Goddess Tara – Mother of Liberation

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Goddess Tara affectionately and honorably Worshiped by Mahayana Buddhists

Within Tibetan Buddhism Tārā is regarded as a bodhisattva of compassion and action. She is the female aspect of Avalokiteśvara and in some origin stories she comes from his tears:

“Then at last Avalokiteshvara arrived at the summit of Marpori, the ‘Red Hill’, in Lhasa. Gazing out, he perceived that the lake on Otang, the ‘Plain of Milk’, resembled the Hell of Ceaseless Torment. Myriad beings were undergoing the agonies of boiling, burning, hunger, thirst, yet they never perished, sending forth hideous cries of anguish all the while. When Avalokiteshvara saw this, tears sprang to his eyes. A teardrop from his right eye fell to the plain and became the reverend Bhrikuti, who declared: “Child of your lineage! As you are striving for the sake of sentient beings in the Land of Snows, intercede in their suffering, and I shall be your companion in this endeavour!” Bhrikuti was then reabsorbed into Avalokiteshvara’s right eye, and was reborn in a later life as the Nepalese princess Tritsun. A teardrop from his left eye fell upon the plain and became the reverend Tara. She also declared, “Child of your lineage! As you are striving for the sake of sentient beings in the Land of Snows, intercede in their suffering, and I shall be your companion in this endeavor!” Tārā was then reabsorbed into Avalokiteshvara’s left eye.”

Tārā manifests in many different forms. In Tibet, these forms included Green Tārā’s manifestation as the Nepalese Princess (Bhrikuti),[3] and White Tārā’s manifestation as the Chinese princess Kongjo (Princess Wencheng).[4]

Tārā is also known as a saviouress, as a heavenly deity who hears the cries of beings experiencing misery in saṃsāra.

Whether the Tārā figure originated as a Buddhist or Hindu goddess is unclear and remains a source of inquiry among scholars. Mallar Ghosh believes her to have originated as a form of the goddess Durga in the Hindu Puranas.[5] Today, she is worshiped both in Buddhism and in Shaktism (Hinduism) as one of the ten Mahavidyas. It may be true that goddesses entered Buddhism from Shaktism (i.e. the worship of local or folk goddesses prior to the more institutionalized Hinduism which had developed by the early medieval period (i.e. Middle kingdoms of India). According to Beyer, it would seem that the feminine principle makes its first appearance in Buddhism as the goddess who personified prajnaparamita.[6]

The Mantra of Tārā
OṀ TĀRE TUTTĀRE TURE SVAHĀ
in the Lañja variant of Ranjana and Tibetan alphabets.

Tārā came to be seen as an expression of the compassion of perfected wisdom only later, with her earliest textual reference being the Mañjuśrī-mūla-kalpa (c. 5th–8th centuries CE).[7] The earliest, solidly identifiable image of Tārā is most likely that which is still found today at cave 6 within the rock-cut Buddhist monastic complex of the Ellora Caves in Maharashtra (c. 7th century CE), with her worship being well established by the onset of the Pala Empire in Eastern India (8th century CE).[8]

Tārā became a very popular Vajrayana deity with the rise of Tantra in 8th-century Pala and, with the movement of Indian Buddhism into Tibet through Padmasambhava, the worship and practices of Tārā became incorporated into Tibetan Buddhism as well.[6][9] She eventually came to be considered the “Mother of all Buddhas,” which usually refers to the enlightened wisdom of the Buddhas, while simultaneously echoing the ancient concept of the Mother Goddess in India.

Independent of whether she is classified as a deity, a Buddha, or a bodhisattva, Tārā remains very popular in Tibet (and Tibetan communities in exile in Northern India), MongoliaNepalBhutan, Sikkim and is worshiped in a majority of Buddhist communities throughout the world (see also Guanyin, the female aspect of Avalokitesvara in Chinese Buddhism).

Today, Green Tara and White Tara are probably the most popular representations of Tara. Green Tara (Khadiravani) is usually associated with protection from fear and the following eight obscurations: lions (= pride), wild elephants (= delusion/ignorance), fires (= hatred and anger), snakes (= jealousy), bandits and thieves (= wrong views, including fanatical views), bondage (= avarice and miserliness), floods (= desire and attachment), and evil spirits and demons (= deluded doubts). As one of the three deities of long life, White Tara (Saraswati) is associated with longevity. White Tara counteracts illness and thereby helps to bring about a long life. She embodies the motivation that is compassion and is said to be as white and radiant as the moon.

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