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First Session: Thursday, May 26, 2005

A commentary on the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras, taught over three sessions at Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Singapore in May 2005, by Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup Rigsel. Translated by Venerable Tenzin Gyurme. Edited by Lobsang Drolkar. This book is available as an ebook from online vendors.

Praises: Introduction
First Session: Thursday, May 26, 2005
Second Session: Sunday, May 29, 2005 (morning)
Third Session: Sunday, May 29, 2005 (afternoon)
Praises: Appendices

At this time we have obtained this human life of leisures and opportunities that is difficult to find but once found has great meaning. At this time we have met with the perfectly qualified Mahayana guru who can show us the complete and unmistaken path, without any missing elements, i.e., he shows us a path that can lead us to the state of full enlightenment.

After having found such an opportunity, we need to take the essence from this life. The best way of taking the essence from this life is to make this life most meaningful. We need to strive to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

In order to achieve the state of full enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings, we must practise the vast and profound Mahayana teachings. But in the course of practising the Mahayana teachings to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, which is the path to enlightenment, sometimes we may meet with all sorts of hindrances and obstacles. There may be both outer and inner obstacles such as life obstacles and other problems. We need to pacify all these different kinds of obstacles in our quest for enlightenment.

We also need to gather all the favourable conditions in order to have success. In order to achieve this, we need to rely on the special meditational deities, someone to whom we can pray and make a wholehearted request for our wishes to be fulfilled, such as success in our Dharma practice and so forth.

The deity here is Tara. We should think, “In order to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, I am now going to listen to this commentary on the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras.”

In essence, the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras expresses the different qualities of Tara—the qualities of her holy body, holy speech and holy mind—and praises her by way of these twenty-one verses of homage. You should think, “It is for the purpose of achieving enlightenment that I am going to receive this commentary.” You should do so with a mind of faith. While receiving the teachings, you should feel very happy, delighted and enthusiastic.

Today I will offer a short explanation of the meaning of the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras, a prayer that I guess most of you know. This prayer contains twenty-one verses. Here you will find the twenty-one different aspects or forms of Tara, each holding different hand implements.

Tara is a deity whom all the holy beings of the past had relied upon. The great Indian masters of the past, such as Atisha, relied on Tara as a special deity. The great Kadampa masters of Tibet, Lama Tsongkhapa and all the lineage gurus relied on Tara. In short, when you look at all the holy beings of the four different traditions—Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyü and Gelug—they had relied on Tara as their special deity. They all received blessings and attainments just by doing the practice of Tara.

When we rely on Tara, whatever wishes we have will quickly be accomplished. We may wish to have success and all the favourable conditions for our Dharma practice. We may wish to pacify obstacles or, in relation to our worldly life, to have success in business. In short, whatever activities we need to engage in, when we make prayers to and rely on Tara, because of her enlightened activities, she will respond very fast and all our wishes will be quickly accomplished.

In general all the buddhas have the same level of realisations in terms of the obstructions that they have abandoned. In terms of their realisations, they are all the same. But there is a difference in the prayers that they made while they were on the path. Due to the special prayers that Tara made while practising on the path to enlightenment, if you were to rely on Tara by praying to her to accomplish whatever activities you do such as business, Dharma practice and so forth, it is said that our wishes will be granted more quickly. In fact, Tara is a deity whose practice is easier to do and you can get faster results.

Je tsün dröl ma” is translated in English as the noble liberator, Tara. Tara is a special deity and, just by thinking of her, seeing her form and reciting her mantra, not only will our temporal wishes be accomplished very quickly, it goes without saying that our negative karma accumulated over many eons will also be purified. Also by thinking of her, seeing her form and reciting her mantra, the potential is also placed in our mind for us to achieve the state of full enlightenment.

Whether we want to achieve our own purposes, or we want to achieve the purposes of other sentient beings, or whatever wishes we may have with regard to whatever activities we need to do, when we make heartfelt request with faith to Tara, whether it is a short-term goal or a long-term objective, they will succeed quickly.

Tara is unlike worldly gods. Worldly gods do not have this kind of power. Even if they have some power, they may benefit us temporarily but they may not help us continuously.

Tara is not like that because she is an infallible object of refuge. That means she will never cheat any sentient being. In terms of achieving short-term and long-term goals, she is the one we should rely on because her sole reason for her existence is to benefit sentient beings. From our side, when we make our requests with faith, without doubt, all our wishes will naturally be accomplished very quickly.

When we talk about the enlightened activities that the buddhas perform for sentient beings, they are effortless and spontaneous, i.e., they do not need to think about when to do them. So we should not have any doubts.

When we have doubts about Tara’s abilities, it will only become an obstacle for us to achieve our wishes especially since this practice is related to Mahayana tantra, the tantric teachings of the Buddha. The tantric teachings of the Buddha are accomplished through the power of faith and conviction. There is no reason to entertain any doubts. From our side, we should have the belief and conviction in Tara. It is said that by relying on Tara, our wishes will be accomplished very quickly. By thinking of these benefits, keeping them in our mind and remembering them all the time, we then rely on Tara.

When we rely on Tara in such a manner, whatever problems we may have, for example, when we are sick, she can pacify our sickness. When we are mentally unhappy, by praying to Tara, she will help us. Whatever goals we may have in terms of our Dharma practice, all the experiences and the realisations of the path that we want to generate, by relying on Tara, all of these will be accomplished. We should remind ourselves all the time by thinking, “I am going to rely on Tara, my special meditational deity, and I am going to accomplish this practice.”

So now we are going to look at the actual twenty-one verses of the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras. This commentary is divided into three parts:

1. The brief exposition of these praises
2. An extensive explanation of these praises
3. Showing the benefits of this practice

(The complete outline of the commentary can be found in the Appendix.)

1. The brief exposition of these praises

2. An extensive explanation of these praises

A. Praising Tara with reference to her legend

B. Praising Tara with reference to her aspects

1) Praising Tara with reference to her sambhogakaya aspect (complete enjoyment body)

a. Praising Tara with reference to her peaceful aspect

i. Praising Tara with reference to the brilliance of her holy face and the mass of light blazing from her holy body
ii. Praising Tara with reference to the colour of her holy body, the implements she is holding and the causes that bring about the attainment of the state of Tara
iii. Praising Tara with reference to the respect that is shown to her by all the buddhas and bodhisattvas
iv. Praising Tara with reference to how she overcomes all opposing factors
v. Praising Tara with reference to how even the great worldly gods worship her
vi. Praising Tara with reference to how she destroys all opponents

b. Praising Tara with reference to her wrathful aspect

2) Praising Tara with reference to her dharmakaya aspect (truth body)

C. Praising Tara with reference to her enlightened activities

The brief exposition of these praises

OM JE TSÜN MA PHAG MA DRÖL MA LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO
Om Homage to the Venerable Arya Tara.

The brief exposition of these praises specifically refers to “Om Homage to the Venerable Arya Tara.” This line is expressing the quality of Tara.

