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Hymns to Tara

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The numbers of the hymns without parenthesis are the original hymn order as established by Chandragomin; the numbers with parenthesis are the revised order as set by C. M. Chen.


To Avalokitesvara, protector endowed with great compassion, I make obeisance.

Bowing at the lotus-feet of that One who with the Eye of Compassion looks upon being, in order to perfect my two stocks (of Punya and of Jnana) I shall extol my presiding Deity.

(1) 1.
Tara, god of gods,
Thou Art the source of all siddhis without exception;
Even as the precious Wish-Fulfilling Gem,
Donatrix of the fruit desired.

(2) 3.
Well dwelling beyond the four waters,
Released from deeds, affects and becoming (Kavmaklesa-bhava-vimukta)
She who the remainderless end has reached,
of the bhumis and path Of Buddha-virtues irreversible.

(3) 2.
In a Body where all wondrous and preeminent virtues are perfected,
Emitter in the ten directions of Compassion's light-rays,
Extended self-luminance of the five Jnanas.

(4) 28.
Mistress of many workings,
Thy Bodies various, in essence like a glass (i.e. reflecting forms).
Not definite in one color and set of implements,
(But) arising differently (in accordance with) whom Thou art near.

(5) 31.
Thy hair (symbolic) of the two stocks (Jnana and Punya) perfected,
Thou the light-rays of whose compassion emerges
In ten directions from Amitabha, the perfect-Buddha,
Amidst the coiled sapphire "willow-leaves" (of thy head-dress) seated.


(6) 24
Great in righteousness and splendor:
Increaser of understanding and prajnas glory,
In the mind of living beings by the light
Of thy excellent youthful (lit. 16-year old) face like the full moon.

(7) 21.
Queen in bejewelled dress:
light of the "treasure-hairs" from between (Thy) brows blazing,
The smiling expression of thy long eyes like lotus-leaves,
Thou looker upon beings with compassion and love.

(8) 17.
Embodiment of the five Jnanas:
(Thou who) On thy glorious and immaculate Body,
With the 32 excellent signs adorned,
(Art) exhibiting the 80 good characteristics.

(9) 6.
(Thou) the lotus-feet of whose
Unrivalled most excellent Body, seated
On a full-moon mat in outflowless bliss (anasravasukha)
Gods and anti-gods (asura) touch with their crowns.


(10) 29.
(Though) from the absolute (paramartha) Jinas realm,
Not moving, having the form of a Relative (samrtti) goddess;
Of greenish blue color, with the dances' nine graces
Posturing in non-ratiocinating bliss-illumination.

(11) 4.
Conquering the net of existence:
Thou who fillest the sky with the light of works,
Thy operations Pacifying, expanding, empowering and enchanting--
From the ten letters, quintessence of (Thy) heart (cittagarbha /hridaya)

(12) 14.
(Thou) who, when the quintessence of
(Thee) the Mistress of (magical) power
With its ten letters, is fastened to the top of one's head, and He has gone amongst the four-armied host,
Repulses the warfare of the hostile army.

(13) 5.
Rest refuge of beings, Tara,
Taming beings with a woman's form:
Daughter of glorious Lokesvara,
From the Holy One's tear(s) born.


(14) 9.
Tara of the Khadira-grove,
Who, with the ship of Great Compassion
Of Thy kind heart that takes the six (classes of) beings as children,
Releasest from the sea of the three worlds, round (tribhuvana, samisava)

(15) 13.
Released from the bonds of existence,
(Thou) who hast gained possession of the highest means and wisdom (prajna)
Unimpeded raddhi, in (Thy) Jnana-body:
(Thou) who purifiest the defilements of pain and the Round.

(16) 8.
Tara, releaser from the Round, Bhagavati, at thy feet
He who (seeks) refuge gains Nirvana--
(Thou) who accomplishest the highest great purpose:


(17) 15.
Embodiment of wisdom and kindness,
Into the Swastika treasury adorned
With many dhyanas, samadhis, vimoksas,
Ever penetrating the centre and circumference of wisdom (prajna).

