…Avalokiteshvara was looking down from his heaven on the world of suffering beings, and he wept to see that more and more of them were in pain no matter how many he delivered. From the tears streaming down his face two Taras were born, a peaceful white one from the left and a fierce green one from the right. As the quintessence of the miraculous activities of all Buddhas, they gave him courage not to give up striving in his impossible task. 1
Tara, the Saviouress, is one of the most beloved Goddesses in Buddhism. Images often show her as a charming youthful girl of about sixteen years of age, but do not be deceived. She is an ageless Goddess who embodies Perfect Wisdom.
Tara [Dolma in Tibetan] means "She Who Saves," "she who leads across," or "star." She is also called Holy Mother Tara, Green Tara and White Goddess Tara. As a manifestation of the Divine Mother, Tara symbolizes the white flame of purity.
White Tara and Green Tara are two of her more popular manifestations and those who come to know them view both with great affection. The peaceful White Tara is the image of wisdom and purity and the dynamic Green Tara is the Goddess of Action. As Mother figures they instantly offer protection and assistance to those who call upon them for help.
Tara has the knowledge and wisdom that not only lead to enlightenment but also free us. She gives us the courage and strength to surmount difficult obstacles and protects us from physical and spiritual dangers. She brings happiness by helping us overcome our fears and anxieties.
From Tara we receive the knowledge to transcend all things. She separates the real from the unreal. She not only helps us to see the truth, but also to accept and make the best of every situation. If we need to change something, then Tara will help us. She teaches us to persevere.
Another powerful lesson we learn from Tara is to connect to our heart. Most people are so busy in their daily lives, they do not think about the power they have in their heart. Our spiritual self resides there. It is important to take a few minutes each day to center in our heart and to feel this presence which is our Higher Self. We must learn to listen to the inner voice of this presence for healing to be effective.
Tara also shows us how to purify our heart. When our heart is pure we are honest with others and ourselves. This honesty and truthfulness enables us to speak from the heart in a kind, gentle and loving way to all we come in contact with.
One of the greatest lessons we receive from Tara is to cultivate a compassionate heart. Expanding our heart flame does this. We learn compassion by looking at things through another person's eyes and walking in their footsteps. Tara shows us the difference between compassion and sympathy. Compassion is being aware and sensitive not only to another person's needs but also to their suffering. Compassion is the desire to free them from their pain. Sympathy is an emotional acceptance that someone is a victim of his or her circumstances. It is a desire to share their feelings, but not necessarily to free them. Compassion sets us free, while sympathy actually binds.
Both Green and White Tara eliminate suffering and are commonly associated with saving one from the eight kinds of dangers and fears. These dangers and fears have an outer and inner manifestation they are associated with:
|Outer manifestation||Inner manifestation|
|Wild elephants||ignorance and delusions|
|Forest fires||anger and hatred|
|Snakes||envy and jealousy|
|Robbers||fanatical or wrong views|
|Floods||lust, attachments and desire|
The main thing to remember about Tara is that in all her manifestations she is a loving compassionate Mother. People say her love and her desire to save is "stronger than a mother's love for her children." 2
Tara and Kuan Yin
White Tara is said to be an emanation of Kuan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. Scholar and writer John Blofeld came upon what he felt was conclusive evidence of this many years ago while visiting Japan:
...I chanced upon three early paintings of Kuan Yin, or Kwannon-Samma as she is known in that country. For several reasons there could be no doubt that the figure depicted was Kuan yin, but her posture and the mudras formed by the fingers of both hands were those of Tara! 3
Another similarity White Tara shares with Kuan Yin is that of being the consort of Avalokitesvara (Avalokiteshvara or Avalokita), the "celestial bodhisattva of compassion…and the patron deity or archangel of Tibet." 4 His name means, "lord who sees'" or "the lord who hears the sounds of the world." Tara is called the "Compassion of Lord Avalokita."
