by Lama Palden Drolma: A fully enlightened female buddha, Tara is the actuality of compassion and wisdom. Meditating on her, says Lama Palden Drolma, can awaken our own buddhanature…
Tara is the most beloved of all the female enlightened beings in the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon. The essence of awakened love and compassion, she is known as “the mother of all the buddhas” and “she who ferries beings across the ocean of samsara.”
As a fully enlightened female buddha, Tara is the actuality of compassion and wisdom, and meditating on her helps us awaken our own buddhanature. Her right foot is slightly extended because she is ready to leap to the aid of beings. Her right hand is opened out on her right knee, in the gesture of generosity. Her left hand holds the stem of a lotus flower, which is blossoming next to her left ear.
We need to approach Tara with an open heart and mind.
In order for Tara to be able to benefit us, we need to approach her with an open heart and mind. Through continued meditation practice on Tara, we can establish a relationship in which we are able to trust and rely on her, and the more we are able to open to Tara, the more she is able to benefit us. I have been calling on, praying to, and meditating on Tara for more than forty years. Countless times I have felt her love stream into me, and she has helped me—spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
A recent example was a period of anxiety and uncertainty I experienced after I sold my home of many years and didn’t know what was going to happen next. I called upon Tara, asked for her help, and opened to her presence in the sky in front of me. As I imagined her nectar of unconditional love pouring into the crown of my head from her outstretched right hand, I felt soothed and comforted. I let go of any anxiety and fear and connected with my awakened nature—unlimited and inseparable from peace, emptiness, love, and awareness. Tara again and again reminds me of who I truly am.
Like all Vajrayana practices, Tara visualization can be very elaborate. But here is a basic version you can do that contains all the essential steps of deity practice.
1. SETTLE YOUR MIND
Let your mind settle, resting in natural open awareness. Then take refuge in the awakened ones and generate the motivation to awaken yourself for the benefit of all sentient beings. Recite: “Until awakening I take refuge in Buddha, dharma, and noble sangha / By the merit of my acts of generosity and other awakening qualities / May I attain full awakening for the benefit of all beings.”
2. VISUALIZE TARA
Think that everything dissolves into emptiness/openness. Then visualize that in the sky in front of you, from her seed syllable TAM, Green Tara instantly appears, sitting on a full open lotus and moon seat. She is blue-green, the color of a mountain lake. She is arrayed in silks and jewels, symbolizing the six transcendent perfections (paramitas) and full awakening.
3. INVITE HER WISDOM
Radiate light from your heart center. Imagine that it purifies the phenomenal world, makes offerings to the enlightened ones, and invites Tara’s wisdom awareness to be present with you. Visualize that this happens through numerous small forms of Tara raining down into the main form you have visualized. Think that the Tara you have imagined becomes inseparable from her actual wisdom awareness.
4. RECEIVE HER LOVE
Repeat her mantra, OM TARE TUTARE TURE SOHA, and visualize that from her outstretched right hand comes a river of wisdom elixir, turquoise-green in color. This removes all fear, gives protection, removes obstacles and obscurations, and transmits enlightened awareness to you. Make prayers to Tara. Pour out your heart to her and receive her love and blessing.
5. BECOME TARA
Then imagine that Tara dissolves into light, and dissolves into you. Think that your mind is inseparable from Tara’s enlightened mind. See yourself in the form of Tara, appearing as a body made of light—emptiness and form inseparable. In your heart area is a blue-green TAM. From it, light radiates out joy, compassion, loving-kindness, strength, and equanimity to all beings. Repeat her mantra while your heart is radiating these qualities.
6. DISSOLVE THE VISUALIZATION
When you have finished repeating the mantra, gradually dissolve the visualization until there is just a drop of turquoise light left in your heart area, the essence of your wisdom and compassion. Then this dissolves into space, like a rainbow disappearing into the sky.
7. DEDICATE THE MERIT
Rest your mind naturally for a few minutes or longer. Then dedicate the merit of your meditation practice to all beings: “Through this goodness may awakening spontaneously arise in our streams of being / May all obscurations and distortions fall away / May all beings be liberated from suffering, and the stormy waves of birth, sickness, old age, and death.”