Reflections on the Tara Retreat, 2018

~ By Jigmi Lhazey (Participant)

                                                 - Illustrations by Thinley Wangmo & Tshaywang Norbu

In 1999, I was posted as an Administrative Officer in a remote dzongkhag in Bhutan. On the advise of some well-meaning friends and also partly out of boredom, I had some monks record the ‘Praise of the 21 Taras’. Since then, for the last 20 years I have been reciting the 21 Taras and praying to Jetsun Dolma on a regular basis.

However, the recitation was without much understanding but I had hoped that due to my merit accumulation (at least speech merit accumulation) I would one day have my eureka moment and understand the profound meanings of the recitation. That moment for me came with the opportunity to partake in the Tara Retreat, 2018.

The Tara Retreat and Dolma Yuldok practice, 2018 was a week long program organised by Druk Ralung Shedrup Choling and presided by Gyalwa Dokhampa, with the primary objective to create an understanding on the essence and conduct of practices for the 21 Taras. It also endeavored to incorporate the practices into our daily lives for lay practitioners towards accumulation of merit, purification with the final goal of transforming our mind and recognizing our own nature of mind.

The Tara retreat was an important moment of self-reflection. In our daily lives, we are caught up in a whirl of daily activities and like a clockwork mouse we go on with our daily lives, day after day, year after year, never taking a moment to pause and to contemplate on your life. Having crossed more than 50% of my lifespan (assuming that I live the average life expectancy of a Bhutanese) it comes at the opportune moment to take stock of my live so far. It is also important to ponder on crucial questions like – will the merit that has brought me to this life be able to take me where I want to go?

His Eminence’s teachings were given in a manner that could be understood by everyone, it was simple yet profound. The examples were lucid and real and all of us could connect with the examples. The teachings on desires, endless wants and in-suppressible ego makes you cringe – was Rinpoche talking about me? Amidst the many monks and devotees, at times, it felt like a one on one conversation with His Eminence.

The Tara Retreat was a spiritually cleansing journey and particularly satisfying. Although I could not even begin to compare myself with accomplished practitioners, it was most fulfilling and satisfying to learn the ways and practices involved in carrying out the conduct of mandala practices, the hand mudras, the use of drilbus, dorjes, the recitations and the visualization corresponding to the text, which was by far the most challenging. It was challenging not to have the mind stray to mundane things like the running in my mind the priority list of things to do once I get back from the retreat.

His Eminence's sessions were also particularly relevant not only in our religious pursuit but also relevant in our professional lives. So many parallels can be drawn in the management field, the sessions at times also sounded like management theories from Harvard School of Management. What particularly interested me, was the need to empower your subordinates so that they can take up the practices on their own. The need to build systems and institutions and practices that will withstand changing personalities was also noteworthy. Apparently Buddhism as it is practiced now is based on personality, which is very fragile for the sustainability of Buddhism, therefore the need to empower the lay people on their spiritual pursuits.

Back to the regular routine, I am overwhelmed with the number of messages, emails, sms each one supposedly more urgent than the other. No wonder, we feel so drained by the end of the day. Not only was integrating the spiritual practices into the daily routine challenging but it is difficult to keep the energy and motivation at the same level as the retreat. Nevertheless, having understood that I have been endowed with the 8 freedoms, 5 circumstantial advantages and 5 personal advantages and having taken refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, I sincerely set my intention towards spiritual pursuit in my own small ways with the compassionate guidance of my Guru – His Eminence Gyalwang Dokhampa.

Namo Guru!

In this life and the next, as well as in the intermediate state, I make you my haven of hope.

I pray to you from the depths of my heart, please look upon me from afar with compassion

(extracted from Calling the Guru from Afar)