A Bodhisattva is a being of bodhi (enlightenment). Like Avalokitesvara, White Tara and Kuan Yin have taken the Bodhisattva vow to serve the beings of earth until all are free. In order to fulfill this vow, Bodhisattvas are willing to forego the final bliss of nirvana, the ultimate goal of Buddhist endeavor. Nirvana is like a heaven-world of cosmic consciousness. These saints sacrifice themselves lifetime after lifetime and the compassion they have for others is truly genuine as it comes from a sacred place deep from within the heart known as the secret chamber of the heart. This is where our Holy Christ Self and our Buddhic Self reside. The secret chamber of the heart is our inner altar and where we go to when we pray.
Arya-Tara is another name for Tara. Arya means Noble Being or Saint and is a title that is bestowed upon one who has realized the path of enlightenment. Those who take the Bodhisattva vow make a commitment to espouse certain virtues. Aryas' have attained and mastered the virtues called the "seven Treasures" or "seven jewels":
- wisdom. 5
The Bodhisattva Tara
Where did Tara come from? Her story goes back to "beginningless time."
According to legends and ancient stories, Tara became a Bodhisattva during one of her lifetimes when she was known as the Princess Moon of Wisdom-knowledge. For a "million million years" she devoted herself to the teachings of the Buddha Drum-Sound in a universe called Multicolored Light. She eventually attained bodhicitta – the "Thought of Enlightenment" to save all beings. Up until then, only males had performed this deed and since it was unheard of in a woman, the bhiksus (monks) told her she should pray to be reborn a man to fulfill it according to the teachings. After a lengthy discussion, Tara informed the bhiksus that in the realm of Bodhisattva there is neither male nor female but only androgynous being. 6
She then made the following vow:
There are many who desire Enlightenment in a man's body, but none who work for the benefit of sentient beings in the body of a woman. Therefore, until samsara is empty, I shall work for the benefit of sentient beings in a woman's body. 7
Samsara means the endless cycle of birth, suffering, misery, death and rebirth caused by karma. Tara's main purpose is to free us from suffering, to liberate and to bring us to full enlightenment. As the Mother-Saviouress, she guides us through difficult times. She helps us to cross over the ocean of samsara to the other side.
"Tara is the power to transcend all things." 8
Tara is regarded as the Word and as the power of sound. From her we learn the power of the spoken word and the power of mantras. Mantras are prayers. The Ascended Masters say it is good to pick one and to learn its power by making it the "keystone in the arch of being." Tara teaches us not only to understand the meaning of mantras but also the proper use of them.
Stories of Tara's saving graces abound and in dire emergency her devotees need only utter the mantra (prayer) OM TAM SVAHA or think of her and she will come. TAM is the bija (seed) mantra that contains the essence of Tara.
OM is a sacred syllable that is not easily defined. Some say it is the sound of the Universe and there are those that believe Tara represents the "feminine form of OM or OM personified as a Goddess." 9 Sages claim we return to the Source of being when we intone the OM. Svaha translates to mean "Hail!" or "Amen!" The "magical syllable" HUM is also associated with Tara and it is said to radiate light.
OM TAM SVAHA
OM TAM SWAHA
Hail (Hail to thee) Tara, Amen!
Buddhists often repeat mantras 108 times. In Buddhism and Hinduism the number 108 is considered sacred. A mala (prayer bead or rosary) usually has 108 beads used for keeping count of the repetitions of the mantra. For mantra or prayer to be powerful it must be consecrated by the sacred fire of the heart as well as by all the chakras. Chakras are centers of light and energy that are located along the spinal column. They are "gateways" to the "spiritual self." 10
From a Pearl of Wisdom we learn:
As you capture the mantra in your heart, your heart sings
the mantra back to you and the mantra itself sings to you so that you hear from
your innermost being the pure voice of your soul reciting that mantra. This is
in no way autohypnosis. This is the power of God within you. And by accepting
that power, you authorize it to enter your world through your recitation of the
…You must know the power of your being when you have so internalized the Word that the Word is speaking the mantra in your heart. 11
When we give any mantra, we are calling forth the violet flame. The violet flame is the seventh-ray aspect of the Holy Spirit and contains the God qualities of mercy, forgiveness and compassion. It is called the flame of transmutation and freedom as it can transmute the cause, effect, record and memory of negative karma. The Ascended Masters say, "The violet flame is the flame of the Seventh-Ray Buddhas and Bodhisattvas." 12 It is the ray of the Aquarian Age.
