The common forms of Tara – Karuṇā, Mettā & Shunyata
Tara, Ārya Tārā, or Shayama Tara, also known as Jetsun Dölma is an important figure in Buddhism, especially revered in Tibetan Buddhism.
Table of Contents
The female bodhisattva
She appears as a female bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism, and as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism.
She is known as the “mother of liberation”, and represents the virtues of success in work and achievements.
She is known as Duōluó Púsà (多羅菩薩) in Chinese Buddhism, and as Tara Bosatsu (多羅菩薩) in Japan.
Tārā is a meditation deity revered by practitioners of the Tibetan branch of Vajrayana Buddhism to develop certain inner qualities and to understand outer, inner and secret teachings such as karuṇā (compassion), mettā (loving-kindness), and shunyata (emptiness).
Tara in the Buddhist methods
Tārā may more properly be understood as different aspects of the same quality, as bodhisattvas are often considered personifications of Buddhist methods.
There is also recognition in some schools of Buddhism of twenty-one Tārās.
A practice text entitled Praises to the Twenty-One Taras, is the most important text on Tara in Tibetan Buddhism.
Another key text is the Tantra Which is the Source for All the Functions of Tara, Mother of All the Tathagatas.
The main Tārā mantra is the same for Buddhists and Hindus alike: oṃ tāre tuttāre ture svāhā.
Common forms of Tara
This is a list of some of the more commonly mentioned forms of Taras.
Ekajaṭī or Ekajaṭā,, also known as Māhacīnatārā, is one of the 21 Taras. Ekajati is, along with Palden Lhamo deity, one of the most powerful and fierce goddesses of Vajrayana Buddhist mythology.
According to Tibetan legends, her right eye was pierced by the tantric master Padmasambhava so that she could much more effectively help him subjugate Tibetan demons.
Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and nature.
She is a part of the trinity of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati.
All the three forms help the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in the creation, maintenance and destruction of the Universe.
Saraswati became a prominent deity in Buddhist iconography – the consort of Manjushri in 1st millennium CE.
In some instances such as in the Sadhanamala of Buddhist pantheon, she has been symbolically represented as Tara.
Kurukulla is a female deity of the Lotus family, associated with the activity of magnetization or enchantment.
She is usually depicted as red in colour, in dancing posture and holding a flowery bow and arrow.
She is also one of the Twenty-One Taras mentioned in the ancient Tara tantras.
Sitātapatrā is a protector against supernatural danger. She is venerated in both the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
She is also known as Uṣṇīṣa Sitātapatrā. It is believed that Sitātapatrā is a powerful independent deity emanated by Gautama Buddha from his uṣṇīṣa.
Whoever practices her mantra will be reborn in Amitābha’s pure land of Sukhāvatī as well as gaining protection against supernatural danger and witchcraft.
Tārā embodies many of the qualities of feminine principle.
She is known as the Mother of Mercy and Compassion.
She is the source, the female aspect of the universe, which gives birth to warmth, compassion and relief from bad karma as experienced by ordinary beings in cyclic existence.
She engenders, nourishes, smiles at the vitality of creation, and has sympathy for all beings as a mother does for her children.
Uṣṇīṣavijayā is a buddha of longevity in Buddhism. She wears an image of Vairocana in her headdress.
With Amitayus and Sitatara, she constitutes the three Buddhas of long life.
She is one of the more well-known Buddhist divinities in Nepal, Tibet, and Mongolia.
Praises to the Twenty-One Taras
Within Tibetan Buddhism, Tara has 21 major forms in all, each tied to a certain color and energy.
And each offers some feminine attribute, of ultimate benefit to the spiritual aspirant who asks for her assistance.
Praises to the Twenty-One Taras is a traditional prayer in Tibetan Buddhism to the female Bodhisattva Tara also known as Ārya Tārā, or Jetsun Dolma.