The Solstice on Tuesday invokes the splendid cosmic fracas between Uranus and Pluto that seems to cull images of a Ragnorak age of fire and brimstone raining from the sky, and volcanic lakes engulfing civilization as we know it. The Solstice, which is a Cardinal Ingress into the sign of Cancer, will bring back this theme of impending change and the spirit of revolution, as Uranus and Pluto are still in the early degrees of Aries and Capricorn, and are very close, but not exactly square to one another. But with another angle quite different from the fire and brimstone variety.
Indeed, historically, Uranus and Pluto have been associated with periods of great change, political and cultural revolution, and rebellion... as pointed out previously on the Uranus/Pluto Timeline. And although revolution and change often appear to be precipitated by things that happen to us from without.. this process of revolution is also dependent on an inner evolution... an unfolding from within, out. In order to revolt, there must first be a sense of discontent. These are times when humanity has reached the climax in which they will no longer tolerate repressive, or oppressive situations. That intolerance, that realization that something needs to be changed... starts from within.
With the Sun’s Ingress into Cancer the sign of women, mothers, home and hearth, this week, the first aspects made are actually a trine to mystic Neptune in Pisces and then a sextile to Jupiter. Neptune is the planet of conscience, of humility, social welfare and enlightenment. Jupiter is the planet of ethics, morality, justice and philosophical exploration.
I’ll be celebrating this Solstice by attending a meeting led by the venerable Robina Courtin, a feminist and activist who also happens to be a Buddhist Nun. I can’t think of anyone more fitting to exemplify the planetary climate of the current Cancer Ingress chart. The reverend Robina also leads a Tara retreat meditating on the virtues and practice of achieving compassion in action.
As the female Buddha of enlightened activity, Tara is known as the “Mother of Liberation”. There is a story related to Tara, that millions of years ago in a previous cycle she was a young princess named Yeshe Dawa, who through many lifetimes of devotion achieved bodhicitta, the opened heart mind of a bodhisattva. Upon achieving this level, it was suggested to her, by some misguided monks, that she pray to be reborn as a male in order to be able to progress even further. Tara rebuked this idea, pointing out that only weak minded ‘worldlings’ would see gender as a handicap to achieving enlightenment. And so the Goddess Tara, who took a vow to always be reborn a woman, came into being. The Dalai Lama says of Tara:
There is a true feminist movement in Buddhism that relates to the goddess Tārā. Following her cultivation of bodhicitta, the bodhisattva's motivation, she looked upon the situation of those striving towards full awakening and she felt that there were too few people who attained Buddhahood as women. So she vowed, "I have developed bodhicitta as a woman. For all my lifetimes along the path I vow to be born as a woman, and in my final lifetime when I attain Buddhahood, then, too, I will be a woman."
On May 21, a brave woman named Manal al Sharif dared to defy the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that forbids women to drive cars. For the following week, she sat in a Saudi prison. But, within two days of her detention, hundreds of thousands of viewers had watched the YouTube video of her defiant road trip. As a result, thousands of Saudi women, vowed to stage a “driving day” protest on June 17, which was met with great success.
For the women of Saudi Arabia this was not just a staged kabuki dance about driving cars, this was about the opportunity to speak out against their second-class status in a country that is stultifying in its repression of women. This protest allowed the women of Saudi Arabia to have their voices heard.
|the Venerable Robina Courtin|
While studying music in London during the volatile 60’s, in which the spirit of the Uranus/Pluto conjunction was thriving, Robina Courtin became actively involved with a radical left-wing movement aiding prisoners of color. This was followed by a period of radical feminism when she returned to her native Australia in the 70’s. However, it was also in the 70’s that she discovered Tibetan Buddhism... and who else would she find a divine form through which to mentor, than through the Goddess Tara, the Mother of Liberation?
The discovery of these teachings led Courtin on a spiritual quest to Kathmandu, where she was eventually ordained a Buddhist Nun. Relinquishing all but her innate radical principles, she has become one of the most popular teachers of Buddhism in the West, renowned for her direct no-nonsense approach. She founded the Liberation Prison Project in 1996, which works with prison inmates who practice buddhism in the United States. Some of these individuals are on death row, or languishing in prison on life sentences. However, Courtin understood that although their bodies may be imprisoned and shackled, liberation, true freedom, is really a state of mind.
Robina Courtin embodies in this way, both the spiritual path of the Jupiter/Neptune transcendent vision, as well as the radical, leftist, revolutionary embodied in the Uranus/Pluto opening square, striving to be free. Compassion in action, indeed.
The above photo of "Green Tara" is courtesy of Spirit-fire at http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirit-fire/