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Tara in Bodhisattva

Tara in Bodhisattva

Across both Buddhism and Hinduism, Tara is a feminine deity who epitomizes compassion and offers liberation from the sufferings of reincarnation and mortality. She is often invoked for security, wisdom, and escape from difficult situations and therefore is considered to have been created out the of tenderness for the struggling world. Tara is regarded as the female embodiment of avalokitesvara who himself is understood as the embodiment of compassion & compassionate wisdom.

She is the second of ten Mahavidyas, or incarnations of the great Mother Goddess Mahadevi, in Hinduism (also known as Adi Parashakti as well as other names). The goddess Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati constitute the Adi Parashakti trinity, and the Mahavidyas are more specialized incarnations of these three. As Hinduism is henotheistic, she is an ishta-devi, one’s absolute favorite deity (the male version is an ishta-deva) (a belief in a single deity with many manifestations). Tara is a manifestation of Parvati as a devoted mother caring for and protecting her children and is thought to be the mother of Sakyamuni Buddha (l. c. 563 – c. 483 BCE) who is understood in Hinduism as an avatar of the god Vishnu. Her major cult center is Tarapith in West Bengal.

Tara is a Buddhist savior deity who liberates souls from suffering. In Buddhist Practice, she is renowned as a bodhisattva (“spirit of enlightenment”), and in Esoteric Buddhism, particularly Vajrayana Buddhism, she is recognized as a buddha and the mother of lord buddha (also known as Tibetan Buddhism). According to one legend, she emerged from the tear of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, who grieved as he contemplated the suffering world. She is therefore associated especially with compassion, but she can take on a range of shapes to advise and protect her devotees, along with a vengeful deity imitating Kali, the Hinduism deity of death and integration.

The earliest fully attested documented evidence of Tara’s devotion derives from the 5th century CE, but the goddess has long been acknowledged, since she is mentioned in the Rig Veda (c. 1500-1100 BCE) and then was well throughout the Vedic Period (c. 1500 – c. 500 BCE). She is also connected to the deity Prajnaparamita, who appears in the Buddhist compilation Completion of Wisdom, which has been written around c. 50 BCE and c. 600 CE. Tara is considered as a central piece of light that can traverse by.  She is however documented in the 8th century CE Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bardo Thodol.

Her title means “savories” in Sanskrit, but it can also be interpreted as “star,” and she is invoked for guidance in life in general, as well as by those that are wandering and having difficulty finding their way. Tara, like a star, is thought to provide a single point of light which can be used to navigate. She is connected to divine feminine figures in Buddhist schools from all around the world, and yet she is probably best renowned in the West as Guanyin, the Chinese deity of compassion. She still is venerated in both Hinduism and Buddhism today, and she is among the most successful and influential goddesses in Esoteric Buddhist schools.

Historical Development

It is unclear when the veneration of Tara began, but she is associated with the Shakti sect of Hinduism which worships the feminine divine principle of the Mahadevi as the source of all creation rather than the male principle of Brahman. Shakti does not deny the male principle, recognizing the importance of both male and female, but elevates the Mahadevi to the most prominent position. It is likely this sect was established by the Indus Valley Civilization (c. 7000 – c. 600 BCE) and influenced the development of the popular sects of Vaishnavism (centered on the god Vishnu) and Shaivism (emphasizing Shiva). All three recognize the importance of balance between male and female energies as well as the elevating effect of personal devotion to the deity of one’s choice.

As noted, textual evidence for Tara comes first from the Rig Veda and physical evidence of her worship from her temple at Tara pith, established in c. 1225 BCE. The site of Tara pith was formerly (and part of it still is) a charnel ground where corpses were left to decompose (or were cremated) as part of mortuary rituals. These grounds were frequented by religious ascetics known as siddhas as well as those who were considered even more spiritually advanced known as mahasiddhas (“great” or “perfected” siddhas) who claimed to be able to commune with the eternal spirits and powers of the place as well as the souls of the dead.

Tara pith (as the name makes clear) is a pith (plural, pitha, “abode” or “seat”) of Tara, a place where her power and presence are most accessible. As she is associated with death and symbols of mortality such as skulls in some of her forms, she may have been developed by mahasiddhas sometime before 1225 BCE as their ishta devi, probably as part of the Shakti sect. Whatever part purely religious considerations played in this, their devotion to Tara would have self-identified the group, differentiating it from others in the Shakti sect, and helping to develop a specific form of worship of the goddess.

