Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron, an American-born Tibetan Buddhist nun, has studied and practiced Buddhism in India and Nepal since 1975. She leads retreats around the world and has written many books including Buddhism for Beginners, Working With Anger, and Taming the Mind. We have found her to be a profound spiritual teacher who always gives us new practices to try.
Her focus here is on Tara, the feminine embodiment of enlightenment. The name means "liberator," and she can help set us free from eight dangers. In the most revealing segment of the book, Chodron looks at the lion of pride, the elephant of ignorance, the fire of anger, the snakes of jealousy, the thieves of wrong views, the chains of miserliness, the flood of attachment, and the carnivorous demon of doubt. The challenge for all of us is to transform our minds and become like Tara whose tranquility, compassion, and wisdom make her so beautiful. There is also an appealing nurturing side to her: "We can relax in her presence and look at ourselves honestly, knowing that Tara will not judge, reject, or abandon us due to our shortcomings. Like a mother, she sees her child's potential in this case, our spiritual potential or Buddha nature and wants to nurture it."
Chodron presents the "Homage to the Twenty-one Taras" that are frequently chanted in Tibetan monasteries and homes and examines the poem "A Song of Longing for Tara, the Infallible" written by Lama Lobsand Tenpey Gyaltsen, along with her reflections on its relevance to Dharma practice. In her consideration of the praise and admiration so many of us are attached to, the author presents the following practice:
"Think, 'The amount of praise and appreciation I receive is sufficient. I'm content with it.' Imagine being content with the amount of love and appreciation you receive. Try to let go of the needy, dissatisfied mind that clings to wanting more. Say to yourself and imagine feeling, 'However much people love me is good enough. However much people appreciate me is good enough. However much they praise me is good enough. I have my own internal sense of well-being. There's a lot of love inside, and I'm going to focus on sharing that will others.' Training our mind to think like this is real Dharma practice."
Chodron always hits the mark with her practice suggestions. This is one we will start immediately.