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Third Session: Sunday, May 29, 2005 (afternoon)

This commentary offers us a deeper understanding of the inconceivable qualities of Tara’s holy body, speech and mind and how her different aspects can help us overcome difficulties in our daily lives and Dharma practice.
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

Remember that the motivation here is to attain the state of enlightenment at all costs for the benefit of all sentient beings. In order to do that, we have to practise the teachings of the Buddha. Before we can engage in the practice of the teachings of the Buddha, we need to receive the teachings of the Buddha and to understand how to go about doing so.

Here we should think, “I am going to rely on the special path of Tara.” We cannot do without this path of Tara. These are teachings of the Mahayana Secret Mantra; it is a tantric teaching of the Buddha. We should think, “I am going to practise this path, especially the tantric path of non-dual profundity and clarity and, through this path, I am going to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.”

In our quest for enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings and in our Dharma practice, we will meet with all sorts of obstacles, both outer and inner. In order to free ourselves of all these obstacles, we can rely on a special meditational deity like Tara, who is the supreme mother of all the buddhas. She grants our wishes very quickly because her enlightened activities are very fast and quick.

Tara is a deity who has been relied upon by previous holy beings in India and Tibet. Many holy beings and practitioners who had relied on Tara had achieved realisations. What we should do is to strive in our practice of Tara on the basis of remembering the qualities of Tara’s holy body, holy speech and holy mind.

In order to know how to go about doing such a Tara practice, we need to study and learn. It is for this purpose that we are receiving these teachings on the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras. We will now continue from where we left off from the earlier lesson.

2. An extensive explanation of these praises

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

1) Praising Tara through the enlightened actions of both her peaceful and wrathful mantras
2) Praising Tara with reference to how she shakes the three realms
3) Praising Tara with reference to how she eliminates poisons
4) Praising Tara with reference to how she dispels quarrels and bad dreams
5) Praising Tara with reference to how she eliminates different epidemic diseases
6) Praising Tara with reference to how she destroys spirits and zombies

3. Showing the benefits of this practice

A. Correct mental attitude

B. Timing

C. Actual benefits

1) Benefits one receives for oneself
a. The benefit of turning away the different faults
b. The benefit of turning away the causes of suffering
c. The benefit of turning away the results that are suffering

2) Benefits that are related to others

~Verse 20~

5) Praising Tara with reference to how she eliminates different epidemic diseases

CHHAG TSHÄL NYI MA DA WA GYÄ PÄI
CHÄN NYI PO LA Ö RAB SÄL MA
HARA NYI JÖ TUTTARA YI
SHIN TU DRAG PÖI RIM NÄ SEL MA

Homage to you, Tara, whose two eyes – the sun and the moon –
Radiate an excellent, illuminating light;
By uttering HARA twice and TUTTARA,
You dispel all violent epidemic diseases.

The “two eyes” here refer to both the wrathful aspect and the peaceful aspect.

  • From the wrathful aspect, the two eyes are likened to the blazing sun. When the eyes are in the wrathful aspect, the eyes are big, red and round. The light radiating from them is hot.
  • From the peaceful aspect, the two eyes are likened to the round moon. When the eyes are in the peaceful aspect, the light radiating from them is cool.

“By uttering HARA twice and TUTTARA”: HARA is a syllable that means ‘to snatch.’ By uttering HARA twice refers to:

  • the wrathful mantra, OM NAMA TARE NAMO HARE HUM HARE SVAHA
  • the peaceful mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVAHA

By reciting both these wrathful and peaceful mantras, even very serious illnesses, such as epidemics and contagious diseases that are very difficult to recover from, can be pacified. In today’s world, there are so many different kinds of diseases, especially those terrifying epidemic diseases. At such times, there is a need to pacify or eliminate these different diseases.

We can visualise Tara, remembering the qualities of her holy body, speech and mind with a mind of faith and recite both the wrathful and peaceful mantras. At the same time, we visualise light rays coming from Tara purifying oneself and all sentient beings of these different contagious diseases and the causes of these diseases. They are all completely purified.

~Verse 21~

6) Praising Tara with reference to how she destroys spirits and zombies

CHHAG TSHÄL DE NYI SUM NAM KÖ PÄ
ZHI WÄI THÜ DANG YANG DAG DÄN MA
DÖN DANG RO LANG NÖ JIN TSHOG NAM
JOM PA TURE RAB CHHOG NYI MA

Homage to you, Tara, adorned by the three suchnesses,
Perfectly endowed with the power of serenity,
You who destroy the host of evil spirits, raised corpses and yakshas,
O TURE, most excellent and sublime!