  • The first syllable, “OM,” is made up of three parts: A, U, M. These three elements make up the syllable OM. OM represents the holy body, holy speech and holy mind of the object of one’s prostration; in this case, Tara.
  • Je tsün”: “Je” refers to the fact that she is the supreme mother of all the buddhas. “Tsün” is usually translated as venerable or noble. She is the noble one because she possesses the three classes of vows. They are:
    • 1. the individual liberation vows (or the pratimoksha vows)
    • 2. the bodhisattva vows
    • 3. the tantric vows
  • She is an Arya (or superior being) because she does not abide in the extremes of samsara and nirvana. That means she is free from both the extreme of cyclic existence and the extreme of nirvana. Therefore she is called an Arya.

This line is sometimes translated as, “OM I prostrate to the noble transcendent liberator.”

  • Tara is the liberator because she saves all sentient beings from suffering.
  • When we say, “I prostrate,” it means to pay homage with one’s body, speech and mind. The Tibetan word for prostration is “chhag tshäl.” When we investigate the meaning of these two words individually:
    • 1. “chhag” refers to getting rid of all the faults in one’s mental continuum.
    • 2. “tshäl” refers to beseeching her to bestow realisations upon oneself.

In essence, the first line is saying, “I am prostrating to the one who is the supreme mother of the victors; who is in the nature of the holy body, holy speech and holy mind of all the buddhas.” Thinking how Tara is the same as all the buddhas and how her enlightened activities in benefiting sentient beings are faster and quicker than the other buddhas, you prostrate to Tara who possesses all these qualities.

On the basis of remembering the qualities of Tara’s holy body, holy speech and holy mind, and her enlightened activities with her perfect compassion and perfect power, we go for refuge in and rely on Tara wholeheartedly. When we can do this in our mind all the time, that would be wonderful.

We have now covered the first part of the commentary: the brief exposition of these praises.

An extensive explanation of these praises

Now is the second part of the commentary: an extensive explanation of these praises. This is divided into three parts:

A. Praising Tara with reference to her legend

B. Praising Tara with reference to her aspects

C. Praising Tara with reference to her enlightened activities

~Verse 1~

A. Praising Tara with reference to her legend

CHHAG TSHÄL DRÖL MA NYUR MA PA MO
CHÄN NI KÄ CHIG LOG DANG DRA MA
JIG TEN SUM GÖN CHHU KYE ZHÄL GYI
GE SAR JE WA LÄ NI JUNG MA

Homage to you, Tara, the swift heroine,
Whose eyes are like the instant flash of lightning,
Whose water-born face arises from the blooming lotus
Of Avalokiteshvara, protector of the three worlds.

“Homage to you, Tara, the swift heroine”: to whom are we prostrating? We are prostrating to the liberator, Mother Tara. Why is she called the liberator? This is because she takes sentient beings out from cyclic existence.

In this verse, Tara is known as “Tara, the swift heroine.” Here, “swift” is used because her enlightened activities in benefiting sentient beings are faster and quicker than all the other buddhas. Therefore she is known as “the swift heroine.” “Heroine” means she destroys the host of maras without leaving any behind.

“Whose eyes are like the instant flash of lightning”: the “eyes” here refer to the wisdom eyes. Her wisdom eyes are likened to an instant flash of lightning. They are as fast and as quick as a flash of lightning because she sees each and every object of knowledge in an instant, i.e., she comprehends all phenomena instantly. Therefore her “eyes are like the instant flash of lightning.”

Next we go to the last line, “Of Avalokiteshvara, protector of the three worlds.” The three worlds are:

1. the world of nagas
2. the human world
3. the world of the gods

It is Avalokiteshvara who is the “protector of the three worlds.”

Now back to the third line, “Whose water-born face arises from the blooming lotus”: the “Whose” here refers to Tara. This line refers to the origins of Tara, the legend of how Tara came about. It is said that a long time ago, after Avalokiteshvara had achieved enlightenment, every day he was able to liberate countless sentient beings from cyclic existence, leading them from happiness to happiness, to liberation and to enlightenment.

After having worked for sentient beings in such a way every day for many eons, he decided to investigate with his omniscient mind and see how many sentient beings were still left behind. From his investigation, he realised that there were still so many sentient beings left. He became discouraged, saying, “I am not benefiting sentient beings. I still cannot benefit all these sentient beings.” He began to cry and tears fell from his holy eyes. The tears fell on the soil and a tear became a lotus. The lotus bloomed and inside the lotus was Tara.

Tara said to Avalokiteshvara, “Please don’t worry. I will help you in your quest to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment.” Tara made this promise. This verse is praising Tara by referring to the legend of how she came about.

When Tara was training on the path, before she became a buddha, she entered the path by first generating bodhicitta, the altruistic intention to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings, in the presence of many buddhas. At that time she was known as Yeshe Dawa.

The soon-to-be Tara generated bodhicitta in the presence of a buddha named the Tathagata Sound of the Drum. She made many offerings to this buddha and finally generated bodhicitta. After having generated bodhicitta, she entered into meditative equipoise for a very long time and she finally attained a special kind of patience or forbearance that was able to withstand all the unfavourable conditions and circumstances.

She continued to practise and one day she achieved the concentration called the concentration that liberates migrating sentient beings. After achieving this particular concentration, in just a single morning, she was able to lead countless numbers of sentient beings to the Dharma. She continued to engage in these activities of liberating sentient beings and she finally got the name, the “liberator.” This is how she got this name, the “liberator” or Tara.

With her special concentration, she was able to subdue the host of maras and all sorts of different gods such as Ishvara, Shiva and so forth for a very long time. Doing that for a long time, she got the name, “the swift heroine.”

Through practising for a long time she achieved the six perfections and finally she achieved enlightenment. At the time of her enlightenment many buddhas gave her empowerments. From that time on she was called the mother of all the buddhas.

Now you know how Tara came about. According to legend, Tara was born from the tear of Avalokiteshvara. When Tara emerged from the lotus, she said, “I will help you to free all sentient beings.” Tara said, “Just by reciting my name, reciting my mantra and remembering me, you will purify all obscurations, you will be quickly freed from all fears and from the different kinds of suffering and you will quickly find yourself out of cyclic existence.”

By relying on Tara, one’s lifespan will also be increased. So if you want a long life, you should rely on Tara. There are many accounts of past holy masters who initially had very short lives and somehow, just by relying on Tara, by practising Tara, they gained visions of Tara and were able to live for a very long time. There are many accounts of such holy beings extending their lifespan through the practice of Tara.

As I mentioned before, the great Indian masters of the past had relied on Tara. When we look at the earlier masters in Tibet and the great Kadampa masters, all of them relied on Tara. The great Lama Tsongkhapa and all the holders of his lineage up to this day rely on Tara as their special meditational deity.

The great Kadampa master Dromtönpa had a vision of Tara who made the promise, “I will personally support and help all future followers of your Kadampa tradition.” Since we are the followers of Lama Tsongkhapa who is part of this earlier Kadampa tradition, we are the objects of that promise. When we rely on Tara with wholehearted faith and conviction, we will experience her enlightened activities quickly. This is a short explanation of the origins of Tara.