Images of Tara
Virtually all images of Tara are exquisite. "Radiant as the eternal snows in all their glory" is often used to describe her as she is the image of purity and virtue and the epitome of gracefulness and beauty. She represents "Transcendent Wisdom." As such, she is considered to be an emanation of Prajnaparamita, the Goddess of Transcendent Wisdom and the Mother of all Buddhas. Describing one painting of White Tara (Sitatara) Robert Thurman writes:
In a charming portrayal of White Tara, this uncomplicated, small painting presents her as a figure of utmost purity, guileless simplicity, and calm repose. 13
Other images show Tara regally dressed emphasizing a "queenly demeanor," either sitting on a white lotus symbolizing her transcendence over the "mud of delusion" having achieved enlightenment, or sitting inside an open lotus offering "peace, prosperity, long life, health, and good fortune." 14
Since ancient times, the lotus has symbolized spirituality, divinity, compassion, and purity. A fully opened blossom represents enlightenment and spiritual perfection. Some Hindu and Buddhists deities are described as being born from a lotus and they are often depicted in art either standing or sitting on a lotus throne. This signifies their divine birth and indicates their high spiritual status. From The Masters and Their Retreats we learn:
The principle symbol of White Tara is the fully-opened lotus, representing the opening of the petals of the chakras. Statues of the White Goddess often show the richness of her raiment. Her crown and earrings symbolize the manifest expression of the abundant life of the Buddha and the Christ. 15
Another frequent symbol associated with Tara is called a moon disk. In Tantric Buddhism, the moon symbolizes wisdom and in art and literature Buddhists use the moon to symbolize the true mind of the Buddha.
The Ascended Masters teach the necessity of gaining mastery over the moon energies, the emotions (energies-in-motion), and the emotional or water body. The emotional body is associated with the astral plane and lunar energies. Tara guides us on how to correctly walk the spiritual path and balance the energies of the emotional body so that we eventually become the beautiful lotus that grows out of the surface of the water.
White Tara is called "Tara of the Seven Eyes" or "Tara of the seven eyes of knowledge." She has two normal eyes, a third eye (wisdom eye) in the center of her brow, and an eye in each palm of her hand and in the soles of her feet. This wisdom form of Tara indicates not only her omnipresence, but also her high level of Buddhic and Christic attainment.
Green Tara is usually depicted standing or sitting with her left leg bent, and her other leg in a relaxed posture of royal ease. She holds the stem of a blue lotus (utpala) in each hand. A popular thangka painting shows a peaceful Green Tara sitting in the center surrounded by a thousand and eight smaller Taras symbolizing the thousands of ways in which she manifests to help those in need.
Various images of Tara are for our meditation and are symbolically significant for our own transformation from the lower (carnal) self to the Higher (spiritual) Self. Author and spiritual teacher Elizabeth Clare Prophet (Prophet*) teaches we should not see these images, or any spiritual image of a saint, as just a painting or a statue but as a real living being fully alive and made entirely of light. We should take the flame from our heart and place it in the statue or painting and bring it to life.
When we lower the image of the goddess to one embodying (crass) human behaviors we are no longer honoring the Divine Mother in Her highest manifestation. Whether we call her Tara, Kuan Yin, Mother Mary, or Sarasvati, all "Spiritual Mothers" represent the feminine aspect of God. They are manifestations of the Divine Mother. Prophet explains:
These personifications of the feminine are not, at their core, goddesses to be worshipped. They are embodiments of the feminine attributes of God who teach us by example how we can realize our own feminine potential. We all have a feminine side. It is sensitive, intuitive, creative. It is the side of us that develops and maintains relationships. It is nourishing, patient and joyful. The healthy feminine is not distant or abandoning. Neither is it possessive or smothering. 16
The goal in Tantric Buddhism is to become the deity, to embody their God-qualities. Blofeld explains this principle saying:
Some devotees, if their way of life is sufficiently stainless, are bold enough to retain Tara within themselves as they go about the business of the day (the harmless business of monks or recluses free from most occasions of error). With the passing of years, they become so closely identified with her that they noticeably take on some of her characteristics; perhaps even the facial contours undergo a change so that, as is the case with many saintly old lamas among Tibetans, they cease to be either distinctively male or female. Lost in the bliss of almost unceasing meditation, such a person develops wisdom and compassion so profound that Enlightenment is won within a single life-span; thereafter he enters upon the Bodhisattva's task of succouring sentient beings, aeon upon aeon, throughout the myriad world-systems of samsara. 17
"Homage to White Tara, a Female Buddha exquisite with youth.
