Stabilising the Earth Ritual for the Akashavana Shrine Room

We silently walked along the path from the retreat centre house to the future shrine room. The path skirts the hillside, through carrasco bushes and pine trees. On our right was a drop down into the green valley fed by the spring, on our left a rocky rise to the high cliffs where the vultures nest. As we walked we brushed against thyme and rosemary, releasing their scent into the warm evening air. The only sound was the cicadas’ rhythmic chirruping.On two evenings recently Bianca, Vajradevi and I have walked this path to the lush green terrace where the cherry tree grows. Seven days ago we meditated around the place where the future shrine will be and performed the dedication ceremony, and last night we returned to perform a ritual ‘stabilising the ground’. The central symbol of the ritual is a vajra – or ‘diamond thunderbolt’.Stabilising Vajra The vajra we used is a twin to the one planted in the ground under the stupa at Tiratanaloka, the UK retreat centre where women go as part of training for ordination. It was given into our care by Maitreyi who lives at Tiratanaloka and who is the overall kalyana mitra (spiritual friend) of the Akashavana project.Each of us in turn grasped the vajra, and struck the earth, then made the earth touching gesture, as the Buddha had done calling the earth to witness his spiritual efforts. We invoked the earth goddess to witness the many meritorious actions of ourselves and of others that have led to this opportune moment. We reflected on gratitude to our teachers, Sangharakshita, Dhardo Rimpoche and others. Then we planted the vajra firmly in the ground, symbolic of the Vajrasana, the place where the Buddha sat to gain Enlightenment.Sitting surrounded by the hills it was as if I heard a sort of echo – an echo from the future. In not such a very long time the hills will not be so empty of human beings, women will be here, meditating, chanting, practising the Dharma in this very place. It can seem almost miraculous, yet it has been the result of patient steady effort, of ourselves and everyone who has given in any way. I felt a great sense of gratitude.As we three walked back home down the dusty track a wild goat, startled, leapt up the rocky hillside and stood looking down at us, making its strange birdlike alarm call. Unusually it did not run away but remained there for a while silhouetted against the sky, goat looking at humans looking at goat.As night fell dark clouds were gathering in the west and thunder was growling. Suddenly a ray of lightning pierced the sky, illuminating the landscape for a flash, as if nature was demonstrating the power of the vajra, the thunderbolt that destroys darkness.
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