B. Praising Tara with reference to her aspects

This section, praising Tara with reference to her aspects, is divided into two main sections: (1) praising Tara with reference to her sambhogakaya aspect (complete enjoyment body) and (2) praising Tara with reference to her dharmakaya aspect (truth body).

Praising Tara with reference to her sambhogakaya aspect is further divided into two sections: (a.) praising Tara with reference to her peaceful aspect and (b.) praising Tara with reference to her wrathful aspect.

1) Praising Tara with reference to her sambhogakaya aspect (complete enjoyment body)

a. Praising Tara with reference to her peaceful aspect

Praising Tara with reference to her peaceful aspect has six parts, the first of which is:

~Verse 2~

i. Praising Tara with reference to the brilliance of her holy face and the mass of light blazing from her holy body

CHHAG TSHÄL TÖN KÄI DA WA KÜN TU
GANG WA GYA NI TSEG PÄI ZHÄL MA
KAR MA TONG THRAG TSHOG PA NAM KYI
RAB TU CHHE WÄI Ö RAB BAR MA

Homage to you, Tara, whose face is like
One hundred full autumn moons gathered together,
Blazing with the expanding light
Of a thousand stars assembled.

“Homage to you, Tara”: whom are we prostrating to now? We are prostrating to Tara whose holy face is like “one hundred full autumn moons gathered together.” An autumn moon is very white, beautiful and round like the full moon that is not obscured by clouds. Furthermore the brilliance of her holy face is not just like one moon but like one hundred of such beautiful perfect moons. Her holy face is as bright as if it is “blazing with the expanding light of a thousand stars assembled” together. So we are prostrating to someone who has such a beautiful face.

Tara possesses this kind of brilliance and splendour. Anyone who looks at Tara with her beautiful body will agree that she is splendid and brilliant. Her aspect is so peaceful and calming. Just by thinking of these aspects of Tara and looking at her, all the negative emotions, such as attachment and anger in our mind, will be pacified naturally. We should try to visualise the aspects mentioned in this verse and make requests to Tara. We then visualise that we receive Tara’s blessings.

When we can practise in this way, we will get the benefits of increasing our lifespan and our merit, purifying our negative karma and obscurations and so forth.

How did Tara get such a beautiful, pleasant face and perfect body? It is through practising patience for the benefit of sentient beings and practising morality for many eons. When we practise like Tara, i.e., practise patience for the benefit of sentient beings uninterruptedly and observe the practice of morality, then even while we are training on the path, we too will get a beautiful radiant body. At the time of the result, we will get a beautiful perfect body like Tara.

~Verse 3~

ii. Praising Tara with reference to the colour of her holy body, the implements she is holding and the causes that bring about the attainment of the state of Tara

CHHAG TSHÄL SER NGO CHHU NÄ KYE KYI
PÄ MÄ CHHAG NI NAM PAR GYÄN MA
JIN PA TSON DRÜ KA THUB ZHI WA
ZÖ PA SAM TÄN CHÖ YÜL NYI MA

Homage to you,
Tara, born from a golden-blue lotus,
Whose hands are beautifully adorned with lotus flowers,
You who are the embodiment of giving, joyous effort, asceticism,
Pacification, patience, concentration and all objects of practice.

We are now talking about the twenty-one different aspects of Tara. You need to try and remember this.

“Homage to you, Tara, born from a golden-blue lotus”: this particular Tara’s holy body is golden in colour with a bluish hue. Her body is likened to the gold of the River Tsambu that is said to be very clear, refined and pleasant to look at. You meditate on this Tara with this verse.

“Whose hands are beautifully adorned with lotus flowers”: her hands are adorned with water-born lotuses. In her left hand, she holds a lotus stem with her thumb and her ring finger. The lotus blooms beside her left ear. Within the fully opened lotus, there is a half-opened lotus and a bud. These symbolise the buddhas of the three times (the past, present and future). The lotus that Tara is holding in her hand is not like the lotus that we find in this world. It is the manifestation of her wisdom.

This verse is praising Tara by referring to the colour of her holy body, i.e., golden in colour with a slight blue tint and the implement she is holding, i.e., a lotus.

Now we refer to the causes that bring about the attainment of the state of Tara (or Tara-hood). The causes are practising the six perfections mentioned in the praise: giving, joyous effort (or perseverance), asceticism (or the practice of morality), the practice of wisdom, the practice of patience and the practice of concentration. Tara trained in these six perfections over a very long period of time. Finally she perfected them and attained enlightenment.

The state of Tara therefore came about through the practice of the six perfections.

Tara became enlightened through the practice that involved the union of both method and wisdom. Method here refers to the practice of great compassion and bodhicitta. Wisdom refers to the wisdom realising emptiness. With the union of method and wisdom, she practised the six perfections and attained enlightenment.

What does this mean for us? This means that if we want to become like Tara, we need to train in these six perfections and engage in the path that involves the union of both method and wisdom, i.e., great compassion and bodhicitta, combined with the wisdom realising emptiness. When we practise the six perfections, conjoined with both method and wisdom, before long, we too will also achieve the state of full enlightenment. Without practising these six perfections, there is no way we can become like Tara.

The practice of generosity does not necessarily depend on having something to give. Generosity here refers to a state of mind, the willingness to give. The practice of generosity is increasing the willingness of the mind that wants to give. When we talk about giving, we develop the wish to increase that state of mind such that we can give our body, our possessions and our roots of virtue to all sentient beings. Even if you have a lot of possessions, but when you give, you do not have this willingness or desire to give, this is not the practice of generosity.

Joyous effort or perseverance is cultivated with the welfare of others in mind. Joyous perseverance is the mind that is enthusiastic about virtue, a mind that is enthusiastic about Dharma, a mind that is enthusiastic about helping other sentient beings and engaging in the activities of listening to, reflecting and meditating enthusiastically on the Dharma with the motivation of achieving enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Anything that you do enthusiastically with the motivation of achieving enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings is the practice of joyous perseverance.

What is morality or ethics? Ethics refers to the mind of protection. It is not just referring to the mind that wants to abstain from negative actions such as the ten non-virtuous actions. It is not limited to that. Here we are talking about the Mahayana practice of ethics that has two major elements:

1. Refraining from following one’s self-interest, i.e., stopping self-cherishing
2. Protecting one’s mind from following after the thought that grasps at phenomena to be truly existent

When we practise in such a way, then our practice of morality will be stainless and become the Mahayana practice of ethics.

There is no need for me to say much about the remaining perfections, the practice of patience, concentration and wisdom, as most of you have studied the Dharma and know what these are.

~Verse 4~

iii. Praising Tara with reference to the respect that is shown to her by all the buddhas and bodhisattvas

CHHAG TSHÄL DE ZHIN SHEG PÄI TSUG TOR
THA YÄ NAM PAR GYÄL WAR CHÖ MA
MA LÜ PHA RÖL CHHIN PA THOB PÄI
GYÄL WÄI SÄ KYI SHIN TU TEN MA

Homage to you, Tara, the crown pinnacle of those thus gone,
Whose deeds overcome infinite evils,
Who have attained transcendent perfections without exception,
And upon whom the sons of the Victorious Ones rely.

