As a sumptuous hors d’oeuvre to the rest of the post, I present DODR’s first embedded video, three unbelievably sweet minutes featuring Tara the elephant and Bella the pooch, first posted by Brother Rod over at Shambhala SunSpace (along with some preposterous words afterward about yours truly):
Can you stand it? Brother Adam told me later he’s been a long-time supporter of The Elephant Sanctuary featured in this clip and just loves them. Hephalumps and doggies in Tennessee...how could you not? Check their site.
Your intrepid reporter braved just one errand outdoors today, despite a wind chill of -40F/C, hoofing it to the Post Office, and was richly rewarded. All long-awaited packages magically manifested, including one from my sister that had actually arrived on Dec. 23 but I was never notified. The abashed package guy mumbled excuses and waived the customs fee. The contents were blessedly intact, a true deep Mongolian winter care package from my beloved Sister Laura. Before I even opened it I could detect the delightfully disreputable aroma of the three assorted pounds of dark-roasted Dean’s Beans: Roadhouse Blend, Ahab’s Revenge, and Rwanda Bold. Accompanying these were two BBC DVD sets, the whole Planet Earth series and David Attenborough’s fabulous The Life of Birds (this one the cats will eagerly watch with me, I’m sure). Another package also showed up containing specially blessed crystals for a Mongolian lama who will use them for a particular Vajrayana ritual, and again because it was two weeks late (‘express mail’ indeed), that fee was also waved off.
Huh. Could all this have had anything to do with my adventures with another Tara yesterday?
Through my friend Sara I heard that the old wise woman reputed to be an emanation of the female Buddha known as Green Tara was here in UB from her far-western Khovd province. People just call her Dar Ekh – Mother Tara. I immediately arranged to see her; I’d met her once before but she was quite ill. This time she was robust and happy and we had a great meeting for a couple of hours.
Brother Don kindly arose from his sore back convalescence today and scanned a page for me from the extremely-hard-to-find 20th c. autobiography of another Buddhist incarnation from western Mongolia, Diluv Khutagt. In it, he gives a little information about the Dar Ekh phenomenon in Khovd:
“There were no incarnations in any of the 20 Banners [traditional Mongolian social organization units] of the Khovd region. In some of the banners, however, there were female incarnations called Dar Ekh, notably in Dambi Ööld Banner. The Dar Ekh had no temples and no regular incarnation successions but appeared here and there irregularly. They had husbands and usually had a reputation for healing. The most famous one appeared in the Ch’ien Lung period (1736 – 1796) and this started the fashion. She lived to a great age.”
Most intriguingly, this Dar Ekh told me of a particularly wrathful mountain in Khovd associated with Guru Rinpoche, saying, “I regularly speak with the protector of that mountain.” She invited me to come and do a practice retreat there and I instantly developed a hard itch to do just that.
At the end of our visit, I made an offering for her Dharma activities. As I was then packing up to go, she said, “Hey, bring your wallet over here.” I did so, and she called for some raw rice. She then performed some chanting, blessed the rice, sprinkled some inside the wallet, closed it up and handed it back with a faint smile. Could that have opened the doors at the post office and suppressed all fees today? Hmm...
Finally, I asked if we could have a photo taken together, and she graciously obliged. Isn’t she just gorgeous?