The Green Tara is one of the many manifestations of the female bodhisattva who is also known as the Mother of all Buddhas and the Mother of Liberation. In some teachings of Buddhist Tara is shown as being a Buddha rather than a bodhisattva. The difference being that a bodhisattva is on the cusp of enlightenment, while a Buddha has attained true and whole enlightenment. Some teachings explain that Tara is so advanced and enlightened as a bodhisattva that she is actually a Buddha.
There are 21 forms of Tara, each of them representative of unique qualities. The Green Tara is known for being the bodhisattva or Buddha of enlightened activities. Green Tara is specifically known for being representative of compassion in action, as she is depicted in statues and illustrations as being in the midst of stepping down from her lotus throne so that she can offer guidance and aid to the sentient beings that are in need of it.
Tara is also known as Dolma, which translates to “She who Saves.” This is representative of the idea that Tara guards against the Eight Great Terrors, which are all symbolic of unique spiritual dangers.
Perhaps the most interesting and striking fact about Tara in general is that she is a female. There are certainly numerous representations of females who are enlightened but they are typically obscure references. Males tend to predominate the illustrations and other representations of enlightenment and compassion, with females being more reflective of wisdom. Tara, as the embodiment of compassion in female form, goes against other standards in Buddhism. It is important to note, however, that bodhisattvas and Buddha are not strictly defined by gender as it is believed that gender is a social tie that can be transcended upon enlightenment.
Tara is said to have spoken the following words herself, in regards to gender and gender specific roles. “Here there is no man, there is no woman, No self, no person, and no consciousness. The labels ‘male’ or ‘female’ have no essence, But deceive the evil-minded world. “
The other feature about Green Tara is, naturally, the green of her body. While she is depicted as being a voluptuous young woman, clad in silks and ornate jewels, the green color can almost been seen as something that detracts from her beauty as her status. However, the color green is important to Tara for several reasons. Tara is said to have been named directly by Amoghasiddhi Buddha, who is a green Buddha. As Amoghasiddhi’s spiritual consort, Tara would be somewhat representative of the Buddha. Both Tara and Amoghasiddhi are connected with the element of Air, which is also associated with the color green. As a forest goddess, Tara is also reflective of the color of a lush and beautiful forest. In fact, there are some illustrations and teachings that show her as being covered in green leaves.
The symbols of Tara are interesting for several reasons. In her right hand, the Green Tara is depicted holding a blue lotus, at chest level. This hand, holding the blue lotus, is also in the teaching mudra. What this means is that while Tara offers compassion, aid, and guidance, those who benefit from her protection and compassion will also learn to save themselves and others through learning from her teachings. The blue lotus is a flower that blooms only at night, which is reflective of the idea that Tara offers the greatest protection during heightened times of darkness and fear.
It can be difficult to determine the origins of the Green Tara, since a lot of information is often contradictory, as it is with many bodhisattvas. One story tells of Avalokiteśvara looking down upon the world, with compassion, and seeing untold numbers of beings suffering. He saw pains that started with birth, sickness, old age, and death. Avalokiteśvara saw beings in search of happiness, only to create suffering for themselves and in others. Because Avalokiteśvara was expending vast amounts of energy on his quest to free sentient beings from existence, he started to weep tears that flowed until the formation of a great lake. From this lake, which was the true essence of compassion, arose a blue lotus. Perched upon the lotus appeared a 16 year old goddess, Tara.
Another tale refers to Tara being known as Jcanacandra, who vowed that she would not take the form of a man in future lives, even though it was traditionally thought to be more advantageous to take the form of a man, so that she could consider to offer compassion and guidance to sentient beings as a female. Her spiritual companion, the Buddha Amoghasiddhi named her Tara, which means Saviouress. There is a mantra familiar to all manifestations of Tara, but holding unique and specific relevance to The Green Tara. The Green Tara mantra is: Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha.
Due to the nature of this mantra, and others like it, it can be difficult to get a literal translation from them. However, the various syllables of the mantra can be examined and then better understood. · Om – while some say that Om has no actual conceptual meaning, it can also be reflective of an awareness of the surrounding universe. It is used at the start of many mantras. · Tare – this is representative of salvation from suffering and other forms of mundane dangers. Tara is very often depicted as being one who can alleviate suffering from accidents, crime, and natural disasters. · Tuttare is representative of the delivered down the right spiritual path, and the need for protect from dangers to the spirit. Delusion, hatred, and greed are the three primary spiritual dangers that are responsible for suffering in us all. · Ture – this is representative of the deliverance to the true spiritual path of a bodhisattva. With this syllable, Tara is said to liberate us from the suffering we are inflicted with, while helping us to progress along the path that will allow us to have compassion for others. · Svaha is said to be representative of “allow the meaning of this mantra to take root in my mind.” There is a much more literal interpretation of the Green Tara Mantra that can often be a bit easier to best understand. · Tare: O Tara! · Tu: I beg! · Ture: Swift or prompt!
What this translates to, when put together is something to the effect of “Om! O Tara! I beg of you, O Tara! O swift one!” The Green Tara offers compassion, guidance, and above all she offers teaching and instruction. This is said to help guide us along the path towards understand compassion for ourselves and for others who are suffering and in need of compassion.
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