General Introduction to the Commentary on Green Tara Practice
We have on the cover of the prayer booklet a portrait of green Tara. And in the meditation we're working with the visualization of this image of Green Tara. If we look at it, this is the image that we are to keep in mind, to fix in our mind, and to meditate on her presence, in other words, that she is right there in front of us, in the sky in front of us, so that the meditator meditates on this image of Green Tara, that she is actually present in this form that we see in the portrait, and that she is actually sitting there in front of us.
Now who is Green Tara? For this meditation, we have to understand the great value of Green Tara in order to do this.
So when we say that to do the meditation we have to understand the great value of Green Tara, what does this mean? The great value of Green Tara is based upon the ability to make a key differentiation. The differentiation is between the enlightened being, that is the Buddha, and ordinary sentient being, the ordinary living being. You could say, very rightly, that the ordinary living being is also very valuable, very precious, but precious in a different way, valuable in a different way from the enlightened being.
The ordinary living being in the world, like ourselves, is in a very vulnerable state in which there is a great deal of misery. The ordinary being is caught up helplessly in this state of misery. On the other hand, the enlightened being, like the Buddha, like Green Tara, has attained a state of freedom which we call liberation from all these miseries. So that is the key discrimination, the key point of differentiation between the ordinary being and the enlightened being. We must appreciate that in order to understand the great value of Green Tara.
When we speak of the enlightened being, generally the term we use is "Buddha", and what is a Buddha? First of all, we speak of the three types of Buddha: the Buddhas of the past, the Buddhas of the present, and the Buddhas of the future. Those of the past, of course, are those who have appeared in the world and are no longer existing, or appeared in a former age of the world. Then the present Buddha that appeared in this world, in this epoch, is Sakyamuni Buddha. And then, for instance, the Buddha who is to appear in this world in a future epoch is Maitreya, so this is an example of the Buddhas of the three times. So when you hear that term, the Buddhas of the three times, that's what it means.
Now another way in which we understand enlightened being is through the three aspects, that is body, speech and mind. Any being has these three parts of what we call a being, whether enlightened or not, the body, the speech, the mind; the physical, the verbal, and the mental. And for the enlightened being we speak of the physical, the body, as being of (the Sanskrit word is Tathagata) the body of the fully enlightened being. Second, with regard to the speech, the speech of the type which is called the lotus, the lotus speech of the enlightened being. And the third, the mind, is of the "Vajra" nature, the Vajra type. The mind of the fully enlightened being is the Vajra mind.
What is the example or the symbol here of the physical aspect of enlightened being, which is called the Tathagata, the fully enlightened one? The symbol of this is the flaming sword of wisdom, which is held in the right hand of Manjusri. The flaming sword of wisdom is that which severs all of the bonds of karma, the darkness of ignorance, the manifestations that cause misery. All of these things are cut away and destroyed by the sword of wisdom which is the symbol of the enlightened being's body.
Second, the speech of the enlightened being is said to be like the lotus, or the lotus type. Now the lotus is the symbol of the Buddha's speech because the lotus is something that grows in the dirt, the mud, and rises out of the mud, blossoms forth in this beautiful, pure, undefiled blossoms forth in this beautiful, pure, undefiled blossom of the lotus even though its roots are growing out of the mud. And this is the symbol of the Bodhisattva, of the all-compassionate being, who purposely goes into the mud and dirt and defilement of the ordinary world but rises above it and manifests the beautiful, compassionate teachings of the enlightened one in order to benefit living beings. So that is the symbolism of the lotus, and, again, it symbolizes the speech of the Buddha, or of the enlightened one who speaks in the language of living beings in order to liberate them from their misery.
Third, the mind of the fully enlightened being is said to be of the Vajra type. Now this is the Vajra right here (holding up a Dorje) the little instrument right there, that is the manifestation of the Vajra. Now the symbolism here goes back to the holder of the Vajra in the ancient Vedic deities. The king of all the deities, the lord of heaven, is called Indra. Indra is the chief of the gods. And he attains his position and wields the great hundred-pointed Vajra.
