Tibetan script with sanskrit:
- ཀརྨ་རྡོ་རྗེ། Karma Dorje doing an audio recording recitation of the mantra above.
White Tārā is also known as the Tārā of compassion and is associated with health, long life and healing. Tārā is believed to protect human beings from suffering.
As one of the three deities of long life, White Tārā (Sarasvatī) is associated with longevity. White Tārā counteracts illness and thereby helps to bring about a long life. She embodies the motivation that is compassion and is said to be as white and radiant as the moon.
With two arms seated on a white lotus and with eyes on her hand and feet, as well as a third eye on her forehead (thus she is also known as “Seven eyed”). She is known for compassion, long life, healing and serenity. Also known as The Wish-fulfilling Wheel, or Cintachakra.
Another quality of feminine principle which she shares with the ḍākinīs is playfulness. As John Blofeld expands upon in Bodhisattva of Compassion, Tārā is frequently depicted as a young sixteen-year-old girlish woman. She often manifests in the lives of dharma practitioners when they take themselves, or the spiritual path too seriously. There are Tibetan tales in which she laughs at self-righteousness, or plays pranks on those who lack reverence for the feminine. In Magic Dance: The Display of the Self-Nature of the Five Wisdom Dakinis, Thinley Norbu explores this as “Playmind”. Applied to Tārā one could say that her playful mind can relieve ordinary minds which become rigidly serious or tightly gripped by dualistic distinctions. She takes delight in an open mind and a receptive heart then. For in this openness and receptivity her blessings can naturally unfold and her energies can quicken the aspirants spiritual development.
Origin as a Buddhist bodhisattva
Tārā has many stories told which explain her origin as a bodhisattva.
In this tale there is a young princess who lives in a different world system, millions of years in the past. Her name is Yeshe Dawa, which means “Moon of Primordial Awareness”. For quite a number of aeons she makes offerings to the Buddha of that world system, whose name was Tonyo Drupa. She receives special instruction from him concerning bodhicitta – the infinitely compassionate mental state of a bodhisattva. After doing this, some monks approach her and suggest that because of her level of attainment she should next pray to be reborn as a male to progress further. At this point she lets the monks know in no uncertain terms that it is only “weak minded worldlings” who see gender as a barrier to attaining enlightenment. She sadly notes there have been few who wish to work for the welfare of sentient beings in a female form, though. Therefore, she resolves to always be reborn as a female bodhisattva, until samsara is no more. She then stays in a palace in a state of meditation for some ten million years, and the power of this practice releases tens of millions of beings from suffering. As a result of this, Tonyo Drupa tells her she will henceforth manifest supreme bodhi as the Goddess Tārā in many world systems to come.
With this story in mind, it is interesting to juxtapose this with a quotation from the 14th Dalai Lama about Tārā, 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 Tārā. 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.”
Within Tibetan Buddhism Tārā is regarded as a bodhisattva of compassion and action. She is the female aspect of Avalokiteśvara and in some origin stories she comes from his tears:
“Then at last Avalokiteśvara arrived at the summit of Marpori, the ‘Red Hill’, in Lhasa. Gazing out, he perceived that the lake on Otang, the ‘Plain of Milk’, resembled the Hell of Ceaseless Torment. Myriad beings were undergoing the agonies of boiling, burning, hunger, thirst, yet they never perished, sending forth hideous cries of anguish all the while. When Avalokiteśvara saw this, tears sprang to his eyes. A teardrop from his right eye fell to the plain and became the reverend Bhrikuti, who declared: “Child of your lineage! 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!” Bhrikuti was then reabsorbed into Avalokiteśvara’s right eye, and was reborn in a later life as the Nepalese princess Tritsun. A teardrop from his left eye fell upon the plain and became the reverend White Tārā. She also declared, “Child of your lineage! 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 endeavor!” White Tārā was then reabsorbed into Avalokiteśvara’s left eye.”
Tārā manifests in many different forms. In Tibet, these forms included Green Tārā’s manifestation as the Nepalese Princess (Bhrikuti), and White Tārā’s manifestation as the Chinese princess Kongjo (Princess Wencheng).
Tārā is also known as a saviouress, as a heavenly deity who hears the cries of beings experiencing misery in saṃsāra.
- ཀརྨ་རྡོ་རྗེ། Karma Dorje compiled this page as a supplemental guide and motivational support for others, please forgive him for any errors.