As we have previously mentioned, among the activities planned for the participants of this Green Tara retreat are special workshops that take place in the afternoons. One of them is the torma making workshop. Probably the name will not be familiar to you, but if you have ever seen a Tibetan buddhist altar, probably you have seen one.
In the case of Green Tara, tormas are offered with the purpose of requesting her attention; for our petitions to be able to advance in our spiritual development, to receive her blessings, and to be of benefit to all sentient beings.
Lama Karuna Tara and Lama Lodro Wangmo offered instructions to our group with great enthusiasm and patience. To make a torma, first you mix together oatmeal with a little bit of water, along with butter or vegetable oil. The Lamas mix together the ingredients beforehand in preparation for each group´s arrival, to save time, and so that we will have enough dough ready to work with at the right consistency.
The first things we do are to put on an apron, wash our hands, put on a surgical mask and stand ready to work around a large wooden table. Each person receives a portion of the dough and the first instruction is to make a 12-cm. long cone with a base 3-4 cm. in diameter. There are many kinds of tormas, but we are learning to make two types here especially for the practice of Green Tara: shalze and kartor. In the center of the work table there is a model of each one to serve as a guide.
The shalze torma has a large broad base, is slightly wider in the middle and ends in a small diamond-shape that is made by pinching the dough with your forefinger and thumb. Meanwhile, the kartor torma has a thinner conical shape, and at its base is added four triangles of dough that look like the petals of a flower.
At first, making tormas seems easy, but it took many of us more than five tries to get the right proportions to make just one kind of torma. This difficulty generated surprise and laughter, and even more so when the nuns checked our work and saw the irregular shapes, destroyed them and asked us to start over again. Even when we seemed to be close to the model torma, they asked us to start over, to practice more, and maybe to show us impermanence in the making.
Once we succeeded at making a torma, we painted them with melted butter and placed them in the refrigerator. We added disk-shaped forms, called tepkyus, to the front of the tormas, made out of butter and beeswax, which resembled round flowers. And in its center there was a little ball made of the same mix with vegetable coloring.
We have been told that tormas are frequently a part of the diet of the local bears and other animals that visit the monastery. We just witnessed a bear eating the torma remainders of last night’s puja. These are fortunate bears that eat their fill of blessings!
RETIRO DE TARA VERDE, KTD 2014
Writers / Escritores
Translator / Traductora
Editors / Editores
Photographs / Fotografías
Coordinators / Coordinadores
Ven. Tenzin Dapel