Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chinnamasta I lament

With Chinnamasta I lament. 

 Chinnamasta makes me a little sad.  She reminds me that I never had children.  I haven't fed anyone with my body.  She makes me remember how I don't feel like a complete woman because I haven't given birth or nutured with my body.  My decision and my loss all at the same time.

Chinnamasta also reminds me how we need friends.  She is flanked by her girlfriends and that is so important.

Her story also reminded a little of the Jataka tale of the Tigress, when the incarnation of Buddha feeds her and her young with his own body.

It also brings to mind the Jataka tale of Rupavati the incarnation of Buddha that feeds starving children and their mother by cutting off her breasts.  But the difference for me is that she feeds herself too.

 It makes me think when we women take care of everyone we can't forget about ourselves.

Reflections on the Many Forms of Tara

My recent connections to Tara have astonished me.  Could they really be coincidences or is the goddess calling to me in both her Buddhist and Hindu forms? I came into contact with Tara three times consciously in a 24 hour period, but I realize now I was in contact in other unconscious ways.

My three encounters were as follows: first, a lecture on Mahavidya Tara by Laura Amazzone that I listened to on a Friday morning, second, a tarot card I drew of White Tara that Friday evening, and third, an email newsletter from Trudy Goodman at Insight LA Saturday morning talking about Green Tara.
Mahavidya Tara

Reading about Tara in N.N. Bhatacharya’s book The Indian Mother Goddess, I discovered that she is the prajnaparamita.  I have been chanting as my meditation practice for a couple of months now the prajnaparamita mantra from the Heart Sutra.

The mantra is:


I knew that the Heart Sutra that Chris Chapple gave us in the “Following the Buddhist Dharma” class I have been taking started “The Bodhisattva of Compassion . . .”  I didn’t know that some people considered that Bodhisattva to be Tara. Therefore, without being aware of it, I have been chanting one of Tara’s mantras regularly.


Tara has several other mantras.  Laura Amazzone mentioned in her the class that Tara’s mantra is OM.

In Harish Johari’s book,  Tools for Tantra her mantra is written as:


Mahavidya Tara

I have also come across this mantra for green Tara: OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVAHA

Green Tara

and this one for White Tara:


White Tara

 I have a lot of interests and a lot of personalities.  Tara, too, has many personalities and forms; there is green, yellow, red, white and blue Tara, Ugra-Tara, Nilasaraswati, etc...


Blue Tara

I am deeply satisfied that Tara exists in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Taoism according to Bhattacharya’s book, The Indian Goddess. According to Madhukhanna (p.30), “Tara was most probably an indigenous tribal deity who commanded special worship in the Northern Himalayan belt in countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Tibet, China, Mongolia up to Indo-China. The pan-Himalayan indigenous religions also played a major role in the formation of Hindu and Buddhist cultures.” I read on the internet that the oldest reference to the goddess Tara is found in an ancient saga of Finland thought to be five thousand years old. The saga describes of a group known as Tar, the Women of Wisdom. The Celts called their Great Goddess Tara.
The Druidess

Roman Terra

The Roman Earth Mother goddess Terra’s name sounds very close to Tara. Bodhisattva Tara reminds me of the Madonna della Misericordia I have seen in many churches and museums in Italy; here, Mary is The Virgin of Mercy who towers over a group of people that she shelters and protects under an outspread cloak.

Madonna della Misericordia

I read in N.N. Bhattacharya’s book that Tara became known as Kuan-Yin in China, replacing the pre-buddhistic mother goddess Si-Wang-Mu (the representation of Yin or the feminine principle).

This is very interesting to me because I teach Yin Yoga out of the Taoist tradition.  When I began to read Yoni Shakti, I thought, “Womb Yoga? Isn’t that just what Yin Yoga is?”

Kwan Yin

Dr. Uma Dinsmore-Tuli relates Tara to menstruation (p.257). “Tara helps us to understand the intensities of menstrual suffering as opportunities to develop that state of awareness that enables us to clearly understand our internal challenges and shifts. By understanding the siddhi of transformation that Tara brings, we may better access the vast potential power which conscious menstruation offers us...These women have re-discovered that practicing awareness of menstrual cycles, in the form of shifting dream worlds, emotional states and the physical changes that accompany monthly cycles, is a form of feminine meditative consciousness…we can begin to understand how the rhythm of the cycles of our inner world may hold within them the wisdom to unlock the conscious awareness of the rhythm of the cosmos and our place with in it, we literally experience “yoga” because we see our connection to these wider cycles. This expansion of consciousness beyond our selves: it is a spiritual teaching of menstruation.”

