by Drea Bradley
Notes for Performing her Puja
'Tara overcomes inharmonious conditions and destroys external threats and obstructions. She is the ultimate reality, the true body of the Buddhas. She is the immovable source from which the miraculous saving activities emerge. Tara shakes the three worlds, dispels the effects of poison, eliminates conflicts and nightmares, cures diseases, and overcomes ghosts and demons.'
Many years ago, before the dawn of our era, in a land far away, there lived a princess. Her name was Moon Wisdom, and she was an exceptional and gentle girl, who spent much of her time studying and praying. She also spent hours in meditation and quiet contemplation, in a mountain retreat above the palace in which she lived.
At first people doubted her commitment, and thought in time she would begin to tire of her almost monastic life, but she didn't. Instead, she became progressively more devout, and began to spend some of her time helping people who were experiencing suffering. Her people came to see her almost as a saint.
You see, it was very unusual that a woman should be devout, or choose other than to marry and have children. It seemed to them almost that Moon Wisdom saw her people as her children. Because she was so good and pure, the princess remained young and radiant; further proof of her saintly nature.
After some time, a monk from the monastery in which she was meditating approached Moon Wisdom and praised her devotion. He recommended that she should pray and meditate towards the aim of securing her next rebirth into the body of a man. This was because he believed that it was easier for men to reach enlightenment than women. Moon Wisdom did not share his view, and had seen with her own eyes the great difficulty women faced in being able to devote time to spiritual study. She was only able to do this because she was a princess, with a life of relative ease.
Moon Wisdom remonstrated with the monk and before him made a vow. 'Here no man, no woman, here no self, no I. Man and woman are denominations, which in this world confuse. For myself, until Samsara is emptied, I shall appear in a woman's body, to benefit all beings.'
In time, Moon Wisdom passed away, but not before she became fully enlightened. She became a Bodhisattva, an enlightened person who has vowed to remain in Samsara until all other beings reach enlightenment together.
Many years later, after the time of the Buddha Sakyamuni, the general compassion of the Buddha expressed itself in the form of Aveloketesvara, a male Bodhisattva. After a time, Aveloketesvara looked at people and fully realised the extent of their suffering. He sat on high and wept for their suffering, he wept a great ocean of tears. One tear ran down his cheek and dropped down onto the surface of the ocean of suffering. Where it touched the water, a lotus blossom rose up in purity above the murky water. As it bloomed, in the heart of the lotus was revealed Tara, a female Bodhisattva, her shinning form green and active, ready to help and save people and ferry them across the ocean of suffering. Aveloketesvara's compassion is neutral and theoretical. Tara is active, personal and will intervene in the lives of the people who call on her. Her compassion is active and present in the world, rather than beyond it.
Tara came into being as the enlightened form of Princess Moon Wisdom.
Since this time, other expressions of Tara have been recognised in the world.
In Tibet in the 600s, a king ruled called Songtsen Gambo. He was great king and united Tibet, but his religion was Bon, not Buddhism. To help him cement his rule through foreign alliances, the king took two wives, Khongo, who was Chinese and Tritson, who was Nepalese. Both women were Buddhists and brought with them sacred texts, icons, and priests. Like sisters, they worked together to convert their husband to their faith, and in doing so secured Tibet as the last great Buddhist empire.
In later years, the people recognised that the two queens were both Bodhisattva. Tritson is Tara.
Tara as a Goddess
Tara is a goddess of many names and many traditions. She is known in India, Nepal, Bhutan and across the world. She has a number of important aspects, an exploration of which might show her links to other goddesses with which you may be more familiar.
(Matrika Shakti,Nilasarasvati, Aniruddha Sarasvati, Ugra Tara)
Sarasvati is the 'Shakti' of the spoken and written word. This makes her very important in the Tantric traditions, because it is the word which creates the universe. She is the source of all that we perceive, which is actually Maya, the illusion of reality. The ultimate truth transcends this illusion and Tara is not the source of this, but a part of it, a part of the ultimate mind.
(Green Tara, Jetsun Dolma (Regal/Queen Dolma is her actual name in Tibet))
Tara is a mother goddess who answers human supplication. Tara was born of a single tear of compassion shed by Avaloketisvara (Chenrezig in Tibetan) on seeing the suffering of humanity. Tibetan Buddhism numbers 21 Taras, often shown with seven all-seeing eyes of compassion (three in the head, one in each palm and soles of feet).
Things which are sacred to Tara:
One source links her to the Tarot major arcana card 'the Star'
Fire, particularly the purifying fire of cremation
Scissors and sword (to cut the bonds of illusion and attachment)
Mirrors (to examine ourselves)
Her name is variously translated as:
To cross (as in the ocean of existence)
The liberator (from suffering)
One who ferries across
She is Spiritually Related to:
Avalokitesvara (consort, counterpart "father")
Songtsen Gambo (husband - Tibetan)
Brihaspati (husband - Hindu)
Soma (who abducted her and fathered her child)
Goddesses She is Seen as Mirroring:
Terra, Earth Mother (Roman)
Tara Mother Goddess (Druid)
Tar Woman of Wisdom (Finland)
Kwan Yin (Chinese Buddhist)
The Virgin Mary (Christian)
||A,U,M Body, speech and mind. The past, present and future. All existence
||One who liberates from suffering
||One who liberates from the eight fears
||One who liberates from all illness
||Lay the foundation
||Recognition of enlightenment as a spiritual goal. The Buddha and in this case Goddess as possessing the perfected body, speech and mind of enlightenment.
||Recognition of suffering. The first noble truth.
||Recognition that suffering is caused by attachment and afflictive emotions. The second noble truth.
||Recognition that suffering can be cured by following the Bhudda's teachings.
The third noble truth.
||Recognition of the journey we must undertake to be free. The fourth noble truth.
The 8 dangers that Tara saves us from when called:
1. Lions & Pride
2. Wild Elephants & Delusions
3. Forest Fires & Hatred
4. Snakes & Envy
5. Robbers & Fanatical Views
6. Prisons & Avarice
7. Floods & Lust
8. Demons & Doubts
Buddhists believe that there are four noble truths
1. We live in suffering.
2. The suffering has a course which is our ego, our grasping nature and afflictive emotions.
3. The Suffering has a cure.
4. That cure is Dharma.
Dharma is the word used to describe the teachings of the Buddha. The scriptures based on these are called Sutra.
The concept of suffering is that we suffer because we grasp at things and people to make us happy, yet each of the objects of our grasping must change, decay and fade, thus we suffer.
Buddhists also believe that we have many mistaken views. The most important two mistaken views are:
That we exist as individuals.
That what we see is real and exists as objective and independent reality.
Karma is the law through which our future rebirths are determined. If we live in physicality and grasp at it, our next rebirth will be in this realm of suffering; Samsara. If we avoid attachment and physicality, raise ourselves above grasping, become more enlightened, our next life may be into a higher plane or form, moving towards the highest form.
The ultimate goal for a Buddhist is Nirvana, the release from re-birth, through becoming or realising unity with ultimate reality, the perfected mind which exceeds all conditioned reality.
To achieve an enlightened state, Buddhists meditate, contemplate, study, and practice life according to rules, called precepts. These precepts include:
Refrain from untruth
Refrain from taking life
Refrain from taking that which is not yours
Refrain from intoxication
Refrain from sexual misconduct
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