Last Sunday evening, the day before National Day, I went on an overnight mini retreat. It was the all-night Tara Purification Practice organised by Amitabha Buddhist Centre.
All Night Tara practice is a tradition whereby participants stay up all night to recite the 21 praises to Tara. The sessions are interspersed with full length prostrations and circumambulations - all done while reciting the 21 Praises. Tara represents the wisdom and compassion of all the enlightened beings in a female form. Meditating on Tara is a very powerful way to identify and connect with our own inner potential for wisdom and compassion. It also helps to eliminate obstacles to the spiritual path and to being able to work for others. There was recitation of a dharani for purifying negativity and increasing wisdom. It is a powerful practice in that we bear hardships (doing prostrations and prayers in the night) to express our devotion to Mother Tara, thus exhausting our negativities.
The session started at 7pm and there were 4 sessions throughout the entire night till the next morning 7am. Many people came for the 7pm session, I think about 70-80 people participated in the practice. After the preliminary prayers, we circumambulated around Tara's altar of precious holy objects and offerings, reciting the 21 praises to Tara. I was familiar with the Tibetan phrases as I have been attending Tara pujas on and off. When the monks led, the singing of each praise just felt very natural and comfortable for me. Tara pujas are one of my favourite pujas.
After circumambulating for a few big rounds around the main gompa and after the completion of the 21 praises, we started our full prostrations. Everyone can take their time to prostrate, and try to do as many as possible up to their fullest capability. I did it slow but continuous because I intended to stay and last the entire night. So I had to conserve my energy.
Each session lasted about 2 and half hours and after a 30 minute break, we proceeded to the next session and repeat everything all over again. After the first session, the crowd gradually dwindled to about 30 participants in the last session which started at 4am and completed around 6.30am. I calculated and estimated I probably did 500 prostrations that night. It was tougher than doing sit ups or push ups because we did it slowly and continuous throughout the night. If you do not know what are full prostrations, please click here. When we do prostrations we act on the level of body, speech, and mind. The result of doing them is a very powerful and thorough purification. By the 4th and last session, I was really almost half asleep although physically, I was still chanting and reciting prayers and still "exercising". It involved real determination and endurance to stay awake.
This was Tara's altar which we did our circumambulation. Before the final session at 4am, while most of the participants having a break or napping, I circumambulated the altar on my own again, chanting Tara's mantra. In my very exhausted and body-aching state, I could not believe I was still able to
move circumambulate around the altar.
I was so glad I completed the all night purification practice, in full bliss. Even though the following day, my whole body was aching, thighs and arms were weak and painful, I am glad I took this opportunity to practice and to do purifications which I feel I badly needed to. I am glad I spent the whole night doing something very meaningful, rather than to have spent it sleeping, or pubbing/drinking/KTV somewhere. I have full confidence and faith in Mother Tara's blessings. Thanks to ABC for organising this powerful and beneficial practice session.
This photo is from Amitabha Buddhist Centre. View more in their FB Page. Please do join their FB Page for updates of future activities.
Benefits of Tara Practice
Tara is quick to grant success in obtaining the ultimate happiness of enlightenment. You receive much good merit, or cause of happiness; it prevents a suffering rebirth in your next life; you receive initiation from millions of buddhas; and you achieve enlightenment.
Besides these, however, Tara practice has many other benefits. Reciting the Twenty-one Taras' prayer with devotion, at dawn or dusk—or remembering Tara, singing praises and reciting mantras at any time of the day or night—protects you from fear and dangers, and fulfill all your wishes. If you pray to Tara, Tara is particularly quick to grant help.
There are also many temporal benefits from Tara practice, either reciting the Tara mantra or the Twenty-one Taras' prayer. Tara can solve many problems in your life:
- liberate you from untimely death;
- help you recover from disease;
- bring you success in business;
- help you to find a job;
- bring you wealth.
When you have a really serious problem, such as a life-threatening disease, if you rely upon Tara, very commonly you will be freed from that problem; you will recover from that disease. If you eat poison, if you rely upon Tara, the poison will not harm you. By doing Tara prayers and mantras, couples with difficulty having a child can have a child—and whichever they want, a son or a daughter. These are very common experiences. Through Tara practice, you can obtain any happiness of this life that you wish.
As Lama Zopa Rinpoche says "If you recite the Twenty-one Taras' prayer once every evening, it is impossible—I can put my signature to this!—for you to die of starvation. It is also a very common experience for lay practitioners, monks and nuns with financial difficulties to have such problems relieved by doing Tara practice. In my personal experience, I have seen many instances of people who have prayed to and taken refuge in Tara and been saved from the danger of untimely death from disease without taking medicine."