Tara – The Female Buddha
Tara is actually the perfection of wisdom, and she is the mother of all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Shravakas, and Pratyeka Buddhas. This wisdom is actually beyond any forms or signs or descriptions. But out of great compassion, in order to help sentient beings, she appears in a physical form that is the Tara. The word Tara means “Saviour” or “One Who Saves”.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Why Tara is called as the female Buddha?
- 2 - Why is Tara in particularly regarded for her compassion?
- 3 - Was Tara a real woman, if so, when did she live?
- 4 - Stories about Tara’s help
- 5 - Some famous Sakya Female Practitioners
- 6 - Is Tara meditation only for women?
- 7 - What is the initiation ceremony?
- 8 - What happens at a Tara Initiation or Blessing Ceremony?
- 9 - How can we determine which Tantric practice would be most effective for ourselves?
- 10 - Does Tara protect and heal only those who call on her?
- 11 - Is Tara only for Buddhists?
- 12 - 21 forms of Tara
- 13 - Who is Nyurma Pamo?
- 14 - Who is Loter Yangchenma?
- 15 - Who is Sonam Tobche?
- 16 - Who is Tsugtor Namgyalma?
- 17 - Who is Wangdu Rigje Lhamo?
- 18 - Who is Jigje Chenmo?
- 19 - Who is Zhengyi Mithumba?
- 20 - Who is Zhengyi Migyalma?
- 21 - Who is Sengdeng Nagchi?
- 22 - Who is Jigten Sumle Gyalma?
- 23 - Who is Phagma Norter Drolma?
- 24 - Who is Tashi Donje?
- 25 - Who is Tara Yulle Gyalma?
- 26 - Who is Thronyer Chen?
- 27 - Who is Rabzhima?
- 28 - Who is Rigngag Tobjom?
- 29 - Who is Pagme Nonma?
- 30 - Who is Maja Chenmo?
- 31 - Who is Dugkarmo?
- 32 - Who is Rito Loma Jonma?
- 33 - Who is Ozer Chenma?
Why Tara is called as the female Buddha?
There are male and female Buddhas just as there are male and female people. There are many female Buddhas, not just Tara and Vajrayogini; there are so many female deities! For some people, it is much easier to practice female deities. It depends on one’s own karmic connections. For some, female deities are more suited, and for others, male deities are more suited. Although is it said, in terms of their wisdom, compassion, and power, that all deities are the same, but due to their motherly figure, it is easier to invoke the blessing of female deities.
Why is Tara in particularly regarded for her compassion?
Basically all the deities are the nature of compassion and emptiness, but Tara is special in two ways: firstly, she is in the motherly figure, and secondly, she is an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, the manifestation of all the Buddhas’ compassion. Therefore, there is a particular connection between compassion and Tara.
Was Tara a real woman, if so, when did she live?
In actuality, of course, she is not a person because the true nature of Tara is the perfection of wisdom, mother of all the Buddhas and noble ones, and that wisdom is beyond form or any signs or descriptions. But out of compassion at the relative level, she appears in the form of Tara. But then there are also historical Taras. Like it is said that many, many eons ago there was a princess whose name was Gyana Chandra. She created the enlightenment mind in front of Buddha Amoghasiddhi. In order to save sentient beings, she took the vow to remain in the female form all through the path, and even after enlightenment. So that indicates that there is a historical figure as well.
Stories about Tara’s help
This story is related to the continuation of the Khön lineage. It is a story about Zangpopa who was the 11th Sakya throne holder counting from Khön Khoncho Gyalpo who first established the Sakya Monastery. Zangpopa’s grandfather had five sons, but the one who was Zangpopa’s father, Lopon Yeshe Jungne, was the son of a maid who was not of one of the official queens. One of the official sons, Chogyal Phagpa, was the throne holder and guru of the Chinese Emperor in his time. Another son, Drogon Chagma, had a son called Dharmapalarakshita who was the 9th throne holder. When he died in 1287, there was not an official Khön lineage heir after him. So Jamyang Chenpo from Sharpa took the thrown.
At this point, there was no officially recognized Khön lineage heir. Even though Zangpopa was alive, the people had doubts about Zangpopa’s father as his mother had not been an official queen. Zangpopa had been invited to China but as his father had not been the official heir, the Emperor did not recognize him. Instead, he was sent to some far outlying area of China.
