Part 2, Surya Gupta 21 Taras: meditating on virtuous body of Tara; distinct embodiments of Tara’s Compassion and Wisdom

“As Tara did, we develop the potential of our minds to attain full Enlightenment through meditation. Meditation is a process of focusing our mind on a virtuous object.” — From Tara in the Palm of Your Hand [1]

In Vajrayana Buddhism — specifically here in the Surya Gupta 21 Taras practice — we engage the path with meditation that involves all of Sacred Body, Speech and Mind. In meditation on the 21 Forms of Tara, we explore in our minds, the rich symbolism of all the aspects of Tara in visual form. Of course, Tara, and all Enlighteneds Buddhas transcend appearances. But for the unenlightened, the meditator seeking enlightenment, its is supremely effective to embody Tara various aspects as a virtuous object of our visualization. By involving all three of Body, Speech and Mind, the meditation is more intense.

For “Body”, we  learn to project the “virtuous object” in our mind. For Speech, we engage with mantras, among other methods. In the Surya Gupta method of meditation, each of the Taras has Her own mantras (although the main mantra Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha is fine for each as a focus.) For mind, we contemplate her “Praise”, her virtues, her symbolism, and her powers.

NOTE: For meditation, if you do not have Surya Gupta initiations, you would visualize each Tara in front of you — not yourself as the self-generated deity. In full practice, there is a sadhana, self-generation, visualization and mantra for EACH Tara.

 

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha

 

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Detail of a painting of Tara 1, Heroic Red Tara, by V.V. Sapar of the first Tara in the Surya Gupta sytem. In the background is the Lotus Face of Avalokiteshvara. (Full image below in the feature.)

 

Ultimately, the object of “Body” meditation can be anything (if we are advanced). In Tara in the Palm of Your Hand, H.E. Zasep Rinpoche pointed out the example of great Asanga and the maggots:

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Zasep Tulku Rinpoche is the author of Tara in the Palm of Your Hand, a commentary and practice of the 21 Taras in the tradition of Surya Gupta. The book is available on Amazon>>

“There is a story about Asanga, a great Buddhist teacher from the fourth century CE who founded the Yogacara or Mind Only School of Tibetan Buddhism. He attained a realization of loving kindness through having a maggot as his object of meditation. For 12 years Asanga had been doing a solitary meditation retreat on Buddha Maitreya, the Buddha of Loving Kindness.

“Though Asanga devoutly wished to see Maitreya, Maitreya had not appeared to him. Asanga was ready to give up. With a heavy heart, he left his retreat.

As he was walking along the road, he saw a dying dog being eaten by maggots; he was filled with compassion for the dog, and cut off a piece of his own flesh to feed it. Then he decided to further ease the dog’s suffering by removing the maggots. But he suddenly had a realization: the maggots were sentient beings too, no different from the dog; there was no inherent difference between the dog and the maggots because all sentient beings have Buddha Nature. Both were worthy of compassion.

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Dogs also have Buddha Nature — as do maggots (story of Asanga.)

“Initially, Asanga had been going to use his fingers to pluck the maggots from the dog, but now he was afraid he would hurt the maggots if he did that. So he decided to use his tongue. Kneeling by the dog, he bent his head down, ready to do what would seem to the ordinary person to be a completely repugnant act. As he bent his head towards the maggots, the dog and maggots suddenly disappeared; in their place was Maitreya. He told Asanga that the compassion Asanga had felt for both the dog and the maggots had so purified his Karma that he could now see him, Maitreya.”

For those of us less advanced than great Asanga, it is best to meditate on the Enlightened Forms of the Body of the Buddhas. Tara, especially in her 21 aspects, has many forms.

Here are Tara’s 8 to 14: [See part 1 for the first seven, and, of course, Rinpoche’s book, “Tara in the Palm of Your Hand” for much more detail, including the mantras for each Tara.]

[NOTE: Individual Tara images illustrated here are by the illustrious artist V.V. Sapar [See our feature interview with V.V. Sapar here>>] commissioned and directedetail by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, out of generosity, makes these wonderful high resolution images available for free download on the Khyentse Foundation website>>]

Surya Gupta 21 Taras 8-14, including “principal Green Tara”

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Principal Green Tara is number 9 of the 21 Taras, sometimes nicknamed “Mother of the all the Buddhas.”

In this feature, we cover Taras 8-14, the second set of seven Tara manifestations. These Taras are according to the Mahasiddha Surya Gupta’s rich system — where each of the 21 Taras has a unique name and praise, with deeply profound symbolism, attributes and practices.

In the Surya Gupta tradition, there are two additional manifestations. Under Tara 9 — who is none other than the main manifestation of Green Tara — she has two attendants: Marici and Ekajati. In simpler practice, only Principal Green Tara might be visualized, but in formal Surya Gupta practice, Marici and Ekajati are also visualized as emanations of Tara, complete with their own mantras. This is why, sometimes, you’ll see Surya Gupta tradition described as 23 Taras.

