From my heart I bow to Divine Mother Tara, essence of love and compassion,
the most precious objects of refuge gathered into one.
From now until I reach enlightenment,
hook me with your great love and kindness to liberate me.
~ Lama Lobsang Tenpey Gyaltsen
Just as most of us worldly beings feel affinity for our mothers and rely on their constant, compassionate help, we are naturally attracted to Tara’s female appearance. We can relax in her presence and look at ourselves honestly, knowing that Tara will not judge, reject, or abandon us due to our shortcomings. Like a mother, she sees her child’s potential — in this case, our spiritual potential or Buddha-nature — and wants to nurture it.
Her female form represents wisdom, the essential element needed to remove the ignorance that misconstrues reality and is the root of all our suffering. Women tend to have quick, intuitive, and comprehensive understanding. Tara represents this quality and consequently can help us to develop such wisdom. Thus she is called “the mother of all the Buddhas,” for the wisdom realizing reality that she embodies gives birth to full enlightenment, the state of freedom from self-grasping ignorance and its attendant, self-centeredness.
Green Tara’s color symbolizes activity and success. Although she possesses the same qualities as other manifestations of the omniscient ones, she specifically embodies the enlightening influence by which the Buddhas act to benefit and guide us. In addition, she represents the purified aspect of the element of air, which activates growth in the world.
On a lotus and moon seat
Immaculate as an utpala,
Your body blue-green coloured, graceful,
You hold an utpala –
homage to You!
Her green color represents success — in worldly affairs as well as in spiritual development — giving us a sense of delight, hope, and optimism. Aspirations made in the presence of Green Tara may easily grow into results, and requests made to her may be quickly actualized.
Tara’s body is made of light. Transparent, it appears and yet is intangible, like a rainbow, mirage, or illusion. Her outstretched right foot indicates her readiness to step into the realms of suffering, confused beings in order to help us. Her left leg is tucked in, demonstrating that she has full control over her subtle inner energies. No matter whether others praise or blame her, harm or help her, her energy does not become unbalanced and she does not lose her equanimity.
Tara’s right hand in the gesture of granting sublime realizations shows that by following the path we can attain these realizations ourselves. This gesture is also called the gesture of generosity, symbolizing her willingness to give material possessions, love, protection, and the Dharma to all beings according to their needs and their dispositions. Her left hand is in the gesture of the Three Jewels, with the thumb and ring finger touching and the other three fingers stretched upward. These three fingers represent the Three Jewels. They indicate that by entrusting ourselves to these three objects of refuge and practicing their teachings, we can actualize the unity of compassionate bliss and wisdom, which is symbolized by the joining of her ring finger and thumb.
O, mama of the three times’ Victors,
you whose great love for all sentient ones
is like a mother’s love for her child!
Through your affection,
the two obscurations of wayfarers and myself are cleansed
and the two accumulations are perfected.
In all lifetimes,
the eight or sixteen perils’ discord is pacified
and practice, merit, spiritual teachings and endowment increase.
Fully released from the iron shackles of self-grasping,
may my altruistic intent and benefit to beings
become inseparable from yours!
Accomplish whatever petitions are made by disciples endowed with samaya!
~ Garchen Rinpoche
Tara’s right hand and foot are both extended outward, emphasizing her compassionate activity — the method aspect of the path to enlightenment. Her left hand and foot, which are closer to her, indicate her imperturbable inner peace, gained through practicing the wisdom aspect of the path.
In each hand, Tara holds the stems of utpala, or blue lotus, flowers. On her left side, one utpala is a bud, one is blossoming, and one is fully open. The bud represents the Buddhas of the future, the fully opened lotus symbolizes the Buddhas of the past, and the blossoming lotus is the Buddhas of the present.
On Tara’s crown is Amitabha Buddha, peaceful and smiling. As Tara’s spiritual mentor, he represents the importance of having a fully qualified, wise, and compassionate guide on the path. By keeping her mentor on her crown, Tara is ever mindful of the teachings she has received from him. This reminds us to do the same. While we ordinary beings decorate ourselves with external ornaments to look beautiful, Tara’s inner beauty — her tranquility, compassion, and wisdom — are her real adornments. Her dazzling jeweled necklaces, armlets, anklets, earrings, and tiara indicate that the six far-reaching attitudes or paramitas — generosity, ethics, patience, joyous effort, concentration, and wisdom — are fully integrated in her being and decorate her every activity.
Tara is also adorned with three syllables: om at her crown chakra, ah at her throat chakra, and hum at her heart chakra. These three syllables embody respectively, a Buddha’s physical, verbal, and mental faculties. They also represent respectively the Sangha, Dharma, and Buddha Jewels of refuge. These syllables serve as subtle objects upon which a meditator may focus; they also remind us of the qualities we are developing within ourselves as a result of practicing the Buddha’s teaching. In this way, each characteristic of Tara’s form illustrates the path to Buddhahood and its resultant qualities.
Her mantra is OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA.
Source: “How to Free Your Mind, Tara the Liberator” by Ven. Thubten Chodron.