The main aspects of Tara are the forms which are called the 21 Taras. This teaching of the 21 Taras appears to have been introduced into Tibet by Atisha. In Nyingmapa, there are three main lineages of Tara and the 21 Taras. There is a lineage which is associated with the Khyentse tradition, and there is the Long-Chen Nyin-Thig lineage. However the most famous lineage of Tara, which is found in all schools, is from the Terton Chogyur Lingpa. There are a number of small differences between the lineages. There appear to be two Taras among the 21 which are different between the Atisha lineage and the other lineages.
Looking at the 21 Taras from perhaps an academic or scholarly standpoint, it seems that what has been done is to integrate the practice of other female divinities with Tara. Let me give an example. Most students would, at some point in their religious life, do a retreat of Tara. Because Tara attainment comes quickest of all, they certainly would have gained some attainment from that. When they come to practice another deity, such as Kurukulle, Norgyun or Saraswati, they can connect through Tara. For example, if they want top do the wealth deity, Norgyun, her mantra is OM BASUDARINI SOHA. As a form of Tara, it is OM TARE TUTARE TURE BASUDARINI SOHA. In this way, the attainment gained from doing the main Tara mantra OM TARE TUTARE TURE SOHA in retreat, is integrated into the evocation of Norgyun, so perhaps one gains that attainment of Norgyun more easily. Tara gives attainment very quickly and also, she is very tolerant of mistakes or omissions in the practice, so that one gains those benefits when doing a combined form.
Combined forms are common in Tibetan buddhism as transitions from one practice to another. Also, by doing one combined form, one is saved having to do many different practices. For example, rather than do the practices of Hayagriva and Guru Drakpo and Garuda and Vajrakilaya, one can do Guru Drak-Pur and combine them all. Or, for another example, it can be quite difficult to enter into the practice of the Vajra Heruka. By doing the practice of Yang-Pur (Vajra Heruka and Vajrakilaya combined) one can create a transitional phase which makes this more possible.
The Praise of Twenty-One Taras
By He Tai Situ Rinpoche
© Rokpa Trust, 2004
The twenty-one Taras can be distinguished by the colour of their bodies, adornments and postures. They protect people from eight and sixteen kinds of fears. The eight fears are 1) danger of pride and from lions, 2) danger of torpor and from elephants, 3) danger of anger and blazing fire, 4) danger of jealousy and poisons of snakes, 5) violence of false view and of thieves, 6) danger of insatiable greed and imprisonment, 7) danger of desire and waters, 8) danger of doubts and demons. (Bokar Rinpoche)
The sixteen fears are the fear of the five elements (earth quakes, floods, wind, fire and fear of space), fear of weapons, tyrannous authority, criminals, spirits, elephants, wild animals, poisonous animals, sickness, accidents and untimely death, poverty and frustrations of hopes and plans. (Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche)
According to old tradition the twenty aspects of Tara are visualised around the main figure. According to new terma tradition the twenty-one aspects are visualised below the main Green Tara who is thus visualised twice, because Atisha added a verse, which praises the main deity.
Green Tara (the main deity) and each of her 21 aspects are mentioned in the praise verse by verse. The twenty-one Taras are explained by Bokar Rinpoche and Ringu Tulku Rinpoche respectively along the verses. There are many different traditions for the visualization.
Preliminary stanza praising the Main Deity (added by Atisha Dipankar):
OM JET-SUN-MA PA-MA DROL-MA LA CHA-TSAL-LO
Om. I pay homage to Tara, the Noble One, the Arya
CHA-TSAL TA-RE NYUR-MA PA-MO
Namo. Tare, she who is swift, the Heroine,
TUT-TA-RE YI JI-PA SEL-MA
She who eliminates all fear with tuttare,
TU-RE DÖN-KÜN JIN-PE DROL-MA
The Saviouress who gives all benefit with ture
SOHE YI-KE CHÖ-LA DU-DO
I bow down to You, swaha.
Aspects of Tara:
CHA-TSAL DROL-MA NYUR-MA PA-MO
Namo. Tara, She who is Swift, the Heroine,
CHEN-NI KE-CHIK LO-DANG DRA-MA
She who has Eyes like instantaneous lightning
JI-TEN SUM-GÖN CHU-CHE SHAL-CHI
She who appeared from the opened blossom
GE-SAR CHE-WA LE-NI CHUNG-MA
Of the Lotus Face of the Lord of the Three Worlds (Chenrezi).
