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Exactly three years ago, February 27, 2009, a young Tibetan monk named Tapey left Kirti Monastery and walked to the crossroads of the market in the town of Amdo. He had showered his body in oil, lit a match, and set himself aflame as he waved the Tibetan flag with a photo of the Dalai Lama on it. His was the first Tibetan sacrifice – an expression of spiritual courage, a cry against decades of unendurable oppression, a plea for recognition and assistance from the world. The Chinese call these brave souls terrorists.
Buddhism emphasizes the preciousness of human life and the karmic weight the destruction of life carries in future rebirths. However, sacrificing one’s life for the benefit of others is also acknowledged as an act of compassion. I recently watched the movie “Joan of Arc,” with Ingrid Bergman, and immediately thought of these Tibetan martyrs. Below is the poem that came from these juxtapositions in my mind.
For continuous information on the continual struggle of the people of Tibet and to contribute to easing their suffering, join the International Campaign for Tibet – http://savetibet.org
Offerings of Light
Flames flood flesh
She cried out “Jesus”
they shout “Dalai Lama.”
Centuries separate martyrs.
She burned on a pyre.
They burn in squares, at crossroads.
An executioner lashed her to a cross
set the wood aflame.
They anoint their bodies in oil
light the matches themselves.
Their bodies tantric offerings.
Towers of fire
blaze with defiance
suffering of spirt
cannot be endured.
St. Joan, French young woman
responded to voices she alone heard.
Fought oppressors of her people
refused to deny her spiritual guides.
Tapey, Tibetan young man
waved his country’s flag
with the Dalai Lama’s photo
first to set himself aflame.
Near 20 human candles
lit in three years.
January 2012 Sobha Tulku,
“I give my body
an offering of light
to chase away darkness
to free all beings
Light offerings of death
to terminate tortured humiliation
to stop sacred sites’ desecration
to end environmental decimation.
Will worlds remain silent
while sons and daughters of the land
take the ultimate stand?
Remember their names
Tapey, Tengyi Phuntsog, Lobsang Kalsong
Dawa Tsering, Kayang
Tsewang Norbu, Sobhu Tulku
Lobsang Kachok, Kelsang Wangchuk
Choepel, Norbu Damdrul
Tenzin Wangmo, Palden Choetso
Tenzin Phuntson, Tsultrim.
Joan’s body became a beacon of hope
for the French against English dominion.
Now Tibetan monks and nuns
light a path through the
darkness of China’s nefarious night.
With bodhicitta motivation
to relieve pain
of sentient beings
their flames are alchemy
into freedom’s equanimity
One summer day, when I was ten years old, I thought, “I always was and always will be.” I found comfort and support in that thought, but immediately remembered the Catholic Church teaches that only God has no beginning and no end. Although I could not resolve what appeared to be a contradiction to Catholic doctrine, and at that time I was a devout Catholic, I KNEW I always was and always will be.
Many decades passed before I found validation of my realization in the teachings of Buddhism. The concept of continuity of consciousness reveals that which is the essential element of being always was and always will be. The error in my thought was the “I” for according to Buddhism no “I” truly exists. But, that’s a topic this I cannot tackle in a brief story.
So, today I celebrate another birthday. I’ve reached the age where how old I am doesn’t matter because as the saying goes, “You’re as young as you feel.” Yes, I’m one of millions of Americans called “baby boomers.” We range from those born immediately after World War II to those born at the beginning of the sixties revolution, 1946 to 1964. Many of us continue to cling to those beliefs, life styles, and ideals that we held as youth. Many of us continue to grow finding new beliefs, ideals, and life styles to keep us healthy and youthful in body, mind, and spirit.
I see myself belonging to both groups. I’ve been blessed to continue to believe, as Ann Franks wrote, that “people are really good at heart.” True many propagate ignorant, racist, bigotry and millions around the world suffer unnecessary poverty and inhuman genocide. But, I do believe that when people conquer the poisons within themselves all of these evils disappear. And today, on my birthday, I cannot attempt to offer all of the solutions that are being provided to end these abuses.
This year, however, through this blog, I plan to share, not only my creative writings, not only to tell stories, but also to provide information and links to the many organizations and individuals that let me know that the balance of good vs evil will prevail, though the struggle is longer than most realize.
To illustrate, I will now end with the story of Tara. The Tibetans tell us two stories of Tara’s origination. The first is that in the most ancient of times she was a princess named Yeshe Dawa, “Moon of Primordial Wisdom.” She was devoted to the Buddha, developed the great compassion known as bodhichitta, and vowed to become enlightened for the benefit of all sentient beings. But, the lamas at that time believed that enlightenment was possible only in a male body and advised her to pray to be reincarnated in her next life as a man. Princess Yeshe Dawa knew they were wrong and vowed to conduct enlightened activities in the past, present, and future in female form. So, she became the fully enlightened buddha known as Tara who bestows blessings in 21 forms.
