Praises to the 21 Taras
Let me and all who need protection
Enter beneath Your right-hand mudra
Of granting boons, the Refuge mudra,
And be relieved from every fear!
From your sublime abode at the Potala
O Tara – born from the green letter TAM
Your crown adorned with Amitabha,
Action-mother of the Buddhas of the three times,
Come with your retinue, I beg you.
The gods and demi-gods bow
To your lotus feet, O Tara,
You who rescue all who are destitute
To you, Mother Tara, I pay homage.
Om Je Tsun Ma Pag Ma Drol Ma La Chag Tsel Lo
Om, Homage to the Venerable Arya Tara
Homage to 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.
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
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, and ascetism,
Pacification, patience, concentration and all objects of practice
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.
Homage to you, Tara, who with the letters TUTTARA HUNG
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.
Homage to you Tara, Venerated by Indra,
Agni, Brahma,Vayu, and Ishvara.
Praised by the assembly of spirits, raised corpses,
Ghandaravas and all yakshas.
Homage to you, Tara, whose TRAD 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.
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
Slays all enemies without an exception.
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.
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.
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 HUNG.
Homage to you, Tara, whose crown is adorned with the crescent moon,
Wearing ornaments exceeding bright.
From your hair-knot the Buddha Amitabha
Radiates eternally with great beams of light.
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 enemies.
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 HUNG.
Homage to you, Tara, virtuous and peaceful one,
The very object of practice passed beyond sorrow.
You are completely endowed with SOHA and OM,
Overcoming completely all the great evils.
Homage to you, Tara, surround 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 HUNG.
Homage to you, Tara, stamping your feet and proclaiming TURE;
Your seed-syllable itself is the aspect of HUNG
Causes Meru, Mandhara and the Vindhya mountains
And all three worlds to tremble and shake.
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 exception.
Homage to you, Tara, upon whom the kings of the assembled gods,
The gods themselves and all Kinnaras rely
Whose magnificent armour gives joy to all,
You who dispel all disputes and bad dreams.
Homage to you, Tara, whose eyes –
The sun and the moon – radiate an excellent illuminating light;
By uttering HARA twice and TUTTARA,
You dispel all violent epidemic diseases.
Homage to you, Tara, adorned by the three suchness
Perfectly endowed with the power of serenity,
You, who destroy the host of evil spirits, raises corpses and yakshas
O TURE, most excellent and sublime!
Samantabhadri (Kuntuzangmo in Tibetan) is the consort and female counterpart of Samantabhadra, the primordial Buddha of the older schools of Tibetan Buddhism. They are usually shown in sexual union (yab/yum in Tibetan), the blue male figure and white female figure embracing each other in lotus position. Samantabhadri is sometimes shown alone, in which case she is seated in lotus posture with her hands in meditation posture in her lap. Samantabhadri is always shown naked (as is her consort) to demonstrate the unadorned nature of Absolute Truth, the emptiness of all phenomena. She is in some senses an analogue of Prajnaparamita.
Samantabhadri painting by Paola Minelli.
In Praise of Prajñaparamita
I prostrate to Bhagavatı Aryaprajñaparamita.
I pay homage to you, Prajñaparamita,
Boundless and nonconceptual,
All your limbs without a flaw,
Beheld by the flawless ones you are.
Just like space, you are spotless,
Free from reference points, and without words.
Whoever sees you as you really are
Beholds the Tathagata.
Between you, so rich in noble qualities,
And the Buddha, the guru of the world,
No difference can be seen at all,
Just as with the moon and its light.
You loving, dedicated mother,
Those compassionate in nature who resort to you,
O herald of the buddhadharmas,
Will reach unequalled magnanimity with ease.
Whoever duly looks at you
With a pure heart only once
Will attain siddhi then for sure,
O you so fruitful to behold.
You are the caring mother,
Giving birth and nourishment
To all these heroes with their hearts in love
With just the welfare of all others.
The Buddhas, these gurus of the world,
Full of compassion, are your sons.
Thus, O Lady fair and good,
You are the Grandmother of all beings.
