The Jivamala
The life of a Vajrayana Buddhist Nun

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Section XII -The Yogini's Nest

The Yogini's Nest was an interesting place. It did not have the wealth of the previous convent with its pictures and statues, but the people were happier. The woman who ran the convent was old but clearly respected by everybody. And they did not forbid us from talking. I still had my yellow robes from the old convent, and I would keep those until I became fully one of them. She said I should stay there for several months, and then see if anyone got any revelations. If I did (or she did) then I would be re-consecrated, absolved of previous vows, and given new ones. She said that the previous abbess had given me just cause for leaving the monastery, and anyone who knew the story would not condemn me.

I was bound to Vajra Dakini and that would stay. I was bound to Vajradhara and forbidden to speak with him - that would also stay. However they might find someone other than a bodhisattva for a spiritual guide.

My new abbess, Golden Smiling Moon, or Lady Moon for short, called me in and asked if I were settled. Once again, my outdoor robes became my blankets, and we could have separate rooms. I chose a separate one - people might laugh at me when I spoke with the dakini or danced with her. My room was tiny - I could touch opposite walls with my hands - but it was private and quiet and sheltered me. Even the smallest rooms had little areas for fire.

Like the other convent, there were set times for doing things during the day. We woke up very early while it was still dark, drank some water and splashed it on our faces and hands. Then we went down to the meditation hall. We chanted the prayers and mantras and blessed each other and the world. Then we ate breakfast, cereal and tea, and cleaned the floors and walls and pots, and meditated some more. Then we had another small meal with rice and barley, and went out to do other assigned tasks. Lady Moon said that I must learn to read and write, for when I was older, I would have much to say. Another nun there, Venerable Truth, was willing to teach me, and I had lessons everyday. At first it seemed strange to have words on pages but I got used to it, and started looking forward to what those odd squiggles on the little papers were saying. Sometimes they had pictures and line drawings and I liked those best. At first my hand wiggled when I tried to write, but later it became strong and I could write letters clearly.

I also found that I liked to draw. I would copy the yogini figures from the few pictures in charcoal on the wall (I would wash the wall afterwards) and even drew the faces of some of the nuns. Lady Moon walked by one time when I had drawn a few, and at first she laughed, and then she looked serious. She said, "So, this is another one of your skills - if I can, I will find someone to train you in this too, but do not draw the other nuns. If the pictures are flattering, they will be proud, and if they are ugly, they will be angry at you. Draw the deities; they seem to be tolerant of you."

So I did - I asked Vajra Dakini to pose for me. First she wore a dress of stars with a crown of skulls. Then she said, "Make it a nude, and she took off the dress, and wore only strands of beads - rudrakshas and onyx. Then she said, "Even more nude", and she dissolved her skin, and became a skeleton. Then she danced on a sea of bones with smoky fires in the distance. It was hard to keep up with her - she kept changing so fast.

I meditated several times a day with the nuns for hours at a stretch, but nothing much ever happened there. The dakini liked to come when I was alone.

One day Lady Moon told me that I should know the work that the other nuns did. There was a weaving room with a small loom, and dark thread was spun for it. Some nuns made cloth. Some chopped vegetables for cooking. Others used the black thread to make necklaces for amulets and lucky boxes. Amulets were flat pieces of metal, and one nun would incise letters into them. The metal was given to us by villagers. The boxes were wooden, and decorated with blessed objects inside.

Another nun was very wise, and she charted the pathways of the stars and planets for people who asked questions about their future. A nun who had once been a mother but her husband and babies died in an epidemic made healing charms. She asked that whatever merit allowed her to remain healthy [rather than die from the epidemic] bless the pieces of root, and drinks that she made.

Lady Moon said that I must find a job worth doing. I said that those little bits of paper that I had could be lost easily, and I wanted to make a long roll of paper with many stories. If we had long pieces of paper, we could have a whole collection.

She said, "I do not know if such paper is available. But we could ask for whole cloth from the village. Would you be willing to do all this writing?"

I said, "Oh yes, it would be good practice. Perhaps I could do a second roll with stories that the dakini tells me. I always forget then, and writing them down would help me remember."

She said, "New teachings from the Vajra Dakini are always welcome. Ask her to give you some very specific initiations to write: royal empowerment, healing, writer/artist, and traveler to Tara's paradise. Once there were initiations for these here but they have been lost. It would be good to recover them. You talk to the dakini, and I will try and find writing materials."

Section XIII

Lady Moon sent out to the village, and soon I had a long roll of crackly cloth to write on. Venerable Truth would not let me begin until I had shown her that I could shape all the letters perfectly, that I could use the brush to create even letters, and that I could read the stories we had. I learned quickly and we did not have that many stories. People here didn't seem to value the pieces of paper with stories - they wouldn't harm them but they wouldn't worship them either.

I decided that if perhaps the stories were prettier, people would like them. I remembered the pictures from the old convent (I had secretly drawn some there, when nobody was watching) and I decided to have a picture for each story. I practiced different deities on the wall, until they looked right. Vajra Dakini told me how to fix them if something was wrong. So once I had done all of Venerable Truth's texts and practiced drawing, I began the scroll.

I dedicated it to Vajra Dakini, of course, and her picture was on the front. She posed standing on a lotus, wearing a crown, and holding a vajra and dagger. She was beautiful. I drew waves around the lotus, and the moon, and the stars in the sky (it was dark).

Then I said this was a collection of stories, for the nuns of this convent and all sentient beings who could gain merit and enlightenment from stories of the Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas. It was nice to work on a project.

When I finished, I got some dark cloth from the weaving nuns, and some white-wash to draw the moon and stars. I wrapped the scroll in dark cloth with stars, and I offered it to Lady Moon as a gift.

She unwound it, and looked at the scroll. She smiled and said, "This is lovely." She liked the pictures and said I was a girl of many talents. I told her that actually I was a woman now but I would rather be a girl. She said, "There are many advantages to being a woman - you become smarter and more capable and talented than you were as a girl. I will show this to the nuns after the next meditation."

She did, and they all liked it. I told her that really I wanted to paint colors. She said, "Those are difficult to find. We must grind minerals and plants together to make them, and we must find an expert who knows how to do this. That may not be possible." But she sent out messages, and they did eventually find a teacher.

In the meantime, the months were going by. I really didn't count them. But somewhere between six months and a year, Lady Moon said to me, "Child, I have had a revelation. You are indeed one of us. The nuns appreciate your scroll, and your willingness to do work, and you are welcome here. I have heard no complaints all this time." This was very different from the old convent where nobody would speak to me.

To continue with the life of Chen Ma, click on the link below :

Chen Ma's Life Continued

Introduction | The Bhairava or Spiritual Guide | Lives of Spiritual Weakness | Lives of Spiritual Awakening | Conclusion


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