Tara in Hinduism

There are several origin tales for Tara in Hinduism but one of the best-known concerns the goddess Sati, consort of Shiva. Sati’s father, Daksha, insulted Shiva by not inviting him to participate in a sacred fire ritual. Sati felt personally responsible for this slight and, unable to live with the shame of her father’s actions, threw herself into the fire during the ritual. Shiva went mad with grief and, to help him, Vishnu gathered up the parts of Sati’s body and scattered them across India. Wherever a part fell, it bloomed into a manifestation of another goddess, and so Sati continued to live through them. Each of these sites was then recognized as a pith – the home or “seat” of a particular goddess.

One of Sati’s eyeballs is said to have fallen at Tarapith, making that her seat, and the temple was later raised in her honor. The site was obviously associated with Tara before the construction of the temple and especially its charnel grounds where the siddhas and mahasiddhas would engage in their rituals. Scholars Robert E. Buswell, Jr. and Donald S. Lopez, Jr. comment.

[Pitha] appear commonly in scenes from the lives of the mahasiddhas. Many of the sites can be linked to geographical locations on the Indian subcontinent, although some remain unidentified, and the location of others shifts according to different traditions. They are considered, however, to form a network, both in the external world and inside the body of the tantric practitioner. In both their external and internal forms, the pitha are presumed to form a mandala.

The mandala (Sanskrit for “circle”) is a geometric shape expressing spiritual meaning and interpreted by those who view it as a kind of map of their inward journey. It can also be understood as a representation of Divine Order, which is how it would be understood regarding the pitha. Hinduism is known to adherents as Sanatan Dharma (“Eternal Order”), and the universe is understood to operate according to the rules of that order created and maintained by Brahman. When Vishnu scattered the parts of Sati’s body, therefore, Divine Order directed where they would land for its own purposes; these purposes were later understood as the creation of a mandala to aid human beings in their spiritual work.

The pitha became pilgrimage sites and Tarapith one among many. Tarapith honors Tara in her form as compassionate mother while also recognizing her fierce protective nature. Accordingly, blood sacrifices were made (and still are in the present) to the cult statue of the goddess inside the temple. Participation in the rituals at Tarapith are believed to be restorative, curing illnesses (both physical and psychological) and even bringing the newly dead back to life.

Tara in Buddhism

Tara pith is a Hindu temple and, specifically, of the Shakti sect, but it is honored by Buddhists who recognize Tara as not only the mother of Sakyamuni Buddha but of all buddhas before and after him. She is said to have been born of the compassion of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (also known as a buddha) when he wept over the suffering world. Avalokitesvara is an important figure in both Hinduism and Buddhism and, in the latter, is associated with the sacred number 108 as he is said to have 108 avatars which appear to people in their various forms to help them most effectively.

In Tibetan Buddhism, he is known as Chenrezig who, upon looking down upon the world from the summit of a mountain, saw how people endlessly suffered through ignorance, which trapped them in their own fears and bound them to the cycle of rebirth and death (samsara) on which they would suffer eternally unless awakened. His tears formed a pool at his feet which expanded into a lake, and, at its center, a lotus appeared and then opened, revealing Tara in her complete form and power. She is therefore regarded as the female embodiment of Avalokitesvara/ Chenrezig who himself is understood as the embodiment of compassion and compassionate wisdom.

Modern-day scholars continue to debate whether Tara emerged first in Hinduism or Buddhism which may seem a senseless argument since it is clear, historically, that Hindu texts and the temple honoring her predate the establishment of Buddhism. Buddhists, however, claim an eternal spiritual history for their belief system comparable to that claimed by Hinduism, and according to this understanding, Avalokitesvara, and therefore Tara, predate institutionalized Hinduism. In this Buddhist cosmography, there are many different world systems operating in different spheres of time simultaneously, and in one of these, according to another origin tale, Tara was born.

Moon of Primordial Awareness”), daughter of a king, who lives in the realm of Multicolored Light and makes sacrifices for centuries in her pursuit of wisdom until she is taken on as a student by The Drum-Sound Buddha, the Buddha of that world, who instructs her in the path of enlightenment. Having attained a high degree of spiritual insight, she takes the vow of the bodhisattva and is blessed by the Buddha. The monks rejoice at her accomplishment and tell her she should now pray to be reborn as a male so she can advance further in her next life.

She then vows to always be incarnated as a female for as long as she continues in the realm of samsara because there were many men who served as role models of the enlightened path but, owing to human ignorance and male arrogance, few women. She continued to advance in spiritual wisdom, power, and compassion, meditating continuously, and by so doing she freed infinite numbers of souls from the suffering of rebirth and death, finally becoming the goddess Tara, the savioress, always ready to respond to the cries of those who call upon her.

