Tara Mandala Stupa Consecration

The following article is from the Spring, 1950 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

This year marks significant events in the seven-year history of Tara Mandala, the Buddhist retreat Center in Southwest Colorado founded in 1993 by Tsultrim Allione, author of Women of Wisdom (Snow Lion, summer 2000) and formerly a Tibetan Buddhist nun, ordained by the 16th Karmapa

Tara Mandala sits in the meadows and foothills of the Southern San Juan Mountains near the Four Corners area of the Southwest. The land elevation averages about 7500 feet. Snow capped peaks are seen both in the east and the west. San Juan National Forest and the Southern Ute Indian reservation border the land. This land has long been considered sacred by the Native American neighbors.

With the founding of Tara Mandala, Tsultrim realized a long-held dream to found a retreat center which would be similar to meditation centers in Tibet. There, as at Tara Mandala, the close contact with nature provides conditions necessary for retreat as described in the Precious Vase by Choegyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche:

A silent place like a forest is where one can reach a condition of peace, as the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas did, aplace where there is no confusion and involvement with work, companions and ordinary people who lead one into distraction. It is pleasant to have wild animals and birds for companions; it is easy to find the food of ascetic discipline such as water and leaves, to develop Dhyana and free oneself in one's own state from attachment to links, hatred, friends, relatives and enemies and thus come to possess numerous qualities.

The development of a stupa dedicated to Nyala Pema Duddul began in 1993. The Tibetan word for stupa is chorten, which means receptacle of offerings or container of the Dharma, which refers to the relics inside. The relics are the most important element in the blessing power of a Stupa The form of the structure represents the path to enlightenment and the body of the Buddha Inside the main part of the stupa, called the burn-pa, is a carved cedar tree, the tree of life, which is covered with mantras. Relics are tied onto it at the level of each chakra.

Tsultrim Allione was moved to construct this stupa based on a dream urging her to do so which she had in 1993. Three times in one dream, Nyala Pema Duddul appeared and urged that a stupa be constructed in a certain place on the Tara Mandala land. The community who were gathered for a Mandarava and Vajra Dance Retreat began collecting stones the next day.

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Tsultrim Allione was moved to construct this stupa based on a dream urging her to do so which she had in 1993. Three times in one dream, Nyala Pema Duddul appeared and urged that a stupa be constructed in a certain place on the Tara Mandala land.

Nyala Pema Duddul (1816 - 1872) was the guru of Ayu Khandro, Adzom Drugpa, and Rigdzin Chang Chub Dorje, who are all central to Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche's lineage. During his life Nyala Pema Duddul did extensive Julen practice. This fasting practice has three levels: Nirmanakaya, Sambogakaya, and Dharmakaya It involves gradually reducing the amount of food taken in until the person takes in only small quantities of mineral essences, flower essences and water. Essentially he lived on subtle energies, and at the end of his life Nyala Pema Duddul took the rainbow body, his body dissolving into light at the time of his passing. At the end of his life, Nyala Pema Duddul asked that his disciples sew him into his tent and not return for 7 days. On the eighth day they returned and upon opening the tent they found only his fingernails and his robe inside. The stupa contains pieces of his robe, his hair and fingernails along with 18 Buddha relics and many other important sacred objects.

Nyala Pema Duddul discovered the terma of the Long Life Practice of Amitayus, which had been practiced by Mandarava and Guru Rinpoche at Maratika. Ayu Khandro transmitted all of Nyala Pema Duddul's termas to Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and the stupa was constructed to increase the longevity of Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche when he had leukemia. The stupa, built in the Bodhisattva style, was created in accordance with the measurements and proportions given by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche to Tulku Sang Ngag, taken from the Derge Gomchen Golden Stupa which was designed by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. Choegyal Namkhai Norbu consecrated the stupa on September 9, 1999.

The year 2000 also carries significance in the physical expansion of the structures at Tara Mandala. We will be constructing a second 30-foot yurt to accommodate increased retreat activity. A new 40 x 40-foot teaching tent will be erected and an expanded outdoor kitchen will allow us to feed additional guests. Our hopes for the future contain plans for a shedra, or Buddhist teaching college, a long-term retreat center for group retreats and more hermitages. There is currently a beautiful retreat cabin available for rent at Tara Mandala as well.

This Spring and Summer the expansions will accommodate visitors attending retreats by Tulku Sang Ngag, Tsultrim Allione, Ven. Bhakha Tulku and Lama Sonam, a Yantra Yoga retreat by Anne Dankoff, Family Retreat with Teen Vision Quest and Dance of the Six Lokas retreat given by Anastasia McGhee. In August there will be a month-long retreat with Adzom Paylo, Rinpoche, a very special lama from Kham.

For further information about Tara Mandala inquire at 970-264-6177 or Tara Mandala, PO Box 3040, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147, or email: tara_mandala@compuserve.com. We also have an email list called Taranet for rapid and more frequent updates. (This is an abridged article. See the full version at www.snowlionpub.com.) ä_æ

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