– Pravira Tara, rabtu pawai drolma, Liberating One with Perfect Courage; red. Eight arms, two hands above her head are in the mudra of great bliss holding a vajra and a bell. In the other right hands she is holding an arrow, Wheel of Dharma and a sword. In the other left hands she holds a bow, a conch and a rope. (Bokar Rinpoche)
– Nyurma pamo, the Swift One, Heroine. Red, slightly angry, slightly smiling. In her left hand she is holding a lotus and on top of the lotus there is a conch shell. All the 21 Taras are holding a lotus or utpala flower in their left hand, and the difference is only the symbol on top of that. The right hand is in the mudra of giving protection, or in the mudra of supreme giving. (Ringu Tulku)
CHA-TSAL TÖN-KE DA-WA KUN-TU
Namo. She who has the Face of a hundred completely full moons
KANG-WA JA-NI TSE-PE SHAL-MA
Of Autumn, laid one upon another.
KAR-MA TONG-DRA TSO-PA NAM-CHI
She who is shining intensely with the completely diffused light
RAB-TU CHE-WE Ö-RAB BAR-MA
Of a multitude of thousands of stars.
– Chandrakanti Tara, dadang gyi drolma, Liberating One with Moon Radiance; white. Three faces symbolize the three Bodies: right blue, centre white and left golden. She has twelve arms symbolizing the twelve interdependent factors. In her right hands she is holding a garland, a vajra, a jewel, a wheel and a khatvanga, in her left hands she holds a text, a treasure vase, a bell, a lotus and a vase. Two arms are in a meditation posture. (BR)
– Yangchenma, Sarasvati, also called tönshalma in Tibetan (tön means autumn and shal means face), meaning She who has the Face of a hundred completely full moons of autumn. She is white, shining intensely with the completely diffused light of a multitude of thousands of stars. She dispels darkness of ignorance by her strong light. On top of the lotus in her left hand there is a text or the letter hri. (RT)
CHA-TSAL SER NGO CHU NE CHE CHI
Namo. She whose Hand is perfectly adorned
PE-ME CHA-NI NAM-PAR JEN-MA
By a gold and blue lotus born from water.
JIN-PA TSÖN-DRU KA-TUB SHI-WA
She who is the embodiment of the field of activity of giving,
ZÖ-PA SAM-TEN CHÖ-YUL NYI-MA
diligence, the difficult, peace, patience and dhyana.
– Kanakavarna Tara, serdokchen gyi drolma, Golden Liberating One; golden. Ten arms symbolising the Ten Perfections. In her right hand she holds a mala (rosary), a trident, a vajra, an arrow and a sword. In her left hands she holds a silk scarf, a lasso, a lotus, a bell and a bow.
– Ser-ngo sönam chukter is giving of all virtues, all positive. Giving is her main activity. Her colour is yellow and blue; greenish, and she is holding a wishfulfilling gem on top of her flower.
CHA-TSAL DE-SHIN SHE-PE TSUK-TOR
Namo. She who has the activity of complete, infinite victory
TA-YE NAM-PAR GYAL-WAR CHÖ-MA
Upon the Ushinishas (Head-mounds) of the Tathagatas
MA-LY-PA ROL CHIN-PE TOP-PE
She, on whom the Buddha’s daughters and sons
GYAL-WE SE-CHI SHIN-TU TEN-MA
Who have attained all paramitas without exception, utterly depend.
– Ushinishavijaya Tara, tsuktor nampar gyalwai drolma, Liberating One with a Perfectly Victorious Crown Protuberance; golden. She has four arms, the right hands are holding a mala and displaying the giving mudra. In her left hands she holds a stick and a vase.
– Tsuktor namgyal, tsuktor means the head mound. Golden in colour, symbol is tsebum, a life-giving vase on top of a lotus.