Radiant as the eternal snows in all their glory,
She sits on a white lotus and a silvery moon
Indicating fully developed compassion and knowledge."
– Dalai Lama I
"OM! Green Tara of the emerald ray of healing!"
Green Tara is the consort of the transcendent Dhyani Buddha Amoghasiddhi. His name means "Almighty Conqueror" or "He Who Unerringly Achieves His Goal." Amoghasiddhi is the Buddha of the North and the lord of the action (karma) clan. He embodies the "wisdom of perfected action" which is the antidote to the poisons of envy and jealousy. This antidote transmutes the energy of these poisons into the "positive energy of all-accomplishing wisdom." 18 Some call it the "miracle-working wisdom." Prophet says, "This wisdom confers perseverance, infallible judgment and unerring action." 19 His mudra (symbolic hand gesture) is the abhaya mudra, the gesture of fearlessness and protection, and his color is green.
Called the Goddess of Action, Green Tara is emerald-colored. She is associated with the Fifth Ray of healing, also know as the emerald or green ray. Prophet teaches this is the same ray that Mother Mary works on. This is the ray of precipitation, healing, science and music. This is the ray of Truth.
Green Tara is very powerful and is known for her ability to deal with evil forces and removing all obstructions and obstacles. Like White Tara, she also saves beings in dangerous situations. Most images show her ready to spring into action at a moments notice. We can call to her when facing the eight great dangers or fears and she will instantly appear.
The enlightenment activities associated with Green Tara reflect her dynamic nature in the action (karma) clan. This karma is different from the "ego-bound karma" caused by cyclic circumstances and is associated with the "karma-freeing Wisdom" Amoghasiddhi bestows. 20 Green Tara is the inspiration that supplies the energy to achieve our goals and represents the wisdom of action and accomplishment.
Known as the "Swift Liberator" she helps us in many ways such as: "overcoming unharmonious conditions," "destroying external threats," "shaking the three worlds," "dispelling the effects of poison," "eliminating conflicts and nightmares," "curing diseases," "overcoming ghosts and demons," "removing Maras and the two obstructions," and "activating the Ten World Gods." 21 In Buddhism, Mara is the Evil One, or Devil-Tempter. Just as Jesus the Christ was tempted in the wilderness by the Devil, so Mara tempted Gautama the Buddha when he sat under the Bo tree prior to his enlightenment.
Green Tara gives us the courage to face and conquer our demons and our fears. She bestows the fearlessness flame upon us to separate the real from the unreal, to accept the truth, and to pass our initiations from on high. According to the Masters, the fearlessness flame is white tinged with emerald.
Green Tara guides us on the path to becoming a Bodhisattva and gives us the courage and the wisdom to embody fearless compassion for all. Fearless compassion is a key virtue of the Bodhisattva.
After taking her vow to save sentient beings in the body of a female, Tara spent another round of millions and millions of years in her role as bohisattva and, as the result of her attainment and saving graces, she earned the name of "Tara, the Savioress." Manifesting "unsurpassed Enlightenment" she came to be known as the "Goddess Tara." Her final name "Tara (Saviouress), Loving Mother, Swift One, and Heroine" was bestowed upon her after "Overcoming All Maras."
