Tara or Arya Tara
The Highest Yoga Tantra aspect of Tara.
Tara or Arya Tara, also known as Jetsun Dolma (Tibetan language:rje btsun sgrol ma) in Tibetan Buddhism, is a female Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism who appears as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism.. She is known as the "mother of liberation", and represents the virtues of success in work and achievements.
In Japan she is known as Tarani Bosatsu but virtually unknown in China. ara is a tantric meditation deity whose practice is used by practitioners of the Tibetan branch of Vajrayana Buddhism to develop certain inner qualities and understand outer, inner and secret teachings about compassion and emptiness.
Tara is actually the generic name for a set of Buddhas or bodhisattvas of similar aspect. These may more properly be understood as different aspects of the same quality, as bodhisattvas are often considered metaphoric for Buddhist virtues.
The most widely known forms of Tara are:
Cittamani Tara, a form of Tara widely practiced at the level of Highest Yoga Tantra in the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism, portrayed as green and often conflated with Green Tara Khadiravani Tara (Tara of the teak forest), who appeared to Nagarjuna in the Khadiravani forest of South India and who is sometimes referred to as the "22nd Tara."
A teardrop from his left eye fell upon the plain and became the reverend Tara. She also declared, 'Son of your race! As you are striving for the sake of sentient beings in the Land of Snows, intercede in their suffering, and I shall be your companion in this endeavour!' Tara was also reabsorbed into Avalokiteshvara's left eye, and was reborn in a later life as the Chinese princess Kongjo (Princess Wencheng)."Tara is also known as a saviouress, as a heavenly deity who hears the cries of beings experiencing misery in samsara.
The Tara figure originated not in Buddhism but in Hinduism, where she, Tara, was one of a number of Mother Goddess figures alongside Sarasvati, Lakshmi, Parvati, and Shakti. In the 6th century C.E., during the era of the Pala Empire, Tara was adopted into the Buddhist pantheon as an important bodhisattva figure just a few centuries after the Prajnaparamita Sutra had been introduced into what was becoming the Mahayana Buddhism of India.
It would seem that the feminine principle makes its first appearance in Buddhism as the "Mother of Perfected Wisdom" and then later Tara comes to be seen as an expression of the compassion of perfected wisdom.
However, sometimes Tara is also known as "the Mother of the Buddhas", which usually refers to the enlightened wisdom of the Buddhas, so in approaching Buddhist deities, one learns not to impose totally strict boundaries about what one deity covers, as opposed to another deity. hey all can be seen as expressions of the play of the energies of manifested form dancing out of vast emptiness.
Be that as it may, Tara began to be associated with the motherly qualities of compassion and mercy. Undoubtedly for the common folk who were Buddhists in India of that time, Tara was a more approachable deity. It is one thing to stare into the eyes of a deity who represents wisdom as void. It is perhaps easier to worship a goddess whose eyes look out with infinite compassion and who has a sweet smile.
Tara then became very popular as an object of worship and was becoming an object of Tantric worship and practice by the 7th century C.E. With the movement and cross-pollination of Indian Buddhism into Tibet, the worship and practices of Tara became incorporated into Tibetan Buddhism. Independent of whether she is classified as a deity, a Buddha or a bodhisattva, Tara remains very popular in Tibet and Mongolia.
And as Ms. Getty notes, one other reason for her popularity was that Tara became to be known as a Buddhist deity who could be appealed to directly by lay folk without the necessity or intervention of a lama or monk.
[Thus, as Tara was accepted into the ranks of Buddhist bodhisattvas, she became popular to both common folk as one to appeal to in daily life, and for monastics, as an entry way into understanding compassion and mercy as part of one's evolving path within Buddhism.
(See also Guan Yin, the female aspect of Avalokitesvara in Chinese Buddhism.)
Today, Green Tara and White Tara are probably the most popular representations of Tara.
Tara has many stories told which explain her origin as a bodhisattva.