CHA-TSAL TUT-TA-RA HUNG YI-GE
Namo. She who fills Desire, Direction and Space
DÖ-DANG CHÖ-DANG NAM-KHA GANG-MA
With tuttara and the syllable hung
JI-TEN DUN-PO SHAP-CHI NEN-TE
She who has the power to squash down the seven worlds with her Feet
LU-PA ME-PAR GU-PAR NU-MA
And summon all without exception.
– Humsvara-nadini Tara, hum dra drokpay drolma, Liberating One Producing the sound Hum (Hung); yellow. Two arms, with her right hand in a protecting mudra and the left in the mudra of Three Jewels, holding a lotus.
– Rikchema, her colour is very dark red, almost brown. She holds a bow and arrow on top of a lotus and her activity is to summon and empower everything. She is victorious over three realms: desire realm, form realm (“direction”) and formless realm (“space”).
CHA-TSAL JA-CHIN ME-LHA TSANG-PA
Namo. She to whom Indra, Agni, Brahma, Pavana
LUNG-LHA NA-TSO WONG-CHU CHÖ-MA
And the Various Great Gods make offerings
JUNG-PO RO-LANG DRI-SA NAM DANG
She who is praised by multitudes of bhutas, vetalas
NÖ-JIN TSO-CHI DUN-NE TÖ-MA
Gandharvas and yakshas gathered before Her.
– Trailokya-vijaya Tara, jikten sumlay nampar gyalway drolma, Liberating One, Victorious over the Three Worlds; red. She has four arms, right hands holding a sword and a vajra, left hands holding a rope and displaying the threatening mudra.
– The usual Green Tara, called tsenden ngachi drolma, the Drolma of Sandalwood Forest. She is holding a lotus flower, sometimes a wheel on it, but usually just blue lotus or utpala flower, which is bluish. Her activity is to summon (call) and to give fearlessness.
CHA-TSAL TRE CHE CHA-TANG PHE CHI
Namo. She who completely defeats the magical devices of adversaries
PHA-ROL TRUL-KOR RAB-TU JOM-MA
By what is named trad and phat
YE-KUM YÖN-CHANG SHAB-CHI NEN-TE
She who squashes down with Her legs, the right indrawn, the left extended,
ME-BAR DRU-PA SHIN-TU BAR-MA
And blazes intensely with whirling blazing fire.
– Vadipramardaka Tara, golwa jompay drolma, Liberating One, Victorious over Hostility; black. Wrathful with four arms, right hands holding a sword and wheel, left hands displaying the threatening mudra and holding a rope.
– Zigchedma shishig serngo, red in colour, holds a dagger (phurba, kilaya) on top of a lotus. Her activity is to defeat negativity.
Seven wrathful aspects:
CHA-TSAL TU-RE JI-PA CEN-MÖ
Namo. Ture, the Great Terroress,
DU-CHI PA-WO NAM-PAR JOM-MA
Who completely vanquishes the Mara-Warriors
CHU-CHE SHAL-NI TRO-NYER DEN-DZE
She who has a Lotus-Face grimacing angrily,
DRA-WO TAM-CHE MA-LU SÖ-MA
Who slays all enemies without exception.
– Vashitottamada Tara, wangchuck terway drolma, Liberating One Who Gives the Sublime Empowerment; golden. She is seated on makara (sea monster) and has four arms, right hands holding a branch of the ashoka tree and a jewel, left hands holding a vase and a lotus.
– Chensi motu, black in colour, very wrathful, holding a sword. Her quality is to give the power of invincibility.
CHA-TSAL KÖN-CHOK SUM-TSÖN CHA JI
Namo. She who’s Heart is perfectly adorned
SOR-MO TU-KAR NAM-PAR JEN.MA
By Her fingers in the Mudra symbolising the Three Jewels,
MA-LY CHO-CHI KOR-LO JEN-PE
She who whirls her own multitude of lights,
RAN-GI Ö-CHI TSO-NAM DRU-MA
Adorning the wheel of all directions without exception.
– Varada Tara, chok tsolway drolma, Liberating One Who Grants the Sublime; red. She has four arms, two hands above her head in the mudra of joy, holding a vajra and bell. The other right hand is in a mudra of (?) and the other left hand is holding a branch of the ashoka tree.
– Chen migyalma, it means would not get the other, the negative aspect or force to get victory. She is red in colour, very wrathful, holding a dorje.
