Concise Red Tara Meditation
This concise, Red Tara practice in English has been adapted from the treasure (terma) cycle revealed by the great Nyingma lama Apong Terton. Since its publication in 1984, thousands of people have entered the buddhadharma and enriched their spiritual understanding through the meditations in this concise text.
This Red Tara practice is an open door to bliss and ultimate awareness. Not one of you, not one living being in fact, would not choose true happiness over suffering, yet no one is free of suffering. This is because the nature of suffering is delusion and delusion is pervasive and powerful. Delusion begins when original, undifferentiated awareness is obscured by a dualistic projection of self and other.
Over countless lifetimes the patterns and dualistic projections become more entrenched and obscurations become denser. This causes continuous vacillation between attachment and aversion, hope and fear. The state of imbalance gives rise to poisonous emotions of stupidity, anger, grasping, pride and jealously, which in turn manifests as outer obstacles such as sickness, war, famine and the infinite variety of negative karmic circumstances.
So it is a very great claim to say that Tara meditation can reduce the outer obstacles and dissolve the inner obscurations accumulated in the course of rebirth after rebirth in cyclic existence. Yet it is true. The blessings of Tara practice come so quickly that full realization of pristine awareness, the non dual nature of being, can be attained in this very lifetime, or at least in the transition at death. Tara is the flawless expression of the inseparability of emptiness, awareness and compassion. Just as you use a mirror to see your face, Tara meditation is a means of seeing the true face of your mind, devoid of any trace of delusion.
Tara herself took the bodhisattva vow and worked for the welfare of sentient beings for countless eons. By choice, she always took rebirth in the female form. As she followed the bodhisattva path to ultimate buddhahood, she liberated immeasurable beings from samsaric existence and relieved the sufferings of countless others. For this reason Tara is known as the noble mother, the swift savioress, the mother of all victorious ones.
For those who have faith in and pray to Tara, her benefit is just as swift and direct now as it always has been. There are many miraculous stories of her activities, but you do not have to believe in miracles to understand that through prayer and meditation it is possible to dissolve the concepts of the dualistic mind. As harmful thoughts decrease, there is less frustration and pain of loss. As you are freed from dualistic delusion, you achieve a state of open awareness. The heaviness and solidity of phenomena, including your own corporeal form, give way to the recognition that the essential nature of all phenomena is emptiness, pristine awareness and compassion. As you attain the recognition of your original, pure buddha nature, your own compassion becomes unobstructed. What is a greater miracle than this?
When you begin this practice, you do so with a supreme endowment, your own human body. You may have some negativity about your body – it gets sick, it grows old, it is the focal point of great attachment during your life then deteriorates into a corpse at death, it is uncomfortable and distracting during meditation – yet despite all this, the body is a peerless vehicle for reaching ultimate liberation. The body is the foundation of all the activities that increase realization and create the conditions of enlightenment. Of all the types of bodies in the six realms of samsaric rebirth, the human body is the most useful and difficult to obtain. There is no greater loss than that of your body. If it is threatened by sickness and death, pray strongly to Tara for the blessing of healing and protection. The power of Tara practice also increases your ability to heal and protect others.
Included also is a meditation for those who have died. Those who cross the threshold of death do so alone, and only through our prayers and meditation can we reach and truly benefit them. However, this benefit, arising from the interdependence of our compassion and love and Tara’s pervasive blessing, is very great.
You may practice without empowerment every section except the “Transformation into the Wisdom Body of Tara.” Receiving empowerment, however, will both enhance your meditation of Tara in front and allow you to meditate on the visualization of yourself as Tara.
As you practice now, begin with the aspiration that not only you but all beings will find liberation from the sorrows of samsara, that all will attain ultimate realization of the noble Tara and experience directly the unsurpassable happiness of Tara’s pure awareness and radiant compassion, which is none other than one’s own buddha nature.
SUR: OFFERING OF NOURISHMENT THROUGH SCENT
The sur offering is a ritual in which food is burned to release its scent as an offering to the four classes of guests. The interdependence of the aroma as the offering substance and of the practitioner’s motivation, visualization, and dedication provides an offering that delights enlightened beings and satisfies all ordinary beings. All experience the offering according to the level of their experience – a wealth of pure phenomena for enlightened beings, and all that is wished for and needed for ordinary beings. In particular, sur offerings nourish beings in the bardo, the intermediate state after death, who experience hunger and thirst but can be nourished only through their sense of smell. Thus, this practice can be done for forty-nine days after someone’s death, with emphasis on dedicating this virtuous activity for the benefit of the deceased.
To perform the sur offering, light a piece of charcoal, use an ember, or heat a stove burner. Following the text, recite the syllables that purity and consecrate the offering, then sprinkle a pinch of the sur substance (flour mixed with butter, yoghurt, milk, honey, sugar and molasses) on the hot surface. Recite the offering to the four classes of guests while the offering of fragrant smoke wafts.
Books Currently Being Studied & Discussed
Red Tara Commentary, Instructions for the Concise Practice Known as Red Tara: An Open Door to Bliss and Ultimate Awareness
Words of My Perfect Teacher, A Guide to the Preliminaries for the Heart-essence of the Vast Expanse from the Great Perfection