"If you get up in the morning and the room is dark because
you haven't drawn the curtains, well, it's not the fault of the
Here are a few notes about Tara, for those of you that may not
have met up with her before. However these are not the notes or comments of a
lama, but only of a foolish and egotistical student who does not attend to what
he is told.
NOTES ON THE PRACTICE OF TARA
The main practice of Tara is just to call her and feel her presence by reciting the mantra:
OM TARE TUTARE TURE SOHA.
(Ohm Tahray ToTare Tooray Sow Ha. Note that the first 'to' in
tutare should be a short 'to' not a long 'too')
WHAT IF I AM DOING OTHER DEITIES OR FOLLOWING OTHER
Tara is completely pure and joyful in her endless giving, generosity, patience, and wisdom. She is not jealous of other deities!
If the other deities or religions which you are doing are also
dedicated to Buddhahood for the sake of all beings, there can be no conflict.
But if you are following deities or religions for small-minded, harmful or
selfish goals, this does create a conflict for you. Pray to Tara to give you
true wisdom and compassion.
If you are doing many practices, it is best not to mix them up. It
is not bad to do them both, but one should not cut-and-paste different things
together. This is just bringing our own confusion into the
I personally think that it is not good to confuse Tara with other
deities. For example, I don't think it is good to view Tara as some kind of
ethnic mother goddess figure. But this may be just because I am
Some people, for example from a Catholic background, view Virgin
Mary as an emanation or form of the White Tara. This
seems to be a good idea. In fact I believe that H.H. The Dalai lama has given a
Virgin Mary Purity Meditation.
When should one do the mantra? Always and as often as possible.
When should one call on Tara? Always and as often as possible. Tara won't get
sick of us: "Oh, that person again. Why do they keep bothering me?" Her kindness
and helpfulness are infinite.
Likewise, one should not make deals with Tara. In the West we have a tendency to pray like this: "Oh Tara. Give me a lovely girlfriend/boyfriend. If you do I'll say 10,000 prayers to you and give up smoking". All that one has done is created a block for oneself. We have put conditions on her boundless giving. Just ask.
Is it wrong to ask Tara for material things? Is this some
sort of evil?
No, it is not wrong to ask for these things. Everybody needs money to live on, a nice girlfriend/boyfriend, nice food. There's nothing wrong with wanting a nice car or a good house or a pretty dress. This is not evil. And Tara wants to give us those things just as, if we had a child, we would want that child to have everything nice on the Earth.
See: A note on Wrong Views.
A problem arises if we ask selfishly. "Tara, let me have
this...but .......let them not have it." "Let me have it, even if the others
have to miss out. " And, worse, if we ask for harm to others: "Tara, that person
hurt me. Inflict harm and vengeance for me!". The most we can pray here is
"Tara, let that person not continue harming beings by vicious ways". Tara can
prevent harm! She can restrain wickedness! But asking her to harm people for us
is just turning her into some kind of thug. It will not bother Tara, but it
creates a conflict for us and closes us to her blessings.
Always and always the best prayer is :Tara, let me be like you.
A NOTE ON EFFECTS
For us poor Westerners, we don't have much religious openness. It takes a lot of practice to bring this about. So don't be disappointed if you recite 'Om Tare Tutare Ture Soha' and nothing immediately happens. Actually Tara is there and is listening, right from the start! But we poor stupid creatures, we just have to go on and on reciting till that enables us to open enough to receive her blessings.
Traditionally, one should recite at least 100, 000 of the Tara
mantras to get blessings. Actually, blessings come more quickly. But also, 100,
000 is not that much! Consider: it takes about two minutes to do one round of
the mala - that is, to recite the mantra 108 times. That makes 3,000 an hour. On
a short retreat, doing eight hours of practice per day, that makes 24,000 a day
or 100,000 on four days.
