This is the final installment of the 12-part series sharing my understanding of the practice Liberation from Sorrow.
By this virtue may I quickly
Become Arya Tara,
And then lead every living being
Without exception to that ground.
The dedication of any sadhana indicates the practice’s main function. By engaging in the practice, we create the karmic causes for the ends we dedicate towards in the dedication. Then, when doing the dedication, we “seal” the karma we have created through doing the practice so that it continues to work without interruption until the dedication is realized. For me, the best analogy is dedication is like putting our savings into a retirement account, where it will continue to accumulate interest until eventually we have reached our retirement goals. Geshe Chekhawa says there are two activities: one at the beginning and one at the end. In the beginning, we establish our motivation for engaging in the practice; and in the end, we dedicate our merit towards the accomplishment of our desired spiritual goals. As Mahayanists, our motivation and our dedication are the same – we wish to become a Buddha for the sake of all living beings and then we dedicate at the end towards the same end. Thus it is important that we recall our bodhichitta motivation for having engaged in the practice, and now we solidify it by dedicating our merits towards the same goal.
Sometimes it is easy to get lazy and distracted with our dedications, but this is a big mistake. By the end of our practice, we are tired and we are also anticipating everything that we will have to do once our practice is over. Our mind is already positioning itself for what comes after. Shantideva explains that anger can quickly destroy all undedicated merit, but dedication functions to protect our merit from subsequent anger. Given how easily we get angry, it is safe to say that any merit we have not dedicated has already been destroyed by our past anger. In other words, the only merit we have left on our mind is that which we have dedicated. Whenever good karma ripens, we should recall that the only reason why we are able to enjoy our present good circumstance is due to our past practice of dedication.
Here, we dedicate to become Arya Tara and to lead all living beings to the same ground. We are Kadampas, so it is only natural for us to wish to become a Lamrim Buddha just like Tara. Her special power is to bestow Lamrim realizations and her uncommon mission is to care for all Atisha’s future disciples. We wish to do the same.
Through the virtues I have collected
By worshipping the Blessed Mother,
May every living being without exception
Be born in the Pure Land of Bliss.
Here, we specifically recall that she is our blessed spiritual mother, who cares for and nurtures our spiritual life to maturity. When we recite this dedication, we should mentally generate the wish that she be our spiritual mother in all of our future lives until we attain enlightenment. Geshe-la once said that the mind of Lamrim is Akanishta Pure Land. In other words, if we transform our mind into Lamrim, the world which will naturally appear is Akanishta Pure Land. When we help others develop Lamrim minds, we are in fact bringing them into our Pure Land. We do not have to wait until others die for them to be reborn in the Pure Land of Bliss, they can do so now through generating Lamrim minds.
You, who having abandoned all bodily faults, possess the signs and indications,
Who having abandoned all verbal faults, possess a heavenly voice,
Who having abandoned all mental faults, realize all objects of knowledge;
O Lady of blessed, glorious renown, may there be the auspiciousness of your presence.
This verse reveals how we should rely upon Tara in the meditation break. We generate faith by considering the good qualities of a Buddha, but sometimes we forget to connect that to our own life. In this verse, we bridge the gap by praying that we always be in the living presence of Tara and experience firsthand her good qualities. A Buddha’s body is not just their form, such as a Green Deity with an outstretched leg; rather, their body pervades the entire universe and we can correctly view all things as her emanations. With the first line, we pray that we “see” her in every form we encounter, and that we understand what we see as the signs and indications of her presence in our life. To strengthen this experience, during the meditation break, we should take the time to view everything that appears to us as her bodily emanations in our life. In particular, we can view the food we eat, the home we live in, the clothes we wear, etc., all as provided by our spiritual mother caring for us.
With the second line, we pray that every sound we hear – even the rustling of the leaves in the wind – is recognized by us as her heavenly voice teaching us the Kadam Lamrim. During the meditation break, we hear countless sounds, but whether those sounds teach us Lamrim depends upon our familiarity with the Lamrim teachings and the blessings we receive from the Buddhas. By practicing pure view recognizing every sound as Tara’s heavenly voice, she will enter into every sound and our mind will be blessed to hear everything as Lamrim teachings. Then, day and night, it will be as if we are in her holy temple at her lotus feet.
With the third line, we pray that every thought that arise in our mind arise from her omniscient wisdom. Thoughts arise in our mind like bubbles from the bottom of the sea, but the majority of them are contaminated, deluded views. If we can unite our mind with Tara’s, then every thought we have will be a manifestation of her omniscient wisdom arising in our mind. Venerable Tharchin says a blessing is like a subtle infusion of a Buddha’s mind into our own. When we feel the presence of Arya Tara’s mind within our own, then we will receive a steady stream of her blessings. Throughout the meditation break, we should recall Tara has mixed inseparably with our root mind at our heart, and view every thought that arises as her quick wisdom. By maintaining this view, she will enter every thought we have and bless us to have a Lamrim perspective with respect to every appearance. In this way, everything that arises, both externally and internally, are all viewed as Tara. In short, our practice during the meditation break is to always remember we are in her presence in these three ways.
Dedication: I dedicate all of the merit I have accumulated through sharing my understanding of Tara practice so that in all our future lives she remains our spiritual mother, who gives birth to us as Kadampas and nurtures us to spiritual maturity on the Kadampa path. Through her blessings, may our every experience give rise to Lamrim minds, and may we always feel ourselves to be in her holy presence. May every person who reads this series of posts make the firm determination to engage in the Liberation from Sorrow practice the 8th of every month for the rest of their lives, and may Tara appear to them at the time of their death and lead them to her Pure Land.