Now, this Vajra (Khenpo holds up a Vajra) has five points on it, but Indra's is much bigger, of course, and has a hundred points on it. When Indra picks up his Vajra and throws it in any direction (Indra is the mighty warrior god), nothing can oppose his Vajra. Whatever it is, it will cut right through it. It is stronger and more powerful than anything, so it's said to be diamond, the diamond Vajra. The Vajra's nature is the diamond itself, or that is the only thing that can be compared to it, because the diamond can cut all other materials, but nothing can scratch the diamond, nothing is as hard as the diamond. Likewise the Vajra can destroy everything, but nothing can destroy it. The symbolism here is again the mind of the enlightened one, which can cut through all obstacles and obscurations, but nothing can obscure it. And so this is the mind of what is called the Risi (Tibetan Drangtsong) Drang means "straightforward, totally honest, never saying anything that's untrue; tsong has to do with that as a path, or the way in which such a being goes, absolutely truthful, absolutely straightforward, and the Drangtsong, the Risi, is someone who can go into meditation, and so powerful is his or her mediation that nothing can obstruct it. And so, sitting in meditation, needing almost no food, but gaining tremendous vitality from the power of the mind, such a person becomes a Drangtsong through that type of meditation. And you can stay in that meditation for incredibly long periods of time, billions of years, kalpas, eons of time without having to worry about material things, because of the great power of this adamantine, diamond-like mind, this diamond-like awareness. And so that is the symbolism of the Vajra, the diamond-like clarity, sharpness, hardness of that mind which can penetrate any obstacles and cannot be obstructed by anything, and so is called the Vajra-like awareness of the fully-enlightened being.
Green Tara is said to arise out of, or to be born from, the second of these, the lotus-like speech of fully enlightened being.
When we say that Green Tara arises out of, is born out of, the lotus type, the speech of the fully-enlightened being, associated with the lotus, what is this lotus type, this Lotus Lineage that the term in Tibetan is Rigs and that can mean "type" or "lineage"? Well, the Lotus Lineage out of which she's born has the three-fold manifestation, the three-fold existence, as do all of the different lineages or types. You have the Dharmakaya, the Sambhogakaya, and the Nirmanakaya. These are the three bodies of the fully-enlightened being. The first is the absolute, or what's called the truth body, the ultimate body of the fully-enlightened being. In the lotus lineage, from which Green Tara arises, the Dharmakaya is the Buddha Amitaba. The Sambhogakaya, which means the body of full enjoyment or the body of true enjoyment, that, in the lotus lineage, is Avalokiteshvara, in Tibetan Chenrezig. And the Nirmanakaya, this is the manifestation body that ordinary beings can perceive, which manifests in a physical way in the world, for the lotus lineage, this is Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). So that's the three-fold body of the fully-enlightened being of the Lotus Lineage from which Green Tara arises.
The Sambhogakaya, sort of the celestial body you could say, the full enjoyment body, of the lotus lineage, in Tibetan is called Chenrezig, in Sanskrit Avalokitéshvara, — and both of these terms Chenrezig and Avalokitéshvara refer to the power of seeing. The great compassionate one, Chenrezig or Avalokitéshvara is called such because of the ability to see all living beings, and that Avalokitéshvara never closes his eyes. His eyes are always open, he always sees what's going on for each and every living being, is never blind to, never ignores, the conditions of or the suffering of any living being near or far away, large or small, everyone without exception, Chenrezig perceives that being's situation.
So Chenrezig looking upon each and every being, and seeing the great troubles experienced by living beings, the different types of miseries and sufferings, never closing his eyes to any of these, he reacts with great compassion, and looking upon them, tears often come to his eyes seeing the sufferings of living beings.
What happened then, while Chenrezig directly, unblinkingly saw the sufferings of beings, tears came into his eyes, and the tears from one eye coalesced into or became Green Tara; the tears from the other eye coalesced into or became White Tara.
White Tara and Green Tara, born from the tears of Chenrezig, each have a different focus, or a different specialty. White Tara specializes in relieving threats to the life of living beings — in other words, preserving life, rescuing from dangerous situations, and allowing living beings to maintain their life. Green Tara, on the other hand, is focused on the miseries of living beings and on how to actively clear away those miseries, or protect living beings from those miseries. So Green Tara has this active function of going forth and protecting or relieving living beings from their miseries.
The first thing we see when we look at Green Tara, of course, is that she is green. The color green corresponds to, or symbolizes, the active function of the fully-enlightened being. "Active function" means the enlightened activities in which fully-enlightened beings engage in order to relieve the sufferings of living beings.
If we look at the picture, we see that Tara is seated upon a cushion, in this image you can see just a little of the white cushion She's seated upon. That's what's called the lunar disk, the moon symbolizing pacification, peacefulness. So her nature is peaceful She brings peace and is by nature peaceful. That is on top of a lotus, She's seated on a large lotus blossom. The lotus here symbolizes Her freedom from any defilement, just as the lotus rises out of the dirt and mud but the blossom itself is pure and undefiled, so Green Tara arises in the world but is completely undefiled by the world.