When Dharmapalarakshita (the 9th throne holder) passed away, the Emperor was distressed over his loss. Placing the bones of Dharmapala on his head, he cried. Because there was no issue in his Guru’s hereditary lineage and how sad it was. There had been only one daughter of the lineage, a princess, and when she passed away there were rainbows and her body had many relics. This altered the mind of the Emperor who now said that any connection to his Guru’s hereditary lineage, was holy.
At that time, Zangpopa was living in a distant part of China near the Avalokiteshvara shrine. He was having a very difficult time, and so he prayed to Tara. Tara appeared and placed her hand over the crown of his head and said, “Those who wish to have a child, can have a child Those who wish to have wealth, can have wealth All your wishes will be granted and your obstacles will be cleared.”
After he received that blessing, some Tibetan lamas helped the Emperor find Zangpopa. Being a nephew of Chogyal Phagpa, he was then recognized by the Emperor and was brought back to the palace. There he was officially enthroned as the Sakya Khön lineage prince. The Emperor then said, “It is very important to continue the historical lineage.” At this point, he gave his own sister to Zangpopa as his queen. This emperor reigned in the Yön dynasty of the Mongol empire of China. The princess is called Mudakhen. She traveled all the way to Sakya, married Zangpopa, and they had one son.
Some famous Sakya Female Practitioners
Sakya has many, many very famous female practitioners. So many of them, even recently, for example Jetsuma Chime Tenpei Nyima, Jetsun Tamdring Wangmo, Jetsun Pema Thrinley. It seems that for most of them their main deity for practice was Vajrayogini.
There is one temple in Sakya where there is a very famous Vajrayogini statue. It is said that in ancient times, all the princesses, all those Jetsumas who were nuns, came together to this temple on every tenth and every twenty-fifth day (of the lunar month) and did the puja. And it is said that this Vajrayogini statue was just like any other female in that every month there was menstrual flow from the statue, with nectar coming down from the statue.
Is Tara meditation only for women?
No of course not, everybody can receive Tara.
What is the initiation ceremony?
Initiations differ in the sense that there are major empowerments, there are blessings, and there are simple initiations. Taking as an example in a simple initiation, there are three kinds of meditations. First, physically visualizing oneself in the form of the deity; then, verbally repeating the mantra, and finally, mentally meditating on the primordial wisdom, which is away from all descriptions, away from all activities, beyond speech, beyond thought. So this is the meditation.
What happens at a Tara Initiation or Blessing Ceremony?
Initiations are all the same in the sense that, during the initiation, ones own body voice and mind are blessed. From that moment onwards, one is authorized to do the visualization, recite the mantra, and do the meditation on the primordial wisdom of Tara.
How can we determine which Tantric practice would be most effective for ourselves?
It all depends on the individual. Some people are suited to the Kriya-tantra, some are suited to the Carya tantra, some are suited to the Yoga tantra, and so on. Similarly, for some people, the Tara tantra is more suitable than the other tantras.
Does Tara protect and heal only those who call on her?
Actually, it is just like the sun; the sun is all the time shining, but sometimes we see it and sometimes we don’t see it. Just like that, Tara is all the time showering her blessings to every sentient being, but some people, due to their lack of faith, belief, and confidence, cannot receive that blessing. You see, in order to save someone you need the hook and the ring.
Tara is all the time throwing out her hook of compassion to catch beings, but to be saved you need the ring of the faith. If you have the ring of the faith then the hook of compassion will be caught in that and then one will be saved.
Is Tara only for Buddhists?
Of course not. Tara sees all sentient beings as her only child. Every mother loves her child, particularly those mothers with only one child. In their minds, they are constantly thinking about that child, the welfare and well-being of that child. Tara has such great compassion and such great love that all sentient beings are her only child, without any discrimination or exception.
21 forms of Tara
The 21 forms of Tara are listed below :
- Nyurma Pamo
- Loter Yangchenma
- Sonam Tobche
- Tsugtor Namgyalma
- Wangdu Rigje Lhamo
- Jigje Chenmo
- Zhengyi Mithumba
- Zhengyi Migyalma
- Sengdeng Nagchi
- Jigten Sumle Gyalma
- Phagma Norter Drolma
- Tashi Donje
- Yulle Gyalma
- Thronyer Chen
- Rigngag Tobjom
- Pagme Nonma
- Maja Chenmo
- Rito Loma Jonma
- Lhamo Ozer Chenma
Who is Nyurma Pamo?
