I have heard my teacher say that in the same way a summer rain will bring forth countless mushrooms on a meadow, the mind-training and meditation practices of Tibet brought forth an uncountable number of masters who awakened to their own potential. These masters attained a degree of fulfillment and insight in their lives that far surpasses anything we as ordinary beings can imagine. Tara’s Triple Excellence meditation program is based on these centuries-old methods and techniques.
In Tibet, a qualified master would give his student instruction on, let’s say, how to develop boundless loving-kindness. The student would then go into solitude and train in the master’s words until her loving-kindness expanded to include every being equally, from her own mother to the tiniest insect in a field. Only when the master’s instructions had matured into the yogi’s living experience, would the student return to the master to receive further instructions. This method of steady teaching and meditating ensured that each step of the practice began with solid intellectual understanding and ended with experiential accomplishment.
Now this way of practicing has become rather rare, as have realized beings. It is not that people have a diminished capacity for practice or understanding, but rather that very few people have the time and the conditions to train with the words of a master consistently in their ears. Also, I have noticed that qualified masters now have many different roles and duties, and are sometimes unable to remain in a retreat situation with the same group of students over an extended period. We, the students, are typically busy and tend to be caught in the activities of this fast-paced world. We often cannot gather the conditions that allow us to rely closely on the guidance of a true master.
All of us following the Buddhist path know that positive change, however minute, takes time and diligence. An encounter with a realized master, or even receiving teachings over an extended period of time, may not affect a stable shift in our behavior. However inspiring a seminar, our rigidity might still not really soften, our destructive emotions remaining just as rampant. When we return from a short retreat to our consumerist societies, our spiritual inspiration might seem to evaporate like dew drops on a blade of grass. Our motivation fades, our sitting practice dwindles, and we are seemingly back to where we were before we became so inspired by the teachings.
Unless we remember and work with the instructions and apply them in our everyday lives, we will not change. We will not become bodhisattvas able to help others. Such change can only happen if we allow ourselves to receive continuous instruction, letting the advice sink deeply into our hearts and awaken our inner guide. Through such an approach, a positive transformation will definitely take place.
Tara’s Triple Excellence was developed as an online meditation program to help place the words of the Buddha squarely in the lives of those who are sincerely interested in awakening perfect wisdom, despite retaining their worldly commitments. The program takes us through the entire Buddhist path step-by-step. With the direct guidance of the lineage masters, we systematically move through different stages of training–gaining experience at each stage.
Tara’s Triple Excellence daily schedule is built on four training sessions. Upon waking we do a short meditation practice. Next come the longer morning and evening contemplations, finishing with a short practice at bedtime. To make sure that the morning contemplation is not left on the meditation cushion, but becomes lived experience, we tend to different mindfulness instructions throughout the day. At the end of the evening session we reflect on how we utilized the teachings.
In the 8th century the highly accomplished Indian master, Padmasambhava, journeyed to Tibet to disseminate tantric practice. In order to prevent his teachings from being destroyed or misused he concealed numerous teachings throughout Tibet, called termas, for the benefit of future generations. These termas can only be discovered at specified times by particular individuals known as tertöns, or treasure revealers. Termas are revealed within the earth, rocks, man-made objects, or directly within the mind of a tertön.
The key content and structure of Tara’s Triple Excellence is a terma revealed by Chokgyur Lingpa (1829-1870). In the spacious expanse of Chokgyur Lingpa’s realized mind, the path of The Triple Excellence spontaneously appeared when the female Buddha Tara appeared to him in a vision and said, “Excellent, excellent, excellent.” Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, who holds the lineage of this terma, perceived that the time had come to disseminate Tara’s teachings. We are the fortunate recipients.
This terma leads practitioners through the three excellences, or stages, of the path:
1) The Excellence of the Sutrayana: fundamental mind training,
2) The Excellence of the Mahayana: the bodhisattva path of boundless love and insight.
3) The Excellence of the Vajrayana: the secret path of the lower and higher tantras.
This progressive path gives us the tools to transform stress, fear, anger and confusion into the great strengths of generosity, patience, compassion and wisdom.
The Triple Excellence can create a unique kind of interior growth and change. Within our vibrant community of participants, which includes many seasoned practitioners of Buddhism, some for as long as 20 years, many report that for the first time in their lives they are observing real inner transformation. We asked Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche why this might be the case. He said that people experience profound results because the program is guided by the ancient tradition of progressive maturation and direct experience, and that its content springs from Tara’s enlightened mind. The terma from Noble Tara, embodiment of awakened wisdom and activity, works because it is a genuine system for spiritual training and accomplishment.