“Tara is the mother of all the Buddhas; when you practice Tara you become closer to Tara; you feel her motherly love. If Tara is good enough to be the mother of all the Buddhas, then she can certainly become a great mother to you, taking you into her loving care.” — Venerable Zasep Rinpoche
Green Tara Buddha is almost certainly one of the most popular Yidams in Vajrayana Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism especially, Green Tara is accessible to all, Mother of all the Buddhas, and virtually a “universal” symbol of Active Compassionate Wisdom. Green Tara, who is also a Savior Goddess, is as accessible to the prisoner in jail as to the most benevolent of monks — she is Universal and open to all. With her right leg outstretched, ready to leap to our aid, she is among the most approachable of Buddhist deities.
But many people don’t realize she has a “Highest Yoga Tantra” aspect called Chittamani Tara (translates as “Mind Jewel Tara”) — a profound “two stages” practice.
She manifests in so many ways because each of us is different. Each of us is a “world unto ourselves.” Each of us has different needs. Some of us need a Tara who is our friend. Others need a mother. Some need a ferocious mother, ready to defend us from all harm. Some of us need a “kick ass” protective Charlie’s Angel-like enforcer. And, some of us, need the guidance only available from the Highest Yoga Tantra aspects of deity practice. In the case of Tara, this is Cittamani Tara (pronounced Chittamani Tara) — the main practice of many Gelug lineage great teachers.
Everyone loves Tara!
Everyone loves Tara! Venerable Zasep Rinpoche explains, in his forthcoming book, Tara at Your Lotus Heart,
“Tara is the mother of all the Buddhas; when you practice Tara you become closer to Tara; you feel her motherly love. If Tara is good enough to be the mother of all the Buddhas, then she can certainly become a great mother to you, taking you into her loving care.”
Her loving care can be as simple as motherly protection — for which she is famous — or at this level, at the Chittamani Tara level, her motherly arms can carry us right to ultimate Enlightenment.
What’s Different with Cittamani Tara?
The mantra and overall appearance of Tara is green Tara — apart from two flowers versus one. So, what are the differences?
As this is a practice of Highest Yoga Meditation, most of the details are not revealed publically — although as a Mother Tara practice, it is a very supportive, nurturing, protective and wonderful practice (in the author’s experience.) The key practice differences are in the visualization, and mostly in the practices — especially in three key areas (without revealing secrets):
- Body mandala — a wonderful, nurturing, compassionate and healing visualization, visualizing Taras as part of your internal body. (The net effect is quite healing and peaceful)
- Uncommon Guru Yoga — uncommon in the best possible way (an easy and affirming visualization!)
- The protectors of this mandala are all Taras — the 21 Taras! plus two other aspects of Tara. There’s no elaborate visualization, and we stay warmly in the embrace of protect Mother Tara.
There are, of course, other differences, relating to profound practices — for example, a Phowa practice that is uniquely comforting.
Which Tara is Which?
Tara is Tara. Whether Chittamani Tara (Cittamani), Green Tara, Khaidira Tara, White Tara, Red Tara, Black Tara, Yellow Tara, Blue Tara, 21 Taras, 108 Taras — these are all aspects of the glorious Mother of all the Buddhas, Tara. The distinguishing aspect is the practice — Chittamani Tara is an advanced meditation, requiring instruction — while Green Tara’s arms are wide open to all. White Tara may specialize in “long life” — to remove the obstacles of negative health — but she is still Tara. The 21 Taras represent her many activities on our behalf, saving us from obstacles as the savior heroine — but they are Tara; and there are three full systems of 21 Taras, each with different appearances and mantras! (But they, too, are Tara!)
- For a feature on Green Tara, the protector, the savior, see>>
- For a feature on White Tara, the healer, see>>
- For a feature on the 21 Taras according to Surya Gupta lineage (the most exotic, since all Taras have different appearances!), see>>
- For a feature on the 21 Taras according to the Aisha lineage, see>>
The different forms have different practices and instructions, and appearance also slightly vary. Chittamani Tara’s main distinguishing characteristic is that she holds two blue, fully blooming Uptala Flowers (nicknamed night-lotus) — rather than one. Some Taras have different colors of lotus or their bodies of light are a different color.
Below are two details from stunning images by the same artist — Jampay Dorje (Ben Christian, see our interview with this amazing artist here.>>) or his amazing bylined article “Meet Green Tara face-to-face” on Buddha Weekly on how to visualize Tara>>
We create our own worlds and our own Taras
The reason, in part, was explained by the very wise Gelek Rimpoche:
“We are our own creator. On the other hand, we all carry our own world — absolutely. The way I try to picture that is like we come along with our world into this collective world and “plug in.”
That way, we become part of the collective world and each other’s worlds. Then, at the end [i.e. death] I unplug and take my world somewhere else… So, truly speaking, we are our own masters, our own creators. There is no doubt about this. There is no question.
