According to "Mandala: The Architecture of Enlightenment" by Denise Patry Leidy & Robert A. F. Thurman (Shambhala 1997): "Tara ["Star"] is the archangelic and archetype-deity bodhisattva representing the miraculous activities of all buddhas. In myth she is born from Avalokitesvara's tears of compassion or from her own vow to be enlightened and stay a woman...|
There are innumerable manifestations of Tara,(1) as many as beings require, but her most famous are the peaceful White Tara, who brings protection, long life and peace; and the dynamic Green Tara, who overcomes obstacles and saves beings in dangerous situations.
Presented here is Tara's vow to remain in female form until all living beings attain enlightenment, from the translation by David Templeman of the
"Origin of the Tara Tantra" by Jo-Nan Taranatha (b. 1575), (Library of
Tibetan Works & Archives, 1981). See also "An Anthology of Sacred Texts By and
About Women," edited by Serenity Young, NY: Crossroad, 1993.
Long ago in an age before which
there was nothing else,
the Victorious One, the Tathagata Dundubhisvara
came into existence and was known as the Light
of the Various Worlds.
The Princess "Moon of Wisdom"
had the highest respect for his teaching,
and for ten million, one hundred thousand years,
made offerings to this Enlightened One,
to his attendant Sravakas,
and to countless members of the Sangha of Bodhisattvas.
The offerings she prepared each day
were in value comparable to all the precious things
which filled a distance of twelve yojanas
in each of the ten directions,
leaving no intermediate spaces unfilled.
Finally after all this
she awoke to the first concepts of Bodhi-Mind.
At that time some monks said to her:
"It is as a result of these,
your roots of virtuous actions,
that you have come into being in this female form.
If you pray that your deeds accord with the teachings,
then indeed on that account you will change your form
to that of a man, as is befitting."
After much discourse she finally replied,
"In this life there is no such distinction
as "male" and "female,"
neither of "self-identity,"
nor any perception,
and therefore attachment to ideas
of "male" and "female"
is quite worthless.
The weak-minded are always deluded by this."
And so she vowed:
"There are many who wish to gain enlightenment
in a man's form,
and there are but few who wish to work
for the welfare of living beings
in a female form.
Therefore may I, in a female body,
work for the welfare of beings
right until Samsara has been emptied."