All immaculate paramitas,
O Lady without blame,
Surround you at all times,
Just as the stars do with the moon.
Considering beings to be guided,
Single one in many forms
You are praised by the Tathagatas
Everywhere and with all kinds of names.
Just as when those drops of dew
Are met by the sun’s warm light,
Once they fall upon you,
Opponents’ flaws and qualms are gone.
In naive beings, you engender fear—
To them, you appear just terrifying.
To the wise, you grant your comfort—
To them, you appear so mild and gentle.
Those who do not have attachment
Even for you, their protectress,
O mother, how should they then feel
Desire or aversion for anything else?
You do not come from anywhere,
Nor do you go some place.
In all locations there may be,
The wise ones never will see you.
Those who, thus, don’t see you
Will attain you in reality.
Having attained you, they’re released,
Which is a marvel really great indeed!
Whoever sees you is in bondage
And whoever doesn’t see is bound as well.
Whoever sees you is released
And whoever doesn’t is released as well.
Ah, how wonderful you are,
So illustrious and profound.
So hard to realize, just like an illusion,
You are seen and unseen too.
All Buddhas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Sravakas
Put their trust in none but you.
you alone are liberation’s path—
There are no others, that’s for sure.
For the sake of sentient beings,
Out of compassion, the protectors of the world
Speak of you in customary terms
But never speak [of you].
Who here would be able praising you,
Featureless, so pure and simple,
Beyond the reaches of all speech,
And not supported anywhere?
Still we praise you on the seeming level
By what’s possible in our speech like this.
Though you cannot be extolled at all,
We find mental ease through this.
Through the good I have accumulated
By my praise of Prajñaparamita,
May the whole world be devoted to
“In Praise to Prajñaparamita” by Rahulabhadra
(translated by Karl Brunnholzl in “Straight to the Heart”)
*Image: ‘Standing Prajnaparamita‘ by Tara DiGesu
Vajrayogini is a manifestation of ultimate wisdom and compassion. She aids in the transformation of mundane experience into higher levels of spiritual understanding. She is most commonly depicted dancing naked while holding a skull-cup containing the blood of ego in one hand and a curved knife to cut to the essence of things in the other. She often wears a garland of human skulls or severed heads.
In his oral commentary on Vajrayogini the great non-sectarian master Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, whose words were recorded by the Gelugpa writer Ngawang Damcho Gyatso, says:
“What are the different divisions of Vajrayogini?
There is the secret Vajrayogini; that is none other than the primordial base-of-all of all sentient beings, the clear light mind that has been pure from the beginning. In interdependence with that, there is there is the inner Vajrayogini [taking the form of] a short A, or in this system a VAM syllable, in the middle of a triangular [matrix of] channel-knots at the navel. In dependence on this there is the co-emergent sambhogakaya Vajrayogini who abides in the Akanishta heaven, arising as an appearance of the outer nirvana and samsara. There are the field-born nirmanakaya [vajrayoginis] that abide in the twenty-four, thirty-two etc. sacred places of Jambudvipa. And, all the women who abide in various countries and locations are the karma-born dakinis.”
Vajravarahi (Dorje Phagmo (Tib.): diamond sow)
A dakini, she is the consort of Cakrasamvara. She and Vajrayogini are aspects of the same deity. Vajravarahi is marked by a sow’s head protruding above her left ear. The sow represents Vairocana buddha–ignorance and passion, dharmadhatu wisdom and compassion.
Kurukulle (Red Tara), the passionate lotus dakini, originated from the country of Uddiyana.
She is said to have emanated from the Buddha Amitabha. Among Amitabha’s three female emanations Kurukulle is the most important one. Kurukulle is often called Red Tara or Tarodbhava Kurukulle, “the Kurukulle who arises from Tara.” According to the texts, Kurukulle is a sixteen year old maiden because sixteen is an auspicious number which signifies perfection (four times four). She is red in color because of her magical function of enchantment and magnetism.