Here, depending on the teacher and lineage, it may be confusing. In the Gelug tradition, Tara 9 is Tara of the Khadira Fragrant Forest (Principal Tara) and she has her two attendants. (See Tara in the Palm of Your Hand (book) for details of this tradition.)

In the Jonang tradition, Principal Tara is not counted among the 21 Taras, and she still has her two emanation attendants, but there is an additional 9th Tara (see image below.):

Vara-da-Tārā (Mchog stsol ba’i Sgrol ma); Tārā Granter of Boons – On a red lotus and moon, from SVA appears Red Tārā with four arms. The first pair of hands hold vajra and bell with the gesture of joy on the crown of the head. The second right is snapping fingers in a dancing movement while the second left holds the branch of an aśoka tree, raining down jewels on beings. The lord of the type is Amoghasiddhi.

Tara 9 is Principal Green Tara

Below, according to the Gelug tradition this system, Tara 9, Tara of the Khadira Fragrant Forest, is the Green Tara we all know and love. She is normally visualized with two arms, although in the wonderful V.V. Sapara series (shown below with each Tara) —with iconography by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, and paintings by V.V. Sapar [For a full feature on V.V. Sapar including an interview, see this feature>>] — Tara 9 has four arms. Since Tara’s manifestations are endless and not limited, there is no contradition.

[Part 1 of this series, with the history/introduction to Surya Gupta’s rich system of 21 Taras and a detailed description of the first seven Taras is here>>]

Tara 8 Tara Who Gives Supreme Spiritual Power

Mara Sudana Vasitottama Da Tara / Wang Chug Terwe Drolma

 

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Tara 8 Tara Who Gives Supreme Spiritual Power Mara Sudana Vasitottama Da Tara / Wang Chug Terwe Drolma. Painting by V.V. Sapar.

 

Power or Rite: completion stage practices; destroyer of Maras (demons) and the two obstructions

  • Seed syllable TU
  • Colour: ruby black
  • Number of arms: four
  • Peaceful or wrathful: wrathful

Praise

Homage to you, TURE, the Great Fierce One,
Who totally destroy the leaders of the maras,
Whose lotus face forms wrathful wrinkles,
And who annihilate all enemies without exception.

 

Tara 9 Tara of the Khadira Fragrant Forest (Principle Green Tara)

Khadiravana Tara / Seng Ding Nag Che Drolma

 

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Tara 9 Tara of the Khadira Fragrant Forest (Principle Green Tara) as iconographically directed by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and painted by V.V. Sapar. As Tara 9 is Principal Green Tara she is often visualized as two-armed Green Tara (see inset.)

 

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Principal Green Tara as normally visualized. Painting by Ben Christian. [See a full feature on Ben Christian’s extraordinary thangkas here>>]

NOTE: In the Surya Gupta system, the sadhana for the 9th Tara, Green Tara, also includes her principle two attendants: Marici and Ekajati, who are also emanations of Tara.)

Power or Rite: Principle Green Tara

  • Seed syllable TAM
  • Colour: green
  • Number of arms: 2
  • Peaceful or wrathful: peaceful

Praise

Homage to you whose fingers, held at your chest,
Are in the mudra of the Three Jewels;
The gathered light from your hands,
Decorated with wheels, extends in all directions.

 

 

 

Tara 10 Tara Who Dispels All Suffering

Soka Vinodana Tara / Na Nyen Me Pi Drolma

 

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Tara 10 Tara Who Dispels All Suffering: Soka Vinodana Tara / Na Nyen Me Pi Drolma. Painting by V.V. Sapar

 

Power or Rite: Her rite is entering the mandala

  • Seed syllable SA
  • Colour: red
  • Number of arms: 4
  • Peaceful or wrathful: peaceful

 

Praise

Homage to you who are so joyful,
With a garland of light around your crown,
And whose great laughter of TUTTARA
Overpowers all the worlds and maras.

Tara 11 Tara Who Summons All Beings and Dispels Misfortune

Jag Vasi Vipan Nirbarhana Tara / Dro Wa Gug Pa Am Pungpa Sel We Drolma

 

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Tara 11 Tara Who Summons All Beings and Dispels Misfortune: Jag Vasi Vipan Nirbarhana Tara / Dro Wa Gug Pa Am Pungpa Sel We Drolma. Painted by V.V. Sapar.

 

Power or Rite: Increasing enjoyments and accomplishing activities through the ten guardians

  • Seed syllable HA
  • Colour: black
  • Number of arms: 2
  • Peaceful or wrathful: wrathful

Praise

Homage to you, endowed with the power
To draw the assembly of worldly guardians,
The One who with the HUM of wrathful wrinkles
Rescues completely from all poverty.

