The Singapore Buddha Sasana Society (Sakya Tenphel Ling)

INTRODUCING TARA

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Long ago, in an age that ‘there was nothing else’, the Victorious One, the Tathagata, “Sound of Drum” came into existence and was known as ‘the Light of the Various Worlds’. At that time the Princess “Moon of Wisdom” had the highest respect for the Tathagata and his teaching, and for ten million, one hundred thousand years, she made offerings to this Enlightened One, his attendant Sravakas and to countless members of the Sangha of Bodhisattvas. She made offering by filling a distance of twelve yojanas (120 km) in each of the ten directions, leaving no intermediate spaces with all types of precious things.
Finally, after all this, she awoke to the first concepts of enlightened thought. At that time some monks said to her, “ It is as a result of your roots of virtuous actions, that you have come into being in this female form. If you pray that your deeds accord with the teachings, then indeed on that account you will change your form to that of a man, and enable to benefit in great extends.” After much discourses she finally replied “In this life there is no such distinction as male and female, neither of self identity, a person nor any perception (of such), and therefore attachment to ideas of male and female is quite worthless. People with weak minded are always deluded by this.” And so she vowed, “There are many who wish to gain enlightenment in a man’s form, and there are but very few who wish to work for the welfare of sentient beings in a female form. Therefore may I, in a female body, work for the welfare of beings right until cyclic existence has been emptied.”
Then she remained in the palace for ten million and one hundred thousand years in a state of meditation, wisely applying her mind to the five sensual pleasures. As a result of this, she gained success in the realization that, all phenomena are lack of self-arising and also perfected the meditation known as “Saving All Sentient Beings”. By her power, every morning and evening she released ten million and one hundred thousand beings from the bondage of their worldly minds. As long as all of them were not released and set on the path, she would take no nourishment at all. Then her former name was changed and she became known as the Saviouress. Then the Tathagata “Sound of Drum” prophesied, “As long as you can possibly continue manifesting such supreme Bodhi, you will be exclusively known as ‘Goddess Tara’”.
Then in the aeon of the Vibuddha known as “Very Vast”, she vowed in the presence of the Tathagata Amoghasiddhi to save and defend, all the sentient beings from harm, in the profound vastness of the ten directions. For ninety-five aeons, seated in the mental stabilization known as “Completely Subduing All Demons” she established the minds of one billion and ten thousand million beings in deep meditation daily. Each night, she vanquished ten million and one hundred thousand demons of Desire Realm. Thus, she became garlanded with the names of “Saviouress”, “Mainstay” “Swift One” and Heroine”.
In the aeon known as “All Pervading”, the monk known as “Radiant Pure Light” was given the higher initiation of the Rays of Great Compassion by all the Tathagatas of the ten directions, and he became Noble Avalokitesvara. At that time, the Tathagatas of the Five Families also gave the initiation of the Great Rays through which he gained insight into the ultimate nature of divine wisdom. From the union of the former and latter light rays, the Goddess Tara was created, and after her birth from the heart of Avalokitesvara she worked to protect the sentient beings from the Eight and Sixteen Great Fears.
Then in the aeon known as “Vastly Good”, it is said the Tara emerged when both the skies and the air were being thrust out.
Then in the aeon called” Asanka” when all the Tathagatas of the ten directions had consecrated her, all the Buddhas transformed themselves into Mother Tara.
All that was happened a beginingless time ago. Then in this very aeon, at the Potala Mountain, Arya Avalokitesvara intoned ten million verses of Tara’s Tantra and Mantra amidst of countless Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Gods, Naga, Yaksas and others gathering.
In Satyayuga (in which beings are wholly good) it is said that the same thing was done (in the way described above) for the welfare of the six classes of sentient beings.
In Tretayuga (in which beings are ¾ good) six hundred thousand (such verses) arose from the western regions.
In Dvaparayuga (in which beings are ½ good) furthermore, another twelve thousand came out of the west. Then in Kaliyuga (the age of conflict. The Dark Age) a thousand Tara verses came into being.

