Tara – Mother of the Buddhas
The story goes that the spirit of great compassion looked down on the world and saw its troubles.
The spirit looked at the world with love and sadness and from the tears of compassion for the world, Tara was formed. She was the Buddha before all Buddhas took human form. In the Mahayana traditions of Buddhism, she is seen equal to and in some aspects greater than Gautama Buddha Shakyamuni.
Tara’s aspects are great compassion and healing for the world. She is swift to help and protect all living beings.
She is often depicted sitting on an open lotus, holding in one hand a herb of healing while the other hand is positioned in the mudra of dispelling ignorance. Two lotuses adorn her shoulders, confirming her title of Buddha. In her crown she wears the image of the spirit of compassion. One arm is stretched out to help and a leg is positioned outwards so that she can quickly run to our help. Her mantra is Om Tara Tutare Tore Turey Soha, meaning reverence to Tara, the original mother and sister, Amen.
Tara is honoured mostly in Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, Nepal and Northern India. In China she is Juan Yin, in Japan Cua Non. Tara is the most powerful goddess and listens to and loves all who honour her.
Tara the star
Tara is a sanskrit word, meaning ‘star’. We hear echoes of her name in the Latin ‘Terra’ (Mother Earth). The Druids called their mother goddess Tara and an ancient 5 million year old saga of Finland speaks of ‘Tar the woman of wisdom’. Indigenous people of the South American jungle call their goddess Tarahumara and the Cheyenne people speak of a star woman who fell from the heavens and out of her body, life-giving food grew. She sent her people to mate with the earth people, giving them wisdom.
To Tibetans the Buddha is a being who has gone beyond birth and death and become enlightened, no-longer in this world or the spirit world, see here – but attaining the highest wisdom, compassion and capability. Buddhas integrate all aspects and possibilities and are one with everything that exists. From their bodies, they manifest and radiate light and bring benefit to this world of confusion and challenge. Tara is one such being. She is known by the Tibetans as the Faithful one and Fierce Protectoress, and many miraculous tales are recounted of Tibetans being rescued by her during the Chinese Invasion.
Tara is an archetype of our own inner wisdom and journey to freedom. In legend, she is said to govern the underworld, the heavens and earth, birth, death and regeneration, love and war, the seasons, all growing things and the cycles of the moon. Her animals are the sow, mare, raven and Owl and her gem is the diamond.
Green Tara is her nature related aspect, At Mahatara. As Great Tara, she is the creator and Mother . She is the consort of Dhyanai Buddha Amogasiddhi and is incarnated in all good women.
As white Tara, she rose from a lotus which bloomed in the lake, forming the first tear of compassion of great bodhisattva Avalokiteswara (whose human incarnation is believed to be the Dalai Lama).
As white and green Taras, she is shown with the contrasting symbols of open and closed lotus which symbolise the unending compassion of the deity who labours day and night to relieve suffering.
Tibetan temple banners often show 21 different Taras coloured white, red and yellow grouped around a central green Tara.
It is worth remembering that In Buddhism, the male energy is potential, latent and inactive. It is the female energy as shown through Tara, that activates this potential into movement and creativity. When offered incarnation as a male, Tara refused, choosing to be always incarnated as female. Tara is called upon in times of need and provides protection and guidance along the path of life with its egos and attachments.
Goddess of Fortune
In the Hindu religion, Lakshmi is the goddess of prosperity, wealth, pleasure and abundance. She represents all the good things of life and bestows favours on her devotees. She has four hands, which represent the four spiritual virtues, (although when with Vishnu she is shown with two hands) and sits on a fully blossoming lotus, representing divine truth. An aura of happiness and complete mental and spiritual satisfaction and prosperity abounds wherever she is and she resides where virtue, truth, righteousness and compassion prevail.
Laksmhi is consort to Vishnu, Hindu god of preservation, and she is the mother of Kama, the young God of love. Usually she is shown bejewelled, sitting on a lotus, and wearing a red sari, with one hand and holding a vase, containing fortune and wealth while one palm is extended in blessing. Often, white elephants can be seen playing nearby, emptying pitchers of water over her.
Lakshmi has different forms. As Shreedevi, she makes kings of men, giving them splendour and authority and is the source of Vishnu’s divine power, helping him protect the universe. As Vishnu’s Shakti or feminine counterpart, it is her job to transform his energy into action. Without the feminine influence, this power can not be actualised and would remain useless. She provides the spark that lights the fire, turning dormant power into action. As Bhudevi, the earth goddess, she gives food, clothing and shelter to all creatures.
Lakshmi is undoubtedly one of the favourite goddesses in the Hindu pantheon and in Northern India her festival is called Dwali (pronounced Devali) festival of light. It is celebrated in November, when Hindus clean their homes and place bright or sparkling items on altars to catch her eye. In Southern India she is worshipped on the first Friday of the month of Shravan. Her colours are pink, gold and orange and she is often described as dark, pink, golden, yellow or white. If with a dark complexion, she is the consort of Vishnu, if golden yellow, the source of all wealth, and if white, the purest form of prakriti (nature) from which the universe is formed. If she is mother of all, a pinkish complexion shows
A vedic verse entitled Srisukta, comprising prayer and invocation is recited while worshipping. It expresses a desire to know her appearance, nature and greatness:
Hiranyavarnam: Lakshmi is brilliant like the sun
Padmavame Kakshims: Face is beautiful like a lotus
Padmadalayatakshi: Her eyes are broad and beautiful as petals of a lotus.
Padmamalineem: One wearing a garland of lotus flowers.
Sarasinjanilaye: One residing on a lotus flower.
Sarasijahaste: One holding a lotus in her hand.
It is said that those who recite Shrisukta, receive her grace and
Na krodho na cha matsaryam na lobho na shubta matih: they do not get angry, are devoid of envy, not greedy, they do not think evil. Also that they live long, have good health and lead a glorious life. Such and other benefits are, it is said, derived from praying to Laksmi.
Kwan Yin – Goddess of Compassion
Kwan Yin, or Quan Yin, is one of those rare deities that belongs to several religions at the same time. Ever changing, she can be seen at Buddhist shrines all over the world and her calm serenity watches over Confucianist shrines in China, or Shinto shrines in Japan.
Kwan Yin is the equivalent of the Tibetan Tara, the Christian Madonna, the African Yemaya or the South American Virgen de Guadalaupe. Women all over the world have prayed to her for healing of a sick child, relief from pain, or help in times of trouble. Her presence calms those who suffer and brings peace to the heart. Her name means “She who hears the cries of sentient beings”. She looks without judgement and reflects back even the tiniest amount of love, magnified a thousandfold. She is said to be a bodhisattva, one who is qualified to enter nirvana but who chose to remain on earth to bring enlightenment to others.
Kwan Yin’s energy is like the softest, fast flowing water of a fountain. She is often depicted wearing flowing white robes and carrying in her left hand a white lotus, symbol of purity, standing or sitting on a lotus blossom or holding a small vial or vase (representing growth). Ornaments may adorn her, symbolising her attainment as bodhisattva, or she is shown without them as a sign of great virtue.