Tara 12 Tara Who Grants Prosperity and Brings about Auspicious Circumstances

Kalyana Da Tara or Manga Laloka Tara / Tashi Nang We Drolma

 

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Tara 12 Tara Who Grants Prosperity and Brings about Auspicious Circumstances:
Kalyana Da Tara or Manga Laloka Tara / Tashi Nang We Drolma

 

Power or Rite: Her rite is the fire offering

  • Seed syllable AH
  • Colour: yellow
  • Number of arms: 8
  • Peaceful or wrathful: peaceful

Praise

Homage to you who are crowned with a crescent moon,
And whose ornaments shine brightly,
With Amitabha Buddha seated in front of your ushnisha
Eternally sending forth beams of light.

 

 

Tara 13 Tara the Complete Ripener

Pari Pacaka Tara / Young Su Min Par Zed Pi Drolma

 

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Tara 13 Tara the Complete Ripener: Pari Pacaka Tara / Young Su Min Par Zed Pi Drolma. Painting by V.V. Sapar.

 

Power or Rite: Her rite is for subduing hindrances

  • Seed syllable DRUM
  • Colour: red
  • Number of arms: 4
  • Peaceful or wrathful: wrathful

Praise

Homage to you who dwell within a garland of flames
Like the fire at the end of the aeon;
With your right leg outstretched and your left bent with joy,
You destroy all enemies.

 

Tara 14 Wrathful, Shaking and Frowning Tara

Bhrkuti Tara / Tro Nyer Yo We Drolma

 

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Tara 14 Wrathful, Shaking and Frowning Tara: Bhrkuti Tara / Tro Nyer Yo We Drolma. Painting by V.V. Sapar. Wrathful emanations are symbolic of power.

 

Power or Rite: Her rite is the protective circle

  • Seed syllable AH TA
  • Colour: black
  • Number of arms: 6
  • Peaceful or wrathful: wrathful

 

Praise

Homage to you who strike the ground with the palm of your hand
And trample it with your foot;
With a wrathful, wrinkled face and the sound of HUM,
You subdue all seven levels of the world.

 

 

  • For those looking for the book details referenced above:

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21 Praises

Around the world, many people begin and end their day with Tara’s twenty-one praises. This practice has been credited with many benefits, including protection from harm, prosperity, and swift progress on the path of enlightenment.

It can be beneficial to chant this in the world’s oldest known language—Sanskrit. The nuances of this practice, the originating sounds, is similar to mantra practice. In Sanskrit:

Om namah spukasam namah Taraye mi Tara

1 Namas Tare Ture vire

kshanair dyuti nibhekshane

trailokya nat ha vaktrabja

vikasat kesharobhave

 

2 Namah shata sharac chandra

sampurna patalanane

Tara sahasra nikara

prahasat kira noj jvale

 

3 Namah kanaka nilabja

pani padma vibhu shite

dana virya tapah shanti

titik sha dhyana gochare

 

4 Namas tat hagatosh nisha

vijayananta charini

ashesha paramita prapta

jina putra nishevite

 

5 Namas Tuttara Hum kara

puritasha dig antare

sapta loka kramakranti

asheshak arshanak shame

 

6 Namah shakranala Brahma

marud vishvesh varachite

bhuta vetala gand harva

gana yaksha puras krte

 

7 Namas trad iti phat kara

para yantra pramardani

praty alid ha pada nyase

shik hi jvalakulek shane

 

8 Namas Ture maha ghore

mara vira vinashani

bhrku ti krta vaktrabja

sarva shatrum nishudani

 

9 Namas tri ratna mudranka

hrdyanguli vibhushite

bhu shitashesha dik chakra

nikara sva Karakule

 

10 Namah pramudita topa

muku ta kshipta malini

hasat prahasat Tuttare

mara loka vashamkari

 

11 Namah samanta bhu pala

patalakarshana kshame

chalat bhrku ti hum kara

sarvapada vimoch ani

 

12 Namah shikhanda kandendu

muku tabha ranojjvale

Amitabha jata bhara

bhasvare kirana dhruve

 

13 Namah kalpanta hutabhug

jvala malan Tara sthite

alidha muditabandha

ripu chakra vinashani

 

14 Namah kara talaghata

charana hata bhu tale

bhrkuti krta Hum kara

sapta patala bhedini

 

15 Namah shive shubhe shante

shanta nirvana gochare

svaha pranava samyukte

maha papaka na shani

 

16 Namah pramudi tabandha

ripu gatra vabhedini

dashakshara pada nyashe

vidya Hum kara dipite

 

17 Namas Ture pada ghata

Hum karakara bijite

meru mandara kailasa

bhuvana traya chalini

 

18 Namah sura sarakara

harinika karast hite

Tara dvir ukta Phat kara

ashesha visha nashani

 

