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Introduction to Buiddhism
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TaraVajrasattva

Tara

Tara

Mantra: Om Tara Tutare Svaha
Classification: Historical Persoange and Primordial Buddha

    Enlightenment, Buddhahood, is One and is indivisible. However, we are not like that. We are relative beings living in a relative condition. So we sometimes need different things at different times. Because of this, Tara has manifested in innumerable different forms to help our relative problems. It is rather as if we were to go to a huge store which could satisfy all our desires. If we wanted food, we would go to the food department. If we wanted cars, we would go to the cars department. Actually all the departments would be the same company, but they would all have a different appearance, different colors, different vibes, to help us to tune in to those things.

    So, at the start, we have three Taras. The main Tara is the Green Tara. All the others are a manifestation of her. Then there is White Tara. One would expect there to be other Taras for the rest of the Buddha families: red, yellow and blue. There is a Red Tara. This wonderful extraordinary lineage is held by the great living Dzogchen master Chatral Dorje Rinpoche. However, if you want to learn it you will probably have to go to wonderful Ven. Chagdud Tulku in America or Brazil; his American-born wife also teaches this practice. Yellow Tara is a wealth Tara - possibly she is the same as the Basudarini, Norgyun Among the 21 Taras, there are a couple that are blue-black. I don't know which one of these is equivalent to a Blue Tara.

    After the three or five Taras, there are Eight Taras who are the remedies or the antidotes to the Eight Great Fears. These fears have an internal aspect and an external aspect. The external aspect is that they are the fears of: Lions, Elephants, Fire, Serpents, Thieves, Captivity, Drowning, and Flesh-eating Spirits. Internally, these are fears such as the fears of oppression, loss of possessions, of change and so on. One does not usually find representations of these Eight Taras: sometimes one finds them arranged around a central Green Tara in a Thangka.

    The main Tara forms in the tradition is the set called the 21 Taras. Some of the 21 Taras are correlated with other female deities, such as Saraswati, and some of them are different aspects, functions or forms of Tara. There is the text of about three pages called the Praises to the 21 Taras which is very important in all schools. Often lamas recite 100,000 of this text: Chagdud Tulku's experience of doing so is recounted in his biography Lord of The Dance. There are also a couple of shorter, one-page texts. There are various sets of mantras for the 21 Taras as well. The mantras are reproduced in John Blofeld's Bodhisattva of Compassion, along with many lovely Tara stories.

    The teaching of the 21 Taras was introduced into Tibet by Atisha. In Nyingmapa, there are three main lineages of Tara and the 21 Taras. There is a lineage which is associated with the Khyentse tradition, and there is the Long-Chen Nyin-Thig lineage. However the most famous lineage of Tara, which is found in all schools, is from the Terton Chogyur Lingpa. There are a number of small differences between the lineages. There appear to be two Taras among the 21 which are different between the Atisha lineage and the other lineages.

    Looking at the 21 Taras from perhaps an academic or scholarly standpoint, it seems that what has been done is to integrate the practice of other female divinities with Tara. Let me give an example. Most students would, at some point in their religious life, do a retreat of Tara. Because Tara attainment comes quickest of all, they certainly would have gained some attainment from that. When they come to practice another deity, such as Kurukulle, Norgyun or Saraswati, they can connect through Tara. For example, if they want top do the wealth deity, Norgyun, her mantra is OM BASUDARINI SOHA. As a form of Tara, it is OM TARE TUTARE TURE BASUDARINI SOHA. In this way, the attainment gained from doing the main Tara mantra OM TARE TUTARE TURE SOHA in retreat, is integrated into the evocation of Norgyun, so perhaps one gains that attainment of Norgyun more easily. Tara gives attainment very quickly and also, she is very tolerant of mistakes or omissions in the practice, so that one gains those benefits when doing a combined form.

    Combined forms are common in Tibetan buddhism as transitions from one practice to another. Also, by doing one combined form, one is saved having to do many different practices. For example, rather than do the practices of Hayagriva and Guru Drakpo and Garuda and Vajrakilaya, one can do Guru Drak-Pur and combine them all. Or, for another example, it can be quite difficult to enter into the practice of the Vajra Heruka. By doing thepractice of Yang-Pur (Vajra Heruka and Vajrakilaya combined) one can create a transitional phase which makes this more possible

    When one is considering Tara, or in general considering the Dharma, there are two types of erroneous views which it is said traditionally, must be avoided.The first is called the EXTERNALIST VIEW and this is linked with the religious attitude which is called in Buddhism the Eternalism-view. Here the practitioner sees Tara as being a Worldly deity of some sort, such as a type of goddess.Actually, Tara is not a sort of Goddess or a supernatural entity. She is  perhaps a mind stream like ourselves, but one that has realised perfect Enlightenment - Buddhahood. On account of her practice of her vows to save all beings through uncounted lifetimes, she has acquired limitless Merit with which she is able to assist beings. In my view, which may be wrong, to confuse Tara with goddesses from other religions is a type of this error - although it is also true that Tara may have manifested as a goddess-figure to help beings. Over the ages, Tara has manifested in many, many forms - as princesses, as prostitutes, as merchants and as nuns. This is also called the view of concretisation. Here, one's visualisation of Tara turns solid and heavy. It is good to remember that she is always transparent, because she is made of light.

    The second view is called the ANNIHALATIONIST VIEW and here one imagines that Tara does not exist and that the methods of visualisation, mantra and so forth, are like psychological methods. The idea here is that Tara does not exist, except as a method to work with our relative mind. In actual fact, it is our relative mind that does not exist. In the West there are many 'seminar organisations' which teach various methods of visualisation and affirmation to bring about some change - very often to try to accomplish material goals. This may not be wrong, but it is wrong to think of or use Tara in this relative way, because you are diminishing the Absolute to the Relative.

    Both of the above views diminish Tara. The second even puts us above Tara: that is, Tara is only a portion of our mind. One should always bear in mind that Tara is a Buddha, beyond our control, understanding or comprehension....but not beyond our communication.

 

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