Early in December word leaked from Hong Kong that on the eve of his 78th birthday, our precious guru, the great scholar (the literal translation for that, Khenchen, is his Tibetan title) Thrangu Rinpoche suffered what may have been a mild stroke. Nobody would give an accurate diagnosis but emails claimed Rinpoche seemed to be recovering-- although there was still residual damage to his eyesight and vocal chords.
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche is a Dharma vessel, a way of saying he is a lighthouse of rock solid sanity in the swelling sea of Samsaric madness we all flounder in. Now with the risk of that vessel being permanently cracked or broken, everyone was urged to arouse aspirations and pray for both his full recovery and extended life. Specific prayers like those to the Medicine Buddha or Amitabha, deity of immortality, or White Tara, the compassionate Mother goddess of well-being (long life, strong health and wisdom), were recommended.
Like other students of Thrangu Rinpoche's, I hopped right to chanting Medicine Buddha and White Tara mantras, lighting candles, clasping my hands in front of my heart and praying to the deity of accomplishment and the deity who removes obstacles for his long life. Mine was just a small voice but it was flowing into a massive polyglot outpouring of love streaming toward Hong Kong like one of those giant arrows on the Weather Channel. I felt tremendous satisfaction knowing that even despite a lack of medical training or proximity to the patient, I was doing something to help someone who has been an extraordinary helpmate to me.
By the new year, news from Hong Kong was getting ever more positive about the possibility of Rinpoche's chances for full recovery. Still, since you can't be too sure, we were asked to keep praying. So I am, with great fervor--and not with blind faith. Friends ask why.
For one thing, Rinpoche has always urged his students to pour positive energy into this negative world, particularly in troubled times. He always says there can never be enough or too much to go around. Besides, even if you don't believe the world is just a kaleioscoping energy field, how or who can your aspiration to stop suffering actually hurt? Where is the downside to prayer?
The other thing is that I have personally experienced prayers making a big difference. I saw their uncanny power to affect outcomes. About two years ago in this blog, I reported on being magically rescued from the abyss of a nasty death in the family by Chenrezig, the great god of compassion for the suffering, to whom I had so desperately prayed for help in a moment of painful confusion. This past year, on the advice of one of Rinpoche's higher lamas, I have been praying every morning to the deity who removes obstacles and lately also reciting a special prayer to all the protectors and deities of the world to put everything in good working order for me. Actually "auspicious" is the word used: "May all be auspicious...all harm removed and obstacles pacified." And whaddya know. Since the solstice I feel like a dark, heavy weight was lifted off by an invisible crane and I'm giddily free in the clear sunshine of auspicious possibilities.
Another reason I feel this way right now may be, or so a friend says, because there was an astrological shift newly favorable to us beleaguered Capricorns. This, of course, strengthens my belief that there really are all sorts of forces chauffeuring us through life, that we are not as much in control of our destiny as, say, the energies of the Zodiac, all that Mercury retrograde and Saturn in your fifth house stuff. Frankly, I now believe so much in cosmic cues--although not $10 fortune-tellers, that I spent some of New Year's Eve trying to win at solitaire, thinking this would be an omen that 2012 would be a winning year. Unfortunately, I went to bed struggling to decide if losing all five games meant all my losses for the year had just been played out so I was now good to go, or I had just been warned about another hopeless year.
I worried about this because I have come to accept the fact that that behind the scrim of our man-made culture lies a real world we can't manhandle. As science says, it's all energy, continual morphing waves of energy. Spiritual pursuits like mine are an attempt to acknowledge that since I am not in charge, the best I can do is tap or tune into, and harmonize, with them. Thus my companion the Chinese I Ching (Book of Changes), and my checking in with the Greek Zodiac that charts annual energy flows. Last May my Tibetan goddaughter wouldn't let me hang prayer flags until she checked which day was the most auspicious and which day would prefigure disaster, something I'd never considered before. But I will consider it every year now because those were the only prayer flags that never seemed diminished or dulled due to time and weather. They were magically flying as whole and bright five months after we put them up as the morning we put them up, chanting prayers.
I think of the primeval Buddhist deities to whom I pray as ancient versions of modern radio stations: invisible energy waves in the invisible ocean of air. Each has its own spectrum, often visualized broadcasting as one of the colors of the rainbow, which is merely light waves of energy. (Medicine Buddha is lapis blue, Amitabha is blood red, Chenrezig is stainless white.) By praying, I tune in to surf the most propitious waves. If I connect, as the Irish say, I go forward with the wind at my back, the sun on my face. Or in other easy rider words, I don't go against the grain and all is auspicious. That's peak experience.
Admittedly, I can't hear the deities the way I can hear All Things Considered, but that does not dent my faith. Rinpoche always insists the deities hear me. And since I started praying, I have to say he's right. They have been dialing down my life into less and less of an obstacle course, something more and more auspicious and joyful. That's why I stay tuned. And why I, along with so many others, continue to send out energy waves of prayer to lengthen the life of the man who gave me this extraordinary gift.
~Sandy Garson"Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"
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