Going back many more eons, when Chenrezig, the Compassionate One, worked for eon after eon to liberate sentient beings from suffering, to the point of developing thousands of hands and eyes. When he finally felt that he had succeeded in leading all beings to enlightenment he looked around and saw countless beings still suffering. Overwhelmed, Chenrezig fell to the ground blinded by tears of love and compassion. One of the tears from his left eye became the female bodhisattva White Tara, one from his right eye manifested as Green Tara, and both said, “Don’t worry! We two will help you.” (From, Tara’s Enlightened Activity, by Khenchen Palden Sherab and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal).
Knowing that consciousness can continue endlessly moving toward enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings is good reason to celebrate another birthday.
The old analogy of some people seeing the glass half full while others see it half empty can also be applied to how some people will reflect on 2011. Some will see this as a year of betrayed promises leading to despair, others will see this as a year of small successes with positive growth and movement leading to gratitude. I adhere to gratitude. Many writers, journalists, and politicians will discuss the negative and positive political, social, economic, and environmental issues of 2011. The year is done and I want to reflect personally on the many gifts and several surprises I received in 2011.
This year began with kind and supportive messages, cards, and gifts from friends and family for a landmark birthday. Later many of these same people helped me to define myself as a creative, caring, calm storyteller, wanting to make a positive difference in the world. Shortly afterwards someone sent me an e-mail from the Vision Alignment Project and soon I was practicing the magic of Intention, finding that I can indeed positively direct my life course for the highest good through my words and vision. The weight loss photo of a friend on Facebook led me to Isagenix. After many years of failed attempts to lose weight, I lost 16 pounds in 41 days and in general feel healthier and have more energy than I have in years.
I’m grateful for my work as a registered nurse in the Hopi Nation and for finally getting a nurse manager who considers herself a co-worker and not a boss. I’m grateful for being able to live in this spacious and beautiful land of tall mesas, big skies, and warm winter afternoons and living in a house that feels like home. I’m grateful for my husband who continues his creative journey with me.
When this year began, my focus was on writing and storytelling. I am grateful to have successfully completed my series of audio stories, “The Ultimate Wonder” and am in the process of preserving the series in a book. As I struggled with rewriting and submitting my screenplay and short story while reading professional writing magazines I am grateful for finally deciding on how I want to direct my work as a writer. This blog will be a major tool for me to share my written works.
Finally, I am grateful for being able to apply my Buddhist practice in my daily life. I have been able to devote more time to spiritual practice and meditation which guides my choices and priorities. As the Dalai Lama, and all Buddhist teachers, relate until each person turns inward to free themselves of the poisons of anger, greed, ignorance, desire, jealousy, and pride we will continue to have problems that make the headline news and keep the wheels of war and corporate monopolies turning. So, I am grateful that I am striving to develop the antidotes to those poisons, the six perfections – patience, generosity, wisdom, joyous effort, ethics, and meditation. With these skills as my sword, I draw a circle of gratitude and prepare for the coming battles of 2012 to be a force for the highest good of all. So be it and so it is.
I have spent this day, the burial of my dear elder Cousin Helen, going through my Buddhist books, notebooks, and prayers. I was searching for the Sur practice to do for Cousin Helen to assist her passage through the Intermediate Bardo. In the process of this search, I found the card with the name my teacher, Shenphen Dawa Rinpoche, gave me when I took refuge.
I came upon Word Press after signing up for the Chagdud Gonpa blog (where I ordered my Sur practice, which I did find). Just yesterday I realized I had forgotten my refuge name. So, that I found it on this day, I decided that it would be the appropriate name for my blog, Rigzen Chomo, Feminine Ocean Holding Great Knowledge. When I received this name, I felt humbled and inadequate. Although, I still have much to learn, for learning never stops, I am beginning to recognize that I am blessed with an ocean of knowledge and it seems now is the time to begin.
To introduce myself – I practice Tibetan Buddhism, I am married to the artist, Brian Payne, creator of the online Zinc Comics. I am a professional storyteller, http://storytellingtheater.com, and a registered nurse. We currently live in the heart of the Hopi Nation, Polacca, AZ where I work the night shift as an OB and Medical/Surgical registered nurse.
So, I’m very busy all of the time but all things happen for a reason. You will be hearing from me.