The legend of Tara, female Buddha of Compassion

Green Tara

Green Tara

The legend of Tara, as recounted by lamas such as Taranatha (1575–1634), explains that countless eons ago, during the life of a former historical Buddha, there was a princess called Wisdom Moon (Tib. Yeshe Dawa). She received instructions from the Buddha on developing bodhicitta, the intention to reach enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, and first took the Bodhisattva Promise in his presence.

Afterwards, some of the Buddha’s monks approached Wisdom Moon. They praised her intention, but offered their opinion that she would be much better suited to benefit beings in a male form, and that she should also wish to be reborn as a man. Wisdom Moon was taken aback as this idea did not agree with her understanding of the Buddha’s teaching that all beings equally have the potential to attain enlightenment. Being confident in her understanding and of strong character, Wisdom Moon made the opposite aspiration: she promised to be reborn only in female form in order to liberate beings that way and counteract such chauvinistic notions. And she did, diligently practicing the path to enlightenment in female incarnation after female incarnation. In her enlightened appearance she became known as Tara, or “Liberatrice”. Tara might thus be considered one of the earliest feminists!

In practicing the Buddha’s teachings, one’s form is irrelevant. It is one’s determination to be free from the cycle of conditioned existence and one’s compassionate concern for the welfare of others that are of paramount importance.



Tags: , ,

3 Responses to “The legend of Tara, female Buddha of Compassion”

  1. Raquel says:

    Gorgeous Buddha. Where can I find the meaning of her mantra?

  2. dwbuk says:

    I don’t know whether there is a literal translation of Tara’s mantra, but the mantra’s function is more important than its literal meaning. Tara’s mantra awakens compassion, removes obstacles to Dharma activity and protects from fear. Lama Ole explains mantras as follows: each syllable in the mantra transmits specific vibrations that connect with buddha forms. All genuinely transmitted mantras are like making a phone call to a Buddha. In each mantra the initial OM is like lifting the receiver; the tone connects one to all buddhas of all times and directions. The next syllables (e.g. MANI PEME; BENZA SATO; TARE TUTTARE etc.) are the number for a specific Buddha – and the line is never busy! The last syllables direct power to the desired activity: HUNG gives power; HRIH invokes general compassion; DHIH offers wisdom; PEI cuts through obstacles; SOHA spreads out; and TAM awakens special female aspects of compassion.

  3. Raquel says:

    Thank you very much for the information!

Leave a Reply