She has a single face because she embodies non-dual wisdom beyond conventional distinctions of good and evil. She is naked because she is unconditioned by discursive thoughts. She has four arms because of the four immeasurable states of mind, namely, love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. She holds an arrow stretched on a bow entwined with flowers and leaves because she can give rise to thoughts of desire in the minds of others. In her other two hands she holds the hook that attracts and summons them into her presence and the noose by which she binds them to her will. Both of these implements enable her to catch those of us who have strayed from the path of the Dharma.
Kurukulle wears a crown of five skulls signifying the five perfections, whereas she herself embodies the sixth perfection, that of wisdom. She wears a necklace of fifty freshly severed human heads dripping blood because she vanquishes the fifty negative emotions. She is dancing because she is active and energetic, her compassionate activity manifesting in both Samsara and Nirvana. She dances, treading upon a male human corpse because she enchants and subjugates the demon of ego and desire also known as Kamadeva. She stands within a flaming aura because her nature is hot and enflamed with passion and upon a lotus blossom because she is a pure vision of enlightened awareness. In the practitioner’s meditation, such is the recollection of the purity of the vision of the goddess. Usually she is one faced but can have 2, 4, 6 or 8 arms. In the 6 armed form she has six Dhyani Buddhas engraved on her crown; in the 2 armed form she is known as Sukla Kurkulla; in the 4 armed form she is known as Oddiyana Kurkulle and by several other names.
Her mantra is ‘Om Kukulle Hum Hrih Svaha’.
Dorje Yudronma is a wisdom deity that manifests out of her compassion in the form of a protectress. She is one of the main Dharma protectresses of the Longchen Nyingthig, appearing to Kunkyen Longchenpa with prophetic revelations on multiple occassions.
Tsoknyi Rinpoche, The Yogini Project’s Spiritual Guide, has a special connection to Dorje Yudronma and has asked her to reside on his retreat land, Yeshe Rangsal, and help his students clear obstacles and progress on the path.
Prayer to the Protectress Dorje Yudronma
Yeshe katag tro dang trelwa ley
Rigpa osel Dorje Yudronma
Rig tsel gagmey khor ki tsok dang chey
Sol lo cho do do ton yishin drup
In primordial purity and wisdom free from elaborations,
Is the luminous awareness Dorje Yudronma,
Accompanied by her retinue, the unceasing expression of awareness.
We supplicate and make offerings. Accomplish our desires as wished!
Dorje Yudronma statue in her shrine home at Yeshe Rangsal retreat land in Crestone, Colorado. Commissioned by Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
“Ekajati is the principal guardian of the Dzogchen teachings. Enlightened from the very beginning, Ekajati is a direct emanation of primordial wisdom, Samantabhadri, who is the feminine aspect of the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra. As the primordially enlightened one, Samantabhadri, Ekajati has all-knowing wisdom regarding the teachings of Dzogchen. Ekajati visibly manifests in a particularly wrathful form in order to subjugate the very powerful and potentially destructive class of beings called ‘mamo.’ “Ekajati” means “one tuft of hair,” which is symbolic of wisdom. What is unique about her phusical form is that she is one-eyed, one-toothed, and one-breasted. These features symbolize non-dual awareness. As chief protectress of the Dzogchen teachings, she may make contact with a terton of Dzogchen master when the time is ripe to reveal a certain teaching, or terma. Chogyal Namkhai Norbu received an invocation from Ekajati as part as a Gongter of the Mandarava practice. The sadhana is an invocation within which the practitioner asks that Mandarava clear all obstacles to total realization and provide protection on the path.”
~ from “Dream Yoga” by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche
There is a fascinating account in this book, pages 113-130, wherein Chogyal Namkha Norbu recounts a visionary dream in which Ekajati appeared and assisted in bestowing empowerment during a terma revelation.
Ekajati thangka by Dawn Lhamo.
Palden Lhamo is one of the Eight Dharmapalas ( chos kyo ng), wrathful protectors of the Buddhist dharma, and the only female Dharmapala. She is considered the wrathful form of Shri Devi, the wrathful Dharmapalas are usually considered to be Tantric deities. The symbols that surround Palden Lhamo, as well as her extensive retinue, are characteristic of Dharmapalas in general with a few additional symbols unique to her important role.