This is explained in the context of a practitioner who is abiding in the yoga of Tara, i.e., a practitioner who is generating himself or herself as Tara:

  • Visualise oneself as Tara.
  • At the crown, visualise a white syllable OM in the nature of Tara’s holy body.
  • At the throat, visualise a red syllable AH in the nature of Tara’s holy speech.
  • At the heart, visualise a blue syllable HUM in the nature of Tara’s holy mind.

By meditating on these three syllables at the three places, all the faults and negativities of one’s body, speech and mind are completely pacified without any remainder.

“You who destroy the host of evil spirits, raised corpses and yakshas”: “dön” in Tibetan is translated as spirits. It is said in the text that there are eighteen major kinds of spirits, vampires, those with black magic and yakshas (harm-givers who steal our radiance and vibrancy). By relying on Tara, all these different kinds of harms will be completely destroyed.

In the case of someone who is abiding in the yoga of Tara and visualising oneself as Tara, by visualising the three places— the crown, the throat and the heart adorned by the three syllables, a white OM, a red AH and blue HUM—one can purify all the negativities and obscurations of the body, speech and mind together with all the predispositions and imprints of these negativities and obscurations.

One can also perform this meditation for the benefit of all sentient beings. This kind of meditation can be found when you look at the different self-generation practices in the sadhana of a deity. In this case, when we engage in the practice of self-generation with the meditation on benefiting others, we visualise the three syllables emitting light rays purifying the negativities and obscurations of the body, speech and mind of all sentient beings. After having purified all sentient beings of their negativities and obscurations, we imagine placing them in the state of Tara’s enlightenment. By engaging in such a meditation we can benefit others. We also complete the accumulation of merit very quickly.

Now for the last two concluding lines after the praises:

TSA WÄI NGAG KYI TÖ PA DI DANG
CHHAGE TSHÄL WA NI NYI SHU TSA CHIG

Thus concludes this praise of the root mantra and
the offering of the twenty-one homages.

“The root mantra” refers to the peaceful and the wrathful mantras that we had covered earlier. There are twenty-one verses of praise together with twenty-one homages or prostrations that we had done along the way, “Thus concludes the praise of the root mantra and the offering of the twenty-one homages.”

We have now completed the commentary on the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras. Now, we will explain the meaning of the Prayer of the Benefits.

Showing the benefits of this practice

A. Correct mental attitude

Whoever is endowed with devotion for the goddess
And recites this with supreme faith,

This indicates the kind of attitude that the person reciting these praises should have. What kind of attitude do we need to have? We should be someone who is endowed with devotion, remembering the kindness of Tara. While remembering all the qualities of Tara’s holy body, speech and mind, and with very stable faith and great respect, if we recite the praises with all these attitudes, all the benefits that are going to be mentioned now will actually happen.

While reciting the praises, we should always remember and bring to mind the qualities of Tara’s holy body, speech and mind, her qualities of perfect compassion, perfect omniscience and perfect power. We can also reflect on how, in the beginning, Tara generated bodhicitta for sentient beings and what she did before she attained enlightenment, i.e., how she became what she is today, Tara.

Reflect on how Tara works for the benefit of all sentient beings by performing the four activities of pacifying, increasing, controlling and wrath. Remember also how Tara works for sentient beings through her different aspects while holding different implements. In fact each and every single part of Tara’s holy body is always engaging in activities that are beneficial for sentient beings. There is not a single part of Tara’s holy body that is not working for sentient beings. Tara possesses all these qualities.

Regardless of who makes requests to Tara, whether you are rich, poor, powerful or weak, she will help. Her love and the work that she does for sentient beings is like what a mother would do for her son. Tara is always ever ready without hesitation to help sentient beings. Tara is waiting for the right time when we have the right karma. When the conditions are there, her enlightened activities will manifest immediately.

We should always remember these different qualities of Tara’s holy body, speech and mind. The more we remind ourselves of them and the more we understand the qualities of Tara, then obviously the stronger will be our faith in Tara. The more faith we have in Tara, the stronger will be our conviction and the stronger will be our respect for and devotion towards her.

You can think, “Whatever good happens to me, that is through the kindness of Tara.” In short, the stronger our faith and our conviction, the faster she is able to help us with her enlightened activities. We can see this even in ordinary situations. When two people are very close friends and both have strong respect for and faith and conviction in one another, things will get done because the connection is there. It is the same with Tara.

B. Timing

Remembering it at dawn upon waking and in the evenings,
Will be granted all fearlessness,
Will perfectly pacify all negativities,
And will eliminate all unfortunate migrations.

This indicates the time for the practice, the time for reciting these praises to Tara. The timing does make a difference to the results.

When you are encountering different kinds of problems such as sicknesses, enemies, robbers, thieves and so forth, you should recite the praises in the evening at dusk, i.e., before the sun sets, while remembering the wrathful aspect of Tara. That will be beneficial.