(18) 16.
(Thou) with a lash of suns' lustre,
Thou who by great prajna's blazing light-rays
Clearest away the gloom of unknowing eggs
In the minds of animal-beings on the three planes (tridhatu)

(19) 23.
Conqueror of the four Maras All Buddhas in person,bhattaraki,
Thou Rid of the five skandhas (art) possessor of the five (kayas),
Perfector of the five Jnanas and rider of the (five) Klesas.

(20) 18.
Subjugator of the three planes:
Thou at whose feet profoundly bow
The diademed heads of the great gods, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahadeva.

Green Tara 20.jpeg

(21) 25.
Illusion of woman,
Thou whom Mamaki, Locana, Pandarvasini,
Praise, and the greatest of the great amongst
Gods and nagas and yaksas.

(22) 26.
Having the acquirement of Hum:
Since that at Thy three centres is placed,
Thou hast from thy potent raddhis spread
To (all) extremes (i.e. everywhere) the power of the Four Operations (v. above).

(23) 30.
Repulser of the Round's warfare--
Slayers of the warriors (visa, sura) of "object-subject" error,
Having stabbed with the sword of prapanca, free Jnana
The heart of egoism that longs for "substantial."


(24) 12.
Governing all beings,
Treader with the soles of Thy feet
On the crowns of those drunk with the pride
Of being in the three worlds (triloka) possessed of power.

(25) 7.
Most great amongst the great,
Conquering the throng of vile ghouls (bhuta) and revenants (vetala),
Great in fierce skills, by others unmatchable,
Mighty, suppressor of the other side.

(26) 20.
Thou of marvelous blessing (adhisthana),
Remover of woes when thou art prayed to--
Every kind of life-robbing illness
Engendered by disorder of humorous and malign planets.

(27) 22.
(Thou who) from the mire of the Round
With the hook of compassion of void drawest being,
Thou, taking us with compassion when (we) meet wrong ways,
Into the path of escape (muktimarga) doest guide us.

Greentara 56.jpg

(28) 11.
Heroine (Vira), Vajratara,
Of the color of gold from the Jambu river,
Accomplisher of beings, having purposes through the Operations
Of Thy eight characteristic implements, the vajra and so on.

(29) 10.
Defender from all misfortune (vipanna)
Who, when one tormented by living, lips and throat dried up, and starving
Made prayer to Thee,
Let'st fall of goods (bhoga) an inexhaustible shower.

(30) 19.
Defendress from all dangers:
Of fire and water and the king's punishments,
Tigers, lions, snakes and ogres (raksasa),
Elephants--their terrors eliminating.

(31) 27.
Thou who increasest merit (kusala);
Who makest whoever has meditated on Thee
Rid himself of veilings as the sun's disk
Purges darkness on the spot when it rises.


* * * * * * * * *

Who the puspamala stotra
Reads, or from memory recites,
He will boundless punya gain
And his strong "evil veils" dissolve.

Whichever lowly ones recite
This become svamanas; they will be
Transformed-in-grace (adhisthana) by Buddhas vast
As sands of Ganges river are.

Whenever is learned this hymn by heart
His stains of grave misdeeds and falls
In vinaya-rules, 'vestvaint' (sanivara, Dom-pa) or 'oath' (dam-tshing),
Will disappear: He'll siddhi gain.

When chanted this, mind's lotus blooms;
The authority and reasoning of
Disputants vile will be cut off;
Great wisdom in the sciences
Like to the waxing moon increase.


E-ma, by just calling once
This sovereign of hymns to mind,
Without a doubt will one be born In Sukhavati, land of bliss,
Most excellent of fields sublime (Or, sublime most excellent of fields).

May the merit of my praising
With the "flower-garland" of this hymn
Tara (lit. 'the bhattaraki'), best refuge of all beings,
Across the waters of the Round.

This puspamalastotra, the praising of the Bhattaraki by Chandragomin, an acharya possessing many talents (i.e. very learned), most important of those of the five hundred is incomplete.