Mahavidya Tara 

I have never experienced “conscious menstruation”, but I am going to now try.  I haven’t had until recently what Dr. Dinsmore-Tuli calls “cycle awareness.” I was on the pill for 27 years until getting off of it last fall.  My periods were always irregular and my cramps were intense.  My every hope was that I would not get my period and many times in my life I only had two or three periods a year and this was when I was on the pill. I never considered before this idea of Dr. Dinsmore-Tuli’s that one could (p.258) “have a deep acceptance of their menstrual cycle as a source of spiritual guidance.” I always considered my period a terrible bother, a curse. So I am having an enormous mental shift and spiritual awakening when I read about menstruation in Yoni Shakti.

Mahavidya Tara
Many sources say Tara’s name means star. I am attracted to Tara in her stellar form because I need guidance.  I am not sure what direction I am going in and have made a lot of mistakes of late.  I hope

Blue Tara
Tara can guide me like the North Star guided my people more than a century ago to freedom. Tara is the goddess of transformation and she has incredible strength and fierceness which I would like to draw on. Kinsley writes in the Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas (p.98): “Nearly every description of Tara in Hindu sources stresses her fierce, often horrifying appearance . . .”

Kinsley continues that Tara’s name means “she who liberates”. Harish Johari explains the name Tara comes from the Sanskrit root tr which means to take across.  He elaborates on page 95, “She who takes one across the ocean of the world of relative existence (samsara) is Tara.”  He continues on page 97 that “Tara is the mahavidya which is the embodiment of rasa (emotions) and expression which is speech...Tantra clearly mentions that siddhi of Tara can be achieved without any meditation, japa, worship, sacrifice, practice or purification of elements . . . The aspirant who adopts Tara as deity is not bothered by any rules and regulations (yama or niyamas). He does not need to observe any discipline.  Remembering her only is sufficient.  This makes her the goddess for anyone and everyone.” This is great news that Tara will come without any ceremony when we call her.

White Tara

Harish Johari also writes in Tools for Tantra (p.95) about the balance of Tara exemplified in her Yantra.

Tara Yantra

Balance is something I truly need in life. I find work takes over everything and I get out of balance very fast. “Meditation on this vermillion triangle, which forms the background of the golden bindu, creates green.  Thus we see that the meditation on the green bhupur creates vermillion and the meditation on the vermillion triangle produces green. This balance is the key to Tara.  It is balance which is tark (carrier). The boat (tarini) is able to float and travel across because of this balance.” Kinsley says she is depicted sometimes with an oar in her hand “emphasizing her role in ferrying her devotees across the river of samsara.” As a former college rower, I related to this metaphor.

In Pupul Jayakar’s book, The Earth Mother, she elaborates on how in tantric texts the goddesses were source of all colors and Tara was representative of dark blue.  Dark blue is my favorite time of day either after dusk or before dawn.  I get up very early in the morning and sometimes the sky is an amazing Indigo color.  This color makes me joyful to be alive.  From now on I will consider it the color of Tara.

Blue Tara

I need the compassionate Tara in her Buddhist form to help me through my confusion of what to do with my life. She is said according to Kinsley (p. 166) rescues devotees from “desperate predicaments as being lost in an impenetrable forest, foundering in a storm at sea, being under threat of imminent execution, or being trapped and bound in prison.” I love the idea I read in Kinsley’s book that the Avalokitesvara sheds a tear of compassion for all beings and the tear becomes Tara.

Blue Tara

I need Tara in her Hindu form to purify me and help me move on and transform. “Tara . . . represents the final destructive but purifying force that marks the transition from life to death or from one type of existence to another.” (Kinsley, Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas, p.103)

Kwan Yin

I relate to the last stanza of the Ramprasad’s poem “Please be gracious to the singer of this song”

Most compassionate Ma Tara!
You who bear all beings tenderly to truth!
Your feet of wisdom are the only vessel that can sail
Across this terrible sea of birth and death

This is how I feel sometimes.  I need a mother’s compassion.  I need forgiveness. I need to be brought tenderly to truth for my actions.  Sailing through the sea of birth and death for this whole life sometimes seems pointless and terribly difficult.  Tara with her indigo sky and prajnaparamita mantra help me to continue.


My favorite translation:
(Going, going, going on beyond, always going on beyond, always becoming Tara).