This article is a part of elephant’s Shambhala Day/Losar series. Illustration of the coming Eastern New Year, year of the Iron Tiger by Marguerite Sands. Check her web site here.
Your Birds are Coming Home to Roost…
Well, not roost exactly, because nothing can truly roost in the non-material world, but during this time of year—known as Don Season in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition—your karma will certainly fly by and sh*t on you in the most insulting way.
I’m all for the non-theistic understanding of all the infinite points of Dharma, but when it comes to Don season I revert to a strangely superstitious interpretation.
In one of the more memorable Don Seasons in my life, my car was totaled, I had a miscarriage, and my cell phone was lost.
Try as I might to avoid a heretical interpretation, the messages from the phenomenal world that are heightened and intensified in the 10 days before Losar (the lunar new year) seem to have a pointed, intelligent, and retributive tone during this brief but potent liturgical season.
I suspect that I am not alone in this. If you go by the war stories, many Buddhists secretly harbor a literalist interpretation of Don season. Each year the Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center, and usually Marpa House as well, host knowledgeable and erudite speakers to explain what the whole thing is about…yet still the voodoo stories persist. Don season, in the crudest terms, is the time of year when things go horribly wrong. It’s a reminder that when you are a f*ck-up, even a basically good f*ck-up, it has consequences. The seeds of negative karma that may not even have ripened for four, eight, or twelve lifetimes can suddenly actualize into disasters and calamities in a most immediate and painful way. To put it mildly, this is not the time to oversee groundbreaking ceremonies. Don season is the time of year to get on your knees—I mean (!) your meditation cushion, and supplicate.
And this we do, in a chant known colorfully as Pacifying the Turmoil of the Mamos.
The personification of the Mamos doesn’t help the confusion much. Superstition, mythology’s inbred cousin, is borne of trying to explain that which we don’t understand. And it isn’t easy to understand the Mamo chants. Who are the Mamos, these ghost-like troublemakers, and why are they throwing dice? Are they the good guys or the bad guys? It’s impossible to say, and perhaps that’s the point.
Good circumstances, bad circumstances? Let them all hurl you back to the path of Dharma. If you can’t wrap your mind around your own karma—and who can?—then let the attempt go and ride the energy of events as they arise. And mind your P’s and Q’s, because there is a process by which, unimpeded, those P’s and Q’s will align into a more or less incoherent message, unless you possess powers of seeing that are well beyond most of us.
So, suffice to say, they will always spell out the one thing that matters most: have some compassion for yourself and for others, because that is the only thing that makes any sense when a blizzard of karma shuts you down, if only for a day or two.