It was said in the Collection of Tantra called “The Dakini Secret Essence”, that the Lion of the Sakyas (Buddha Shakyamuni) first uttered this tantra at the peak of the Potala Mountain.
(This then is the essence of the legend itself- while Buddha Shakyamuni was abiding in the Heart of Bodhi, filled all the demon haunts with light rays emanating from the space between her eyebrows. At another time when the demon hosts were approaching, she laughed with the Eight Great Laughs and, tumbling them to the ground made them unconscious. Then, changing herself into Krodhacala (unshakable anger) she fettered all the demons with bonds of meditations and was completely victorious over them.
Again, in a state of Bodhi, Tara saw the Fully Enlightened One and the Tathagata Akshobya become identical, and she paid them homage and intoned their grand Tantras.) Accordingly, having preached, Tara, to ensure that whatever had been said about the Tantras would not be erased, and wishing to demonstrate this to the six classes of sentient beings, went to the Potala Mountain together with a large gathering of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. There, a countless number of Gods, Nagas, Yaksas and Ghandharvas etc. were empowered, as well as innumerable sentient beings, Having preached about the Mantrayana, she also established all of them in states of Siddhi. Finally the Tantras were handed to Vajrapani who secreted them in the abodes of Vaisravana (heavenly abode of Vajrapani) and the Vidyadharas so that (thereafter) they would not disappear from the world of humans. To further ensure this, Vajrapani transformed himself into King Indrabuti, and having written all the Tantras up into book-form, hid them in the so-called “ Dharma Treasury”, so it is said. There, various tantric initiates and yoginis then committed them to memory.
How then did this unique doctrine of Tara’s Tantra arise in the world? About three hundred years after the Mahaparinirvna of Buddha, when the Sravakas were holding their Third Council, the separate volumes of the Mahayana Sutra Collection known as the “Avatamsaka” arrived severally from India. The self-arisen volumes spread alone and unaided, and at that a teacher, a preacher of ascetic doctrines attained steadfastness in the concept of all phenomena as uncreated. As well as this, five hundred Masters of the Yogachara and eight Mahatmas, preachers of the doctrine of “Essenselessness” and others who have the visions of Manjushri, Avalokitesvara, Maitreya etc.
The texts of the four-tantra groups of Kriya, Carya, Yoga and Anuttara method as well as part of the wisdom Tantras, also spread and were taught to those blessed with the good fortune. At that time it is said that of all those who heard the Mantrayana was able to attain Siddhi.
In the east, the King Harichandra together with one thousand attendants attained the Bodhi. In the north the King Munju attained the state of Vidyadrara together with a thousand attendants. King Bhojadeva in the west vanished together with a thousand courtiers. In the south King Haribhadra together with innumerable servant perfected the Siddhi of Making Pills etc, and for between one and two hundred years (as a result) more than one hundred thousand beings attained Siddhi. At that time nobody knew about the fact that Mantra caused to attained such Siddhi as it was kept so secret. Such is the significance of Tara Tantra and tantra in general.
Some historical accounts of Noble Arya Tara’s mercy and how she protects being from the sixteen great fear.
1. She is the Protector from the Fear of Enemies.
A certain man awakened one day in a grove where he had fallen asleep, and found himself surrounded by a host of a thousand enemy soldiers, all brandishing their swords at him. He recalled having heard that Tara was the Protectors against the Sixteen Fears, and as he had no other divinity in which to seek refuge, he thought he would go to the Goddess as his defense. At the same instant at which he called out her name, the Noble Tara herself appeared before him, arriving from the skies. From underneath her feet whirlwinds carried the soldiers off into the ten directions, and so the man was able to arrive safely in his home.
2. She is the Protector from the Fear of Lions.
A wood-gatherer went off into the forest and there he encountered with a hungry lioness, which held him in her jaws and prepared to devour him. Terrified and scared he begged Tara to come to his assistance, and she suddenly appeared before him, clothed in leaves. She pulled him from the lioness’ jaws and set him down safely in the city market place.
