The 5 Dhyani Buddhas' symbols

Commentary to the Twenty-one Praises to Tara

by Geshe Jampel Senge

Tara - which means “Liberator“, “Rescuer” - was the first being to obtain Liberation in a female aspect; she is deeply loved by Tibetan people.

The story of how and why she reached enlightenment in a female aspect is quite remarkable.
Aeons ago Tara was a Princess with the name of Jnana Chandra (Tib. Yeshe Dawa).
Those times the average human life was 80 000 years long. During 500 years of her life she collected and then offered a vast amount of wealth to the Buddhas and the Masters, and gave them the chance to teach the pure Dharma: in this way she accumulated incredible merits.
She listened to Dharma teachings and put them into practice and, in this way, trough meditation, she reached many high realisations.
Her lasts teacher, the Buddha Micenda, saw that she was very near to the state of Mahasattva. He told her: “Because of your practise you have obtained high realisations; if you recite with me this prayer you will become a man and so you will reach the state of Mahasattva.” But Jnana Chandra answered: “Thanks to the great power of my virtues I could change sex and become a Bodhisattva like Manjushri or Avalokitesvara; this fills me up with joy but I have no wish to do it. 95% of the enlightened beings appear in male form (as manifestations of Mahakaruna, the Perfect Compassion), only 5% appear in female form (as manifestations of Prajnaparamita, the Perfect Wisdom). I prefer to keep my present aspect and when I will reach Enlightenment I will manifest the Prajnaparamita.”
In this way she reached Enlightenment.

Enlightened beings are like rivers flowing into the ocean, or coming out of it: so one thousand Buddhas are like one Buddha and one Buddha is the same as one thousand Buddhas.
Tara is an enlightened principle and, even if we do not have the realisations to see her, she is everywhere to benefit sentient beings.
It is not correct to think that Tara is just a symbol painted on the tangkas or a divinity living in a Pure Land, far from us. Tara never fails.

From now on until we reach Liberation, to pray Tara and to meditate upon her will bring us a lot of benefits, even in this life.
Even if it is not in our intention, praying Tara will increase material wealth, long life, fame and merits.
Like a healthy tree spontaneously produces beautiful leaves, so looking for pure Dharma in your prayers, spontaneously generates a greater well-being.

It is necessary to understand that all these 21 manifestations of Tara are very important; you cannot say that one is more important or more powerful than the others.
They can have a more or less strong influence on us, a greater or smaller karmic connection.
To understand better we can say that while the sun is sending many beams of light to the earth, we receive only a small part of them.
We cannot decide which sunbeam can reach us or give us more warmth; it depends on were we are, which season we are in, on the weather (if it is cloudy or not) and so on.
The same thing happens with the 21 Taras: our karma decides which kind of blessing we receive; and how many blessings and from who.

The correct way to practice the Twenty-one Praises to Tara is like that: each time you recite one verse, you visualise that from the Tara you are praising a replica comes forth and absorbs into you, like one candle kindling another candle.

Reciting this prayer brings many good results but if someone recites also the mantra of each Tara, before the four verses, even if the meaning of the mantra is the same as that of the praise, he will obtain greater benefits.

The Tara basic mantra is: OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SO HA.
It is a very powerful mantra because it includes all the mantras of the twenty-one Taras. To recite OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SO HA brings many benefits both in this life and in the future lives.
In in fact it has the power to weaken negativity and to increase positivity.
When we recite this mantra we should think: "Now I am under the protection of the twenty-one Taras!" (to be continued...)

(last revision: August 2001)