Who are we prostrating to now? We are prostrating to Tara who is the victorious crown pinnacle of the buddhas because she is the mother of the victorious ones. This Tara abides in the manner of being completely victorious over all disharmonious or unfavourable conditions and all opposing forces.

This Tara also abides in the manner of having abandoned the two obstructions, the afflictions and their imprints. She has “attained the transcendent perfections without exception,/ And upon whom the sons of the Victorious Ones rely,” in the sense that the victorious ones who have completed the ten perfections rely on Tara.

There are ten grounds on the path to enlightenment. The bodhisattva on each ground attains a particular perfection, starting from the perfection of generosity on the first ground. Each ground has a particular perfection. When a bodhisattva arrives at the tenth ground, that bodhisattva has attained the ten perfections. It is said that all the different bodhisattvas abiding on the different grounds respectfully rely on Tara. This is the explanation of the last two lines of this verse, “Who have attained transcendent perfections without exceptions,/And upon whom the sons of the Victorious Ones rely.”

When Tara is the object of prostration and homage of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, it goes without saying that we sentient beings must pay attention to this. We need to remember how Tara is different from all the buddhas in the sense that her enlightened activities are quicker and faster. We should pay attention to this while respectfully paying homage and respect to Tara.

~Verse 5~

iv. Praising Tara with reference to how she overcomes all opposing factors

CHHAG TSHÄL TUTTARA HUM YI GE
DÖ DANG CHHOG DANG NAM KHA GANG MA
JIG TEN DÜN PO ZHAB KYI NÄN TE
LÜ PA ME PAR GUG PAR NÜ MA

Homage to you, Tara, who with the letters TUTTARA and HUM
Fill the (realms of) desire, direction and space,
Whose feet trample on the seven worlds,
And who are able to draw all beings to you.

We are now paying homage to “Tara, who with the letters TUTTARA and HUM”: “TUTTARA” refers to the mantra garland OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVAHA that is encircling her heart. The syllable HUM which is the physical form of the realisation of compassion and wisdom in her holy mind is at her heart.

She fills the entire cyclic existence of “desire, direction and space” with the resonating sound from the syllable Hum together with the light emitted from the mantra garland OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVAHA at her heart:

  • “Desire” refers to the desire realms that are made up of the five types of migrators: the hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans and the gods.
  • “Direction” refers to the form realms.
  • “Space” refers to the formless realms.

Not only does Tara fill the seven realms with the sound from the syllable HUM and the light from the mantra garland, she also tramples on the seven worlds with her holy feet to control effortlessly all the beings in these realms.

Now we know how Tara fills the entire samsara with the light rays emitted from her mantra garland. The sound from the syllable HUM at her heart resonates throughout samsara as well. Therefore she is able to hook and control all sentient beings for their benefit. Tara is working for us all the time. The light rays from her mantra garland are constantly shining on us and the sound from the syllable Hum at her heart is resonating and filling the whole world even though we do not hear it. When we keep this in mind and have faith and belief in this, then Tara is always with us, working for us.

~Verse 6~

v. Praising Tara with reference to how even the great worldly gods worship her

CHHAG TSHÄL GYA JIN ME LHA TSHANG PA
LUNG LHA NA TSHOG WANG CHHUG CHHÖ MA
JUNG PO RO LANG DRI ZA NAM DANG
NÖ JIN TSHOG KYI DÜN NÄ TÖ MA

Homage to you, Tara, venerated by Indra,
Agni, Brahma, Vayu and Ishvara,
And praised by the assembly of spirits, raised corpses,
Gandharvas and all yakshas.

These are the names of the worldly gods: Indra, Agni, Brahma, Vayu and Ishvara. They are called the ten directional protectors, i.e., they are the protectors of the four cardinal directions, protectors of the intermediate directions and the protectors of the above and below. For example, Indra is the worldly protector of the eastern direction, Agni (or the fire-god) is the worldly protector of the southeastern direction, Brahma is the worldly protector of the above and the wind-god is the worldly protector of the northwestern direction. Then there is the lord of death, all the different nagas and so forth and the powerful Shiva. Even all these worldly protectors and gods pay homage to and venerate Tara.

The hosts of different classes of spirits also venerate and pay respect to Tara: such as Wangden, surrounded by his entourage of spirits; the worldly cannibal god, Shinpo with his entourage of raised corpses or zombies; Indra with his retinue of smell-eaters; and Shiva with his entourage of harm-givers.

When we have the faith of conviction and belief in Tara, we will not be harmed by humans and non-humans of the different classes of spirits. Why? Because they all venerate and take refuge in Tara.

It is the same as having a statue of Tara at home. We will receive the same kind of benefit. What we need is the faith of conviction and belief. When we don’t have faith and, on top of that, we do not live an ethical life, not keeping our vows, we will not receive the benefit. When we live an ethical life and we have the faith of conviction and belief in Tara, there is no way we can be harmed by all these different kinds of spirits.

~Verse 7~

vi. Praising Tara with reference to how she destroys all opponents

CHHAG TSHÄL TRAD CHE JA DANG
PHAT KYI PHA RÖL THRÜL KHOR RAB TU JOM MA
YÄ KUM YÖN KYANG ZHAB KYI NÄN TE
ME BAR THRUG PA SHIN TU BAR MA

Homage to you, Tara, whose TRAD and PHAT
Destroy entirely the magical wheels of others.
With your right leg bent and left outstretched and pressing,
You burn intensely within a whirl of fire.

“Homage to you, Tara, whose TRAD and PHAT”: with these two syllables, TRAD and PHAT, Tara is able to overcome all the different kinds of black magic. For example, just by uttering PHAT from her holy mouth, she is able to liberate and destroy all black magic and opposing forces.

Just by uttering these two syllables, TRAD and PHAT, she is able to destroy instantly “the magical wheels of others,” i.e., all the black magic, curses, evil intentions and so forth directed against you.

She is sitting with her right leg bent and left leg outstretched. This symbolises both method and wisdom. With her two legs, she suppresses all the black magic and curses that people have directed against you and with the raging fire emanated from her holy body, she burns up the black magic and curses till not even an atom of them remains. Her manner of sitting with her right leg bent and left leg outstretched is a peaceful posture. But even though this is considered to be a peaceful aspect, she is slightly wrathful as she is sitting “within a whirl of fire.”

When we find that our body and mind are affected by some supernatural forces such as black magic, or our house is “tainted” in some way, what we need to do is to visualise Tara in this slightly wrathful aspect sitting within a whirl of fire, and pray to and request her to pacify all these harms. Imagine Tara uttering the syllables TRAD and PHAT. By just uttering these syllables, she subdues all these supernatural harms. Then visualise that the fire emanated from her holy body comes into oneself and rages through the entire environment, completely pacifying and destroying all these harms. You can visualise that they all dissolve into Tara. The benefit of doing this is that you pacify all these obstacles and harms and, at the same time, transform the minds of these harm-givers with love and compassion. It is good to remember this.

We should always have faith in her and always make requests and pray to Tara by seeing her as inseparable from one’s own root guru. When we do this with faith, whatever wishes we have will be accomplished naturally. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished when we do this.

