Feminine aspect of
the bodhisattva of compassion, "Mother of all the Buddhas," Tara protects
the welfare of all beings and those who are devoted to her are especially
fortunate. Tara was born from Avalokitesvara's tears of
There are innumerable manifestations of Tara, as many as beings require bringing protection, long life and peace, overcoming obstacles and saving beings from danger.
Tara is one of the most beloved of deities, particularly by Tibetans. Legend has it that once, many eons ago during the time of Buddha Dundubhisvara, there lived a princess by the name of 'Moon of Wisdom-knowledge'. She was a very devoted disciple and would daily set out many offerings to the Buddha and his sangha. Eventually she generated bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain enlightenment and become a Buddha herself, in order to help all living beings. Some bhikshus came to know of this, and urged her to dedicate the merits she had created to be reborn as a male. However, the princess rejected this advice, saying:
Here there is no man, there is no woman, no self, no person, and no consciousness. Labelling "male" or "female" has no essence but deceives the evil-minded world.
She went on to make the following vow:
From that time onwards the princess dedicated herself to winning full and complete enlightenment. Once she accomplished that goal, she came to be known as Tara, the Liberator.
(from In Praise of Tara: Songs to the Saviouress by Martin Willson, Wisdom Publications.)
There is another story regarding Tara, which tells of when Chenrezig had been working to help sentient beings for a very long time. He had been able to help hundreds of thousands of beings become free from samsara, but then realized there were still so many more beings suffering in samsara, and began to cry. From the pool formed by his tears a lotus arose and Tara appeared from the lotus, saying, "Don't worry -- I will help you." Thus Tara is associated with Chenrezig, as well as with Amitabha Buddha (she has a tiny image of Amitabha Buddha on her crown.)
Green Tara is seated upon a lotus arising from the waters of a lake, just as Tara is said to have arisen from the compassionate tears of Avalokiteshvara. Her right hand is in the mudra of supreme generosity indicating her ability to provide beings with whatever they desire. Her left hand at her heart is in the mudra of bestowing refuge: her thumb and ring finger are pressed together to symbolise the united practice of method and wisdom, and the three remaining fingers are raised to symbolise the Three Jewels of Refuge - Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. In each hand she holds the stem of a blue utpala flower. Each flower consists of three blossoms indicating that Tara, the embodiment of enlightened activities, is the Mother of the Buddhas of the past, present and future.
Tara is dressed in the silken robes of royalty. She wears rainbow colored stockings, a white half-blouse and various jeweled ornaments. These symbolize her mastery of the perfections of generosity, morality and so forth. The tiara fastened in her black hair is adorned with jewels, the central one is a red ruby symbolic of Amitabha, her spiritual father and the head of her Buddha family.
She is seated in a distinctive posture, her left leg withdrawn to symbolize her renunciation of worldly passion and her right leg extended to show that she is always ready to arise and come to the aid of those who need her help.
With a warm compassionate gaze she looks down upon each sentient being as a mother regards her only child. Her emerald-green color -- related to the wind element and hence to movement -- signifies her ability to act swiftly and without delay to bring benefits to sentient beings.
(from Images of Enlightenment, Snow Lion Publications)
|The Twenty-One Taras|
Tara has 21 primary emanations, each of which performs different activities such as pacification, increase and so forth. The different colours of these 21 Taras correspond to the 4 different types of enlightened activity, as explained by Ven. Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche:
"Tara is the female Buddha of enlightened activity, of which there are 4 types: pacifying, increasing, overpowering and wrathful. Each of these is represented by a different colour:
The 21 Tara's names in English and Tibetan, and their colours:
|The Practise of Tara|
The Practice of Tara from Tara the Liberator by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Wisdom Publications
~ OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA ~
There are many inner obstacles to our mental development, and these inner obstacles can create external obstacles. To obtain success in our Dharma practice, to actualize the path to enlightenment, we need to rely on a special deity or Buddha, for example, Tara. All actions of the Buddha manifest in the female form, Tara, to help sentient beings successfully accomplish both temporal and ultimate happiness.
To practice reciting Tara's mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA, you can visualize Tara in front of you, with a white syllable OM at her crown, a red syllable AH at her throat and a blue syllable HUM at her heart. As you recite the mantra, visualize rays of light flowing from these three places, and striking your three places. These purify all negative karma and obscurations of your body, speech and mind created from beginningless time.
Alternatively, you can visualize Tara on the crown of your head, and do the visualization as above.
Recite as many mantras as you wish. At the end, pray to Tara to help you develop bodhicitta -- your practice of ethics, and your development of bodhicitta are what please Tara the most. This is the best offering you can make to Tara, and will bring you closer to her.
Then, Tara dissolves into light, which dissolves through your forehead (or crown) and into your heart. Feel "My body, speech and mind are now blessed to become Tara's body, speech and mind." Then dedicate the merit that you will become enlightened -- like Tara -- in order to be able to help all sentient beings.
So the meaning is that by taking refuge in Tara and doing Tara practice, we can achieve the fully enlightened state with the four kayas, which is the state of cessation of, or liberation from, the two obscurations.