In June our teacher, Ellen Booth Church, told the Key West Tara Mandala Sangha about the Earth Treasure Vase Global Healing Project. This project was inspired by an ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition to bring healing and protection to the Earth by filling clay vessels with prayers and offerings, and ceremonially burying them in the Earth in places where healing and protection are most needed around the planet. Our own Lama Tsultrim contributed to this project by gathering sacred medicines and relics connected to every important lineage of the Vajrayana teachings back to Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) and Yeshe Tsogyal. She visited all of the greatest living teachers in Nepal who each offered precious medicines and substances that were gathered together and combined into the clay. Lama Tsultrim then oversaw each step of the process and made sure they were blessed properly according to the tradition. They were made in Bhaktapur, outside of Kathmandu in a place blessed by the Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal when she stayed there on her first visit to Nepal from Tibet.
The next spring 30 consecrated clay pots were brought to the Open Way Sangha in Santa Fe by Roshi Joan Halifax (Upaya Zen Center) and Colleen Kelley. The original Earth Treasure Vases were buried all around the planet in places that were in peril. The location below is considered to be the center of the entire Earth Treasure Vase global healing mandala. This is a cave above Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, where one of the first vases was buried with the help of the Gyumed monks.
Ellen Booth Church also had a vase planted on her property in Ithaca, New York around 1996. When she told us this and we read about the history and the deeply committed people who began this project (and continue it to this day), many of us were excited to perhaps fill and bury a vase at the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Gardens where our Sangha would meet (pre-Covid). As life goes, I had forgotten all about the vases after spending a couple of weeks in Ecuador. Someone had not forgotten, though, and had in fact, ordered a clay vessel in my absence. That, someone, was Martha O’Hare who arrived at my home after I returned from Ecuador absolutely beaming with a wrapped package in her hands and presented it to me for my birthday. Several months previously I had been fortunate enough to be able to purchase the vacant lot next to my home which was in grave danger of being razed and developed. This has been home to the endangered Key Deer, raccoons, and many migrating birds. The White-crowned Pigeon is listed as “State-designated Threatened” due to lack of habitat and they love the fruit of the Strangler Fig that lives in the middle of the lot. Martha’s gift brought me to tears and as I write this, my eyes are welling up once again.
Martha’s idea was to gather our local sangha members and follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of filling clay pots with prayers and offerings and to ceremonially bury them on this land on Big Pine Key. The Florida Keys are threatened by ever more frequent and stronger hurricanes, sea-level rise, loss of our coral reef from coral bleaching, overfishing, and loss of habitat for our unique mammals and birds.
According to tradition, the pots should be buried on a full moon day. We chose the next full moon which would be in July. Coincidentally (dare I say that to the very spiritually-minded readers of this blog?), Dharma Day which commemorates the Buddha’s first teaching, falls on the full moon in July. The Buddha’s first teaching took place in Sarnath, India’s Deer Park. You may see how appropriate this was by who joined us as we sat down to fill our vase.
As always, we began by setting the Intention.
“Let us set the intention today to offer our truest aspiration for healing the planet and helping to restore the balance in nature for the benefit of all life on Earth.”
Then in the words of Joanna Macy:
I VOW to myself and to each of you: To commit myself daily to the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings. To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products and energy I consume. To draw strength and guidance from the living Earth, the ancestors, the future generations, and my brothers and sisters of all species. To support others in our work for the world and to ask for help when I need it. To pursue a daily practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart, and supports me in observing these vows.
Our group of seven women (Hilary Murdock, Victoria Impallomeni, Martha O’Hare, Lorraine Osgood, Dede Desmond, Jan Loveland, and Lisa Tweedle) gathered around the terra cotta pot and offered objects symbolic of the healing and protection of the Earth. Some of the offerings were very traditional and some were not, but all of them were meaningful to those who offered them with a good heart and pure motivation. Some of the sweet things that went into the vase: a Jade Buddha, a song, feathers, clear quartz crystals, pearls, a cormorant skull with its beak and an “eye” of Janthina, 21 scrolls handwritten in Sanskirt with the 12th Tara mantra, a medallion of Green Tara and one of Machig Labdron, frankincense tears, Buddhist mother pills, rose petals, gold, silver, a sea urchin, labradorite in the shape of a mushroom, quartz found in Arkansas by Cynthia and Tim, turquoise, garnet and living coral. Ellen Booth Church sent a prayer wheel that is affixed to the entrance gate to the land.
I must also mention our “behind the scenes” angel, my husband, Mark. He dug the hole for the vessel in advance of the ceremony in a place that was enclosed by a circle formed by the roots of a Strangler Fig tree. NOT an easy task! You may or may not know that we have very little soil in the Keys as they were formed by coral rock. Depending on the vegetation above, the soil could be anything from zero to 2 feet at the most. A shovel only gets so far and then a pick is involved to break up the rock. Always roots to cut through as well. As if that wasn’t enough, he also carved a face into a dead tree from the property for our ceremony.
After the vase had been filled with our sacred objects, the lid was sealed with melted beeswax while we sang the 12th Tara mantra.
The next step was to add the five-colored fabrics to the top of the vessel and secure five ties around the vase. The ends of the ties were then held down with sealing wax.
Circumambulation of the land and Dede blows the Conch Shell . . .
The vase was placed into another container stuffed with rice and Spanish moss and placed into a hole lined with old prayer flags, It will be hugged and protected by the arms of the Strangler Fig’s roots never be dug up or opened.
Many thanks to all of my Sangha teachers, sisters and brothers, no matter where you are. You were with us in spirit and in our hearts. My hope is that you can feel love and a sense of inclusion in this ceremony for the Earth’s benefit.
May all beings benefit!