The 21 Taras

OM to the transcendent subduer, Arya Tara, I prostrate.
Homage to the glorious one who frees with TARE.
With TUTTARE you calm all fears,
You bestow all success with TURE,
To the sound SOHA I pay great homage!
~ Prayer to Tara

In the course of the third turning of the Wheel of Dharma, Buddha Shakyamuni gave many teachings on Tara within the categories of outer tantra, inner tantra, and the Great Perfection (or dzogpa chenpo). All of these, including the Twenty-one Praises to Tara, became very popular in India. They were brought to Tibet in the eighth century at the time of Guru Padmasambhava, King Trisong Deutsen, and master Shantarakshita. Guru Padmasambhava gave many Tara teachings to his heart students, including King Trisong Deutsen and wisdom dakini Yeshe Tsogyal, who was herself an emanation of Tara. Over the next few centuries, Tara became one of the most popular and powerful deities of Tibetan Buddhism.

The twenty-one emanations of Tara, the mother of all the Buddhas, manifest swiftly to protect sentient beings from all fears, pacify evils, disease and misfortune, increase longevity, wealth and merit, overpower the deluded perception, and destroy the enemies of five poisons, one’s disturbing emotions.

There are many lineages of the 21 Taras including the traditions coming from Suryagupta, Dipamkara Atisha, Longchen Rabjampa and Terchen Chokgyur Lingpa. Each of these lineages portray the manifestations of Tara in different ways, with different mantras, and methods of practice. The 21 Taras depicted here follow the tradition of Suryagupta, who was one of the 84 Mahasiddhas.

Image of the 21 Taras by Kay Konrad.