Tara as Symbol of Transformation

She is believed to quickly respond to adherents who recite her mantra, “Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha” (pronounced Ohm Tahray Too-Tahray Turay So-ha), which cannot be literally translated but essentially praises the goddess for her role as savior and asks for her speedy assistance. The mantra is often chanted or sung to musical accompaniment and repeated during private meditation or public worship. The mantra is thought to not only bring Tara into the physical and spiritual presence of the one reciting it but also encourage growth and change.

Tara herself can manifest in 21 forms and so embodies the value of transformation. Aside from her mantra, adherents also recite the prayer known as Praises to the Twenty-One Taras which, names each of her forms, what that form protects against, asks for her help, and praises her for salvation from rebirth and death.

Green Tara

Green Tara: “Tara Who Protects from the Eight Fears” (lions, elephants, fire, snakes, thieves, water, imprisonment, demons), representing protection from misfortune generally. Green Tara is the most often depicted and best-known image of the goddess.

Mantra of Green Tara


White Tara

White Tara: She is not always depicted as white but recognized by eyes on the palms of her hands, soles of her feet, and a third eye on her forehead symbolizing her attentiveness. The White Tara embodies compassion and is invoked for healing (physical, spiritual, and psychological) and the hope of longevity, for good fortune in any enterprise, protection, and spiritual progress.

Mantra of White Tara


TUTT Means to be liberated of SAMSARA. TARE illustrates that Mother Tara relieves living beings from samsara, or actual sorrow. TUTTARE empowers you from unwanted anxieties. TURE, the third word, enables you from sickness.

Red Tara

Red Tara (Kurkula): She depicted with eight arms, each hand holding a different object associated with warning against and protection from danger. She is associated with the attraction of positive energies, spiritual focus, and psychological/spiritual victory. She is often invoked by those trying to break bad habits.

Mantra of Red Tara

OM TARE TAM SOHA (It is for love and attraction.)

Yellow Tara

Yellow Tara (Golden Tara): She depicted with eight arms, hands holding jewels or a single hand holding a jewel believed to grant wishes. She symbolizes prosperity, physical comfort, and wealth and is always either a shade of yellow or gold. She is invoked for financial gain but also for the granting of wishes having to do with the welfare of one’s family, friends, and oneself.

It contributes in the manifestation and fulfillment of one’s goals. You are urging (kuru) Tara to boost (pushtam) your life energies (ayur) and merit (punye), your contributions to imparting positive energy to creatures all throughout the planet, near and far, when you chant the Golden Tara mantra. Recitations of mantras do not have to be limited to formal practice. Use them throughout the day to help you calm down and concentrate on whatever activity you’re working on

Mantra of Yellow Tara



Black Tara

Black Tara: She is associated with personal spiritual power, she is depicted with an open mouth and wrathful expression as though yelling, seated on a sun disc sometimes alive with flames, holding a black urn containing the essential forces necessary to overcome negative energies and destructive forces, whether internal or external. She is invoked to clear obstacles one has created or those placed in one’s path by others or circumstance.

All of her forms are transformative in nature and, as noted, encourage transformation in adherents. Tara continues in this role after one’s death as she serves as a protector and a guide in the afterlife. In the work known as Bardo Thodol (“Liberation Through Hearing in the Intermediate State”), better known as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Tara is invoked for protection and called on in the concluding Prayer for Guidance. In the prayer, she is invoked in her various forms and colors to assist the soul in finding peace.

Whatever her color or form, she is always shown as a young, slim, healthy woman ready to spring into action on behalf of her devotees. Tara’s ability to address the needs and concerns of virtually every aspect of a believer’s life makes her among the most popular, if not the most popular, goddess in the Buddhist pantheon in the present day, just as she has been regarded in the past.

Her appeal to women who know they are equally as capable of spiritual enlightenment as men adds to her popularity. Theravada Buddhism and some other schools of Buddhist thought hold that to reach the highest spiritual plane and be free of rebirth as well as death, one must be incarnated as a male, but Tara shows clearly in her story of enlightenment in the realm of multi – colored light that “male” and “female” are illusory distinctions clung to by superficial minds unable to recognize the true nature of reality.

  1. World History Encyclopedia – Tara
  2. Tara (Buddhism) – Wikipedia
  3. Tara | Description & Facts | Britannica