19 Namah sura ganadh yaksha

sura kimnara sevite

abandha mudita bhoga

kali duhs vapna nashani

 

20 Namah chandrarka sampurna

nayana dyuti bhas vare

hara dvir ukta Tuttare

vishama jvara nashani

 

21 Namas tri tattva vinyasa

shiva shakti saman vite

graha vetala yakshaugha

nashani pravare Ture

 

21 Praises to Tara in English

The praises do lose some of the “mystery” and intensity and sheer sound-power in English, but the intention and praise is maintained. Many people chant the praise in English:

1 Homage to you, Tara, the swift heroine,

Whose eyes are like an instant flash of lightning,

Whose water-born face arises from the blooming lotus

Of Avalokiteshvara, protector of the three worlds.

 

2 Homage to you, Tara, whose face is like

One hundred full autumn moons gathered together,

Blazing with the expanding light

Of a thousand stars assembled.

 

3 Homage to you, Tara, born from a golden-blue lotus,

Whose hands are beautifully adorned with lotus flowers,

You who are the embodiment of giving, joyous effort, asceticism,

Pacification, patience, concentration, and all objects of practice.

 

4 Homage to you, Tara, the crown pinnacle of those thus gone,

Whose deeds overcome infinite evils,

Who have attained transcendent perfections without exception,

And upon whom the sons of the Victorious Ones rely.

 

5 Homage to you, Tara, who with the letters TUTTARA and HUM

Fill the (realms of) desire, direction, and space,

Whose feet trample on the seven worlds,

And who are able to draw all beings to you.

 

6 Homage to you, Tara, venerated by Indra,

Agni, Brahma, Vayu, and Ishvara,

And praised by the assembly of spirits,

raised corpses,
Gandharvas, and all yakshas.

 

7 Homage to you, Tara, whose TRAT and PHAT

Destroy entirely the magical wheels of others.

With your right leg bent and left outstretched and pressing,

You burn intensely within a whirl of fire.

 

8 Homage to you, Tara, the great fearful one,

Whose letter TURE destroys the mighty demons completely,

Who with a wrathful expression on your water-born face

Slay all enemies without an exception.

 

9 Homage to you, Tara, whose fingers adorn your heart

With the gesture of the sublime precious three;

Adorned with a wheel striking all directions without exception

With the totality of your own rays of light.

 

10 Homage to you, Tara, whose radiant crown ornament,

Joyful and magnificent, extends a garland of light,

And who, by your laughter of TUTTARA,

Conquer the demons and all of the worlds.

 

11 Homage to you, Tara, who are able to invoke

The entire assembly of local protectors,

Whose wrathful expression fiercely shakes,

Rescuing the impoverished through the letter HUM.

 

12 Homage to you, Tara, whose crown is adorned

With the crescent moon, wearing ornaments exceedingly bright;

From your hair knot the buddha Amitabha

Radiates eternally with great beams of light.

 

13 Homage to you, Tara, who dwell within a blazing garland

That resembles the fire at the end of this world age;

Surrounded by joy, you sit with your right leg extended

And left withdrawn, completely destroying all the masses of enemies.

 

14 Homage to you, Tara, with hand on the ground by your side,

Pressing your heel and stamping your foot on the earth;

With a wrathful glance from your eyes you subdue

All seven levels through the syllable HUM.

 

15 Homage to you, Tara, O happy, virtuous, and peaceful one,

The very object of practice, passed beyond sorrow.

You are perfectly endowed with SOHA and OM,

Overcoming completely all the great evils.

 

16 Homage to you, Tara, surrounded by the joyous ones,

You completely subdue the bodies of all enemies;

Your speech is adorned with the ten syllables,

And you rescue all through the knowledge-letter HUM.

 

17 Homage to you, Tara, stamping your feet and proclaiming TURE.

Your seed-syllable itself in the aspect of HUM

Causes Meru, Mandhara, and the Vindhya mountains

And all the three worlds to tremble and shake.

 

18 Homage to you, Tara, who hold in your hand

The hare-marked moon like the celestial ocean.

By uttering TARA twice and the letter PHAT

You dispel all poisons without an exception.

 

19 Homage to you, Tara, upon whom the kings of the assembled gods,

The gods themselves, and all kinnaras rely;

Whose magnificent armor gives joy to all,

You who dispel all disputes and bad dreams.

 

20 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 disease.

 

21 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!

 

 

NOTES

[1] Tara in the Palm of Your Hand, by H.E. Zasep Tulku Rinpoche

[2] Jonang Foundation>>

Book Details

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Josephine Nolan

Author | Buddha Weekly

Josephine Nolan is an editor and contributing feature writer for several online publications, including EDI Weekly and Buddha Weekly. She is Editor-in-Chief for Blogertize Publications.

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