Tara/Saraswati

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Palzang Jangchub
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Tara/Saraswati

Post by Palzang Jangchub » Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:49 am

What is the role of Tara and/or Saraswati in Shingon (Japanese Vajrayana)? Are there any lineages in which either features more prominently?

Especially interested to hear about bright/royal blue forms with two arms (not as light as sky blue, nor as dark as black-blue).
Image

"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྩ་བའི་བླ་མ་སྐྱབས་རྗེ་མགར་ཆེན་ཁྲི་སྤྲུལ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ཁྱེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ།།
རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་མཁས་གྲུབ་ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ། ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོཿ

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Re: Tara/Saraswati

Post by DGA » Wed Jan 18, 2017 2:01 pm

Karma Jinpa wrote:What is the role of Tara and/or Saraswati in Shingon (Japanese Vajrayana)? Are there any lineages in which either features more prominently?

Especially interested to hear about bright/royal blue forms with two arms (not as light as sky blue, nor as dark as black-blue).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzaiten

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Re: Tara/Saraswati

Post by Palzang Jangchub » Wed Jan 18, 2017 5:57 pm

Thank you, DGA. I managed to stumble upon that article before. While it answers the question about Saraswati's status in Japanese Buddhism generally, I'm mostly curious about the specific place of Benzaiten (辯才天, 弁財天, 弁才天女) in Shingon. Same goes for Tara Bosatsu (多羅菩薩).
Image

"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྩ་བའི་བླ་མ་སྐྱབས་རྗེ་མགར་ཆེན་ཁྲི་སྤྲུལ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ཁྱེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ།།
རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་མཁས་གྲུབ་ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ། ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོཿ

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Re: Tara/Saraswati

Post by DGA » Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:08 pm

Karma Jinpa wrote:Thank you, DGA. I managed to stumble upon that article before. While it answers the question about Saraswati's status in Japanese Buddhism generally, I'm mostly curious about the specific place of Benzaiten (辯才天, 弁財天, 弁才天女) in Shingon. Same goes for Tara Bosatsu (多羅菩薩).
Sorry, I didn't notice that we were in the Shingon forum. I can say that she is well represented in Japanese Buddhism generally. I learned her mantra from a Tendai master, for example.

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Re: Tara/Saraswati

Post by Palzang Jangchub » Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:19 pm

DGA wrote:Sorry, I didn't notice that we were in the Shingon forum. I can say that she is well represented in Japanese Buddhism generally. I learned her mantra from a Tendai master, for example.
No worries, mate. Would that be a sutric mantra, or does Tendai have esoteric practices derived from tantra also? My knowledge of the Japanese schools is admittedly quite limited, as I've spent most of my time studying the Tibetan side of things.

All I really know about Tianti/Tendai is that Chan/Zen developed in part as a reaction to their scholasticism, couching the school in anti-intellectualist terms. And that was taught to me by a professor who is also a lay Chan teacher in the Dharma Drum Mountain lineage of Master Sheng Yen, so there may have been some bias there.
Image

"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྩ་བའི་བླ་མ་སྐྱབས་རྗེ་མགར་ཆེན་ཁྲི་སྤྲུལ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ཁྱེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ།།
རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་མཁས་གྲུབ་ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ། ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོཿ

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Malcolm
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Re: Tara/Saraswati

Post by Malcolm » Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:21 pm

Karma Jinpa wrote:
DGA wrote:Sorry, I didn't notice that we were in the Shingon forum. I can say that she is well represented in Japanese Buddhism generally. I learned her mantra from a Tendai master, for example.
No worries, mate. Would that be a sutric mantra, or does Tendai have esoteric practices derived from tantra also? My knowledge of the Japanese schools is admittedly quite limited, as I've spent most of my time studying the Tibetan side of things.

All I really know about Tianti/Tendai is that Chan/Zen developed in part as a reaction to their scholasticism, couching the school in anti-intellectualist terms. And that was taught to me by a professor who is also a lay Chan teacher in the Dharma Drum Mountain lineage of Master Sheng Yen, so there may have been some bias there.

Tendai has esoteric traditions.
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Re: Tara/Saraswati

Post by DGA » Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:23 pm

Karma Jinpa wrote:
DGA wrote:Sorry, I didn't notice that we were in the Shingon forum. I can say that she is well represented in Japanese Buddhism generally. I learned her mantra from a Tendai master, for example.
does Tendai have esoteric practices derived from tantra also? My knowledge of the Japanese schools is admittedly quite limited, as I've spent most of my time studying the Tibetan side of things.
Yes. The whole focus of Shingon shu is esoteric practice, while esoteric practice is a component of the Tendai scene (often the main component).
All I really know about Tianti/Tendai is that Chan/Zen developed in part as a reaction to their scholasticism, couching the school in anti-intellectualist terms. And that was taught to me by a professor who is also a lay Chan teacher in the Dharma Drum Mountain lineage of Master Sheng Yen, so there may have been some bias there.
It's more complicated than that.

