Postcard 43 from Robina: Tasmania, Monday, August 4, 2014

2014-08-04 11:00:00

Where was I after Queensland? I’ve just spent three weeks in Perth, on the West coast, most of July, but the first week I was at Atisha Centre, two hours north of Melbourne, down south. Mid-winter here, so I had my winter woolies, namely a warm woolen shawl and knee-length woolen socks – I can’t stand ankle-length! We always do a week’s retreat here, this time Tara.

The first week of July I was at Atisha Centre, the FPMT center two hours north of Melbourne. We did a week-long retreat on Buddha Tara, who represents optimism, action energy, cutting through the obstacles, making things happen. We all need that! Photo Atisha Centre.

People like these practices: they’re optimistic. There we are, doing the best positive thinking you could possibly do. The lamas call these practices, in which you imagine yourself as a fully developed buddha, in this case in the aspect of Tara, “bringing the end result into the present.” It’s so powerful: such practical psychology, a method for getting ourselves out of our fear-based low self-esteem, the view that we instinctively go to and believe is the truth. It’s the nature of ego, ironically.

Lama Yeshe was amazing at teaching the psychology of tantra. So, so practical. Lama says in The Bliss of Inner Fire, “I want you to understand that you need to strongly identify yourself as a deity, a buddha; you need to have intensive awareness of your body as the deity’s body, your speech as the deity’s mantra, and your mind as great blissful wisdom.”

This approach makes so much sense when we understand the simple logic of karma: that whatever we think, first and foremost, leaves impressions or seeds in our mind that just naturally develop those habits within us and manifest as experiences in the future. For the Buddha, every thought counts. We get this when it comes to learning math or music, let’s say: we know very well that every thought counts: if they’re not the right thoughts, what a mess! Same with Buddha’s approach to developing our goodness.

People like Tara. She represents optimism, action energy, cutting through the obstacles, making things happen. We all need that! Her name translates as “the liberator” and she’s often referred to as “the liberator from the fears of samsara.”

That’s a strange concept to us, but if we translate it into terms we use, it means cutting through all the neuroses that dominate our lives. “Samsara” is simply Buddha’s way of referring to being caught up in attachment and anger and jealousy and the rest, stuff that we’re intimate with. It’s not some place somewhere!

So, what are these “fears” Tara helps liberate us from? When we study Buddha’s model of the mind in more depth we see that fear doesn’t have any status as a unique state of mind, as attachment and anger and jealousy do. Why not? Simple. Because according to Buddha’s view all the neuroses are in the nature of fear. Check the last time we were depressed or angry or jealous: full of fear! It’s so clear.

As we know, Buddha’s fundamental point, his own personal findings, the basis of all his teachings and practices, is that we can, indeed, become “liberated from the fears of samsara”: give up samsara, give up these delusions, rid our mind utterly of them. That’s Buddha’s unique view. Amazing! I wouldn’t mind that! As Lama Zopa Rinpoche says, “When we’ve realized emptiness” – that’s when we’ve cut the root of all the rubbish – “there is no fear.” What an idea! Nothing like that in our contemporary models of the mind!

The Great Stupa, right next to Atisha Centre, is going magnificently.

At the Great Stupa with Joedy Wallis, one of the group at the Tara retreat at Atisha Centre. Photo Atisha Centre.

Perth is a four-hour plane journey from Melbourne, 2,200 miles from one coast to the other. I spent three weeks here last year as well, at Hayagriva Centre and also in Bunbury, a couple of hours along the coast, where Hospice of Mother Tara is.

Hayagriva Centre in Perth, WA, is a four-hour plane journey south from Melbourne.

Bunbury is a couple hours down the coast from Perth and the site of Hospice of Mother Tara.

Before last year I hadn’t been here since 2006. I remember it well because it was Grand Final time. I barrack for – as we say in Australia – for the Sydney Swans, one of the teams in the Australian Football League, known as the AFL. It has a massive, fanatic following in this country; it’s a kind of football that’s based on Gaelic football and is quite unknown anywhere else in the world. My family have been Swans fans since childhood. They were originally in South Melbourne but got moved up to Sydney in the 1980s. They were always hopeless when I was a kid. These days they’re a power team and I’ve been following them. I have an app on my iPad that allows me to watch the games live.

Here I am with Brett Kirk, former Sydney Swans captain, in Sydney in 2010. My family have been Swans fans since childhood. The Australian Football League, based on Gaelic football, has a massive, fanatic following in Australia.

Anyway, in 2005, the Sydney Swans won their first Grand Final in 80+ years. What excitement! In 2006 they were again playing, while I was in Perth, and the team we were playing was a team from Perth. I watched the last few minutes in a pub – but I couldn’t stand the tension! This time, the Swans lost by a point. Terrible!

I never went to the games as a kid; instead, I’d hang out with my mother, learning to sing.

I visited Broome, too: three hours north on the coast. A strange and lovely place: the red earth and the turquoise sea: an astonishing mix.

Broome is an astonishing mix of red earth and turquoise sea, three hours north of Perth.

Perth is the main city in the state of Western Australia, and Broome is one of the smaller but popular cities. WA itself is massive: it takes up a third of the entire country but has something like only 2.5 million inhabitants, 92% of whom live around Perth. Amazingly, it provides something like 58% of Australia’s mineral and energy exports.


My last week of July was spent in Tasmania, a world away from the ancient red desert of WA! You’d think you were in the south of England: green, lush, mild climate, pretty. The center in Hobart is where I went for a week.

I spent the last week of July at the Chagtong Chentong centre, in the green, lush, mild climate of Hobart, TAS. Photo Jennifer Dunbabin.

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