Seasonal Salon

TARA - Amazing and Multifaceted Goddess of Eastern Wisdom

An astonishing array of aspects exists for Asiatic Tara. One for every situation you can imagine and a few for those unimaginable. We may have heard in passing of Her various colors. We may have sung her 21 praises. We may have even seen a reference to the multitude (130+) of Tara’s around the world. The following, although detailed, gives just a glossing overview of who She is, what each color represents and Her attributes.

What’s In A Name?

Worship of deities named some version of Tara have spanned the globe for over ten centuries. To Tibetans and Druids, She is Tara. In Latin countries, She is Terra, Mother Earth. In ancient Finland, She is Tar, in all wise women. An indigenous tribe in NW Mexico is called the Tarahumara (however this is how Castillian discoverers mispronounced their real name of Raramuri). Several male deities cross the globe as well – most are creator gods who self generated (need I say more) such as Tarai of Melanesia, Ta’aroa of Tahiti and Pacific Isles, Taras of Tarascos, MX, Tore of Zaire and Sudan just to name a few. But let us voyage back to the Asiatics.

The Sanskrit root târ means "to traverse" or "cross over" as in using a bridge to ford a stream. This makes sense as ancient tribal symbology associates Her with the Dragon Goddess Nu Kua, who connects the realms of heaven and earth. In orthodox Indian sacred tradition, Târâ refers to the second of Ten Means to Realization. You can research the other nine on your own. As a Târîni, or Hindu higher female deity, She carries you across; She serves as a bridge to immortality. The root tar can also mean "tree," and is related to "star" and "pupil of the eye." All of which can serve as bridges to other realms. As a Star Goddess, Tara combines opposing natures like the sky itself.

Om-Tarae, She of Many Names is the Goddess with the most aspects in eastern mythology – over one hundred forms. Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads consist of a string of 108 seed beads and are completed by reciting a different name of Tara for each bead. How many names for one Goddess can you rattle off in a sitting?

Begin at the Beginning

Tibetan oral myth references Tara as having existed since primordial time, in other words forever with no beginning or end. She attained a state of original wakefulness or supreme enlightenment even before Buddha himself and vowed to forever work for the welfare of all beings as a woman.

With practice, She became able to liberate one hundred billion sentient beings a day from their mundane frame of mind. She was named Arya Tara – the Sublime Savioress, and the mere statement of Her name can invoke blessings which dispel both sufferings on the earthly plane as well as issues in the passive parts of planar transitions.

She then vowed in front of a buddha referred to as Amoghasiddhi (the cosmic element of confirmation) to protect beings of the ten directions from fear and all kinds of harm. As a ritualist who regularly works with containers and shields on several planes, it just took me a second to realize what the ten directions were and be utterly amazed at the depth and pervasiveness of wisdom revealed within that vow!

Due to the strength of Her presence Tara, in several forms, was adopted into the Buddhist pantheon about 650 CE. Buddhist myth attributes Her origin to a human either (depending on the story) a compassionate princess or two very popular tribal wives of a then reigning king. The human form of Tara, according to myth, defied monks of the time who were praying that she reincarnate as a male to further Buddhist teachings. It is said she stated the desire to constantly return to serve the people on this plane as female until all suffering ceased.

Many Colors of Tara

Green Tara ~ Goddess of Compassionate Protection

Green Tara is the benevolent deity of enlightened activity, who helps us to overcome fear and anxiety. Green Tara, also known as the 21 Aryas, incorporates all Tara aspects within Her and as such is the most common image represented.

Green Tara offers nurturing and protection from all unfortunate circumstances we can encounter on this earthly plane of existence. Green Tara hears our cries when we experience misery, grants wishes and eliminates suffering of all kinds.

She represents the virtues of success in work and achievements. Green Tara practice, or meditative chant recitation, is used to develop certain inner qualities and to understand outer, inner and secret teachings about compassion and emptiness.

She is Protector who, when called upon, instantly saves us from eight misfortunes: fire, theft, lightening, flood, earthquake, enemy, famine and untimely death. Goddess of self mastery, mysticism, and the journey to wisdom, She playfully watches the game of life.

White Tara ~ Goddess of Compassion and Mercy

One myth states White Tara emerged from a tear of grief from Avalokiteswara, or the male form of Her abilities, however as with other Tara’s her worship predates this myth. Worship of White Tara has transcended all borders as Kuan (Kwan or Quan) Yin, spelling varies by region.