Revision and Explanation

Taras tk78.jpg

Out of compassion, to feign ignorance and enquire of his disciples some questions was a humble attitude of our Lord Buddha. This has been described in the Tripitaka more than once. Such a good example of the Master should as well be followed by those persons who are proud of their English language and science but who have little knowledge of Buddhist books written in English. They never care to go through the original Tripitaka written either in Chinese or in Tibetan. It is only the Maha Bhikshu Sangharakshita who has developed Bodhicitta and maintains a merciful attitude benefiting western behavior. He may be regarded as a real follower in the footsteps of the Master. I was requested by him to give some oral answers to some secondary queries arising out of Chandragomin's Hymns and to also give full explanation in writing specifically of the 15th Hymn which is the most important of all the Hymns.

In order to show why this verse was chosen for detailed explanation, how this verse was the most important one of all, and to lead the practitioner to study the hymns in a reasonable order and obtain fruitful grace, though it has not been asked for, I should first set all the verses right, make a place for each and put each verse in its right place. As many of the 31 hymns were misplaced, a systemization of these verses was necessary lest the merit of praise be reduced.

Suppose a new visitor comes to call upon a gentlewoman. Before starting his journey he should think of that lady's characteristics in general (General--Classification I). When he arrives close to her cottage, his eyes first might fall on the beautiful garden outside her house (Dwelling--Classification II). The attractive and youthful body, the bright countenance, the lustrous eyes, the cheerful smile and all the merciful appearances would be apparently manifested when he meets her in her house (Body--C. III). As she engages in small talk in her soft voice, sonorous speech, with sweet words and trustworthy reason, the visitor will come to know how she enlarges her mind and points a moral (Speech--C. IV). Staying with her for some days, from her liberal treatment, he might recognize or read her mind (Mind--C.V) and partake of her milk of human kindness and of all kinds of merits (Merits--C.VI). If he stayed there a little longer he would find out that in all her conduct on every occasion at every time she is merciful and skillful in all kinds of karma. Whenever there is a need she gives, whenever there is danger, she saves, whenever there is an enemy, she subdues, whenever there is calamity she delivers, whenever there is hunger, she feeds, whenever there is struggle, she intermediates and whenever there is meeting, she preaches (Operation--C.VII).

The above paragraph contains a suggestion of a certain system and classification for revising this translated work as shown on the following chart.

RN ON Objects
1. General 1 1 God of Gods
2. Dwelling 2 3 Four seas
3. Body 3 2 Lights of Wisdom
4 28 Light of glass body
5 31 Hair & Amitabha
6 24 Face
7 21 Eyes
8 17 Body
9 6 Seat
10 29 9 attitudes of dance
4. Speech 11 4 Lights of 10 letters
12 14 Letters to repulse war
5. Mind 13 5 Tear-born
14 9 Kind heart
6. Merits 15 13 Highest wisdom
16 8 Release from Round
17 15 Swastika Symbol
18 16 Light to clear gloom
19 23 Five kayas
20 18 Above Gods
21 25 Praised by 8 Deities
7. Operations 22 26 Hum and its Karma
23 30 Sword to kill Ego
24 12 Govern all Beings
25 7 Conquer Ghouls
26 20 Remove illness
27 22 Compassionate guidance
28 11 8 Implements to save
29 10 Defend from misfortune
30 19 Defend from all dangers
31 27 Increase merits to meditator

RN = Revised Number ON = Original Number

To praise is not to just monotonously praise. Admiration comes first, imitation follows next, and identification of the merits of the object who is praised with the subject who praises is the final stage. If you praise Tara with the hymns in the revised order in accordance with the classification mentioned in the list, the above three stages might be much more easily performed and perfected than using the original text order. In the original text each hymn appears to be independent without any system from which we can get a good visualization and perfect personification. It is to aid the development of the three stages that I have made this revision so that the readers may be benefitted. When the sage Chandragomin comes again, I am sure he would agree with this revised order.

Although the text is incomplete, nevertheless a garland may be made up of 31 flowers as well as 500 flowers. It may be of any length, long or short, but a single thread penetrating all these 31 flowers is absolutely necessary. To make the best of an incomplete job, I have done what I could to systematize the available hymns.