You are your own creator. You created yourself. Not as an individual being, but you created your existence, your functioning, your future, your everything. I did the same and likewise each and every one of us created our own world… everybody creates their own future.”
He explained this in an extensive teaching retreat on Chittamani (Cittamani) Tara, to explain why Tara is visualized so many ways. She is One Tara — just as all the Buddhas are One — but at the same time she has different forms, suitable to our own, individual worlds — to help us in the worlds “we have created.”
Gelek Rimpoche goes on, later in the talk, to say,
“Each and every one of us creates our own mandala… By the time you become Cittamani Tara, you will have your own Cittamani Tara pure land. The formula of how you do that is repeatable. And that is what we are trying to do with our practice, creating our own pure being and environment.”
Tara is Accessible to All
There is no question Tara is among the most beloved of Buddhist Enlightened deities. Yet, many Tara practitioners wonder why there are so many Taras: 21 Taras, 108 Taras, 1008 Taras — and more. Peaceful Taras. Motherly Taras. Green, White, Black, Blue, Red, Yellow, Gold, Orange Taras. And Taras in all four of the levels of Yogas from Kriya through to Highest Yoga Tantra. And, why do we even need a Higher Yoga Tara? What’s so special about her? Yes, she is famous as a protector, who rescues beings from trouble — but is she more than this?
There is a saying in Tibet, “All men are Chenrezig, and all women are Tara.” This isn’t a light turn of phrase. The Oneness of phenomenon is expressed in this phrase, together with many other profound concepts.
During Chittamani Retreat teachings Venerable Zasep Rinpoche explained the concept of Tara teaching universally to all levels of student:
“Tara is everywhere. Tara is in the pure lands. Tara is here also. Why is Tara in the pure lands? Tara is in the pure lands to teach to the Bodhisattvas, the highly realized beings… Then, Tara comes down to us, many aspects of Tara — 21 Taras and so on — and there are other aspects of Tara, like Vajrayogini, Palden Lhamo, and so on and so on. Tara comes to us as deities, as Dharma protectors — so Tara is here, now.” 
- For a full story on Green Tara, including her 21 Praises, see>>
- For stories of Tara the Rescuer>>
- Guided video meditation for Green Tara>>
- 21 Taras book excerpt from Tara in the Palm of Your Hand by H.E. Zasep Rinpoche>>
- Tara in the Palm of Your Hand book on Amazon>> (Affiliate link)
Tara for all levels of practice
She also appeals to all needs and levels of practice. No initiation is needed to chant her mantra — even the most casual of admirers can benefit from her practice:
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha
Yet Tara also has the Highest Yoga Tantra aspect known as Chittamani Tara (sometimes spelled Cittamani, but pronounced ‘ch’.) Visually, aside from two blue uptala (night lotus) flowers in full bloom, she appears to be Green Tara. (Green Tara typically has one fully open uptala in left hand (also called blue night lotus) flower — and, in some visualizations, one which is “about to open”. Cittamani Tara has two fully open blue uptala flowers. (Sometimes, as in Khadiravani Tara — Tara of the Khadira Forest — she also has two uptala flowers.) She is described as:
“Chittamani Tara, the transcendental deity of emerald colour, with her right hand in the gesture of supreme generosity, and her left, at her heart, in the gesture of bestowing refuge in the three jewels. Each hand holds the stem of an utpala flower. She is beautifully adorned with silks and precious ornaments, seated in the centre of an aura of light with right leg extended and left drawn in. In her heart a green TAM radiates light.”
All Taras are one — even though some of the 21 Taras have multiple arms, attributes, gestures, and colours. Gelek Rimpoche, in his “Cittamani Tara Extensive Commentary,” said:
“I want you to remember the two legs of the Vajrayana, the relative and the absolute. Whether white, green, yellow, red, dark blue or multicolored, all Taras are Tara, yet each different manifestation does have some particular responsibilities, some special thing. In absolute reality, however, they are all one Tara: the activities of the enlightened beings… In that way Tara is said to be the total activity of the enlightened beings. Their activities have become a being, and that being pops up as the physical form of Tara. In the same way Avalokitesvara is the compassion of all enlightened beings and Manjushri is their wisdom. ” 
Tara’s forms are endless. Where there is a need, there is her emanation. Gelek Rinpoche continues:
“To make a long story short, by about this time Tara manifested so many manifestations everywhere, particularly the Twenty-One Taras and the One hundred thousand Taras. The Twenty-One Tara manifestation is very meaningful. When Tara came out of Avalokitesvara’s heart as a helper, a handy-person to all the Buddhas, this handy-person then created another handy-person, who again created another handyperson. All these big manifestations came about at that moment, particularly the White Tara for longevity. Also Rigjema, used for power. Then there is Yangchenma, who is Saraswati in Sanskrit. She is special for literature and language. All these are manifestations of Tara. Even the wrathful protector, Palden Lhamo, is a manifestation of Tara. In that case she is not a yidam but a protector. Palden Lhamo also manifested at that time.”
