21 Praises to Tara
Posted: Wed Dec 08, 2010 4:56 am
Here I've posted the 21 Praises to Tara. If you haven't received transmission it's still okay to recite, but receiving blessing makes it much better. So if it's at all possible, get the transmission! I'll post a little bit of information about Tara here, because knowing a bit about her makes these verses all the more lovely. I hope you Enjoy!
To Great, Noble Tara, I bow down.
I praise the Fearless, the Swift One, Protector, whose glance is like lightning.
On the face of Chenrezi, she is born from a tear as a bud from a lotus.
She of the face like the full moons of autumn
that blazes the light of the stars in their thousands.
I praise the Body, all turquoise and golden;
Whose hand is adorned with the lotus, most perfect,
Whose realm is most generous, diligent, simple.
Peaceful and patient, she sits in meditation.
Seated above the heads of all Buddhas,
resplendent in joyous and infinite triumph,
Deeply honoured by all Bodhisattvas,
She is perfect in all of the virtues transcendent.
With ‘Tutare’ and ‘Hung!’ she imbues this world,
all ten directions and infinite space.
And trampling seven worlds under her feet,
she is able to summon them all to her place.
I praise the One to whom great gods
She is honored by spirits, and
demons, and ghosts.
I hail the One, who by ‘Treh’ and by ‘Peh!’
undoes all the plots of conspiring foes;
Who wrapped in the fire that rages around her,
with right leg retracted and left one extended,
Tramples the evil ones under her toes.
I praise the Swift, the One who is Fearsome
who with terrible aspect defeats boldest demons.
Her lotus face angrily frowns down upon them
so all foes are vanquished, not a single remains.
I sing the praises of Her whose hand forms
the Triple Gem mudra right at her heart.
In her grasp the Dharma Wheel spins out its light
in all the directions and to every part.
On her brow she wears radiant joy like a tiara
charming demons and gods
with her laugh of Tutara.
She can summon the guards of this world of desire.
With wrathful expression,
when Hung! does she utter,
she liberates everyone, no more to suffer.
She wears the crescent moon as a diadem;
and shining atop her hair clustered in curls
Rests the Buddha Amida, the ornament on them.
She is the Focus of the flaming garland
as the darkening kalpa draws to its close.
With right leg extended and left one drawn in,
for those who rejoice in the Dharma Wheel’s turning,
She is the one who defeats all their foes.
Full force to her palm, she strikes the universe’ base.
Crying Hung! with a frown as she stamps it down,
She subdues all the denizens of seven levels of that nether place.
I salute Lady Peace, Dame Perfection and Bliss;
her realm is Nirvana.
Between Om! and Swaha! all blemishes vanish
by means of her mantra.*
*Om,Tare Tutare Ture Soha.
All hail the conquering opponent of those
who rejoice as the Wheel of the Dharma goes round.
She liberates by means of the radiant light
From the Hung! in the ring of the ten-syllable sound.
I praise The Swift-footed. Hung! is her seed.
Shaker of Meru, Mandara, Kailash,
Stamping and trampling three worlds with her feet.
She bears the hare-marked moon, lake of the devas.
And by twice saying ‘Tara’
And then saying, ‘P'hey’,
She removes all contaminants, poisons or kleshas.
She whom gods, titans and spirits attend,
Can dispel any terrors that come in dark hours,
A proof against Chaos, her beauty has powers.
Shining, her eyes like the sun and full moon,
By twice saying ‘Hara’ and then, ‘Tutarahyi’,
She can put paid the deadly, the wide-raging plague.
Praise be to The Peacemaker.
By her triple mantra*
All demons succumb.
All hail the Swift-one, in her great mandala.
*Om Ah Hung!
This great dharani ~ this is Her song:
The Praises to Tara, all twenty-one!
The Bodhisattva-Goddess Tārā (or Tara)
Tara the Bodhisattva
Tara means "star," "planet," or "she who ferries across." She is a bodhisattva embodying compassion in the female form of a young goddess. She is often considered to be such an advanced bodhisattva that she is actually a Buddha.
Tara’s name is said to derive from the verb meaning "to cross" or "to traverse". In Pali the verb tarati means "to get to the other side." This word is cognate with the Latin "trans" (across). The word Tara also literally means "star."
