels in the body.

Invite the sensation of Thanksgiving throughout the entire body.

Scan through all the aspects of life and feel appreciation.

Firstly bring your awareness to the breath, inhale and exhale and the fact that each of these breaths gives you life.

Be aware of the heart beating.  The pulsing.

The heart is filled with love and compassion.

Bring awareness to the eyes.

Eyes that see colors, faces, smiles, nature, the sunrise, the sunset, the rainbow, the moon and the stars, yourself in the mirror.

Bring awareness to the ears,
Ears that beam in sound, music, laughter, the voices of those you love, the silence, the beautiful sounds of life.

Bring awareness to the nose,
The Nose that smells the ocean breeze, the aroma of sweet perfume, the
flowers, the trees, newly cut grass, the wafting smells that come from the kitchen, like a turkey baking or cranberries on the stove.

Bring awareness to the lips and mouth, that tastes and savours and nourishes, kisses and speaks, that whispers, and sings.

Bring  awareness to the hands that hold and touch, and caress, and open and close, and applaud, and squeeze, the arms and shoulders that carry and hug and lift and stretch.

Bring awareness to the feet, the toes, the gift to wiggle them, transport you, walk, run, dangle, dance, kick, fold, leap and point.

Remember the tears, and the sorrows,

Remember the strength that you seem to be able to muster, to make it through each day.

Bring awareness to  abundance,  expansion, evolution, perspective shifts, affluence and flow and empathy and love and light, and the ability to see growth, and potential in every moment.

Breathe and feel more grace, and ease

Experience the warmth, love and compassion that gratitude brings into your heart.

Bring awareness to nurturing relationships in the life, the new ones and the older ones.

Material things that came unexpectedly, things that flow to with great effort and commitment, hard work.

Think of love in life, and the connection to those things that are sweet, and loving and honorable, and just feel right.

Let go of the ego.

No longer take anything in life for granted, become grateful for everything!!!

Breathe and feel this flow.

Externalization: Become aware of your own breathing. Be grateful how the breath sustains us.

Listen for sounds in this room, sounds outside this room. Find the furthest sound that you can hear. Start to remember this room: the walls… the ceiling… the floor.  Remember your place in this room.  Remember what’s in this room with you…  Become aware of your body lying on the floor, (or sitting on the chair, or against the wall)… Notice the weight of your body and all the points where your body is supported…. Extend your attention through your entire body…  Become aware of your entire body from you head to your finger tips…. Become aware of your body extending from your head to your toes…  Be aware of your breath… Become aware of the entire physically body and the breath inside your body…. Consciously make your breath deeper and full… Make your breath deeper. 
… Inhaling and Exhaling deeply… Make your breath very full…. Keep your eyes closed. 

Ask yourself the following questions.

What do I take for granted?
What relationships do I have that I cherish (person, pet, etc.)?
Is there a relationship that fills me that I feel lucky to have?
What freedoms, unique gifts, opportunities do I have that are truly unique to me?
What divine talents have been bestowed on me by the universe?
What advantages have I been given in life?

Who are my backers in life? Who is routing for me? Who are my champions, defenders, supporters, comrades in arms?

Say to yourself "This Gratitude Meditation is Now Complete."

Start moving your body and stretching. Making your movements larger and larger. Inhale your arms over your head. Remembering to be mindful of what’s near you.  Stretch (3) Yawn. Gently roll to a side. (long pause) Open your eyes. Slowly push up to a seated position fully alert and ready to go on with the rest of the workshop.

After we came out of meditation I gave the participants a paper with the same questions on it and asked them to write down the answers.  After they finished I ask them to use the questions in creating their own personal yantra around the issues of gratitude.

Here are some of the Yantras that were made. Some people didn't want me to take pictures.
Linda's Yantra

Danielle's Yantra
Danielle finished her Yantra at home

Angel's Yantra

Ludmila's Yantra

Ninna's Yantra

Rachel's Yantra

Vincelle's Yantra

Bernie's Yantra

I did this at home on Thanksgiving.  I didn't have time at the workshop.

I closed with this meditation, I didn't script it so it went something like but not exactly:

Be grateful for the breath - that breathes us without asking for anything,  Inhaling and Exhaling.

Be thankful for this body that got you up the stairs and into this room for this workshop.

Be appreciative of this community, this sangha that you have practiced gratitude with today.

Be glad for this city, the city of Angels, with its beaches and palms trees, valleys, winding freeways that sometimes don't move.

Thank this country, the United States and this continent North America with its diverse peoples, languages and cultures.

Be in awe of this planet we live on, the big blue marble, the third rock of from the sun.  With its perfect balance of hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen to support life.

Practice an internal Thanksgiving for this solar system and this galaxy filled with twinkling stars,

Be humbled by this universe that contracts and expands like the breath.

Mentally say thank you, thank you, thank you.