Palden Lhamo gained ascendancy in the Lamaist world as the personal protector of the Dalai Lama and the capital city and home of the Dalai Lamas, Lhasa . Therefore, the Gelukpa sect makes wide use of her image and she is the most frequently represented Dharmapala in Dharamsala. Palden Lhamo is pictured as a wild and energetic force that defeats the harmful force of egotism.
Palden Lhamo has many symbolic items surrounding her person. Her right hand wields the surmounted vajra ( dorje ) while in vajratarjani mudra ( dorje khrobo digdzub chag gya ). The vajra is an ancient weapon that in Tibet is thought to cleave in two the enemies of dharma. Vajratarjani mudra, a variation of tarjani mudra, is a gesture of powerful menace. Palden Lhamo’s left hand holds a skullcap full of blood and substances used in esoteric rituals, proving her tantric connections. Her garb is impressively grotesque; a diadem of five skulls, human skins, lion and snake earrings and fresh tiger skins.
There are certain items that make Palden Lhamo easily distinguishable from other Dharmapalas. In her hair she wears a moon, and near her navel a sun, symbols that are mirrored in the heavens above. Palden Lhamo’s main distinctive mark is the peacock plumage in her hair. The peacock is known to be able to consume a great deal of poison without coming to harm, therefore it symbolizes the eradication of sin, the ‘spiritual poisons’.
Palden Lhamo has an expansive retinue that is often pictured with her. Below her are five important goddesses, the Five Sisters of Long Life. They are ancient goddesses of Tibet , converted to Buddhism and integrated into Buddhist iconography. They are said to reside on Jomo gangkar , the glacier portion of the peak known to westerners as Mount Everest . The goddess above the other four is the leader of the Long Life Sisters and carries a vase with the Water of Life. Each sister has their own special vehicle and bears different items to assist beings attain long lives. The wish for long life is common in Tibetan Buddhism and it is an especially popular wish for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
A Sorrowful Song to Palden Lhamo
~ by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Expanse of Great Bliss, all-pervading, free from elaborations,
with either angry or desirous forms related to those to be subdued,
You overpower the whole apparent world, Samsara and Nirvana.
Sole Mother, Lady Victorious Over the Three Worlds,
please pay attention here and now!
During numberless eons, by relying upon and accustoming Yourself to
the extensive conduct of the Bodhisattvas, which others find difficult
You obtained the power of the sublime Vajra Enlightenment;
Loving Mother, You watch and don’t miss the (right) time.
The winds of conceptuality dissolve into space.
Vajra-dance of the mind which produces all the animate and inanimate world,
as the sole friend yielding the pleasures of existence and peace,
Having conquered them all,
You are well praised as the Triumphant Mother.
By heroically guarding the Dharma and Dharma-holders, with the four types of actions, flashing like lightning
You soar up openly, like the full moon in the midst of a garland of powerful Dharma Protectors.
When from the troublesome nature of this most degenerated time
the hosts of evil omens — desire, anger, deceit — increasingly rise, even then
Your power is unimpeded, sharp, swift and limitless.
How wonderful! Longingly remembering You, O Goddess, from my heart,
I confess my broken vows and satisfy all Your pleasures.
Having enthroned You as the Supreme Protector, Greatest amongst the
Great, [I] accomplish Your appointed tasks with unflinching energy!
Fierce protecting deities and Your retinues who, in accordance with
the instructions of the Supreme Siddha, the Lotus-born Vajra, and by
the power of karma and prayers, have a close connection as Guardians
of Tibet, heighten Your majesty and increase Your powers!
All beings in the country of Tibet , although destroyed by the enemy and tormented by unbearable suffering,
Abide in the constant hope of glorious freedom.
How could they bear to not be given Your compassionate hand?
Thus please come forth to face the great murderers, the malevolent enemy.
O Lady who performs the actions of war and weapons;
Dakini, I summon You with this sorrowful song:
The time has come to bring forth
Your skill and power.
