Tara by Mayumi Oda
Goddesses of Compassion: Tibetan Goddess Tara & KUAN YIN
Illustration (top): Liberated Green Tara by Mayumi Oda
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,"
    a "person"
    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." 

(1) "innumerable manifestations of Tara, as many as beings require": There is a story in Taranatha's "Golden Rosary" about an old Buddhist woman sculptor who worked in Vajrasana, where there was a temple called the Mahabodhi (Great Wisdom). One day she built a shrine for Tara, but when it was finished the old woman felt regret, thinking: "Oh dear, she has her back to the Mahabodhi! -- that can't be right." Then speech came from the image itself saying: "If you are not pleased, I shall look towards the Mahabodhi." And the door of the shrine and the image both turned to face the Mahabodhi. This story names Tara as "Tara of the Turned Face," and names the old woman as "Mahabodhi."

    Tibetan Homage to the Innumerable
    Manifestations of Tara
    from the Peking Tangyur

    I bow to the Body of Tara who saves from the eight fears.
    I bow to the Body of Tara of infinite fame.
    I bow to the Body of Tara, the world's benefactor.
    I bow to the Body of Tara, sure curer of sorrow.

    I bow to the Body of Tara
    of a thousand hands and eyes.
    I bow to the Body of Tara
    infinite as space.
    I bow to the Body of Tara
    adorned with the Marks and the Signs.
    I bow to the Body of Tara
    whose limbs are like the moon.
    I bow to the Body of Tara
    who is as bright as the sun.
    I bow to the Body of Tara
    unchanging in the three times.

    I bow to the Body of Tara supporting like earth.
    I bow to the Body of Tara cohering like water.
    I bow to the Body of Tara ripening like fire.
    I bow to the Body of Tara expanding like air.

    I bow to the Body of Tara
    who is the Sovereign of Doctors.
    I bow to the Body of Tara
    subduing disease like medicine.
    I bow to the Body of Tara
    the river of compassion.
    I bow to the Body of Tara
    skilled in means like taming.
    I bow to the Body of Tara
    lovely yet free of desire
    I bow to the Body of Tara
    who teaches the Way of Freedom.

See Martin Wilson, "In Praise of Tara: Songs of the Saviouress," Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1986/1996  

Goddess of Compassion: Kuan Yin
Women Zen Masters

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