 

A commentary on the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras, taught over three sessions at Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Singapore in May 2005, by Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup Rigsel. Translated by Venerable Tenzin Gyurme. Edited by Lobsang Drolkar. This book is available as an ebook from online vendors.

Praises: Introduction
First Session: Thursday, May 26, 2005
Second Session: Sunday, May 29, 2005 (morning)
Third Session: Sunday, May 29, 2005 (afternoon)
Praises: Appendices

At this time we have obtained this human life of leisures and opportunities that is difficult to find but once found has great meaning. At this time we have met with the perfectly qualified Mahayana guru who can show us the complete and unmistaken path, without any missing elements, i.e., he shows us a path that can lead us to the state of full enlightenment.

After having found such an opportunity, we need to take the essence from this life. The best way of taking the essence from this life is to make this life most meaningful. We need to strive to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

In order to achieve the state of full enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings, we must practise the vast and profound Mahayana teachings. But in the course of practising the Mahayana teachings to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, which is the path to enlightenment, sometimes we may meet with all sorts of hindrances and obstacles. There may be both outer and inner obstacles such as life obstacles and other problems. We need to pacify all these different kinds of obstacles in our quest for enlightenment.

We also need to gather all the favourable conditions in order to have success. In order to achieve this, we need to rely on the special meditational deities, someone to whom we can pray and make a wholehearted request for our wishes to be fulfilled, such as success in our Dharma practice and so forth.

The deity here is Tara. We should think, “In order to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, I am now going to listen to this commentary on the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras.”

In essence, the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras expresses the different qualities of Tara—the qualities of her holy body, holy speech and holy mind—and praises her by way of these twenty-one verses of homage. You should think, “It is for the purpose of achieving enlightenment that I am going to receive this commentary.” You should do so with a mind of faith. While receiving the teachings, you should feel very happy, delighted and enthusiastic.

Today I will offer a short explanation of the meaning of the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras, a prayer that I guess most of you know. This prayer contains twenty-one verses. Here you will find the twenty-one different aspects or forms of Tara, each holding different hand implements.

Tara is a deity whom all the holy beings of the past had relied upon. The great Indian masters of the past, such as Atisha, relied on Tara as a special deity. The great Kadampa masters of Tibet, Lama Tsongkhapa and all the lineage gurus relied on Tara. In short, when you look at all the holy beings of the four different traditions—Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyü and Gelug—they had relied on Tara as their special deity. They all received blessings and attainments just by doing the practice of Tara.

When we rely on Tara, whatever wishes we have will quickly be accomplished. We may wish to have success and all the favourable conditions for our Dharma practice. We may wish to pacify obstacles or, in relation to our worldly life, to have success in business. In short, whatever activities we need to engage in, when we make prayers to and rely on Tara, because of her enlightened activities, she will respond very fast and all our wishes will be quickly accomplished.

In general all the buddhas have the same level of realisations in terms of the obstructions that they have abandoned. In terms of their realisations, they are all the same. But there is a difference in the prayers that they made while they were on the path. Due to the special prayers that Tara made while practising on the path to enlightenment, if you were to rely on Tara by praying to her to accomplish whatever activities you do such as business, Dharma practice and so forth, it is said that our wishes will be granted more quickly. In fact, Tara is a deity whose practice is easier to do and you can get faster results.

Je tsün dröl ma” is translated in English as the noble liberator, Tara. Tara is a special deity and, just by thinking of her, seeing her form and reciting her mantra, not only will our temporal wishes be accomplished very quickly, it goes without saying that our negative karma accumulated over many eons will also be purified. Also by thinking of her, seeing her form and reciting her mantra, the potential is also placed in our mind for us to achieve the state of full enlightenment.

Whether we want to achieve our own purposes, or we want to achieve the purposes of other sentient beings, or whatever wishes we may have with regard to whatever activities we need to do, when we make heartfelt request with faith to Tara, whether it is a short-term goal or a long-term objective, they will succeed quickly.

Tara is unlike worldly gods. Worldly gods do not have this kind of power. Even if they have some power, they may benefit us temporarily but they may not help us continuously.

Tara is not like that because she is an infallible object of refuge. That means she will never cheat any sentient being. In terms of achieving short-term and long-term goals, she is the one we should rely on because her sole reason for her existence is to benefit sentient beings. From our side, when we make our requests with faith, without doubt, all our wishes will naturally be accomplished very quickly.

When we talk about the enlightened activities that the buddhas perform for sentient beings, they are effortless and spontaneous, i.e., they do not need to think about when to do them. So we should not have any doubts.

When we have doubts about Tara’s abilities, it will only become an obstacle for us to achieve our wishes especially since this practice is related to Mahayana tantra, the tantric teachings of the Buddha. The tantric teachings of the Buddha are accomplished through the power of faith and conviction. There is no reason to entertain any doubts. From our side, we should have the belief and conviction in Tara. It is said that by relying on Tara, our wishes will be accomplished very quickly. By thinking of these benefits, keeping them in our mind and remembering them all the time, we then rely on Tara.

When we rely on Tara in such a manner, whatever problems we may have, for example, when we are sick, she can pacify our sickness. When we are mentally unhappy, by praying to Tara, she will help us. Whatever goals we may have in terms of our Dharma practice, all the experiences and the realisations of the path that we want to generate, by relying on Tara, all of these will be accomplished. We should remind ourselves all the time by thinking, “I am going to rely on Tara, my special meditational deity, and I am going to accomplish this practice.”

So now we are going to look at the actual twenty-one verses of the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras. This commentary is divided into three parts:

1. The brief exposition of these praises
2. An extensive explanation of these praises
3. Showing the benefits of this practice

(The complete outline of the commentary can be found in the Appendix.)

1. The brief exposition of these praises

2. An extensive explanation of these praises

A. Praising Tara with reference to her legend

B. Praising Tara with reference to her aspects

1) Praising Tara with reference to her sambhogakaya aspect (complete enjoyment body)

a. Praising Tara with reference to her peaceful aspect

i. Praising Tara with reference to the brilliance of her holy face and the mass of light blazing from her holy body
ii. Praising Tara with reference to the colour of her holy body, the implements she is holding and the causes that bring about the attainment of the state of Tara
iii. Praising Tara with reference to the respect that is shown to her by all the buddhas and bodhisattvas
iv. Praising Tara with reference to how she overcomes all opposing factors
v. Praising Tara with reference to how even the great worldly gods worship her
vi. Praising Tara with reference to how she destroys all opponents

b. Praising Tara with reference to her wrathful aspect

2) Praising Tara with reference to her dharmakaya aspect (truth body)

C. Praising Tara with reference to her enlightened activities

The brief exposition of these praises

OM JE TSÜN MA PHAG MA DRÖL MA LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO
Om Homage to the Venerable Arya Tara.

The brief exposition of these praises specifically refers to “Om Homage to the Venerable Arya Tara.” This line is expressing the quality of Tara.

