For my friends who practice Tibetan Buddhism, and especially Chöd (གཅོད), this is quite a remarkable image. So remarkable, I even made a collage for you!
The Tibetan Lama featured on the right is Lama Wangdu. The photograph of the fire apparition on the upper left was taken by someone called Natalia Makeeva during a ritual service conducted byLama Wangdu at his temple in Boudhnath, Kathmandu, Nepal in 2011. The apparition is supposed to have appeared after Lama Wangdu cast ritual offering substances into the fire. The apparition bears a striking resemblance to the Tibetan female tantric saint who originated one of Lama Wangdu‘s Chöd practice lineages, the great 11th century yogini Machik Ladrönma (pictured bottom left).
Lama Wangdu is widely known for his expertise in Chöd and Shije practices. Chöd is a meditative technique involving singing, dancing and drumming where practitioners, often by practicing in abandoned and deeply haunted or terrifying places, call up gods and harmful demons, and, having dissociated from their body, offer it up to be devoured by these beings in gory detail. This practice not only pacifies these demons – themselves ultimately aspects of Mind like all phenomena – but also powerfully severs the practitioner’s attachment to their self-importance and allows them to develop profound compassion, generosity and fearlessness.
Miraculous displays aside, I do know that when I visited Lama Wangdu in 2012, he struck me as one of the most pleasant, down-to-earth and genuinely hilarious lamas I had ever met. Six days a week he sees streams of people from morning to evening, to whom he dispenses food, blessings and both ritual and everyday advice and remedies without exception. Also, more importantly, he told me he liked my hair, and made a point of putting extra consecrated water and mustard seeds in it before he finished off his mantras with a particularly enthusiastic utterance of “boogaboogabooga” as he tweaked my ears with both hands.
May we all face, and make friends with, our demons with compassion and laughter!