An interesting overlap between these two senses is the use of stars in navigation. The Pole Star, used at least for millennia to guide travelers, was known as Dhruva-Tara (the immovable star). Tara becomes a focal point on the far shore that helps us guide our lives in a safe direction. We can take her enlightened qualities of wisdom and compassion as our guide, moment by moment, as we navigate our lives.
A third meaning of "tara" is "the pupil of the eye," again suggesting a focal point and conveying a sense that Tara watches over those who navigate the treacherous waters of life in search of the further shore of liberation.
Tara’s name in Tibetan is Dölma, which means "She Who Saves." She is seen as guarding against the Eight Great Terrors of lions, elephants, fire, snakes, robbers, imprisonment, shipwreck or drowning, and man-eating demons. In each case these terrors are symbolic of spiritual dangers. For example, the First Dalai Lama described the demons against which Tara offers protection as being our self-consuming spiritual doubts.
A female bodhisattva
The most striking thing about Tara is also the most obvious: she is female. While there are many female representations of enlightenment, most are relatively obscure and male forms predominate. Tara, however, is very well known and is one of the most popular Buddhist deities in the Mahayana world, outside of the Far East, where Kwan Yin, the female form of Avalokiteshvara, predominates.
To westerners, having a female form representing compassion may seem natural, but it should be remembered that in traditional Buddhist iconography the male form tends to represent compassion while the female form more often represents wisdom. Tara bucks that trend.
Traditionally, even in Buddhism, which has seen countless enlightened women, the female form has most often been seen as disadvantageous for the pursuit of the spiritual life compared to the male form, to the extent that female spiritual aspirants often aspire to be reborn in male form to help them in their future spiritual endeavors.
There is an important sense, however, in which Tara is not female and in which the "male" Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are not male. Enlightened beings are said to be beyond the limiting conditions of ordinary human consciousness, and are not defined by the gender of their body. Gender is seen in Mahayana Buddhism as being a psycho-social construct that can be transcended. An important passage in the Vimalakirti Nirdesa, an important Mahayana Sutra, illustrates this.
In the story, Shariputra, the foremost in wisdom of the Buddha’s human disciples, is in conversation with an unnamed "goddess" who is immeasurably his spiritual superior. Shariputra, trapped by his dualistic thinking, asks the goddess, "Goddess, what prevents you from transforming yourself out of your female state?" He assumes of course that the female form is a hindrance.
The goddess replies, "Although I have sought my "female state" for these twelve years, I have not yet found it." The goddess does not see herself as female, or Shariputra as male, because she has transcended limiting thinking, has transcended socio-cultural conditioning, and has even gone beyond any biological conditioning.
The goddess then seriously messes with Shariputra by transforming herself into his form and transforming him into a female. She says:
"All women appear in the form of women in just the same way as the elder appears in the form of a woman. While they are not women in reality, they appear in the form of women. With this in mind, the Buddha said, ‘In all things, there is neither male nor female.’"
Although the goddess is not named, she may have been a prototype for the much later emergence of Tara herself, who is said to have spoken the following words in her earlier incarnation as Jnanachandra:
Here there is no man, there is no woman,
No self, no person, and no consciousness.
The labels ‘male’ or ‘female’ have no essence,
But deceive the evil-minded world.
The green goddess
The other striking thing about Tara is her greenness. She is represented as a beautiful, often voluptuous, sixteen-year-old woman, clad is silks and jewels: a highly attractive figure. And yet the color of her skin is green, and this surely clashes with her otherwise attractive appearance.
Tara is associated with the color green in a number of ways. First, as we will see when we consider Tara’s origins, in one myth she is said to have been given her name by Amoghasiddhi Buddha, who is himself green. Tara is Amoghasiddhi’s spiritual consort.
Secondly, both Tara and Amoghasiddhi are connected, in the Five-Buddha Mandala, with the element Air, which is itself associated with that color.
Thirdly, Green Tara is a forest goddess, and in one story is shown as being clad in leaves. Her Pure Land, in distinction to others that are composed of precious gems, is said to be lush and verdant:
Covered with manifold trees and creepers, resounding with the sound of many birds,
And with murmur of waterfalls, thronged with wild beasts of many kinds;
Many species of flowers grow everywhere.