  • The first syllable, “OM,” is made up of three parts: A, U, M. These three elements make up the syllable OM. OM represents the holy body, holy speech and holy mind of the object of one’s prostration; in this case, Tara.
  • Je tsün”: “Je” refers to the fact that she is the supreme mother of all the buddhas. “Tsün” is usually translated as venerable or noble. She is the noble one because she possesses the three classes of vows. They are:
    • 1. the individual liberation vows (or the pratimoksha vows)
    • 2. the bodhisattva vows
    • 3. the tantric vows
  • She is an Arya (or superior being) because she does not abide in the extremes of samsara and nirvana. That means she is free from both the extreme of cyclic existence and the extreme of nirvana. Therefore she is called an Arya.

This line is sometimes translated as, “OM I prostrate to the noble transcendent liberator.”

  • Tara is the liberator because she saves all sentient beings from suffering.
  • When we say, “I prostrate,” it means to pay homage with one’s body, speech and mind. The Tibetan word for prostration is “chhag tshäl.” When we investigate the meaning of these two words individually:
    • 1. “chhag” refers to getting rid of all the faults in one’s mental continuum.
    • 2. “tshäl” refers to beseeching her to bestow realisations upon oneself.

In essence, the first line is saying, “I am prostrating to the one who is the supreme mother of the victors; who is in the nature of the holy body, holy speech and holy mind of all the buddhas.” Thinking how Tara is the same as all the buddhas and how her enlightened activities in benefiting sentient beings are faster and quicker than the other buddhas, you prostrate to Tara who possesses all these qualities.

On the basis of remembering the qualities of Tara’s holy body, holy speech and holy mind, and her enlightened activities with her perfect compassion and perfect power, we go for refuge in and rely on Tara wholeheartedly. When we can do this in our mind all the time, that would be wonderful.

We have now covered the first part of the commentary: the brief exposition of these praises.

An extensive explanation of these praises

Now is the second part of the commentary: an extensive explanation of these praises. This is divided into three parts:

A. Praising Tara with reference to her legend

B. Praising Tara with reference to her aspects

C. Praising Tara with reference to her enlightened activities

~Verse 1~

A. Praising Tara with reference to her legend

CHHAG TSHÄL DRÖL MA NYUR MA PA MO
CHÄN NI KÄ CHIG LOG DANG DRA MA
JIG TEN SUM GÖN CHHU KYE ZHÄL GYI
GE SAR JE WA LÄ NI JUNG MA

Homage to you, Tara, the swift heroine,
Whose eyes are like the instant flash of lightning,
Whose water-born face arises from the blooming lotus
Of Avalokiteshvara, protector of the three worlds.

“Homage to you, Tara, the swift heroine”: to whom are we prostrating? We are prostrating to the liberator, Mother Tara. Why is she called the liberator? This is because she takes sentient beings out from cyclic existence.

In this verse, Tara is known as “Tara, the swift heroine.” Here, “swift” is used because her enlightened activities in benefiting sentient beings are faster and quicker than all the other buddhas. Therefore she is known as “the swift heroine.” “Heroine” means she destroys the host of maras without leaving any behind.

“Whose eyes are like the instant flash of lightning”: the “eyes” here refer to the wisdom eyes. Her wisdom eyes are likened to an instant flash of lightning. They are as fast and as quick as a flash of lightning because she sees each and every object of knowledge in an instant, i.e., she comprehends all phenomena instantly. Therefore her “eyes are like the instant flash of lightning.”

Next we go to the last line, “Of Avalokiteshvara, protector of the three worlds.” The three worlds are:

1. the world of nagas
2. the human world
3. the world of the gods

It is Avalokiteshvara who is the “protector of the three worlds.”

Now back to the third line, “Whose water-born face arises from the blooming lotus”: the “Whose” here refers to Tara. This line refers to the origins of Tara, the legend of how Tara came about. It is said that a long time ago, after Avalokiteshvara had achieved enlightenment, every day he was able to liberate countless sentient beings from cyclic existence, leading them from happiness to happiness, to liberation and to enlightenment.

After having worked for sentient beings in such a way every day for many eons, he decided to investigate with his omniscient mind and see how many sentient beings were still left behind. From his investigation, he realised that there were still so many sentient beings left. He became discouraged, saying, “I am not benefiting sentient beings. I still cannot benefit all these sentient beings.” He began to cry and tears fell from his holy eyes. The tears fell on the soil and a tear became a lotus. The lotus bloomed and inside the lotus was Tara.

Tara said to Avalokiteshvara, “Please don’t worry. I will help you in your quest to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment.” Tara made this promise. This verse is praising Tara by referring to the legend of how she came about.

When Tara was training on the path, before she became a buddha, she entered the path by first generating bodhicitta, the altruistic intention to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings, in the presence of many buddhas. At that time she was known as Yeshe Dawa.

The soon-to-be Tara generated bodhicitta in the presence of a buddha named the Tathagata Sound of the Drum. She made many offerings to this buddha and finally generated bodhicitta. After having generated bodhicitta, she entered into meditative equipoise for a very long time and she finally attained a special kind of patience or forbearance that was able to withstand all the unfavourable conditions and circumstances.

She continued to practise and one day she achieved the concentration called the concentration that liberates migrating sentient beings. After achieving this particular concentration, in just a single morning, she was able to lead countless numbers of sentient beings to the Dharma. She continued to engage in these activities of liberating sentient beings and she finally got the name, the “liberator.” This is how she got this name, the “liberator” or Tara.

With her special concentration, she was able to subdue the host of maras and all sorts of different gods such as Ishvara, Shiva and so forth for a very long time. Doing that for a long time, she got the name, “the swift heroine.”

Through practising for a long time she achieved the six perfections and finally she achieved enlightenment. At the time of her enlightenment many buddhas gave her empowerments. From that time on she was called the mother of all the buddhas.

Now you know how Tara came about. According to legend, Tara was born from the tear of Avalokiteshvara. When Tara emerged from the lotus, she said, “I will help you to free all sentient beings.” Tara said, “Just by reciting my name, reciting my mantra and remembering me, you will purify all obscurations, you will be quickly freed from all fears and from the different kinds of suffering and you will quickly find yourself out of cyclic existence.”

By relying on Tara, one’s lifespan will also be increased. So if you want a long life, you should rely on Tara. There are many accounts of past holy masters who initially had very short lives and somehow, just by relying on Tara, by practising Tara, they gained visions of Tara and were able to live for a very long time. There are many accounts of such holy beings extending their lifespan through the practice of Tara.

As I mentioned before, the great Indian masters of the past had relied on Tara. When we look at the earlier masters in Tibet and the great Kadampa masters, all of them relied on Tara. The great Lama Tsongkhapa and all the holders of his lineage up to this day rely on Tara as their special meditational deity.

The great Kadampa master Dromtönpa had a vision of Tara who made the promise, “I will personally support and help all future followers of your Kadampa tradition.” Since we are the followers of Lama Tsongkhapa who is part of this earlier Kadampa tradition, we are the objects of that promise. When we rely on Tara with wholehearted faith and conviction, we will experience her enlightened activities quickly. This is a short explanation of the origins of Tara.

