Tara & Raven
acrylic 36 x 28" $3000
laser print $40
When an event effects the lives of many beings, it sends out ripples before as well as after, & artists naturally paint these ripples.
-Lama Zik Whitehand
In June I began exploring imagery in response to an inner urging to paint Tara & Raven. Only as I finished on September 14 did I see: this painting had always been about our response to the WTC attacks. Here is what it tells:
Rabshima, The Very Peaceful. This white form of Tara is the embodiment of the state beyond sorrow, from which She pacifies all evil actions & their suffering results. Evil actions & the suffering they cause are neutralized not by revenge, but by peace beyond sorrow, compassion beyond the duality of "us" & "them."
Raven. In the beginning of the world, Raven helped Thunderbird seek out & destroy evil, very tiring work. The first Longhouse taught Raven a better way: plant good in the face of evil & let it send out runners everywhere. We plant the fire of life burning in our hearts, our love for each other, & the knowledge we share.
Crescent moon. This Tara has Arab features & the symbol of Islam on her tiara. We are to learn Islam, absorb its spiritual wisdom as easily as Buddhism or Native American spirituality. This Tibetan Tara, whose compassion & wisdom extend across the universe, is deeply sympathetic to Muslims of the Middle East.
Pond. As the global oceans, the pond reminds us to consider the effects of our actions on beings who live "across the pond." As Raven's place, it is the collective American mind, our pool of emotion & dream, which Tara is testing with her toe.
Trout. Swimming swiftly through water, trout reminds us how quickly thought travels, that what we think matters & affects others instantly.
Otter. Playful mother energy, otter reminds us to care for all children, not just our own. Afghani, Palestinian, & Iraqi children matter very much in our collective fate.
Ursa Major. The ring of stars places our lives in the context of eternity, mystery, the unknown. That the stars are northern suggests Tara's journey, the geographical locus of US actions, & Bear's contemplative and protective spirit.
Twilight. The lightening sky is a warning. By our choices in the coming months we will determine whether the twilight is really dawn--or dusk. If we face the darkness of our ignorance, a new day can dawn. If we insist on the bright light of our arrogance, we will fall into night.
Blue lotus & yellow pond lily. Tara traditionally appears with two blue lotuses, emblems of her enlightenment. Here She holds one blue lotus and one yellow pond lily, native here. A real exchange of spiritual teaching and wisdom is taking place. Raven, Her other blue lotus in His beak, is the trickster bringing home what the people need. What Americans need now is compassion for all beings--the essence of Tara's enlightenment. We are making Her wisdom our own, as native as the yellow lily.
Mossy rock. Tara sits on a mossy rock of our own wild landscape, solid in the nature whose vitality & wisdom must inform our choices as surely as any religion, philosophy, or ethics. All elements of nature are our teachers.
Redwood needles. Where I live, the forest is the deepest context of natural wisdom & the ecological ground of survival. Every place has its counterpart, & awareness & appreciation of this background must inform all our choices.
Button blanket. Raven's all red blanket & Tara's red silks, Raven's pearl buttons & Tara's iridescent skin show us how deeply akin they are--in vitality, spirit, & the carrying of their native tradition. The design, which strongly resisted my efforts toward a more traditional motif, suggests the twin towers.
Rainbow. The rainbow is the outpouring of wisdom from the Tibetan tradition that we need so greatly in this difficult time. For example, tonglen, "taking and giving": you breathe in the pain & terror of the people killed in the attacks or the bombings, & breathe out love & peace. Or you breathe in the anger & ignorance of those advocating violence, & breathe out understanding & reconciliation. Another, akin to devout Christian practice, is offering. You take a moment & think, "I offer washing these dishes for the peace of the victims." Being hugged by a friend you think, "I offer my enjoyment of this caring for the comfort of those who lost loved ones."
We help nothing by being gloomy. We are free to go listen to beautiful music & offer our joy for world peace, to go skateboarding & offer our exhilaration for the enlightenment of world leaders, to meditate & offer our clarity of mind for the strength of all people who need to formulate a just & compassionate response.
The rainbow is also the Native American Rainbow Bridge, the passage from the world of misery to the world of peace & beauty. We can only cross the Rainbow bridge when we include all beings.
The message of this painting is the broadness and clarity of mind needed to understand our situation & how to act within it. We are required to learn the karma of these attacks. With great patience, we as a people need to take time, effort & courage to learn the stories of how we are experienced by the people & nations of the Middle East. Our learning process must be supported by the whole of nature, & our decisions must harm none.