I discovered Tara on my journey on the Path of Prayer. Her name means, "Star," and like the North Star in the sky guiding lost travelers, Tara appears to us when all is dark and leads us to a meeting with our inner selves. I invite you to pray to Tara, to listen to her when you meditate, and to invoke her compassion in your daily life.
When we look at the various stories of Tara, we find compassion is a prominent theme. It is thought that she was born when the bodhisattva Avalokiteswara cried the first tears of compassion as he witnessed the suffering of humankind. From his tears, Tara rose on a white lotus, "her body was diaphanous and its translucent green seemed to hover between Reality and non-reality, quivering with an energy that could be seen, heard, and felt." Born from compassion, Tara is the very essence of compassion.
In another tale, Tara was first known as Jnaana-chandra or "Moon of Wisdom" and was extremely devoted to the Buddhas. Every day she made offerings. Finally, there arose in her the Bodhicitta, the aspiration, based in compassion, to gain Enlightenment for the benefit of all beings-to become a Boddhisatva. The priests urged her to pray that she would be reborn as a man in order to develop her career and eventually become a Buddha. But she made the following vow:
There are many who desire Enlightenment
in a man's body, but none who work for the
benefit of sentient beings in the body of a
woman. Therefore, until smsara is empty, I
shall work for the benefit of sentient beings
in a woman's body!
Ultimately, Tara's vow to know and share love recognizes the oneness and inter-connectedness of all beings. I find Tara's vow to remain a woman inspirational in a time when women's energy is so needed in our world. Tara is a Goddess of Compassion, in a beautiful and sensual form. I believe the lesson of Tara lies in her love and be compassion for all beings which comes from loving herself, which is all.
No matter her origin, the energy of Tara is one of peace, compassion, and spiritual transformation. Meditating and praying to her will inspire the same traits within us.
Chanting a Mantra with devotion and concentration attunes us to the Divine and effects us physically, mentally and spiritually.
Tara's Mantra helps us to develop an understanding that us, our lives and the world around us are part of the Divine. Chanting Om Tara connects us with the ever-present reality of divine manifestation and can lead us beyond it.
OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVHA.
(aum tarray toot-tarray turay so-ha)
Go here for to hear this mantra chanted: http://www.wildmind.org/meditation/mantra/greentara.html
All in all there are 21 Taras, all representing various stages and aspects of Compassion. However, the most popular manifestations of Tara are Green Tara and White Tara, whose energies are very different.
"Her throne of the orb of the moon is the possession of Wisdom, and her throne of a varicolored lotus is the possession of an essence of Compassion." Nargarjuna
Green Tara is often represented with a mischievous or playful smile on her face. Green Tara's powers are focused on protection. However, she is also a powerful guide during meditation. Her energy is very lively and quick-she feels very close. Her most common identifying symbols are the utpala (blue lotus) and vara and vitarka mudras. The utpala opens at sunset, blooms and releases its fragrance with the appearance of the moon, with which it is associated. Tara's right hand is outstretched in boundless giving-the vara mudra. Her left hand is in vitarka mudra. All fingers extend upward, except the ring finger which bends to touch the tip of the thumb. Vitarka is usually translated as "reflection" and is known as the the Three Jewels Mudra, or the mudra of Giving Refuge. Green Tara is often depicted with one leg out of the lotus position, extended down and ready to rise indicating her quick response when needed.
White Tara is often associated with health, healing, and longevity. Unlike the girlish Green Tara, White Tara is represented as a full-bodied and mature woman. White Tara's energy is very intense and strong. Personally, White Tara was very difficult for me to connect with at first-and then after working with her for a while, I felt her healing energies very very strongly and profoundly.
White Tara is represented with the padma, the day lotus, and shares it's association with the sun. Her mudras are similar to Green Tara's, however she is seated in the full lotus position, representing peacefulness and calm.
White Tara has seven eyes: the two usual eyes, plus an eye in the center of her forehead, eyes in each of her palms the soles of her feet. This indicates that she sees all suffering and all cries for help in the human world using all means of perception. Thus they symbolize the vigilance of her compassion. With these numerous eyes she is able to perceive the suffering that is apparent (the two eyes on either side of her nose) that is spiritual (her third eye), that is inherent in action (the eyes in her palms,) and the suffering of progress (the eyes in her soles.)
Historically, there have been many Goddesses that have been associated with the stars, including Astarte, Aphrodite, Ishtar, Isis, the Virgin Mary, and of course, Tara. For thousands of years, ships have been navigated at night by the stars. Tara is the guiding star showing us the way to the other shore. In interplay of gaseous forces in a star, however, there is a great devouring power, and Tara has also the aspect of Kali who devours the darkness (in Vedic myth-where Tara first originated-she is one of the attending goddesses of Kali Ma).
The tarot card named "The Star" provides us with a message of hope, serenity and positive outcomes. In the same way, Tara, "The Star," brings with her an association with spiritual enlightenment that results in peace and happiness.
1: What is the spiritual/psychological concern?
2 &3: How is this concern perceived by you?
4 &5: How has this concern influenced your recent actions? What can you do about this concern? What actions do you need to be mindful of?
6 & 7: Where does this path lead?
In the space before you, on a lotus and moondisc appears Green Tara.
Her body is made of green light, transparent like a rainbow.
Her left leg is drawn up in lotus posture to symbolize ease and comfort.
Her right leg is extended, symbolizing that she is ready to rise to the aid of all beings.
Her left hand is at her heart in the gesture of giving refuge: the palm facing outward, thumb & ring finger touching, the other fingers raised.
Her right hand is on her right knee, in the gesture of giving high realizations: the palm faces outwards, thumb & index finger touching, the other fingers pointing down.
Both hands hold a blue utpala flower.
She is very beautiful, dressed in flowing celestial silks. She smiles at you.
Think of your problems, needs and aims and request Tara's help from your heart.
Chant: OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVHA.
(aum tarray toot-tarray turay so-ha)
Imagine a beautiful emerald green light coming out of Tara's heart and flowing like ribbons into your heart. Let yourself be filled with this light as you feel her healing protection all around you, as if it was a light breeze.
Know that this light from her heart into your heart, eliminates all obstacles and negativities of your mind, body, and spirit. You are now free from all hindrances and problems, and you have received the inspiration and energy to accomplish your aims. Slowly, see Tara shrink and dissolve into a small orb of green light, which travels into your heart center. You become one with Tara.
If you are doing this meditation for personal healing and strength: maintain the feeling of Tara's presence within you for as long as possible. Perhaps now would be a good time to quietly recite some affirmations. End in gratitute to Tara.
If you are performing this meditation for the healing or sending of energy to someone else: hold your own hands in the mundras of Tara (left hand at your heart, palm outward, index finger touching your thumb with fingers pointed upward; right hand on your right knee, palm open, index and thumb touching with fingers pointing downward). Send compassion, love, and energy to the person or beings that you are working for. You have become Tara and now share her energy with others. Continue to chant her mantra or say prayers. When you are done thank Tara for her generosity.
"May my words ring out through space and beyond the stars;
their virtue and compassion echoing back to all the many beings."
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Anonymous, from http://www.jeffsutherland.org/tara/index.html
Purna, Dharmachari, "Tara: Her Origins and Development." The Western Buddhist Review, Vol. 2. http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/index.html
Beyer, Stephan, The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet. University of California Press: 1978, pp. 80-81
Meditation Dedication, inspired by Zen tradition