The symbolism of the figure is quite extensive, but to say just briefly a few of the things, you can see that she's not seated in the full lotus position, but rather has the right leg extended and the left held in. The extension of the right indicates that she is pressing down on something with her right foot, and that means that she's actively holding down or subduing all untoward phenomena, that is, anything that could hinder, interfere with, or cause a problem. In particular, there are lists of the eight great fears and the sixteen calamities, the things which She is able to overcome. The extension of the right foot indicates the reaching out to hold down and suppress such obstacles. The left foot is held inward, which means the holding inward of the two great assemblages, which are merit and wisdom — these are the things which we have to accomplish and always keep hold of — the accumulation of merit through all manner of good deeds, proper activities, or proper Dharma practice, and the assemblage of wisdom, which is the accomplishment of all aspects of wisdom. This is symbolized by the left foot being held inward.
The right hand is extended with the palm outward, in the gesture of giving called the dhana mudra, the gesture of giving charity, which in this case is the great charity of the two types of accomplishment, called the ordinary and the sublime accomplishments. The ordinary are the eight great siddhis, the high spiritual accomplishments of those who engage in proper meditation to attain spiritual status, spiritual accomplishment. Those are called the ordinary siddhis, the ordinary accomplishments. She bestows those, and in particular she bestows the sublime accomplishment, which is the attainment of ultimate, perfect enlightenment.
The left hand is held up, again with the palm facing outward, and grasping the lotus. This is called the Kyabchin Chagya mudra, the "gesture of refuge". It is granting refuge from all of those things which would obstruct or cause trouble, and here again we have the lists of the eight great terrors, which are fires, poisons, snakes, and things like that; anything that could harm you or cause you trouble she is granting protection from.
There are two types of "halos". One is the halo around Her entire body, and that's the yellow or orange, the large one. We should understand when we look at the picture that the halos there are the representations which have been given by the artist of the, you could say, aura. The aura is not something which you can really paint. It's a radiance, a powerful, energetic radiance which comes forth as if it's a halo like that. So we should understand it not as something we can reach out and touch, but rather something which is like rays of light, invisible like that. And the one around the body, the larger one, shows the perfect awareness, the state of perfect supreme awareness or highest wisdom, which gives forth this radiance all around her whole body.
There are several lotuses here, and the type of lotus is called "utpala". Utpala is a type of lotus, and it's a blue or greenish lotus. The lotus she's seated on is that type, it's an utpala. There are two other lotuses. If you look closely you can see that between her thumb and forefinger of the right hand and then also held in the left hand there are stems of a flower. That flower is the utpala, the blue or green lotus. The symbolism there is of the active principle of the fully-enlightened being, that is the enlightened activity of the enlightened being or the Buddha, which accomplishes all of the tasks of the Buddha to help living beings.
If you look, she has various types of bodily ornaments. These are various types of metal or precious stones, jewelry all around on different parts of her body. These are precious jewels. The bracelet, armlets going around the upper arm, necklace, earrings, the long necklace — there's a short necklace that goes around the neck and a long one that goes down the front of her body — anklets, and various other things: these symbolize her status as being a diving being, in particular the three bodies of the Buddha — Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya — the second being the Sambhogakaya, the body of perfect enjoyment — the deities who posses this body of perfect enjoyment always have these types of ornaments that indicate their status as that type of enlightened being enjoying all of the powers and prerogatives of the heavens. So the importance of this is that she is possessed of the great power of the divine being, the great opulence of the diving being, and has all of these jewels, valuable things, with which she can clear away the miseries of deprivation or poverty of all living beings.
If you look very carefully, you can see that on the crown of her head she has a crown ornament that looks like a hat, and in the very center of that there's a red figure. That red figure is the Buddha Amitaba, who's always red in color, and it's at the very center of the reddish halo around her head, it's the red figure Amitaba. This indicates her affiliation with the lotus lineage, in other words she's a part of this lotus lineage. The Buddha of the lotus lineage is Amitaba, or in Tibetan Amwa Tayay, infinite light. She is, again, the representative of that lineage.
There are five lineages of Buddhas. The lotus lineage is just one of these five. The five are always in relation to one another according to the cardinal directions. So there is the lineage of the north, of the east, of the south, of the west, and of the center. Amitaba is the Buddha of the west, associated with the color red and the lotus.Go to the top of this page
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