Mamos, Maras, and Döns, oh my!

We asked outgoing and much beloved Head of Practice, Marilyn Moore to illuminate a bit about the upcoming Mamo Chants which are practiced daily beginning ten days before Shambhala Day.

“Dön Season” is fast approaching (pronounce the “o” like the “ou” in could)—in fact, judging from conversations about various mishaps, illnesses and confusion at the Shambhala center yesterday, I would say it has already arrived.

The period of days leading up to the Tibetan New Year, our Shambhala Day, are traditionally seen as a time of transition when we are most vulnerable to obstacles and negativity called döns. These can manifest as anything from getting a migraine to finding that your car has a mysterious flat tire. They can also be felt as attack-like episodes of depression, resentment, anger, or other negative emotions that take over body and mind like an unpredictable bout of winter flu. We all know what that is like!

Döns can play havoc with our meditation practice, our progress on the path and our ability to experience simple joy in everyday life.

For me, there is a quality of denseness to this period. It is as if I have been pushing all my unresolved stuff (known and unknown) forward toward an unseen wall and in this big year-end squeeze, some of it explodes, making a mess.

Neglected health issues may demand attention, lazy filing can mean lost tax receipts, confused communication results in misunderstandings and on and on. It could be called “ripening karma,” a deep disregard for the consequences of past actions, or simply a lack of connection to my own experience of basic goodness.

It is with a sense of relief that I look forward to the Mamo Practice we do during this time as a way of clearing up the environmental negativity of the past year and making way for a fresh start. During multiple recitations of the chant Pacifying the Turmoil of the Mamos we recognize that, in the words of the Dorje Loppön Lodrö Dorje, “if we engage in negative, aggressive, perverted behavior, this spreads its own contagion in the world and invites more of the same negative energy.”

The “turmoil of the mamos” is just that.

This protector practice is a way of actively purifying and transforming the accumulated chaos and negativity of the year of the Water Dragon that is soon coming to an end. Although Mamo Practice is typically restricted to vajrayana students, in this time of intense upheavals and confusion, it is made available to everyone. You are welcome to join any of the sessions with a spirit of openness and curiosity.

The public practice runs for nine days, from January 31st – February 8th.

It is fine to just show up and experience the practice. However, if you would like to know more about the details of the chant—including definitions of words like “maras,” “nyens,” and “rakshasas,” I highly recommend this PDF of an essay by Russell Rodgers, Pacifying Obstacles: The Mamo Practice. This very readable commentary is part of a wonderful series of essays on our Shambhala Buddhist chants. The Mamo Practice essay is located toward the end on page 100.

In the tradition of Shambhala warriors, it is important to remember that obstacles are not punishments but reminders to become more mindful and aware, to decrease our habitual speediness, to pay attention to our precious life and sacred world.

Last year, on her blog The Open Heart Project, Shambhalian Susan Piver shared the profound and practical recommendations of our teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, for rousing confidence in the midst of obstacles occurring during the Dön Season—or at any other time. They include instructions to eat good food, wear nice clothes, clean up your space, spend time with people you love (group meditation comes to mind), and spend time in the natural world.

Shambhala Day falls on Monday, February 11, this year. Before retiring, I always managed to take the entire day off from work to celebrate. Initially an outrageous idea, over the years it became simply what I did. Perhaps you can do the same.

May your practice be strong, your obstacles workable and may we meet soon to exchange the fresh-start-greeting of “Cheerful Shambhala Day!”

MarilynMarilyn Moore is a student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. She has served as the Shambhala Center Director and is currently the Head of Practice.

One thought on “Mamos, Maras, and Döns, oh my!

  1. Wonderful! thankyou all for putting this wisdom out to be appreciated, contemplated and practised with.