How many hours would we work to get a girlfriend/boyfriend? How
many hours would we work to get a car? And yet a person who just spends these
four days, if they are sincere, is absolutely guaranteed to get a religious
experience which will be one of the great inspiring events of ones
To recite, it is useful to have a mala. A mala is a string of 108
beads. One usually has a couple of little strings hanging off the mala. They
both have ten rings or beads and with fat string, so that the beads stay where
they are put. In this way, one can keep count of one's recitations. On the one
little string, count each round of the mala, until you have ten: then start
again and count one on the other string. When you have finished the other string
you will have a Thousand recitations. Then one puts it in a little book.
But maybe one has no little strings. When I was doing one retreat, I used to wander around the fields. Every time I finished a round of beads, I would transfer a match from one pocket to the other: in this way I kept count.
How do you use your mala? One always pulls the beads towards one, because one is pulling blessings into one. And one always uses the left hand (if your left hand gets tired, you can do a couple on the right hand. Not too many).
Sandalwood, crystal, bodhi-seeds and malachite are all good for
Tara malas. I think 8mm - 10mm beads are best.
I have included a very short Text of Tara. Some say that it is
good to do at least a small Tara practice when one gets up in the morning,
before one has eaten any meat.
But how can I possibly do a retreat?
Actually, you don't need special conditions. You just need to go somewhere quiet for a few days, or even just stay in your room for a few days. Sometimes one needs to build up one's energy a bit. I used to find I couldn't do even two or three rounds of beads: it was too much. So I just watched TV and did it. The first time I tried this I was watching a horror movie. It's not ideal but....somehow it gave me the energy and inspiration to do many, many rounds of beads the next day. Only, while you are reciting, try to keep your spine straight if you can and not flop. Anyway its better than just reading books.
Some people think it is also too mechanical. I mean all this reciting and counting. Now actually, here I can't explain. It is really important and really worthwhile to recite lots and to keep count. I can't tell you why. I don't know.
ON THE NEED FOR A TEACHER
Another thing in the West is that we have been somewhat conditioned against religion. We feel it is unspiritual to be religious.
Actually we have been 'conned' rather. In this century there have been many important people who wanted to make religion look bad. They have taken some of the times when religious people became fanatical and did terrible things and used that to paint all religion as bad.
The truth is that human beings have always lived in a world which is full of their own cravings and brutalities. There is no point in history when things would have been better or less cruel without religion. Overall, religions constantly tried to restrain violence and cruelty and encourage learning and spirituality. Overall, they succeeded quite well.
Although some people say that nowadays people are advanced enough to not need religion, this does not seem true to me. If one looks at great religious figures such as His Holiness the Dalai lama, one sees true strength, compassion and spirituality. Or a religious political figure such as Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King. Even if one looks at rock stars like Bob Marley or someone like that, one finds that a person with a true, faithful, open heart actually feels somehow more earthy, more in touch. Somehow they are more real. This is what religion can give us.
People in the West feel unreal. Religion can give us this.
Also, sometimes people in the West feel that it is somehow unworthy to use religion to make us better people. But the idea is to become better. It is not just us that is affected: because we affect other people, the quicker we become better, the better. If someone gave you a cake, would you not eat it?
We all have limited capacity. To increase that capacity, to have
true energy, true compassion, unending wisdom, one needs to do
To do the practice of Tara one does not have to 'take on' some
religion. There is no need to eat strange food or wear funny clothes. There is
no need to hang around Dharma centres. That is all just play. But there is a
need to get some teaching and transmission from a genuine lama. If we look at
all the great teachers of history (I am excluding the prophets who founded
religions), they all had teachers. To have a teacher is a great, a wonderful
Our teacher, or lama, does not have to be God. They don't have to be the Buddha. We are not so great. A humble lama is fine for us - actually, a humble lama will have time for us: great teachers are usually very busy. But they can give us some energy which will really help our Tara practice.
Anyway, you can see I have rambled on. I am no guru. I hope these small comments may help you in your practice. Any good in this comes from Tara and my teachers. Any mistakes or bad things are from my own egotism.
Thank you for your time.