Nyurma Pamo is one of the forms of 21 tara. She is red in color. The name of the first Tara, with all her Tibetan titles, is Jetsun Drolma Nyurma Pamo. Nyurma means that Tara’s activity is very quick and swift, without delay. Pamo is the feminine form of the term for a hero, which can be translated as “heroine”. It describes Tara’s heroic courage and commitment to the liberation of all beings.
Who is Loter Yangchenma?
Loter Yangchenma is white in color and she is known as knowledge giver. The second emanation of Tara is named Loter Yangchenma. Loter means “knowledge giver”. The Tibetan term Yangchenma means “melodious, one who possesses melodies” or “source of melodies”. So we might call her Drolma Loter Yangchenma: Melodious Liberator, Source of Wisdom. In Sanskrit, she is called both Sarasvati and Vajrasarasvati.
Who is Sonam Tobche?
Tara Sonam Tobche is golden in color and she is the third Tara. Sonam means “merit”. It is also often translated as “good fortune, prosperity” or even “luck”. Tob is the Tibetan word which means “power, the ability”, and che means “increasing”. Roughly translated, “liberator, increasing the power of prosperity and ability of merit” is the word meaning of this Tara’s name. Other very popular names for her are Vasudhari in Sanskrit and Norjunma in Tibetan. The effect of practicing on this Tara of prosperity is not just that we will acquire external or material wealth, but also that we will develop inner or spiritual wealth. By practicing on Tara Sonam Tobche, we can develop both forms of wealth.
Who is Tsugtor Namgyalma?
The fourth Tara is known as Tsugtor Namgyalma in Tibetan, or sometimes Tsugtcrr Nampar Gyalma. She is golden in color.
In Sanskrit, she is famous as Ushnishtavijaya. The term tsugtor in Tibetan or ushnishta in Sanskrit indicates the topknot upon the crown chakra of a Buddha, which is one of the thirty-two major marks of a fully enlightened being. Namgyal or Vijaya means “victorious one.” Roughly translated, her names mean “victorious one of the top knot.”
Who is Wangdu Rigje Lhamo?
The fifth Tara is Wangdu Rigje Lhamo. She is Kurukulle in Sanskrit and Rigjema or Rigje Lhamo in Tibetan.
Wangdu means the power of “gathering, summoning”, or “magnetizing”. We can think of it as attracting everything beneficial, to benefit all beings. Rigje means “she who precisely understands everything”. And Lhamo is “divine lady”. So she is red Tara who precisely understands the power of magnetizing.
Kurukulle‘s practice is very extensively taught throughout Tibetan Buddhism. She is often named the “Red Tara” because of her color.
Who is Jigje Chenmo?
The name of sixth Tara is Jigje Chenmo. She is dark red in color. Jigje means “fierce, frightening” and Chenmo means “Great One”, so this Tara is great, fierce Tara. She is renowned for protecting against any negative force we feel is disturbing us, whether it is due to invisible beings and negativities or visible obstacles.
Who is Zhengyi Mithumba?
The seventh Tara is known as Zhengyi Mitumba. She is dark blue in color. Her name means “unconquerable, cannot be defeated by others.” She destroys all negativities.
Who is Zhengyi Migyalma?
Zhengyi Migyalma is in dark red in color. Zhengyi Migyalma’s name roughly translated means “invincible lady”. You can’t win against her. So, if you’re a mara or demon, better leave her alone! Or better yet, be nice to her. This Tara can also protect against troublemakers, persons who criticize and harass others, and people who bring lawsuits.
Who is Sengdeng Nagchi?
Green Tara, who protects from all external fears, is named Tara Sengdeng Nagchi or sometimes Sengdeng Nagchi Drolma. The Sengdeng is a very large tree, known as teak in English. Sengdeng is considered a wrathful tree. In Tibet damaru and chod, drums are made from this strong, dense wood. In Tibetan medicine, the bark and resin are used to make tea considered very beneficial for the blood. As nag means “forest”, she is the Green Tara of the sengdeng forest.
Who is Jigten Sumle Gyalma?
