Tara: The Compassionate Mother of Liberation
Background and SignificanceTara, often called the "Mother of all Buddhas," is central to Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhism. Her name, derived from the Sanskrit word "to cross," embodies her role as a guiding force, helping practitioners cross the turbulent seas of samsara, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
Tara, representing the feminine aspect of Buddhism, is revered as a Bodhisattva and sometimes as a fully enlightened Buddha. Her origins are rooted in ancient folktales, one of which narrates her emergence from a tear shed by the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, signifying her deep connection to compassion.
Attributes and Iconography
Tara takes on various forms, with White and Green Tara being the most recognized. Green Tara embodies active compassion, depicted with one foot extended and in a semi-lotus posture, ready to take action. She holds an utpala flower and a blue lotus and gestures to the mudra with her hand, symbolizing protection and the fulfillment of wishes.
White Tara, associated with healing and longevity, is portrayed seated in a lotus position with eyes on her forehead, palms, and soles, symbolizing her omniscience and vigilance. She also forms the protection mudra while holding a blooming white lotus. Both forms of Tara exhibit a third eye on her forehead, representing wisdom.
Associated Stories and Beliefs
Numerous stories emphasize Tara's compassion and unwavering commitment to aiding sentient beings. In one myth, she pledges to assist beings until the end of samsara and promises to manifest as a female to challenge the notion that it may be easier to do so in a male form.
In another narrative, she is described as swiftly responding to those who invoke her when facing danger, such as navigating treacherous waters or confronting perilous creatures. Tara's twenty-one manifestations, characterized by unique colors and qualities, address the worries and challenges practitioners encounter, underscoring her multifaceted role as a guide and protector. Many Buddhists regularly practice reciting the "21 Praises to Tara" to seek her blessings and guidance.
Tara is an endless source of wisdom and compassion as a beacon of hope for countless practitioners. Her embodiment of the feminine defies societal norms and underscores the vital roles women play in the spiritual realm. Tara, the Mother of Liberation, shields those who seek her guidance from the trials of samsara and gently guides them to the shores of enlightenment.