B. Praising Tara with reference to her aspects

This section, praising Tara with reference to her aspects, is divided into two main sections: (1) praising Tara with reference to her sambhogakaya aspect (complete enjoyment body) and (2) praising Tara with reference to her dharmakaya aspect (truth body).

Praising Tara with reference to her sambhogakaya aspect is further divided into two sections: (a.) praising Tara with reference to her peaceful aspect and (b.) praising Tara with reference to her wrathful aspect.

1) Praising Tara with reference to her sambhogakaya aspect (complete enjoyment body)

a. Praising Tara with reference to her peaceful aspect

Praising Tara with reference to her peaceful aspect has six parts, the first of which is:

~Verse 2~

i. Praising Tara with reference to the brilliance of her holy face and the mass of light blazing from her holy body

CHHAG TSHÄL TÖN KÄI DA WA KÜN TU
GANG WA GYA NI TSEG PÄI ZHÄL MA
KAR MA TONG THRAG TSHOG PA NAM KYI
RAB TU CHHE WÄI Ö RAB BAR MA

Homage to you, Tara, whose face is like
One hundred full autumn moons gathered together,
Blazing with the expanding light
Of a thousand stars assembled.

“Homage to you, Tara”: whom are we prostrating to now? We are prostrating to Tara whose holy face is like “one hundred full autumn moons gathered together.” An autumn moon is very white, beautiful and round like the full moon that is not obscured by clouds. Furthermore the brilliance of her holy face is not just like one moon but like one hundred of such beautiful perfect moons. Her holy face is as bright as if it is “blazing with the expanding light of a thousand stars assembled” together. So we are prostrating to someone who has such a beautiful face.

Tara possesses this kind of brilliance and splendour. Anyone who looks at Tara with her beautiful body will agree that she is splendid and brilliant. Her aspect is so peaceful and calming. Just by thinking of these aspects of Tara and looking at her, all the negative emotions, such as attachment and anger in our mind, will be pacified naturally. We should try to visualise the aspects mentioned in this verse and make requests to Tara. We then visualise that we receive Tara’s blessings.

When we can practise in this way, we will get the benefits of increasing our lifespan and our merit, purifying our negative karma and obscurations and so forth.

How did Tara get such a beautiful, pleasant face and perfect body? It is through practising patience for the benefit of sentient beings and practising morality for many eons. When we practise like Tara, i.e., practise patience for the benefit of sentient beings uninterruptedly and observe the practice of morality, then even while we are training on the path, we too will get a beautiful radiant body. At the time of the result, we will get a beautiful perfect body like Tara.

~Verse 3~

ii. Praising Tara with reference to the colour of her holy body, the implements she is holding and the causes that bring about the attainment of the state of Tara

CHHAG TSHÄL SER NGO CHHU NÄ KYE KYI
PÄ MÄ CHHAG NI NAM PAR GYÄN MA
JIN PA TSON DRÜ KA THUB ZHI WA
ZÖ PA SAM TÄN CHÖ YÜL NYI MA

Homage to you,
Tara, born from a golden-blue lotus,
Whose hands are beautifully adorned with lotus flowers,
You who are the embodiment of giving, joyous effort, asceticism,
Pacification, patience, concentration and all objects of practice.

We are now talking about the twenty-one different aspects of Tara. You need to try and remember this.

“Homage to you, Tara, born from a golden-blue lotus”: this particular Tara’s holy body is golden in colour with a bluish hue. Her body is likened to the gold of the River Tsambu that is said to be very clear, refined and pleasant to look at. You meditate on this Tara with this verse.

“Whose hands are beautifully adorned with lotus flowers”: her hands are adorned with water-born lotuses. In her left hand, she holds a lotus stem with her thumb and her ring finger. The lotus blooms beside her left ear. Within the fully opened lotus, there is a half-opened lotus and a bud. These symbolise the buddhas of the three times (the past, present and future). The lotus that Tara is holding in her hand is not like the lotus that we find in this world. It is the manifestation of her wisdom.

This verse is praising Tara by referring to the colour of her holy body, i.e., golden in colour with a slight blue tint and the implement she is holding, i.e., a lotus.

Now we refer to the causes that bring about the attainment of the state of Tara (or Tara-hood). The causes are practising the six perfections mentioned in the praise: giving, joyous effort (or perseverance), asceticism (or the practice of morality), the practice of wisdom, the practice of patience and the practice of concentration. Tara trained in these six perfections over a very long period of time. Finally she perfected them and attained enlightenment.

The state of Tara therefore came about through the practice of the six perfections.

Tara became enlightened through the practice that involved the union of both method and wisdom. Method here refers to the practice of great compassion and bodhicitta. Wisdom refers to the wisdom realising emptiness. With the union of method and wisdom, she practised the six perfections and attained enlightenment.

What does this mean for us? This means that if we want to become like Tara, we need to train in these six perfections and engage in the path that involves the union of both method and wisdom, i.e., great compassion and bodhicitta, combined with the wisdom realising emptiness. When we practise the six perfections, conjoined with both method and wisdom, before long, we too will also achieve the state of full enlightenment. Without practising these six perfections, there is no way we can become like Tara.

The practice of generosity does not necessarily depend on having something to give. Generosity here refers to a state of mind, the willingness to give. The practice of generosity is increasing the willingness of the mind that wants to give. When we talk about giving, we develop the wish to increase that state of mind such that we can give our body, our possessions and our roots of virtue to all sentient beings. Even if you have a lot of possessions, but when you give, you do not have this willingness or desire to give, this is not the practice of generosity.

Joyous effort or perseverance is cultivated with the welfare of others in mind. Joyous perseverance is the mind that is enthusiastic about virtue, a mind that is enthusiastic about Dharma, a mind that is enthusiastic about helping other sentient beings and engaging in the activities of listening to, reflecting and meditating enthusiastically on the Dharma with the motivation of achieving enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Anything that you do enthusiastically with the motivation of achieving enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings is the practice of joyous perseverance.

What is morality or ethics? Ethics refers to the mind of protection. It is not just referring to the mind that wants to abstain from negative actions such as the ten non-virtuous actions. It is not limited to that. Here we are talking about the Mahayana practice of ethics that has two major elements:

1. Refraining from following one’s self-interest, i.e., stopping self-cherishing
2. Protecting one’s mind from following after the thought that grasps at phenomena to be truly existent

When we practise in such a way, then our practice of morality will be stainless and become the Mahayana practice of ethics.

There is no need for me to say much about the remaining perfections, the practice of patience, concentration and wisdom, as most of you have studied the Dharma and know what these are.

~Verse 4~

iii. Praising Tara with reference to the respect that is shown to her by all the buddhas and bodhisattvas

CHHAG TSHÄL DE ZHIN SHEG PÄI TSUG TOR
THA YÄ NAM PAR GYÄL WAR CHÖ MA
MA LÜ PHA RÖL CHHIN PA THOB PÄI
GYÄL WÄI SÄ KYI SHIN TU TEN MA

Homage to you, Tara, the crown pinnacle of those thus gone,
Whose deeds overcome infinite evils,
Who have attained transcendent perfections without exception,
And upon whom the sons of the Victorious Ones rely.

