June 21st 2022, Khenpo Karten Rinpoche with Manjushri Dharma Center held a Summer Solstice Water Blessing at Lovers Point Beach. Rinpoche has been holding these blessings on the summer and winter solstices since 2010. The text ‘Propitiating the Devas of the Four Elements’ is the central prayer recited together by participants. In addition, the ‘Prayer for World Peace’ and also the ‘Prayer to Avert Nuclear War’ were both recited to seal and dedicate the ceremony.
In the tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism, not only are there outer physical elements, but also 4 elements within our bodies in qualities of solidity, moisture, movement, and warmth. These 4 elements also abide as aspects of mind. These manifest as mental poisons when dualistic grasping is present, and as aspects of enlightened wisdom when grasping is released. At times, due to our ignorance, we let mental poisons such as anger, attachment, competitiveness, and greed dominate the intentions of people and societies; we can clearly see the devastating effects to the elements of the external environment. The Water Blessing is a skillful means to counteract this destruction, generating a more loving and compassionate world and minds, through a balancing of the elements.
In Tibetan belief, the word devas in the text refers to “gods” or “local protector spirits”. Within this categorization, there are beings known as Nagas. They can be enlightened or worldly, and are divine serpent beings who protect bodies of water, have control over the weather, and can create epidemics if offended or harmed. Though they are unseen beings to the human eye, these local protectors reside in specific geographical locations such as rock formations, mountains, bays, rivers, forests, and plains. These non-human beings are sworn to protect the four elements, earth, water, air, and fire.
At the local beach here at Lovers Point, Rinpoche has identified a prominent rock at the high tide line as an abode of the local Naga. This is why we are sure to offer flowers and holy substances to this rock each time the Solstice Water Blessing is held. The Nagas also do not eat meat, chili peppers, or eggs, and it is wise for practitioners to avoid consuming such substances on the day of the blessing.
Unfortunately, on the day following this year’s Water Blessing, a local from Monterey named Steve Bruemmer was attacked by a Great White Shark while swimming in the waters at Lovers Point. Fortunately, he is in stable condition and is expected to recover. His rescue involved the fearless actions of multiple good samaritans, the swift actions of first responders, and talented doctors of an amazing hospital trauma unit. The story of his survival is quite miraculous; the shark’s bite missed a main artery by mere millimeters. Steve's own words say it best. Below are quotes from a statement he made from his hospital bed.
“The shark bite was unlucky. But after that, I have just had so much good luck.”
“And the day was so calm and warm, and the beach was crowded. There were no waves, and there was no chop. So people could hear me yelling “Help” from a great distance, including from the Rec Trail, where someone called 911.”
"Those three (good samaritans, the surfer teaching a rescue class on the beach and the two paddle-boarders who happened to be a nurse and off duty police officer) got me onto the extra board, and they had me hold the surfer's ankle while he paddled like crazy to get me to the beach," Bruemmer said. "They, along with several bystanders, including a doctor and a nurse who were on the beach for the day, helped put tourniquets on me and get me to the ambulance.”
"I remember I was lying in the ambulance, and I thought, 'My lungs are good. I can breathe.' So I didn't know if I was going to bleed to death, but my lungs were good," Bruemmer said. "And it seemed really lucky that the shark got me in a spot that seemed survivable. I was in the ambulance, thinking I don't know if I was going to survive, but at least I could breathe.”
"The fact that Natividad has a Trauma Center was a lifesaver," Bruemmer said. "They said I lost a tremendous amount of blood. Without all those things going right... I could have bled out.” said Steve.
Many sufferings arise throughout the world, that is samsara. The shark was still there, but Steve was able to transform such suffering into a deep sense of gratitude and love of life. It seems to me that the local protector spirits were peaceful, happy with the water blessing, and able to be of help to Mr. Bruemmer. The area even received some much needed rain the day following the ceremony.
Let us, who read these words, also do our best to help and support Steve. Sending love, positive healing energy, and prayers to him, his relations, those good samaritans, first responders, and doctors who also shared in the trauma of his miraculous moments of survival.
~ Words composed by simple, clumsy, and daft mountain hermit Karma Palden (Miles G McBreen), the Manjushri Dharma Center secretary. Based on commentary by Khenpo Karten Rinpoche and Pema Tsultrim (Aaron Joseph) previously composed in 2020.