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Lions Roar : September 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2009 11 Looking for Help we’re all looKinG for help. when life is so problematic, even in the best of times, how could it be otherwise? Gracing the cover of this issue is the female buddha tara. she offers us help. she is sometimes called a protector, even a savior. what does that mean in a nontheistic religion like Buddhism? that’s the same as asking, what is Buddhist wis- dom for difficult times? Because tara is this wisdom. our wisdom. the primordial wisdom of our basic nature, present and available to us in every moment. tara is its personification. Before we ask who or what can help us, perhaps we have to ask what we need to be saved from, what we can be saved from. there is no escape from the basic realities of life. our circumstances may get better or worse, but the fundamental facts of change, imper- manence, and separation remain true, in this life and whatever comes next. it’s hard to control what happens to us. what we can change is the way we react to what life throws at us. and it turns out that’s really what counts. usually we blame our suffering on external circumstances, but if we look closely we discover that it’s actually our own reactions that cause most of the pain, for ourselves and others. this simple, everyday truth is Buddhism’s greatest discovery and gift. it means there is an end to suffering. it means we are not controlled by conditions or an external creator. it means we are free. of course, holding our fate in our own hands doesn’t necessarily mean we’re up to the job. perhaps we are doomed to an endless round of confusion and igno- rance, continuously creating suffering for ourselves and others. when you look at the state of the world through- out history, that prospect seems quite plausible. that’s why tara saves and protects us. her message is that we can do it—ultimately, we are it, always. we have the wisdom, compassion, and intelligence to han- dle life. and not just handle it, but live joyously, loving- ly, sacredly, wisely. Because tara’s enlightened nature is our nature. her wisdom, compassion, and skill are always present in us, no matter how confused, angry, lustful, fearful, or stupid we may be at any moment. discovering the ever-present wisdom behind the clouds of our confusion is the Buddhist path. al- though the figure of tara is native only to certain schools of Buddhism, the realization of the wisdom she represents is the universal goal of Buddhist prac- tice. in this issue, three important teachers of the theravadan, zen, and vajrayana Buddhist schools guide us in the very juicy, real-world path of realiz- ing our true nature. these are contemporary teachers speaking to the modern world, and they show us that this path is real, immediate, and practical, both in its challenges and benefits. poet and zen teacher norman fischer tells us about the death of a close friend. in such times of loss, he says, we discover the true nature of the hu- man heart, which is sad, tender, and vulnerable. the heart is a wound, in a way, sore to the touch, but if we have the courage to experience its rawness, we dis- cover the love that is at our core. this is tara’s heart, the true nature of the human heart. when we share this love and vulnerability with others, says sylvia Boorstein, we discover our common humanity and transform our sense of community. how can we feel anything but kindness and solidarity toward others when we know how loving and vulner- able they really are? ultimately, our nature is enlightened, but relatively speaking, life is difficult and we are confused beings. so that must be our path, says the dzogchen ponlop rinpoche, one of today’s leading tibetan teachers. he shows us how all our confusion and mistakes can be used as opportunities to work with our mind. then, no matter what, we are always on the unerring path. we have the wisdom and intelligence to do this. all we need—and this is the message of all these teachings—is the courage to look directly at and ex- perience fully what’s happening right now, both in- side and outside. right there, amid all the confusion, anxiety, and uncertainty of life, you will discover the goddess tara, her wisdom and love—your wisdom and love—and she will protect you. — Me lvin Mcleod photoByMarvinMoore