Editor’s Note: This week we welcome guest author and former RCWMS Board Member Rachael Wooten. RCWMS Executive Director Jeanette Stokes joined Wooten via Zoom last month to discuss Wooten’s new book about her journey of discovery with Tara, the female Buddha. Twelve years in the making, this book is timely, as Rachael notes that “Tara is especially known in Vajrayana Buddhism, the tradition that took root in Tibet, as helping her devotees deal with fear.” Congratulations, Rachael!
Our book launch, the official birthing of Tara: The Liberating Power of the Female Buddha, which took place on April 30th, was a wonderful ceremony by all rights!
You might ask: Ceremony? After the event was over, my anxiety about the virtual technology of the launch, i.e., Zoom Webinar, subsided. (Many thanks to Matt Arion of Apple Buddy fame for helping us set that up. I think I might start calling him Apple Buddha!)
In the relaxed, open space of the following weekend, I was able to take in what had been created by my friends and supporters. I realized that our collective efforts had all the makings of an initiation ceremony. It takes a loving community to plan, carry out, and celebrate the completion of a ceremony. Usually, people from most aspects of the initiate’s life either plan or attend such an event as witnesses.
Mamie Potter, from Quail Ridge books, Chalice Overy from Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, and Jeanette Stokes, longtime friend, supporter, and director of RCWMS, the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South, planned the event with me, representing themselves and their various institutions that have helped the Tara work become what it is today. While not literal elders in age, they functioned as elders for me because of who they are and their own work in the world.
There were people on the webinar from almost every era of my life. There were people from high school, college, and all the different religious institutions with which I’m affiliated, including our different Tara meditation groups. Kit Durgin from California was there. She attended the Lakota immersion experience that was one of the early interconnecting pieces that led me to Tara. Sabine Kalff, one of my dearest Tara friends and colleagues in the Tara sanghas in Switzerland, stayed up until 1am her time to join us. There were people from my professional circles, writing circles, my exercise buddies, and longtime friends!
During and after the event, many of you reached out to celebrate the culmination of the work, either in person or, again, virtually. My gratitude for all this loving support is boundless. And once again, I’m deeply aware of the teaching of interdependence. Without all of you loving, wonderful, and talented people, Tara: the Liberating Power of the Female Buddha, would not have made it from the realm of the imaginal to the realm of form! And I certainly wouldn’t be here writing about it!
So, now the old stage of writing, planning, and publishing has come to an end. The new stage of accompanying this incarnation of Tara into the world, in all her magnificent forms, begins.
Tara is especially known in Vajrayana Buddhism, the tradition that took root in Tibet, as helping her devotees deal with fear. Her origin story tells of a woman who defied cultural beliefs about women, vowed to become enlightened only as a female, and then created her path of alleviating suffering for countless sentient beings on her way to becoming a fully awakened Buddha. My book illuminates twenty-one of her emanations, each of which has a particular way of coming to our assistance, which fuels our courage to help others as we travel our own path to awakening.
I have some inner work to do in order to enter this new stage of sharing Tara’s stories and powers with the world. Tara, as we all know, transcends all forms and moves easily between all realms. I’m sure I’ll be talking to her more than ever, asking for her help every step of the way. I also know I’ll be relying on members of my community for co-creating ways of inviting others into Tara’s loving, wise, and compassionate realms.
I look forward to meeting you on the path!
For more information about the book, or about my work, please visit rachaelwootenauthor.com, where this post originally appeared. The recording of the book launch is now available on the Sounds True YouTube channel here. I started the recording early. You can jump ahead a minute and ½ to the start of the event, or enjoy a few awkward moments of us all getting ready!