With this story in mind, it is interesting to juxtapose this with a quotation from H.H the Dalai Lama about Tara, spoken at a conference on Compassionate Action in Newport Beach, CA in 1989:
There is a true feminist movement in Buddhism that relates to the goddess Tara. Following her cultivation of bodhicitta, the bodhisattva's motivation, she looked upon the situation of those striving towards full awakening and she felt that there were too few people who attained Buddhahood as women.
So she vowed, "I have developed bodhicitta as a woman. For all my lifetimes along the path I vow to be born as a woman, and in my final lifetime when I attain Buddhahood, then, too, I will be a woman."Tara, then, embodies certain ideals which make her attractive to women practitioners, and her emergence as a Bodhisattva can be seen as a part of Mahayana Buddhism's reaching out to women, and becoming more inclusive even in 6th century C.E. India.
Tara as a Saviour Tara also embodies many of the qualities of feminine principle. She is known as the Mother of Mercy and Compassion. She is the source, the female aspect of the universe, which gives birth to warmth, compassion and relief from bad karma as experienced by ordinary beings in cyclic existence. She engenders, nourishes, smiles at the vitality of creation, and has sympathy for all beings as a mother does for her children.
As Green Tara she offers succor and protection from all the unfortunate circumstances one can encounter within the samsaric world. As White Tara she expresses maternal compassion and offers healing to beings who are hurt or wounded, either physically or psychically.
As Red Tara she teaches discriminating awareness about created phenomena, and how to turn raw desire into compassion and love. As Blue Tara (Ekajati) she becomes a protector in the Nyingma lineage, who expresses a ferocious, wrathful, female energy whose invocation destroys all Dharmic obstacles and engenders good luck and swift spiritual awakening.
Within Tibetan Buddhism, she has 21 major forms in all, each tied to a certain color and energy. And each offers some feminine attribute, of ultimate benefit to the spiritual aspirant who asks for her assistance.Another quality of feminine principle which she shares with the dakinis is playfulness. As John Blofeld expands upon in Bodhisattva of Compassion, Tara is frequently depicted as a young sixteen year old girlish woman.
hese qualities of feminine principle then, found an expression in Indian Mahayana Buddhism and the emerging Vajrayana of Tibet, as the many forms of Tara, as dakinis, as Prajnaparamita, and as many other local and specialized feminine divinities. As the worship of Tara developed, various prayers, chants and mantras became associated with her.
These came out of a felt devotional need, and from her inspiration causing spiritual masters to compose and set down sadhanas, or tantric meditation practices. Two ways of approach to her began to emerge. In one common folk and lay practitioners would simply directly appeal to her to ease some of the travails of worldly life.
In the second, she became a Tantric deity whose practice would be used by monks or tantric yogis in order to develop her qualities in themselves, ultimately leading through her to the source of her qualities, which are Enlightenment, Enlightened Compassion, and Enlightened Mind.
Sadhanas of TaraSadhanas in which Tara is the yidam (meditational deity) can be extensive or quite brief. Most all of them include some introductory praises or homages to invoke her presence and prayers of taking refuge. Then her mantra is recited, followed by a visualization of her, perhaps more mantra, then the visualization is dissolved, followed by a dedication of the merit from doing the practice. Additionally there may be extra prayers of aspirations, and a long life prayer for the Lama who originated the practice.
Many of the Tara sadhanas are seen as beginning practices within the world of Vajrayana Buddhism, however what is taking place during the visualization of the deity actually invokes some of the most sublime teachings of all Buddhism.
In this case during the creation phase of Tara as a yidam, she is seen as having as much reality as any other phenomena apprehended through the mind. By reciting her mantra and visualizing her form in front, or on the head of the adept, one is opening to her energies of compassion and wisdom. After a period of time the practitioner shares in some of these qualities, becomes imbued with her being and all it represents.
At the same time all of this is seen as coming out of Emptiness and having a translucent quality like a rainbow. Then many times there is a visualization of oneself as Tara. One simultaneously becomes inseparable from