But I'd rather not clog up the Shingon forum with Tendai stuff.

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Re: Tara/Saraswati

Post by dzogchungpa » Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:48 pm

I've haven't read the whole thing yet, but this article:
http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/benzaiten.shtml
looks quite detailed and has several references to Kukai and Shingon.
If you focus on an object, you are not meditating. - Dudjom Rinpoche

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Re: Tara/Saraswati

Post by jake » Wed Jan 18, 2017 9:44 pm

Karma Jinpa wrote:What is the role of Tara and/or Saraswati in Shingon (Japanese Vajrayana)? Are there any lineages in which either features more prominently?

Especially interested to hear about bright/royal blue forms with two arms (not as light as sky blue, nor as dark as black-blue).
Hi Karma Jinpa,

I can't fully answer your question so really I should just keep my mouth shut.... But I can report to you what the books I have here say, hopefully that is helpful. Also, from what I understand, the transmission of esoteric Buddhism to Japan is a bit earlier than Tibet. So, using the Tibetan system of four/five/six classifications of Tantra. Japan lacks the higher tantric practices. Perhaps that influences things a bit, I don't know. I was also told that Tara is rather rare in East Asian Buddhism.

I'll quote a bit from Adrian Snodgrass' Matrix and Diamond World Mandala book. Tara appears in the Taizokai (Womb Realm, skt: Garbhakosadhatu) Mandala in the Avalokitesvara Mansion. The Taizokai is based on the Mahavairocana Sutra. Tara..."is shown as a female wearing an "action robe" (kamma-e), the dress worn by Bodhisattvas when working. She carries a blue lotus, the lotus with sword-like petals that represent the Wisdom (Prajna, chi-e) that cuts away defilements." He then quotes " To his (Avalokitesvara's) right is the exalted one Tara, the sacred, coloured in a mixture of green* and white and with the appearance of a middle-aged woman. She holds a blue lotus in her joined hands. She is completely encompassed by a nimbus of light and she shines like pure gold. She is smiling and is clothed in a white robe". (Snodgrass cites: "Mahavairocana-sutra (Guenhon), quoted in the Mikkyo-daijiten...). -pg 290 of Snodgrass**

Sarasvati also appears in the Womb Realm Mandala and in the Kongokai Mandala (Diamond Realm, skt: Vajradhatu). It's based on the Tattvasamgraha Sutra.

For what it's worth.

* I'm partially color blind and am always curious about what color is meant when sutra and texts mention specifics. An interesting side note, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue%E2%8 ... e#Japanese
**I have a few of Snodgrass's books available, I ordered about 5 from a printer in India. They still have that freshly printed in India smell.

Trying to upload a diagram for the Taizokai. If it worked, it's below:
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“The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in the red zone."

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Re: Tara/Saraswati

Post by Palzang Jangchub » Wed Jan 18, 2017 10:42 pm

Thanks go out to everyone who's responded, especially dzogchungpa and jake. Please keep the information coming. Are there any practices of either Tara Bosatsu or Benzaiten roughly equivalent to the deity yoga/generation stage sadhana practices in Tibetan Vajrayana? Can either of them be considered the Shingon equivalent of one's yidam deity?
Karma Jinpa wrote:Especially interested to hear about bright/royal blue forms with two arms (not as light as sky blue, nor as dark as black-blue).
To clarify, I'm talking about the portion of the blue spectrum including ultramarine, pure blue, and azure. Navy blue is too dark, to the point that I've taken to calling it "maybe blue" because it may be blue, may be black.
:quoteunquote:

See: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue
Image

"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྩ་བའི་བླ་མ་སྐྱབས་རྗེ་མགར་ཆེན་ཁྲི་སྤྲུལ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ཁྱེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ།།
རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་མཁས་གྲུབ་ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ། ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོཿ

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dzogchungpa
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Re: Tara/Saraswati

Post by dzogchungpa » Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:23 pm

Oh, that's what you mean by blue. :smile:

Anyway, apparently Benzaiten is a big deal at Koyasan, see:
http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/b ... aries.html
If you focus on an object, you are not meditating. - Dudjom Rinpoche

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Re: Tara/Saraswati

Post by eijo » Sun Jan 22, 2017 9:05 am

Karma Jinpa wrote:Are there any practices of either Tara Bosatsu or Benzaiten roughly equivalent to the deity yoga/generation stage sadhana practices in Tibetan Vajrayana? Can either of them be considered the Shingon equivalent of one's yidam deity?
Yes and yes.

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