Who are we prostrating to now? We are prostrating to Tara who is the victorious crown pinnacle of the buddhas because she is the mother of the victorious ones. This Tara abides in the manner of being completely victorious over all disharmonious or unfavourable conditions and all opposing forces.

This Tara also abides in the manner of having abandoned the two obstructions, the afflictions and their imprints. She has “attained the transcendent perfections without exception,/ And upon whom the sons of the Victorious Ones rely,” in the sense that the victorious ones who have completed the ten perfections rely on Tara.

There are ten grounds on the path to enlightenment. The bodhisattva on each ground attains a particular perfection, starting from the perfection of generosity on the first ground. Each ground has a particular perfection. When a bodhisattva arrives at the tenth ground, that bodhisattva has attained the ten perfections. It is said that all the different bodhisattvas abiding on the different grounds respectfully rely on Tara. This is the explanation of the last two lines of this verse, “Who have attained transcendent perfections without exceptions,/And upon whom the sons of the Victorious Ones rely.”

When Tara is the object of prostration and homage of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, it goes without saying that we sentient beings must pay attention to this. We need to remember how Tara is different from all the buddhas in the sense that her enlightened activities are quicker and faster. We should pay attention to this while respectfully paying homage and respect to Tara.

~Verse 5~

iv. Praising Tara with reference to how she overcomes all opposing factors

CHHAG TSHÄL TUTTARA HUM YI GE
DÖ DANG CHHOG DANG NAM KHA GANG MA
JIG TEN DÜN PO ZHAB KYI NÄN TE
LÜ PA ME PAR GUG PAR NÜ MA

Homage to you, Tara, who with the letters TUTTARA and HUM
Fill the (realms of) desire, direction and space,
Whose feet trample on the seven worlds,
And who are able to draw all beings to you.

We are now paying homage to “Tara, who with the letters TUTTARA and HUM”: “TUTTARA” refers to the mantra garland OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVAHA that is encircling her heart. The syllable HUM which is the physical form of the realisation of compassion and wisdom in her holy mind is at her heart.

She fills the entire cyclic existence of “desire, direction and space” with the resonating sound from the syllable Hum together with the light emitted from the mantra garland OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVAHA at her heart:

  • “Desire” refers to the desire realms that are made up of the five types of migrators: the hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans and the gods.
  • “Direction” refers to the form realms.
  • “Space” refers to the formless realms.

Not only does Tara fill the seven realms with the sound from the syllable HUM and the light from the mantra garland, she also tramples on the seven worlds with her holy feet to control effortlessly all the beings in these realms.

Now we know how Tara fills the entire samsara with the light rays emitted from her mantra garland. The sound from the syllable HUM at her heart resonates throughout samsara as well. Therefore she is able to hook and control all sentient beings for their benefit. Tara is working for us all the time. The light rays from her mantra garland are constantly shining on us and the sound from the syllable Hum at her heart is resonating and filling the whole world even though we do not hear it. When we keep this in mind and have faith and belief in this, then Tara is always with us, working for us.

~Verse 6~

v. Praising Tara with reference to how even the great worldly gods worship her

CHHAG TSHÄL GYA JIN ME LHA TSHANG PA
LUNG LHA NA TSHOG WANG CHHUG CHHÖ MA
JUNG PO RO LANG DRI ZA NAM DANG
NÖ JIN TSHOG KYI DÜN NÄ TÖ MA

Homage to you, Tara, venerated by Indra,
Agni, Brahma, Vayu and Ishvara,
And praised by the assembly of spirits, raised corpses,
Gandharvas and all yakshas.

These are the names of the worldly gods: Indra, Agni, Brahma, Vayu and Ishvara. They are called the ten directional protectors, i.e., they are the protectors of the four cardinal directions, protectors of the intermediate directions and the protectors of the above and below. For example, Indra is the worldly protector of the eastern direction, Agni (or the fire-god) is the worldly protector of the southeastern direction, Brahma is the worldly protector of the above and the wind-god is the worldly protector of the northwestern direction. Then there is the lord of death, all the different nagas and so forth and the powerful Shiva. Even all these worldly protectors and gods pay homage to and venerate Tara.

The hosts of different classes of spirits also venerate and pay respect to Tara: such as Wangden, surrounded by his entourage of spirits; the worldly cannibal god, Shinpo with his entourage of raised corpses or zombies; Indra with his retinue of smell-eaters; and Shiva with his entourage of harm-givers.

When we have the faith of conviction and belief in Tara, we will not be harmed by humans and non-humans of the different classes of spirits. Why? Because they all venerate and take refuge in Tara.

It is the same as having a statue of Tara at home. We will receive the same kind of benefit. What we need is the faith of conviction and belief. When we don’t have faith and, on top of that, we do not live an ethical life, not keeping our vows, we will not receive the benefit. When we live an ethical life and we have the faith of conviction and belief in Tara, there is no way we can be harmed by all these different kinds of spirits.

~Verse 7~

vi. Praising Tara with reference to how she destroys all opponents

CHHAG TSHÄL TRAD CHE JA DANG
PHAT KYI PHA RÖL THRÜL KHOR RAB TU JOM MA
YÄ KUM YÖN KYANG ZHAB KYI NÄN TE
ME BAR THRUG PA SHIN TU BAR MA

Homage to you, Tara, whose TRAD and PHAT
Destroy entirely the magical wheels of others.
With your right leg bent and left outstretched and pressing,
You burn intensely within a whirl of fire.

“Homage to you, Tara, whose TRAD and PHAT”: with these two syllables, TRAD and PHAT, Tara is able to overcome all the different kinds of black magic. For example, just by uttering PHAT from her holy mouth, she is able to liberate and destroy all black magic and opposing forces.

Just by uttering these two syllables, TRAD and PHAT, she is able to destroy instantly “the magical wheels of others,” i.e., all the black magic, curses, evil intentions and so forth directed against you.

She is sitting with her right leg bent and left leg outstretched. This symbolises both method and wisdom. With her two legs, she suppresses all the black magic and curses that people have directed against you and with the raging fire emanated from her holy body, she burns up the black magic and curses till not even an atom of them remains. Her manner of sitting with her right leg bent and left leg outstretched is a peaceful posture. But even though this is considered to be a peaceful aspect, she is slightly wrathful as she is sitting “within a whirl of fire.”

When we find that our body and mind are affected by some supernatural forces such as black magic, or our house is “tainted” in some way, what we need to do is to visualise Tara in this slightly wrathful aspect sitting within a whirl of fire, and pray to and request her to pacify all these harms. Imagine Tara uttering the syllables TRAD and PHAT. By just uttering these syllables, she subdues all these supernatural harms. Then visualise that the fire emanated from her holy body comes into oneself and rages through the entire environment, completely pacifying and destroying all these harms. You can visualise that they all dissolve into Tara. The benefit of doing this is that you pacify all these obstacles and harms and, at the same time, transform the minds of these harm-givers with love and compassion. It is good to remember this.

We should always have faith in her and always make requests and pray to Tara by seeing her as inseparable from one’s own root guru. When we do this with faith, whatever wishes we have will be accomplished naturally. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished when we do this.

 

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