If you want to purify negative karma and do not wish to take rebirth in the three lower realms, you should recite the praises in the morning at dawn while remembering Tara’s peaceful aspect.

These are some of the benefits that we can receive when we recite the praises to Tara with the correct mental attitude and by reciting the praises at different times. In short, we will be saved from all sorts of fears, both outer and inner, and we will be granted the attainment of fearlessness. We also do not have to take rebirth in the lower realms such as the hell realms. All these will be completely pacified with the practice of Tara.

C. Actual benefits

The next section explains the actual benefits one gets from reciting the praises of Tara. This is divided into benefits that one receives for oneself and benefits that are related to others. When you perform the practice for others, they will receive the benefits as well.

1) Benefits one receives for oneself

What are some of the benefits that we receive by reciting the praises with a correct mental attitude?

The multitudes of conquerors,
Will quickly grant us initiation:
Thus endowed with this greatness
One will eventually reach the stage of a buddha.

“This multitude of conquerors” refers to seven million buddhas. Tara, together with her manifestation of seven million buddhas as an entourage, will grant us initiation with blessings of light and nectar.

What happens when we are empowered in such a way by Tara? All our enjoyments—our abode, our belongings and possessions, our body and our entourage—will become perfect and excellent. These are some of the temporal benefits after having been empowered by Tara. The long-term benefit is that we will travel quickly along the different paths and grounds and reach the state of enlightenment.

This section is further divided into three:

a. The benefit of turning away the different faults
b. The benefit of turning away the causes of suffering
c. The benefit of turning away the results that are suffering

a. The benefit of turning away the different faults

If affected by the most terrible poison,
Whether ingested, drunk or from a living being,
Just by remembering,
One will be thoroughly cleansed.

What is “the most terrible poison” referred to here? What is it that prevents us from achieving both our temporal and ultimate goals, the ultimate benefits that are mentioned here? It is the negative emotions that we have in our mind. The negative emotions, such as anger and attachment, are the real poisons that cause all the horrible suffering that we experience. The negative emotion is a very violent poison as it snatches from us our rebirth as a human or god. It is a very strong poison because it causes all the sufferings of the lower realms and samsara in general.

b. The benefit of turning away the causes of suffering

Those of us who are affected by this kind of “most terrible poison,/ Whether ingested, drunk or from a living being,” just by remembering Tara and reciting these praises with the correct attitude, one will be thoroughly cleansed.

That is also the benefit of stopping the causes of suffering by reciting the praises to Tara with the correct mental attitude.

c. The benefit of turning away the results that are suffering

As indicated in the next verse, there is another benefit of stopping the actual results that are suffering.

It will pacify all the sufferings of torments
Caused by spirits, fevers and poisons,
And by other beings as well.

By reciting the praises of Tara, the whole hosts of sufferings such as the sufferings that are inflicted by different kinds of spirits, the different kinds of sicknesses and diseases that will last for days, the outer and inner poisons and so forth can be abandoned.

2) Benefits that are related to others

The commentary goes on to talk about the benefits that others will experience. When we dedicate this practice for other sentient beings, what are some of the benefits that they can receive by us reciting these praises?

If this prayer is recited two, three or seven times,
If you wish for a child, you will get a child;
If you wish for wealth, you will receive wealth.
All your wishes will be fulfilled
And all obstacles pacified.

What is the meaning of “two, three or seven times”?

  • The “two” refers to day and night.
  • The “three” means that during the day, you do three sessions and at night, you do three sessions.
  • “Seven” means that in each session, you recite the praises seven times.

When you recite this prayer two, three or seven times, with the meaning that is explained, “if you wish for a child, you will get a child;/ If you wish for wealth, you will receive wealth./ All your wishes will be fulfilled/ And all obstacles pacified.”

If you are unable to do this version of the recitation, then like in the Tara Puja, you can recite the praises in three sections:

  • You recite the praises twice in the first section.
  • In the second section, you recite them three times.
  • In the third section, you recite them seven times.

That is also a practice. This will work as long as you have faith and conviction and the belief that it will work. Without such strong faith and belief, even if you were to recite the praises the whole day, that is not of much use.

By reciting these praises to Tara, all your wishes will be fulfilled and all the obstacles and hindrances will be completely destroyed. This means that new obstacles will not arise and all the obstacles that have already arisen will be destroyed.

With this, we have completed the explanation of the meaning of the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras and the Prayer of the Benefits of reciting these praises.

All of you are very busy as you have to work, run your business, have family commitments and so forth. However, when you wake up in the morning, try to remember to think of Tara as inseparable from your own root guru.