As a manifestation of the Divine Mother, Tara shows us how to gently raise the Mother light (Kundalini) from the base-of-the-spine chakra to the crown chakra. For true healing to occur, this sacred fire must be raised along the altar of the spine through each of the chakras. The safest way to do this is through a path of prayer and devotion. Frawley says:
For any transformation to be possible, an energy is needed to bring it about. For the transformation of consciousness a special and powerful energy is needed. This is Kundalini. 22
Tara inspires us to cultivate the virtues of wisdom and compassion as she guides us on the path to becoming a Bodhisattva. Prophet explains, "Wisdom and compassion form the yin and yang aspects of the bodhisattva path." 23
As a representative of the Divine Mother, Tara's wisdom and purity are unsurpassed. Through the white light of the Mother we begin to transcend and merge with our Higher Self. We develop the love, compassion and kindness that are the hallmarks of the Aquarian Age. As an "archangel and archetype deity bodhisattva" 24 Tara is instrumental in guiding us along the sacred path to enlightenment. Her transforming power delivers us to the heart of the Buddha and the Mother.
OM TARA TUTTARE TURE SVAHA
OM TAR-A TOO-TAR-A TOO-RAY SWA-HA
Hail to Tara! Or Hail to Thee, Thou liberator from samsara, the liberator from the eight fears, the liberator from disease!
(Samsara is repeated cycles of birth, misery and death caused by karma.)
Many Buddhists celebrate the 8th of each month as Tara Day. Mantras and prayers are given to the beloved Holy Mother for oneself and the entire planet.
Tara resides with Avalokitesvara in their spiritual paradise located in the south of India atop the sacred mountain of Potalaka. This cosmic buddhaverse is in the etheric realm and is made of brilliant radiant light. Its mountain peaks glisten with lapis lazuli, amethyst, jade and other shimmering jewels. Surrounded by sweet smelling trees, beautiful flower gardens and flowing turquoise waterfalls, it is truly a magical place. Buddhas and bodhisattvas from all the heavenly worlds, along with laypersons, saints and sages frequent their "divine palaces" whenever these blessed ones hold court. Sitting on their white lotus thrones, their bodies radiate an intense golden light capable of illuminating the vast billion-world universe as they release their sacred teachings. While many attempt to find Potalaka, only the most pure of heart succeed.
‘Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers
but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain
but for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not look for allies in life's battlefield
but to my own strength.
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved
but hope for patience to win my freedom.'
– Tagore 25
"OM! Homage to the holy and noble Goddess Tara!"
- Marilyn M. Rhie and Robert A. F. Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet (New York: Tibet House, 2000) 124.
- Rhie and Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet 124.
- John Blofeld, Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1988) 41.
- Marilyn M. Rhie and Robert A. F. Thurman, Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion (New York: Tibet House, 1999) 492.
- Martin Wilson, In Praise of Tara: Songs to the Saviouress (London: Wisdom Publications, 1986) 427.
- Wilson 33 and other sources
- Wilson 34.
- David Frawley, Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses (Salt Lake City, Utah: Morson Publishing, 1994) 78.
- Frawley 78.
- Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Patricia R. Spadaro, Your Seven Energy Centers: A Holistic Approach to Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Vitality (Corwin Springs, Montana: Summit University Press, 2000) 5.
- Amitabha, “The Buddhas in Winter,” Pearls Of Wisdom:1958-1996, First Edition, CD-ROM, (Corwin Springs, Montana: Church Universal and Triumphant, 1997) 20 Feb. 1994: Vol. 37 No. 8.
- Gautama Buddha, “Freedom 1992,” Pearls Of Wisdom:1958-1996, First Edition, CD-ROM, (Corwin Springs, Montana: Church Universal and Triumphant, 1997) 7 Oct. 1992: Vol. 35 No. 41.
- Rhie and Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet 417.
- Rhie and Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet 134.
- Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Masters and Their Retreats, ed. Annice Booth (Corwin Springs, Montana: Summit University Press, 2003) 386.
- Prophet and Spadaro 35-36.
- John Blofeld 60-61.
- Rhie and Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet 129.
- Elizabeth Clare Prophet, “The Buddhas in Winter,” Pearls Of Wisdom:1958-1996, First Edition, CD-ROM, (Corwin Springs, Montana: Church Universal and Triumphant, 1997) 9 Jan. 1994: Vol. 37 No. 2.
- Lama Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1969) 181.
- Rhie and Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet 125.
- Frawley 30.
- Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Quietly Comes the Buddha (Corwin Springs, Montana: Summit University Press, 1998) 169.
- Rhie and Thurman, Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion 500.
- Lama Govinda 280.