Throma Nagmo, the Wrathful Dakini, represents the innermost secret aspect of the dakini, the feminine embodiment of wisdom. The Chod practice of Throma Nagmo provides us with an extremely powerful means to cut through the dualistic clinging of mind, the root of suffering, thus revealing our inherent wisdom nature. Foreseeing the difficulties of future times, Guru Rinpoche in his compassion revealed a rare teaching of the Black Dakini to his chief consort Yeshe Tsogyal, who later concealed this as a terma (hidden treasure teaching). This treasure was to be discovered at an appropriate time by one of the reincarnations of Guru Padmasambhava’s 25 disciples, Drogben Khyeuchung Lotsawa. Drogben Lotsawa reincarnated as Duddul Dorje, the great revitaliser of the Kathog lineage, and then later as the meditation master and terton Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904). Dudjom Lingpa received direct transmissions of the Throma cycle in visions of Machig Labdron, Saraha, Padampa Sangye and others. He kept the practice secret for some time before teaching, but later at least thirteen of his disciples attained rainbow body through the practice of Throma Nagmo.
The practice of Throma contains the complete path of the Vajrayana, from ngondro (the preliminary practices) all the way through the Dzogchen (Great Perfection) practices of trekchod and thogal. The Throma-based practice of Chod removes obstacles, both for our short-term happiness and those hindering our ultimate enlightenment. It carries extraordinary healing power and through its practice we can accummulate merit and wisdom in a vast and rapid way. Merely making a connection to Throma practice brings great benefit and blessings.
Throma painting by Trish DeMers: Art of Wisdom Mind
Tséringma protects ones longevity in terms of non-dual awareness. She is one of five sisters who once inhabited mountain peaks above glacial lakes along the southern border of Tibet. She and her sisters each have a special blessing power: long-life, wealth, magical ability, nutrition, and fortuity. The Second Buddha – Padmasambhava – subdued the five sisters and oath-bound them to the teachings as protectors. They travelled to India and received further instruction in the charnel ground called ‘Dark Noise’. They received instructions from Lopön Chog-gyi Göcha and Mahasiddha Khana. Later, the five sisters encountered Milarépa and tested him through psychological assault to discover if he was a true practitioner. They were unable to harm him – due to both their vows to Padmasambhava and the profound realisation of Milarépa. After offering his body to them, the five sisters were convinced that Milarépa was a genuine siddha. Finally he gave them instruction on Kya’i Dorje Gyüd and Lé-kyi Chagya. He then took Tséringma as his consort.
This is elaborate and clearly demonstrates the active qualities of Tséringma. She holds the yeshé mélong – wisdom mirror – in her right hand which transmits the clear nature of Mind. In her right hand she holds the vajra pike (a dri-gug blade mounted affixed to a shaft) for laying waste to the hard shell of emotional indifference which obstructs the natural awareness of sentient beings.
Simhamukha is a wrathful dancing dark-blue figure similar to Vajravarahi in appearance and ornaments, holding a curved knife in her right hand and skullcup in her left, except that she also has the face of a lion–hence her name in Tibetan and Sanskrit (meaning “lion-face”). Her practice was founded by female practitioner, Jetsunma Lochen.
The first historical mention of Simhamukha was at the time of the great debate in India at Nalanda. It was during the magic contest that she appeared to Padmasambhava, offering him a casket, inside of which he found her mantra AH KA SA MA RA . There are other body colors for Simhamukha, such as dark red in the Dudjom Dakini Heart Essence.
Tibetan: གཙུག་གཏོར་རྣམ་རྒྱལ་མ། Namgyal-ma
Sanskrit: Ushnisavijaya (Uṣṇīṣavijayā)
Long life deity. Ushnishavijaya is an emanation of Buddha Vairocana, who is invoked for longevity of life. The other two are White Tara and Buddha Amitayus. She is very popular among devotees in Nepal and Tibet. Ushnishavijaya shown seated in a multi-tiered stupa is a very popular image in the Kathmandu valley.
Painting by Alicia Fernández.