3. She is the Protector from the Fear of Elephants.
A twelve-year old girl went one day to the forest to gather flowers, and there she was confronted with a fierce elephant, who bound her in his trunk and started to crush her with his tusks. Remembering Tara’s name, the girl earnestly begged her to help and Tara brought the elephant under control. The creature then put the girl up in a high stone ledge and saluted her with its trunk, and carrying her on his back, took her to the town’s market place. Then it took her to the council chambers, the Temple and around the King’s palace. The King heard of this girl and her great stock of merits and took her as his Queen.
4. She is the Protector from the Fear of Fire.
A certain householder hated his enemy (neighbor) and one night set fire to his house. The latter started to flee but couldn’t get out of the house. Alarmingly he called out, “ O Tara, O Mother Tara!” A beautiful blue cloud arose above the house, and from it felt a continual shower of rain, like a yoke, on the house itself, completely extinguishing the flames.
5. She is the Protector from the Fear of Poisonous Snakes.
Once, in a certain city lived a prostitute who was given a necklace of five hundred pearls. She contacted a merchant about its sale and wished to go to his house at midnight. Leaving her house, and while on the road there, she happened to grasp a branch around, which was coiled a poisonous snake, which seized her around her body. By her mere recollection of Arya Tara, the snake was transformed into a flower garland in which form it remained for seven days. It is said thereafter it lost its white venom and proceeded into the river.
6. She is the Protector from the Fear of Bandit.
A certain man was a very wealthy trader. On the ways to his trade with about a thousand camels and half that number of bulls, all fully laden, he found that his path went through the territory of a bandit gang, which was situated in the midst of a veritable wilderness. All the previous traders who had gone there had been slain, and their flesh, blood and bones were scattered in the four directions. A myriad of these traders had been impaled on wooden stakes and the robbers who behaved like devils even ate their flesh. The trader was absolutely terrified, and as he had no other protector he begged Tara to help him. She immediately arose in the emanation form of “Tara the Heroine”, holding a terrifying sword and accompanied by a huge army, Tara banished the bandits to a remote land and brought the dead back to life. Accordingly, when the robbers had been scattered into isolation the trader happily set off to the destination.
7. She is the Protector from the Fear of Prison Walls.
A leader of a robber band went to the subterranean treasury of the king. There he found a jug of beer, which he drank, and being drunk he went to sleep. However, he was seen seized by the king’s men who flung him into a dungeon, bound up. There he underwent various sufferings. Lacking any other protector he prayed to Tara and a five-colored bird descended from the sky, loosened his bonds and caused the dungeon door to open by itself. Having thus been freed he returned to his place. That night in a dream, a beautiful girl adorned with all types of ornaments arose and said to him, “If you recall my kind deed to you then you and your followers must give up your thieving ways!” And so it happened that the robber and five hundred accomplices gave up their lives of crime and did many virtuous deeds instead.
8. She is the Protector from the Fear of Ocean Waves.
In the southern regions lived five thousand traders, and they took three large ships and set out for the land of Precious Things. One vessel was filled with all manners of jewels, and setting off again, the traders finally reached the land of Yellow Sandalwood where they filled up the second boat. After that they wished to return home, but the “Treasure Holder” of the ocean was very angry with them and sent down a great windstorm which carried them far away. The merchants prayed both day and night to Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, the moon and the Sun, to Kuvera and all the other worldly divinities but to no avail. The hawsers of the boats snapped and the vessels carrying the jewels and sandalwood were scattered. The large boat of theirs was driven relentlessly to the west. Then a Buddhist Upasaka remembered Tara and in a mystic and reverend voice recited her ten-letter mantra. Immediately an agreeable wind arose and the boat turned around, arriving back in their land one night. The vessels that carry the jewels and the sandalwood all joined together again.
9. She is the Protector from the Fear of Flesh eating Ogres.
In the east was a temple, which was the sole dwelling place for Sravakas of the Sendhapi Sect. At that time it happened that every evening each monk who went outside the temple for walk was slain, and consequently the number of those remaining inside the temple dwindled. A certain novice went for his stroll one evening when a cannibal ogre, black, ugly and baring its fangs leaped out and grabbed him by the head. The novice remembered that Mahayanists believe Tara to be the Saviouress from the Eight Great Fears, and he thought that he would go to her as his Protectoress. He cried out her name. A black goddess arose, holding a sword aloft, and she threatened the ogre with it. The ogre begged the novice for forgiveness and offered him an iron pot, stuffed full with pearls. Ever since then it has never harmed the temple.
