Normally we empower our demons by believing they are real and strong in themselves and have the power to destroy us. As we fight against them, they get stronger. But when we acknowledge them by discovering what they really need, and nurture them, our demons release their hold, and we find that they actually do not have power over us. By nurturing the shadow elements of our being with infinite generosity, we can access the state of luminous awareness and undermine ego. By feeding the demons, we resolve conflict and duality, fining our way to unity.
Tsultrim Allione’s words remind us to embrace or demons, the most challenging thoughts, fantasies and feelings that arise in the mind. The statues in the temple at Tara Mandala remind us of the attributes necessary to work with these demons. Some of the Tara figures are centered and calm, others with heightened wakefulness or fierce and determined.
The left hand of every Tara is in the teaching mudra, joining the thumb and third finger to represent the wheel of “dharma” or truth in the Buddhist tradition. She offers this blessing to all who seek her wisdom. Known as a Buddha, her various manifestations symbolize qualities associated with enlightenment. As a Bodhisattva, Tara is a constant seeker and completely dedicates her many actions to the welfare of others.
The inspired architecture of the many-sided temple of Tara Mandala shelters twenty-one statues. One can circumambulate the inner chanber to study the distinct characteristics of each Tara and the sacred object above her left shoulder. A bell, dagger, bow and arrow or dorje are a few of the symbols. The bell is feminine and represents wisdom. The masculine dorje is a symbol of lightening or skillful activity. With the dagger she defeats negativity and the bow and arrow is a sign of her focused attention.
The throne in front of the central altar is the seat for the Buddha’s word. It is occupied by Tsultrim or visiting teachers acknowledged for their deep understanding of the dharma. Luminous colors and intricate designs are common in the Tibetan tradition of this temple. The fierce winged garuda on the throne is a protector and guardian figure.
The central Tara figure occupies the main altar with a knot of eternity above her shoulder signifying many things including the interdependent nature of wisdom and compassion. Behind her is a brocade of white, green, yellow and red Tara figures. White Tara is a serene motherly figure, Green Tara is known for her energetic compassion, Red Tara is fierce in magnetizing what is needed and Yellow Tara is known to bring prosperity.
My experience as a photographer and practitioner at Tara Mandala was sublime and I am very greatful for the opportunity. I am humbled to offer her images and a quote of the founder of Tara Mandala, Tsultrim Allione, are in my forthcoming book The Female Buddha: Discovering the Heart of Liberation and Love.
While representing the feminine in all its beauty, please know the art is sacred and must be respected as an aspect of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion. To visit the treasures of Tara Mandala in Pagosa Springs, sign up for a retreat, workshop or attend services noted on their website at www.taramandala.org