Tara is the great Bodhisattva that always presents herself in a female form. There are two storeis of her origin. One story is that she was princess Yeshe Dawa many millions of years ago living in the era where Buddha Tonyo Drupa was giving teachings. she made a special vow that she would continue to incarnate in female form to benefit beings through her activities until the day she achieve Enlightment. Another story told that Tara is an emanation of Chenrezi, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Once when Chenrezi was very moved by the suffereing of all sentient being, he shed two tears. The tear from his right eye turned into the green form of Bodhisattva Tara and the tear from his left eye turned into the white form of Bodhisattva Tara
When buddha taught the root tantra associated with Tara, he praised: "Tara is she who frees and protects beings from all possible fears and suffereings that they can encounter. Tara is she who closes the doors to the lower realms of existence. Tara is she who leads them on the path to higher states of being."
I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend the Green Tara Initiation on February 22, 1998 given by Geshe Lobsang Jamyang, Khen Rinpoche , the new abbot of Sera Monastery. Khen Rinpoche likes to smile a lot. His very happy wide smile is almost mischievious. In the middle of a serious teaching, he would all of a sudden broke into his mischievious laughter. It was so funny that the audience couldn't help but smile with him way before the translation came through.
It just happened that there were two young Caucasian men receiving their ordination that night. Their heads were shaved leaving only one inch diameter of hair on the top of their heads. They wore regular jeans and shirts and bought with them robes. The conversation between them and Khen Rinpoche could not be heard from the audience. After the young men recited matras and took vows from Khen Rinpoche, Khen Rinpoche cermonially cut some hair from the circle of hair left on the men's head. The young men went and changed into robes for the ceremony.
Before the initiation, the assisting monks gave us water from a tea pot. We were asked to wash our mouth with the water to purify it.
Khen Rinpoche then proceed to the high seat and started preparing for the ceremony by chanting different mantras. Not knowing any Tibetan, I can only report that the chant was beautiful, musical, calming and poetic. He told us that Green Tara is a private initiation. He then asked us to request for receiving the Green Tara Initiation by visualizing all the gurus and deities present in the space above us and to recite the following three times after him. "KYE GA NA DA CI WO YI, CHU SIN LA SOK JEG RUNG WA, SID PAI TSO LE DAG GROL DZOD, GA CHEN TON PA CHO CHIC PU, CHANG CHUB CHEN DU SUL TENPA, GO PO CHEN PO DAK TSEL LO, DAM SIK TEN NYID DAK LA TSOL, CHANGCHUB SEM CHANG DAK LA TSOL, SANGYE CHO DAM GYEN DUN TE , KYAB SEM DAK LA TSEL DU SOL, TARPA CHENPU CHYANG CHOK DU, GON BU DARNYE SHUK DU SOL."
We were instructed in our visualization that Green Tara appeared in her life form. "Her body green, with one face and two arms. Her right hand is in the mudra of perfect generosity, holding a vase filled with the amrita of immortality. Her left hand holds the stem of a blue lotus to her heart, between thumb and ring finger, with the petals of the lotus opening next to her ear. She is peaceful and smiling with the bloom of youth. She is adorned in silken garments and all the jeweled ornaments and sits in a posture of ease, with her right leg slightly extended, and her left drawn in..."
We then recited the first two sentences of the Budhisattva vow three times after Khen Rinpoche. Doing so we purify all our negative deeds and cherish our positive deeds.
KONCHOG SUM LA DAK CHEP CHI, DIKPA TAMCHE SOR SOR CHA
In the three jewels I take my refuge, and make confession of all harmful actions individually.
DROWE GELA DI RANG, SANGYE CHANGCHUB YI KYI SUNG
I rejoice in all virtuous activity of all beings, and hold in mind the enlightenment of the Buddhas.
The next step was to receive the body of the Green Tara by first requesting for it. We were instructed to visualize the guru Lama (Khen Rinpoche) was one with the Green Tara and that ten thousand rays of light emitted from the Lama as he received the wise being. And then we recited the following three times with the guru Lama.
DU SUM SANGYE TAMCHE KYI, KYI DORJE LA LAB PON CHI, DARLA JETSUN DROLMA YI, KU GYI JYEN NAG TSEL DU SOL.
A Tibetan monk walked around after the chant, blessed us with a sacred object by touching our head with it. Water in a big sea shell was pour into our palms. Khen Rinpoche instructed us to visualize the Green Tara entered our body as we drank the water. And that we experienced bliss where the bless water touch. Our bodies had become one with the venerable Green Tara.
We made an offer to the Green Tara thanking her for blessing us by coming into our body.
The next step was the initiation of the speech. Again we visualized the guru Lama was one with the Green Tara. We visualized the heart of the guru wais circled by a mantra. The mantra flowed from the guru's heart to the guru's mouth to our mouth and finally circled our heart.
Lama then explained how important is the mantras. "man" is the mind and "tra" is defense, he explained. Mantra is the protector of the heart especially the following mantra.
OM TARE TUTARE TURE SOHA
we then made flower offering by chanting: "JYAM DEN DARLA TSE LA CHI, DARLA NYEWA DZE DU SOL". Khen Rinpoche explained that in the next chant he was suppose to place the flowers on our head to bless us with speech and then we were suppose to throw the flower before us. But, since the setting didn't allow that, we would visualize doing so. We then chanted "KYAM DEN DELA TSE LA CHI, DELA NEWA DZE DU SOL. Khen Rinpoche declared that our speech is now purified and we had received the speech of Tara. We had concluded the speech initiation. The gurus and dieties were pleased and they showered us with blessings.
We were ready for the mind initiation. We visualized Khen Rinpoche as the Green Tara. Light rays emitted from him inviting all the Buddas in the ten thousand directions for the blessing of the minds of the Buddas. We visualized ourselves on a lotus flower and slower emerge into our heart. We became smaller and smaller into emptiness.
We chanted: TU SUM TAMCHE CHI, TU CHE DORJE LOPON CHI, DARLA JETSUN DROLMA YI, TUK CH JYE NANG TSE DU SOL. as we visualized ourselves in the state of emptiness. For a while, we had the wisdom of emptiness and we were able to negate the self grasping, the root of all ignorance. If we were able to attack the root, self grasping, then all greed and suffering can be driven out. In the state of emptiness, we visualized becoming the form of the Green Tara. Our minds were purified and we received the seed of the Tara.
An offering was again made to the Green Tara by chanting "TSOWO CHIR TAK KA TSE WA, TE TAK TAMCHE DAR KYI GYI."
Khen Rinpoche said then, that everything, all the teachings of sutra, trantra and so on are for one purpose - to purify the body, mind and speech. The initiation was concluded by Khen Rinpoche doing the final chanting.
After the initiation, the food offerings were lay out for us to share. Khen Rinpoche gave individual blessing as many of us lined up to present him with long silk scarf. A copy of transcript in English was distributed by the San Jose Tibetan Temple. Unfotunately the content did not match the recitations during the initiation, but it still served as an incrediblly good reference for me to write this article.
In one of Khen Rinpoche's lecture, I remember he said the power of the tantra initiation is that everything we do from that point on, we do it with the diety inside of us. We eat and the food is offered to the diety, we think as if it is the diety's thought, we act with the diety in mind. It is so powerful that we have to be in the right frame of mind to receive it. That's why Tantra teaching is a private teaching. I guess I just got myself the beautiful Green Tara as my private tutor to guid me out of my ignorance.
1. Green Tara picture is from Tse Chen Ling Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies
2. The Dharma, That Illuminates All Beings Impartially Like the Light of the Sun and the Moon , by Kalu Rinpoche, 1986 Kaygu Thubten