The title Jigten Sumle Gyalma means “Tara who gains victory over all the three worlds”. Her special power is to protect us against distraction by worldly activities. She is associated with red color.
Who is Phagma Norter Drolma?
This eleventh Tara’s name Phagmo means “noble one” or “supreme one”. She is orange in color. Roughly translated, Norter means “bestowing riches”, so Phagma Norter Drolma is the Noble Tara who bestows wealth, renowned as Tara the wealth-giver, who removes the sufferings of poverty.
Who is Tashi Donje?
Tara Tashi Donje means “Tara who actualizes auspiciousness”. Tashi means “auspicious circumstances” and Donje means “fulfilling” or “actualizing”. In particular, this Tara is golden yellow in color and renowned for bringing harmony and balance. Internally she brings health and physical balance and externally she brings timely seasons, good harvests, healthy children, and prosperity. With her help, all becomes as it should be.
Who is Tara Yulle Gyalma?
This Tara’s name in Tibetan, Tara Yulle Gyalma, means “Tara who gains victory over war”. She is renowned for protecting against all the obstacles related to wars. She is dark red in color. She can reverse the march of armies or stop the war completely. Her protection also applies inwardly, too, as she stops hostile emotions born of conceptual thinking that disturb our awareness and wisdom and might lead us to warlike actions.
Who is Thronyer Chen?
This Tara is known as Thronyer Chen. she is dark rain-clouds color. Thronyer is “frowning, wrathful”, so she is the very wrathful, frowning one. She is a special emanation of Tara whose activity is removing subtle obstacles due to misleading influences, which are usually our most stubborn obstacles. She deals with our last “wrinkles” or , we might say, the last two percent of our delusions, deep within the elemental nature of human beings.
Who is Rabzhima?
Tara Rabzhima’s special activity is purifying our most serious errors and greatest obscurations, so she is called the Tara of purification. Rabzhima means “supremely peaceful”. She is white in color sitting in blue lotus.
Who is Rigngag Tobjom?
The sixteenth emanation of Tara has special powers to stop the negative intentions of others, such as spells and curses. Her name is Tara Rigngag Tobjom. Rigngag may have several meanings, but in this case, it refers to misusing the mantra or other aspects of practice for an evil purpose, to harm. Thus the meaning of her name is “Tara who destroys the power of bad intentions”.
Who is Pagme Nonma?
Tara Pagme Nonma protects against obstacle associated with robberies, gangsters, and hunters. She brings beings into a state of calm and tranquillity, so she is the Tara of non-violence. Her name Pagme means “immeasurable, countless” and Nonma means “stopping”. So this is the Tara who stops countless violent activities.
Who is Maja Chenmo?
This Tara’s Tibetan name is Tara Maja Chenmo. Now Mayura is the Sanskrit word for “peacock”, which is maja in Tibetan, so she is the “great one on the peacock”. Peacocks are especially associated with protection from poisons because it is said that the peacock eats poison and transforms it into the beauty of its plumage. Thus Tara Maja Chenmo’s special activity is counteracting or dispelling inner and outer poisons. These might be from food, water, environmental pollution, or any type of unhealthy situation. Maja Chenmo is also renowned for her compassion in protecting infants and young children. It is thought that she saved the life of Nagarjuna.
Who is Dugkarmo?
Tara Dugkarmo is a famous emanation of Tara who protects from nightmares, bad omens in dreams, and black magic. She especially protects the Dharma and the lamas from arguments and violence. Dugkar means “white umbrella”, so she is often called Queen White Umbrella.
The white umbrella symbolizes that she is held in the highest respect.
Who is Rito Loma Jonma?
Tara Rito Loma Jonma is known for giving protection against contagious diseases, plagues, and fevers. Roughly translated, Rito means “mountain hermitage”, Loma means “leaves of a tree”, and Jonma means “wearing”. So this is the Tara wearing the leaves of a tree in her mountain retreat. In many of the traditional stories about Tara, she appears as a lady dressed in leaves to save a devotee from a fearful situation.
Who is Ozer Chenma?
Tara Ozer Chenma is the divine great Mother of “brilliant light rays”, Ozer. She is particularly beneficial to us because she can protect our longevity. She helps us when our energy, vitality, or life force is endangered. She is also renowned as protectress of animals.