Practices, Methodology & Activities

The practice of sacred outlook will be the primary framework for the journey, a practice aimed at transforming the alienation and desecration we know all too well.  Sacred outlook and the practice of natural meditation offers a path to remember and familiarize ourselves with the immediate sacredness inherent in our own mind, our relationships, and in the natural world.  In this case, the sacred outlook of natural meditation is introduced through the spirit of the Mahāmudrā tradition.

 

In this light, the Earth Vase Pilgrimage is a journey to an ever-present goal, an exploration of the inseparability of origin, journey and destination, uncovering the innate purity within even the most grievous desecration.  While remaining in this view, pilgrims will also walk the trail, discovering and creating sacred places along the journey.  The path is complemented by a variety of methods and practices to transform and enliven one’s awareness, relationships, and environment.

 

Lama Karma will offer other meditations and practices of sacred outlook, particularly several types of offering practices from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. These practices have been adapted to be approachable and practiced by individuals from any or no spiritual tradition.   Offering is an acknowledgement of the give and take of life on earth, a practice and understanding that has been largely lost in contemporary Euro-American culture. Ritual is the language of this reciprocity, and through several offering rituals such as fire pujas and Earth vases, practitioners will attune to and cultivate sacred outlook in the natural world.

 

Before the pilgrimage, Eden Tull will lead a connected program on “The Work That Reconnects,” a training developed by the Buddhist elder and ecologist Johanna Macy. The Work That Reconnects is a personal and group process that uses the insights of deep ecology, systems thinking, and nondualistic spirituality to understand and transform the realities of the ecological crisis. Through experiential practices that connect practitioners to their relationship with all living beings, the experience of moral pain is fully acknowledged and recognized as a doorway to the qualities of clarity, openness, and compassion inherent in natural mind. On the basis of this recognition, practitioners are empowered to develop creative and compassionate responses in care for our common home.

 

Participants are welcome to attend either or both programs.

Practices

Earth Vase Offerings

Through balancing the elements of earth, water, fire, and wind, treasure vases, or yang bum, increase the vitality and prosperity of the environment in which they are placed.  Our vases have been procured from Dodrupchen Monastery in Sikkim, India.  They have been filled with various grains, herbs, medicines, jewels, and relics according to strict traditional prescriptions.

The offering of treasure vases is common in the Tibetan tradition, and is customary when initiating a building project or consecrating an environment for secular or religious purposes.

 

Ksitigharbha

The ritual of planting an Earth Vase follows a text written by Karma Chagme, a Tibetan master from the 17th century.  The ritual opens with the recollection of the environment as a pure realm, and the sacred maṇḍala of the Bodhisattva “Essence of Earth” (Skt. Kṣitigarbha) is developed within the vase.  This Bodhisattva is famous for making the aspiration “May I never be enlightened until all sentient beings are enlightened,” and practitioners connect with this altruistic motivation by cultivating the heart wish to bring all beings to the recognition of their own sacred and innate goodness.

 

Through this profound wish, the heart is opened to the space beyond concept, and within this space, practitioners discover the freedom to visualize themselves as Bodhisattva “Essence of Earth” himself.  Visualizing themselves in this way, they visualize the celestial palace maṇḍala of Essence of Earth within the treasure vase, empowering it with their pure intentions and altruistic aspirations.  The vase is placed in the ground as a gift to the Earth and all the inhabitants of the environment.  Subject, object, and action are thus reflexively transparent and enhance the recognition of their open and unlimited essence.  In this way, reciprocity is honored through the language of ritual, free of the pollution of any conceptual fixation.

Work that Reconnects

Participants in the Work are led through a four-step spiraling process that integrates a fearless courage to experience the fullness of our personal, collective, and ecological pain with the radical freedom that understands all manifestation as the interconnected yet illusory play of the mind.

 

The process begins with gratitude, an opening of the heart that allows practitioners to reconnect with basic goodness, confidence, and empathy.  This prepares the way for a full and honest acknowledgment of the pain that each of us carry for the world.  With this acknowledgment, empathy matures into compassion, the ability to fully feel the suffering of others.  The space of compassion opens to the recognition of the interconnectedness of all living things: in honoring our private pain with presence, we become present to all that lives, directly connected with others through the tender intimacy of our own vulnerability.  This intimacy allows us to see with new eyes, unlocking a sense of our own ability to affect the whole, liberating our limitations into a broader context of compassionate activity.  We become connected to past and future generations and share their gifts, support, and the duty to honor them.  Finally, we go forth into the world, expressing this activity in ways that draw on the uniqueness of our personal gifts and circumstances, investing our new-found sense of empowerment into the world around us.

Fire Offering Ceremonies

Several types of fire offerings are also practiced on the pilgrimage.  Texts for these can be found on the resources page.

 

Lha Sang, or fire offering, is a blending of Vajrayāna Buddhism and the
indigenous shamanic practice of offering to the mountain deities of Tibet.  In our context, fire offerings are a way to connect with the seen and unseen world, developing a sense of exchange with the environment and bringing to presence aspects of ourselves and our relationships that are in need of rejuvenation and purification.

Sur Cho is another type of offering practice that is done in the evenings.  Sur is a means to purify negativities and make offerings to all of those who are suffering in body and mind, creating a peaceful and nurturing environment for practice.  It is also a profound practice for feeding one’s demons, the predatory and addictive aspects of ourselves that limit our ability to be fully present to ourselves and others.