10. She is the Protector from the Fear of Leprosy.
In the certain land a powerful Brahmin guru caught leprosy, and as he wandered here and there from one person to another, he infected them. About five hundred Brahmins caught that disease from him. Relatives and doctors fled from his presence for he defiled their state of purity. Eventually he was reduced to begging for a living. One day on the road he saw a stone image of Noble Arya Tara, and with faith welling up inside him he begged her on behalf of the five hundred (infected) Brahmins. A liquid-like medicine trickled in an endless stream from Tara’s hand, and when he had bathed in it (he found that) the leprosy had subsided. It is said that he becomes as completely as the gods do.
11. She is the Protector from the Mischief of Indra’s Angels.
One of these powerful spirits was protector of the eastern areas, but was in fact a Demon Gandharva, who, being quite easy to anger had become an obstacle to the Dharma. Now, as to the account of the protection: In a forest grove lived five hundred Sravaka monks. They abided there practising the sublime Dharma assiduously. Sometimes the spirit would appear as a Brahmin, sometimes as a young girl, at other times in the bodily image of a monk and even occasionally as a yaksa and of fierce lion. Sometimes the spirit used wicked, and at other times, more fair methods, to mislead the monks. The result was that one particular monk lost his memory, another went mad and yet another took on somebody else’s mind. Thus deranged, they passed the time singing and dancing. Then a particular monk, realizing the hindrance caused by evil spirit’s mischief recalled that Tara was renowned as the Protectoress from all such terrors, and he thought that she would be of benefit to them. He drew her likeness and attached it to the trees in the forest. All those monks who had been scared out of their wits became quite calm and all of them paid her homage and abided from then on in the Mahayana.
12. She is the Protector from the Fear of Poverty.
A Brahmin who was extremely poor and suffering considerably as a result, one day in a narrow street came upon a stone image of Tara and he poured out an account of how his troubles had arisen. Pointing out a site near a shrine she said it would be changed into a treasure trove. Then, exactly as had been indicated, he found many golden vessels filled with pearls and silver vessels filled with various jewels. It is said that within a week all the suffering due to his poverty had been resolved.
Also there was once a poor farmer who invoked Noble Tara and supplicated her. She appeared in the form of a maiden clothed in leaves and prophesied that he should go eastwards. He did just this and, sleeping in the desert one night, he was awakened by the sound of tinkling bells and saw a green horse, ornamented with bells pawing at the sand. In a flash the horse vanished and the farmer, digging in the furrow made by the horse’s hoof, found first of all a silver door, then one made of gold, then one of crystal, one of lapis lazuli, and finally one made up of seven precious. In the underground kingdom (to which the doors led) he became king over many Nagas and Asuras, and experienced many of his dearest wishes. When he re-emerged from the door to the hole in the ground and had arrived back in his own country he found that in the meantime three kings had occupied the throne, so it is said.
13. She is the Protector from the Fear of Royal Punishment.
In the country of Ayodhya lived a very mighty and wealthy householder. Once, for some reason or other the king of that country became displeased with the householder, believing rumors about him. At one time the man went to the other land where the King sent four strong men after him. The householder was bound up and led by them to Ayodhya. Recalling Arya Tara the householder begged her for assistance, and by her grace when his foot was merely put on the doorstep it was turned into gold. When he was flung into prison a shower of pearl necklaces fell onto him and when he was bound to an impaling stake, the stake turned into a mango tree branch, ornamented with both fruit and flowers. The King and all the others were amazed at a person with such a stock of merit, and his punishment was commuted as was proper. He was later made into a minister of the King.
14. She is the Protector from the Fear of losing Relatives.
Once there was a Brahmin who had many Kinsmen and great deal of wealth. One day a contagious disease arose and carries off his children, wife, and all his relatives. With his mind assailed by grief he arrived at Varanasi. He went to the site where some Buddhist Upasakas were performing a festival for Tara, and while there he heard of the great qualities of Tara. On her request, he strew a handful of flowers and on coming back he gained King’s daughter as his bride and became a governor. The Brahmin erected one hundred and eight Tara Temples and at all of them great Buddhist festivals were observed.