She is both the 3-eyed White and the 7-eyed Moon Goddess, able to see in all directions and on all planes. She compassionately protects us from suffering as we cross the ocean of existence. As Great Mother, She reveals the beauties of the afterlife. White Tara is usually depicted as full bodied with three flowers in various stages of growth symbolizing past, present and future or just three eyes. She carries Her symbolic vase which holds the Waters of Life and Immortality.

White Tara expresses maternal compassion and offers healing when we are hurt or wounded, either physically or psychically. She is personification of compassion, mercy and understanding. If we meditate on Her peace and generosity, those aspects will manifest within our lives.

Yellow Tara ~ Goddess of Increasing Enrichment

Golden Goddess of wealth, also known as Vasundhara in Hindi, Yellow Tara is the remover of poverty. She increases all kinds of abilities, enriching us with prosperity and wealth in the world, as well as increased abundance, merit, knowledge, intelligence, eloquence, and so forth. Yellow Tara helps us relax and trust in the sure abundance of both the physical and spiritual worlds.

Hmm, so why is She considered one of the fierce Tara’s? Perhaps it is that Buddhist teachings emphasize complete detachment from material possessions and emotional connections. Perhaps it is the trident She carries which symbolizes the threefold aspects of creation, protection and destruction.

This insight gives us a clearer understanding of Yellow Tara as a destroyer of not just poverty but of ignorance. Yellow Tara offers us a choice – stay on this plane in material wealth and splendor or detach from the mundane and experience the wealth of enlightenment in other realms. Either choice has merit.

Red Tara ~ Fierce Magnifying Goddess

Tibetan words for Red Tara mean - She Who is the Cause of Knowledge. Red Tara, or Kurukulla may use suffering to foster our healing and courage. Not very nice, but effective! Even in Her wrathful aspects, Tara's role is to dispel the fear of death and foster the evolution of compassion. She represents a protective force which fights off demons and wicked spirits. Perhaps, as Her syno-deity Kali is prone to do, lusting insatiably for death. Red Tara is powerfully able to magnify all good things.

Red Tara has the amazing ability of enchantment or bewitchment - evocatively convincing you to transform. She is Goddess of love and sex and is commonly associated with magick. She represents the function of having people succumb under our power, of enchanting, bewitching, attracting, subjugating, magnetizing them – very Gorgonic if we think about it! As Red Tara, She teaches Discriminating Awareness about created phenomena, and how to turn raw desire into compassion and love.

Scattered reference can be found to an ancient text which lists eight magical powers acquired through Kurukulla practice. Quite humorous and somewhat useful, they include the power to be invincible in battle with a sword; the power to remove ordinary lack of sight by using a magickal ointment; the power to be swift of foot by using a magickal ointment that, when applied to feet, allows us to run with incredible swiftness; the power of invisibility; the power of rejuvenation and long life through obtaining the elixir of life via alchemical process; the power to levitate or astral project; the power to move freely through earth, mountains, and solid walls; and the power to have command over spirits of the underworld. Some are very useful skills.

Blue Tara ~ Goddess of Liberation

Blue Tara, or Ekajati, is associated with the transmutation of anger. A Protector expressing ferocious, wrathful, female energy who destroys all learning obstacles producing good luck and swift spiritual awakening. She removes fear of enemies, spreading joy and good fortune. She also removes personal blockages on our path to spiritual awakening. As with Red Tara, Blue Tara is also a Dancing Goddess who may nastily use suffering to foster healing and courage.

Ekajati is one of the most powerful and fierce Goddesses of Tibetan mythology, a Buddhist modification of the ancient Tibetan Goddess of heaven. This wrathful Goddess is the Guardian of secret mantras and the Dharma (or wisdom) Protector. As such Her own mantra is also secret. She expresses the play of energies in manifest form dancing out of vast emptiness while destroying evil and obstructions on our path.

Ekajati, Mother of the mothers of all buddhas, represents ultimate unity in Her usual depiction with one eye, one tooth and one breast. Principle Guardian of the Dzogchen teachings (more evolved concepts), She is personification of the essentially non-dual nature of primordial energy.

Goddess for Us All

Though just a scratch on the surface of Tara’s wealth and diversity, we must recognize that there is a representation of Tara for every need imaginable. She is a kind and compassionate caregiver; She is a powerful and fierce Guardian. She works with us not just here and now but through all time and dimensions. It is no wonder why She is so popular around the world and Her worship has transcended both cultural and religious borders. If we look very hard we can see aspects of Her in the Goddess on our shelf, in the girl at the coffee shop, even in the woman in the mirror.

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha

Category: Spring Equinox 2007