Chittamani Tara Highest Tantra emanation
Chittamani Tara is a Highest Yoga Tantra practice (maha anu yoga) of Tara. This does not mean She is a “higher deity” — the Boss Tara. She is still Tara. Tara is always Tara. The Enlightened Mind has no limitations in terms of form. Here, with Chittamani Tara, the form is similar to regular Green Tara — the main difference is only in the practice, and the twin blue uptala flowers visualized (instead of the single with Green Tara). There are 21 Taras, and 108 Taras for a reason — there are that many ways to practice, and more. There are even other Higher Tantric forms of Tara, including Vajrayogini.
Yet, Chittamani Tara is the “Highest Yoga” Tara from the point of view of Tantric practice as Green Tara. (Not to be confused with Cintamani Tara “Wish-fulfilling” golden Tara.)
Gelek Rimpoche quotes the root text: ” In the root text Tara herself says,
‘According to your wish I will explain how to practice the Tara tantra in the system of maha anu yoga tantra’. Although normally Tara belongs to kriya tantra, this tantra is made into maha anu yoga by Tara herself. And of course, in this particular case, there are many continuing activities through teachings, initiations, and oral transmissions.”  Here, Tara was speaking to the great Gelugpa Yogi Takpuwa Dorje Chang.
Cittamani Tara was revealed by Tara herself, to the great Takpu dorje Chang. Gelek Rimpoche said,
I would like to emphasize that Tara herself gave this teaching in the form of Maha Anu Yoga Tantra with the two stages and all kinds of other activities — like a mother teaching her own son. The raw words of Tara with her worm breath — that is what Cittamani is.
Maha Anu Yoga Tantra
All schools of Tantric Buddhism have forms of higher yogic practices. In the newer schools (such as Gelug) the highest tantras are Annuttaratantra (or Maha Anu Yoga) — which is associated also with Mahamudra. Highest Yoga Deity Practices in Gelugpa include:
- Hevajra Tantra
- Chakrasamvara Tantra (Wheel of Great Bliss)
- Vajrayogini (part of the Chakrasamvara Tantra)
- Kalachakra Tantra (Wheel of Time)
- Chittamani Tara
What is Highest Yoga Tantra? Maha Anu Yoga includes both development and completion practices, and are a “full path” to enlightenment, meant for senior practitioners — and only given by permission and empowerment. Translated Annuttarayoga means “Unexcelled Union Continuity.” These practices include subtle body yogas, with a much more involved practice aiming at complete personal transformation and realizations. They also carry a heavier commitment. It is assumed that anyone taking on Highest Yoga Tantric practices is very experienced and focused on serious progress on the path to realizations.
Source of the Chittamani teaching
Tara Herself gave the practice of Chittamani Tara to Mahasiddha Takpuwa Dorje Chang. The practice is the best known of the rarely taught “13 initiations from the Clear Vision of Gelugpa Yogi Takpuwa Dorje Chang” in the 19th century. Is this the same Tara we know and love? Yes, she’s still Green Tara, albeit a Tara who gifted us with a complete Highest Yoga Tantra practice cycle.
Chittamani Tara is a main practice of many of history’s great Gelug teachers, including Pabongkha Rinpoche (who wrote the most authoritative and widely-respected commentary: see inset photo), H.H. Trijang Rinpoche (tutor of the current Dalai Lama), and H.H. Zong Rinpoche. Today, relatively few Lamas transmit the precious empowerments and teachings.
For serious practitioners, who adore Green Tara, Chittamani Tara is a much sought-after teaching and practice — although the practice commitment is at a higher level in terms of time and sincerity. As a Highest Yoga Tantra practice, it includes all stages of practice: Development and Completion. It includes a unique and profound “body mandala.”
It is not acceptable to practice Chittamani Tara practice, despite her otherwise famous accessibility to all, without permission, teaching and empowerment of a qualified Guru of lineage. This is because the practices should not be attempted by those who have not received teachings.
For those not yet ready for Higher Yogic practices, Green Tara is ready in many other forms — especially 21 Taras. Chanting the 21 Praise of Tara daily is for everyone — and helps bring Her energy and blessings into your life.
- For a full story on Green Tara, including her 21 Praises, see>>
- For stories of Tara the Rescuer>>
- Guided video meditation for Green Tara>>
 Cittamani Tara 2011, Nelson Gaden for the West retreat with H.E. Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
 Cittamani Tara Extensive Commentary, Gelek Rimpoche of Jewel Heart
* Amazon affiliate link. Or just visit Amazon and search title, Tara in the Palm of Your Hand.
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Author | Buddha Weekly
Josephine Nolan is an editor and contributing feature writer for several online publications, including EDI Weekly and Buddha Weekly.