15. She is the Protector from the Fear of Vajramissiles.
In the Land of Bengal, a certain Buddhist Upasaka, after his day’s work in the fields came upon the shrine of a Yaksa on the roadside. The Upasaka crushed it underfoot and walked on while the Yaksa became enraged. That night twenty-one fiery sky-bolts fell from the sky onto the Upasaka’s home. He merely recalled Noble Tara and the sky-bolts’ tongues of flame were transformed into flowers, injuring neither his children, nor his wife, nor his wealth or property. The sky-bolts, remaining in and around the house, were donated to five hundred mantra reciters and it is said that all types of things needed for their attainment of Siddhi appeared as a result.
16. She is the Protector from the Fear of Ruination of one’s aims.
A certain householder went with all his property to another land. There he hoped to get land from the king. He entrusted his wealth to a friend and set out in a big ship to cross the oceans in search of more wealth. Although he voyaged for many years to the various continents in the ocean, he did not manage to find any riches or special items. One day, by the power of fate, the boat was driven by the winds to the land of precious things. There he found many coral and yellow sandalwood as he wanted to take, and filling his boat completely he set out to come home. On the way he met a huge crocodile and crushed the ship. The man however gets on the shore. He tried to find his friend again, but while on the way he learned that a tiger had killed him. The man was filled with grief because all his plans were fruitless. At the exhortation of a friend he prayed to Tara and faith arose in him. In a dream she said to him, “ Go to the banks of the river Sindhu! There all yours longed for wishes will be fulfilled.” Doing as he had been instructed he found that his former vessel containing all the precious things he had lost had come up out of the river. And going to the house of his dead friend, he found all the wealth that he had entrusted to him hidden in a specified place. Then he offered a whole trunk of yellow sandalwood to the king who in turn gave him high rank.
The accounts of the eight Acharyas were being saved from the Eight Great Fears.
1. She is the Protector from the Fear of Fire.
In the south of Indian was the Acharya Dikavarma, a great practitioner of the scriptural Collection and, by relying on the Origin of Tara Tantra became perfected in the application and practice of Mantras. He defeated many heretics Brahmin in debate and converted them in Buddhism. Then at one time when the Acharya and the monks were together in the temple and the latter were supplicating him for explanations of the Dharma, the heretic set fire to the temple. The Acharya beseeched the Noble Tara, and arriving from the heavenly spheres she caused an endless drop of rain to shower down from the skies, and the fire was extinguished.
2. She is the Protector from the Fear of Water.
The Acharya Yamarasingha was a fully ordained monk and expert in giving the discourse on the metaphysics of both Mahayana and the Theravada. He was able to make the Noble Tara into his personal tutelary divinity. He taught Abhidharma (metaphysics) to about five hundred advanced students for about twenty fours years while he stayed in the west. All of those five hundred students in attendance on him gained exceedingly pure minds. Once there was the certain heretic Naga King in that area and he suddenly caused a fierce, unbearable rainstorm to fall and the rain formed a fast-running river like the Yamuna. It drew very near to the Acharya abode. The Acharya prayed to Arya Tara and as a result the water swirled round to the right of the Acharya’s home many times and finally flowed off into another river and only the Naga’s den was carried away.
3. She is the Protector from the Fear of Shackles or Prison.
The Acharya Devasinha lived with some Upasakas. He was particularly skilled in the Sutra Collections of both Mahayana and Theravada and also their metaphysics, and consequently he became Guru to the Kasmiri King. In course of times many people generated faith in the doctrine and erected about five hundred Buddhist temples. He preaches extensively around Kasmiri and generally caused the Persian Turuskas religion to decline. A certain Persian King flung the Acharya into prison and told him, “Give up the Three Jewels as your Refuge! If you practise the faith of the Muslims all will be well and good, but if you do not you will be slain!” The Acharya said, “ Even at such a threat to my life I will not give up the Three Jewels for there is no other refuge.” The Acharya was put into the impregnable dungeon bound up in shackles. The Acharya prayed to his tutelary deity, Tara, and the iron shackles were transformed into a chain of flowers, and goddesses showered a great rain of flowers and sandalwood powder into the prison, while a sound of music spread everywhere. The King came to see what it all was about and saw that there were no longer any iron bonds and that another bond, which had been put on, had also changed into a flower garland. The king was amazed and seized them as the objects of veneration.