She is therefore a female form of the "Green Man" figure who is found carved in many European churches and cathedrals, and who is found in the Islamic traditions as the figure Al-Khidr.
Tara holds an utpala, or blue lotus, in her right hand, which is held at chest level. This hand is simultaneously in the vitarka, or teaching mudra. Tara may save, but the beneficiaries of her protective powers learn to save themselves through following her teachings!
The utpala is a night-blooming flower, and so Tara protects at the time of greatest fear, during both literal darkness and while we are in the darkness of ignorance.
The core significance of the lotus flower is that it remains unstained even in the most contaminated environments. Early Buddhist texts often refer to the fact that water simply runs off of a lotus. The Dhammapada, an early Buddhist teaching, refers to the unstained nature of the lotus in this way:
58. Yathā saṅkāradhānasmiṃ
Padumaṃ tattha jāyetha
59. Evaṃ saṅkārabhūtesu
58. As upon a heap of rubbish,
Thrown out by the highway,
May grow a lotus
Delightful and of pure scent,
59. So, among defiled beings,
Among blind, unawakened beings,
The disciple of the Fully and Perfectly Awakened One
Shines with wisdom.
The lotus has therefore, since the earliest days of Buddhism, and probably even before then, signified the way in which awakened wisdom can exist in the world without being contaminated by it.
Tara statue (Akuppa)
Tara's left hand is in the varada mudra, or gesture of giving (for more on mudras see the section on Shakyamuni Buddha). Tara makes of herself a gift to the world. She is an advanced Bodhisattva whose entire life is devoted to helping others.
The origins of Tara are, as with most Bodhisattvas, obscure and sometimes contradictory. Since we’re dealing with a realm of myth and imagination, however, contradictions merely add richness!
In one myth, Avalokitesvara was looking at the world in compassion (the literal meaning of his name is "The Lord Who Looks Down") and saw innumerable beings suffering. He saw the pains involved at birth. He saw old age, sickness, and death. He saw beings suffering because they lacked what they wanted, and saw them suffering because they were burdened by things they did not want. He saw beings seeking happiness but creating suffering, and saw beings trying to avoid suffering but running headlong into it.
Since Avalokiteshvara had expended a vast amount of energy trying to liberate innumerable beings from the sufferings of existence, and since there were still uncountable beings suffering, he began to weep. His tears flowed down, and kept flowing until they had created a vast lake.
Then out of this lake — the quintessence of Avalokiteshvara’s compassion — arose a blue utpala lotus, and on this lotus appeared a 16-year-old girl in the form of a goddess. This was Tara.
In another myth, in a time long ago Tara was known as Jñānacandrā or Moon of Wisdom. She vowed that, rather than take the traditionally more advantageous form of a man in her future lives, she would continue to manifest in female form in order to save sentient beings. As a result of her prowess, the Buddha Amoghasiddhi gave her the name Tārā, or "Savioress."
Historically, there is no record of Tara before around the 5th or 6th century C.E. She seems to have evolved from the early Brahminical goddess Durgā [Durgaa] ("difficult or narrow passage") with whom she shares many attributes and names. According to the Hindu classic, the Mahābhārata, Durgā gets her name because she rescues people from difficult passage. This version of Durgā is not the same as the later warrior-goddess!
As might be imagined, Tara first appeared in India. She is one of the most popular Buddhist deities in Tibet, and it’s said that her mantra is second only to Avalokiteshvara’s. Although her form spread to the far east, the presence of Kwan-Yin, a female form of Avalokiteshvara, seems to have filled the "ecological niche" of the compassionate female bodhisattva.
There are many forms of Tara, each of a different color. The most common besides the green form are White Tara (whose compassion is mainly focused on offering protection against and during sickness and old age), and Red Tara, who, according to John Myrdhin Reynolds, uses her "enchantment and bewitchment to bring under her power those evil spirits, demons, and humans who work against the welfare of humanity and its spiritual evolution."
The 21 Praises to Tara are from Khandro.net and the information about Tara is from Wildmind.org. This is just the tiniest bit of information, but perhaps I'll post more on the precious Mother Tara at another time.