BUDDHA NATURE.COM Songs and Meditations of the Tibetan Dhyani Buddhas

White Tara

Meditation on Yidams by Two Tibetan High Lamas

Avalokiteshvara with his thousand arms which 
reach out to help all suffering beings I was first exposed to the importance of Yidams and Deity Yoga for Tibetan monks when I attended a lecture at the Newark Museum in the late 1970's. There were two Tibetan abbots of monasteries who were visiting the US in an effort to raise money. The Tibetan community was at the time a desperate group of refugees seeking to raise their standard of living. This pair of high ranking lamas had asked their inner guides for help. They apparently believed that the Tibetan speaking sponsor of their visit to the US was the response to their petition.

The abbots spoke one after the other pausing briefly to allow the translator to translate the Tibetan into English. The unusual thing was that the monks did not look at the audience as they spoke. Their gazes were fixed on the ceiling to their right as if attending to some other invisible event.

Meditation by me and my companion revealed a glowing figure of white Tara with blue and green waves of light coming out in ripples from the central source. The image literally floated in space above them as a powerful presence. They appeared to be in meditation with their attention fixed on the divine figure as they spoke.

This was an experience of darshan, the seeing and being seen that forms a bond between the Yidam and the seeker. It is an experience of mutual recognition between a devotee and a divine figure, in this case, White Tara.

After the lecture was over, we approached the monks and asked through the translator if either of the monks had White Tara as their Yidam since we had both sensed her presence.

They both smiled and said that both of them had chosen White Tara as their tutelary deity and were devoted to her. One said we were fortunate to have encountered her.

It appeared that their lives and their spiritual practice were tightly bound up with White Tara. Yidams were a central aspect of and played a valuable role in their spiritual development in their branch of Tibetan Buddhism. These monks appeared to be living partially in the physical world while also sometimes inhabiting the transcendent world of White Tara.

There are different approaches to Yidams, and some emphasize wisdom while others focus on compassion. To get a better understanding of a form of deity yoga that emphasizes compassion and devotion, here is a selection which describes the person's relationship to the Yidam in greater detail.

For the Buddhist who has a Yidam or Ishta-Buddha, all life is to revolve around the Yidam. In the morning, the initiate offers incense and water, and asks for the day's blessings. Food and work are dedicated to this form of the Buddha. Other people are seen as manifestations of the Buddha, and the world is his or her paradise in disguise. There is no necessity of tantric mantras, or forcing the initiate's way through the Sambhogakaya or intermediate worlds beyond the physical. Recognizing the earth as the Buddha's world, and remembering what the paradise worlds are like if you have been there is sufficient.

With the chosen Yidam, the initiate dances through past and future. Time and space flow by. What is most important is the role of the devotee in the inner Buddha world. Both self and world become translucent, and then transparent. As with the visiting Tibetan monks described above, the initiate becomes an inhabitant of the Buddha's paradise.

All life focuses on the Buddha or Yidam. Each movement honors him or her. The Yidam is in the initiate's heart, through the passions and sorrows of life. These are outer illusions which will fade away. The Buddha will remain.

As mentioned in the introduction, almost any of the beings at this site may act as Yidams. In the following passage, the Bodhisattva Maitreya describes his relationship with a disciple who accepts him as a Yidam and is granted initiation.
After receiving Maitreya's mantra, the initiate should sense the bond with Maitreya. It is like a great river of light between the person and Maitreya. The river is the true relationship, more important than name or form. It is the shining light that warms the heart.

The bond expands and makes the whole being shine. All initiates shine in the presence of Maitreya's love. Everything is cute through happiness and beautiful through tragedy.

The perspective must switch from a bright individual within the dark world of matter, to a dark ego against the brilliance of universal light and love.

The individual is not an individual making his or her way through a dark and terrible terrain. He or she is a spark of light that has been splashed with mud, and can no longer see the true world around him. His or her sight is full of dust and mud.

But as the soul senses the powerful river of light between the heart of the person and Maitreya, the dirt is washed away. Though confused and abused, the person's true nature is love, and though the person has been disappointed and experienced depression time and again, truth and beauty wait to be discovered. In a world where all accomplishments fade away and die, this love lives forever.


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