4. She is the Protector from the Fear of Bandits.
Once the great Hinayana Preacher Sanghamitra saw a blue goddess in front of the Buddha and his attendants in a dream. The goddess said, “ You must study the Mahayana well!” Later in Kashmir he attended many expositions of Mahayana Sutras and Tantras and also made Arya Tara his tutelary deity. He went to the centre part of India to hear the Perfection of Wisdom teachings from the Acharya Muktesena. Some bandits seized him on the way and they took him to the goddess Durga’s abode. At that time they make warm blood offering to the goddess Durga from a slain man. Arriving at the Goddess Durga’s abode, which looked like a charnel ground, he prayed to Arya Tara and Durga’s shrine burst into many fragments of its own accord. At that the robbers fled and thus the Acharya was freed.
5. She is the Protector from the Fear of Elephant.
The Vinaya expert, the Acharya Subhaskirti, made Arya Tara his tutelary divinity. He erected a temple on a border mountain while he went to look at the western areas from centre of the country. There he preached and established many centres for monks. During that time there were many Turkish chiefs at that area. They said, “The shaven-headed, red-robbed monks, we will be harmed, all this will be destroyed.” So an army of about three hundred elephants arrived there. The Acharya prayed to Tara and said, “Please hurl water in the oncoming army’s path!” When that very thing was done all the elephants became extremely terrified and were quite beyond the control of any of their mahouts which were carried back to their own dwelling places.
6. She is the Protector from the Fear of Tigers.
The same Acharya was once on a journey, he came upon an almost deserted village in which there were many tiger. The Acharya made inquiries and discovered that if the tigers would eat any people the other small creatures would cry out in anguish. Having heard this outcry the Acharya was moved to great compassion and while he was going the road all the tigers came and confronted him. He prayed to Tara, and intoning mantras and scattering water, he caused all the tigers to become quite tranquil. Ever since then they did no more harm to living beings.
7. She is the Protector from the Fear of Snake.
The Acharya Triratnadasa became a student of Acharya Dignaga. Once when he was preaching the Dharma in the east, a huge poisonous snake arose from the sea and devoured many men and elephants. As it approached near the town place, the Acharya fearing that it would harm countless more creatures, he prayed to Arya Tara urgently, while simultaneously intoning her mantra and strewing white mustard seeds. Tara then said to the snake, “This area belongs to the King of the Nagas, and everything here comes under his power. Get up and leave this place at my bidding and go peacefully back underground!” Thus the snake returned to the ocean.
8. She is the Protector from the Fear of Spirits.
The Acharya Jnanadeva was a student of Shantideva. He went to the south to preach over a long period of time. Finally he went to meditate to the Himalayas Mountains. At that time in a certain small village of that area, there was great mischief caused by a Raksasa of the Brahma Gods and as a result all those who took the position of headman were slain. Acharya went there, on that very day when he arrived there a malicious Zombie was cavorting about the place. The Acharya, intoning Tara’s mantra and wielding his Phurbu “dagger” (at corpse) caused the Zombie to fall backwards and collapse. The Acharya prayed to Tara and a great shower of nectar, able to cure death, rained down, and the great hosts of dead villagers were revived.
(Source from Sakya College)
Our Centre performs Tara Puja known as “The Lamp Which Illumines The Manner Of Practising The Four Mandalas’s Ritual Of Tara” every Sunday at 9.30am. With the Centre’s regular propitiation to Tara for many years (since the late 1970s), it has benefitted countless people that have come into association with the ritual.
We welcome all those who are interested to propitiate to Tara to participate in this ritual. All are welcome.