I will now speak regarding the original 15th verse (the revised number is 17) and why it is more important than the other verses. According to the classification system, it belongs to the sixth one of Merit which, on the one hand, has accumulated the values of the first five classifications, and on the other hand, will produce the value of the last classification of Operations. Under this sixth classification there are seven verses; notwithstanding, it is only this verse which contains all the factors which are within the practices of the whole system of enlightenment and which are very worthy of the three stages of praise. To prove this point of view, I offer the following explanations:

The Svastika is a symbol of the accumulation of every value or merit of Buddhahood. If the Hinayana sense is taken into consideration, this symbol might express the four noble truths. The perpendicular arm denotes pain and the causes of pain, each on one end, while the horizontal arm denotes the destruction and the path. It may also denote the four mindfulness owing to its situation on the breast outside and the heart inside. In the Mahayana interpretation, it denotes the four wisdoms on its four strokes and the nature of Dharmakaya on its center.

In reference to Vajrayana doctrine, the five wisdoms and five wisdom-energies may correspond to those five parts of the svastika. The up stroke corresponds to the Prana energy, down stroke to the Upana, left stroke to the Samana, right stroke to the Vyana, and the center is the Udana. The four inner strokes that form a cross correspond to the four voidnesses, while the four outer strokes relate to the four blisses. Or if we want more specific correspondence, there can be seen the four perpendicular blisses and the four horizontal blisses.

But how do these correspondences relate to that particular verse, the first two lines of which are: "Embodiment of wisdom and kindness, into the Svastika treasury adorned . . . " The perpendicular zig-zag arm denotes wisdom and the horizontal one denotes kindness, or in other words, the former is the highest right view and the latter the widest expedient operation. This covers the meaning of the first sentence. The third sentence runs "With many dhyanas, samadhis, vimoksas." The kindness, which is successive from the first factor in the first sentence of wisdom, should be denoted by the stroke in the eastern direction, because this is the direction which gives life to all beings, i.e. the spring of kindness. The other three factors in the third sentence can be seen to correspond in this way: "The Southern stroke denotes Dhyana; Western denotes Samadhi; Northern denotes Vimoksha. They are derived from the wisdom of the first sentence, each of them occupying its own position within the four wisdoms for the reas on that each of their natures and functions corresponds to a separate wisdom. The last sentence is "Ever penetrating the center and circumference of wisdom (Prajna)." That is why the second sentence has praised itself as an adorned treasury and the last sentence describes its influence penetrating in and out. Thus, whenever this symbol is profoundly and completely recognized, the significance of the whole verse will be thoroughly comprehended.

Some eastern Buddhist scholars, practitioners and artists mistake the Hindu Svastika as the Buddhist Svastika. The translator has not rid himself of this confusion. The former is a symbol of fire turning to the left which the ancient Brahmins worshiped. It is also a lucky sign of Vishnu's breast curl. The latter's Svastika turns to the right and it is a mystic diagram of the 28th auspicious sign on the breast of Buddha. This is written about in the Anatanirdesapratisthana Sutra.

Even the same word OM has a different meaning in Hinduism than in our Tantra. As Buddha through Buddhist philosophy attached new significance, to every alphabet character, so a Buddhist should not take a word in Hinduism as having the same meaning in Buddhist Tantra. Nevertheless, some English works on Lamaism have committed this same mistake for commercial reasons. It is advisable that Western practitioners should take as their leader a personal Guru, not a book published in the West which would be like an old blind man leading a group of new blind men.

I am very glad to note that my opinion agrees with that of the Maha Bhikshu Sangharakshita. Both of us emphasize that all Western Buddhist works should be purified by Buddhist Philosophy. Whenever we find any confusion or hotchpotch in any of the work that comes to our notice we do our utmost to criticize them or put them right. By doing so, we feel that we make a Dharma offering to our Mother Tara and Her children.


Translated by: Prof. Driver
Corrected by: Ven. Sangharakshita
Revised and Explained by: C. M. Chen