You should then set the motivation for the day. The motivation should be of benefiting other sentient beings. You should set your motivation in accordance with the practice of the path of the three types of persons as taught in the lam-rim.

Visualise Tara as inseparable from your root guru. You then make requests with the motivation that whatever you will be doing for the day, “May all this work be successful.” You are not only doing that for yourself but also doing that for the benefit of others and doing it as a cause to achieve enlightenment to benefit all sentient beings.

It will be good if you can recite the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras every day because this prayer contains special blessings. All the great holy beings of the past have relied on this practice to work for the welfare and benefit of sentient beings.

If you really cannot recite the praises every day, then at least recite the mantra of Tara, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVAHA, while visualising Tara. When you do this with faith, it contains the same blessing as reciting the praises to Tara. If you recite the mantra of Tara with faith, you will also purify negative karma and increase your merit.

Reciting the mantra of a deity is a special way of making yourself close to the deity. It is also the means of making the deity pleased with you. The main thing is reciting the mantra with faith.

It is the same thing before one goes to sleep. Try to remember Tara and also make requests to Tara.

Every day we have to eat and drink so, at that time, visualise Tara in the space in front of you, seeing her as inseparable from your root guru. You then make offerings to Guru Tara. For those of you who have received the Tara initiation, you can then partake of the food and drink while generating, with divine pride, yourself as Tara. Since you have to eat and drink all the time, if you do this, you will accumulate merit and virtue continuously.

The main thing here is to take care of the mind each and every day of our life. Though we are very busy with going to work and so forth, all the work we do is always related to other living beings. Whatever we do in our life, when we do those activities, it will be good to do them with the thought of benefiting others.

Every day, when we wake up in the morning, we should set the motivation for the day. We should reflect especially on how we have this precious human rebirth, how it is very difficult to find and how with this human rebirth, we can accomplish great purposes. We should always remember this every day. This is something that we must do.

When we wake up in the morning, say, “This is the only time that I am going to get this human rebirth. Not only that. It is a matter of time before I have to leave this body as I have to die. There is no better opportunity than this to practise the Dharma. I am going to practise the Dharma.”

We have to reflect on this every day:

  • how difficult it is to obtain this human life of leisures and opportunities
  • how once it is obtained, it can accomplish great purposes
  • how one day we have to die, as death is certain
  • how the time of death is uncertain

When you reflect on this every day then naturally the wish to practise the Dharma will arise in your mind. When you don’t reflect on this every day, the wish to practise the Dharma does not arise. This is the main method to encourage you to move towards Dharma practice.

When we reflect on the great purposes that we can accomplish with this human life of leisures and opportunities, we will naturally abandon all the meaningless activities of this life. When we have this understanding—when we can really understand this—then even if we happen to sit for a few minutes or half-an-hour without engaging in any Dharma practice, we will have so much regret in the mind, feeling that we have wasted our time.

When we do not have this understanding of and feeling for how these human leisures and opportunities are difficult to obtain and, once obtained, they can serve great purposes, even when we sit around and do nothing for a whole day, we will not feel troubled. Instead, we think, “So what?”

So do reflect on the meaning of the great purposes that one can achieve with this human life of leisures and opportunities. Then naturally one will abandon all meaningless activities. When we reflect on the difficulty of obtaining these human leisures and opportunities, there is no way that we can sit around and be lazy.

Why is this human life of leisures and opportunities difficult to obtain? Because the cause of achieving this human life of leisures and opportunities is difficult to create.

What is the cause? The cause is practising pure morality.

Since that is difficult, then it will be difficult to achieve such a body again in the future. Not only have we obtained a human rebirth, we have obtained a perfect human rebirth, a human life that is endowed with the leisures and opportunities.

On top of that, not only have we met with the teachings of the Buddha, we have met with the Mahayana teachings. Not only have we met with the Mahayana teachings, we have met with the Mahayana Vajrayana, the secret tantric teachings of the Buddha.

By understanding this, we realise how precious is this opportunity that we have. Once we understand how we have this precious human life of leisures and opportunities, we will continue with our practice without getting sick of it, tired of it or bored with it. Naturally the thought of practising the Dharma will arise.

So it is very important to reflect on this every day:

  • how we have this human life of leisures and opportunities
  • how this is difficult to obtain
  • how once obtained, it has great meaning

At the same time, think:

  • how it will not last forever
  • how death is certain but the time of death is uncertain

Reflecting on this every day will increase our enthusiasm for Dharma practice.

All of you are busy but when you have the opportunity, you still come to class and you are enthusiastic about your studies. I am very happy with that. Please continue to do that. You also have a good teacher. You should take this opportunity to continue your studies. Other than that I have nothing much to say. Thank you.

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