CHA-TSAL RAB-TU GA-WA JI-PE
Namo. She who has a Tiara of brilliance and complete joy
U-JEN Ö-CHI DRENG-WA PEL-MA
Creating more and more streams of light.
SHE-PA RAB-SHE TUT-TA-RA YI
She who with laughter, the perfect laughter of tuttara,
DU DANG JI-TEN WANG-DU DZE-MA
Overpowers Maras and worlds.
– Shoka-vinodana Tara, nya-ngen selway drolma, Liberating One Who Dissipates Suffering; red. Four arms, two hands above her head in the mudra of joy (palms joined), other right hand holding a sword, other left hand holding a branch of the ashoka tree.
– Jigten sumgyal, that means victory over the three worlds, she is overpowering the maras (negative forces of attachment and aversion etc.) of the world. She is red, holding a victory banner, gyaltsen.
CHA-TSAL SA-SHI CHONG-WE TSO-NAM
Namo. She who has the power to summon
TAM-CHE GU-PAR NU-PA NYI-MA
All the multitudes of Protectors of the World.
DRO-NYER YO-WE YI-GE HUNG GI
She who perfectly liberates from all destitution
PONG-PA TAM-CHE NAM-PAR DROL-MA
With the syllable hung of the Wrathful Grimacer.
– Jagadvashi Tara, drowa gukpay drolma, Liberating One, Who Gathers Beings; black. She has two arms and holds in each hand a hook (to gather beings).
– Norter, it means “giving wealth”, that is her activity. She is red in colour, wrathful and holding a dorje.
CHA-TSAL DA-WE DUM-BU U-JEN
Namo. She, whose head-adornment, which is a sliver of the moon,
JEN-PA TAM-CHE SHIN-TU BAR-MA
And all Her adornments, are shining intensely.
RAL-PE TRÖ-NA Ö-PA-ME LE
She who creates eternal, intense light
TA-PAR SHIN-TU Ö-NI DZE-MA
From Amitabha in the midst of Her gathered hair.
– Mangalaloka Tara, tashi nangway drolma, Liberating One with auspicious Light; golden. She has eight arms, in the right hands a vajra, trident, hook and sword. In the left hands a jewel, hook, stick and vase.
– Tashi tunshik, her activity is to bring auspiciousness. She is yellow in colour and holding an endless knot, the knot of eternity.
CHA-TSAL KALPE TA-ME ME TAR
Namo. She who resides in the centre of a blazing garland
BAR-WE DRENG-WE U-NA NE-MA
like the fire at the end of the kalpa.
YE-CHANG YÖN-KUM KUN-NE KOR-GA
She who, with right leg extended, left indrawn, with the joy of complete revolving
DRA-JI PUNG-NI NAM-PAR JOM-MA
Totally defeats the hordes of enemies.
– Paripachaka Tara, yongsu minparzepay drolma, Liberating One Who Leads to Complete Ripening; red. Four arms, in the right hands she holds a sword and arrow, in the left hands a wheel and a bow.
– Dapu nyama, red in colour, vanquishes the enemies. She holds a vajra on top of a lotus and the vajra has its upper spokes open.
CHA-TSAL SA-SHI NGÖ-LA CHA-GI
Namo. She who stamps with Her Feet and squashes down with Her Hands
TIL-CHI NUN-CHING SHAP-CHI DUNG-MA
The surface of the Earth.
DRO-NYER CHEN-DZE YI-GE HUNG-GI
She who manifests as (Bhrikuti The Angry Grimacer), and with the syllable hung
RIM-PA DUN-PO NAM-NI GEM-MA
Vanquishes all of the Seven Levels.
– Bhrikuti Tara, thronyer yoway drolma, Liberating One Frowning Her Eyebrows; black. Three faces: right is white, centre black and left red. She has six arms, holding in right hands a sword, a hook, and a stick; in her left hands she holds a skullcup, a wheel and a rope.
– Trho nyerchen, manifests as Bhrikuti, The Angry Grimacer. She throws the world upside down, crushes all and brings them to liberty. She is black and wrathful, holding a pestle.
CHA-TSAL DE-MA GE-MA SHI-MA
Namo. She who is Bliss, She who is Goodness, She who is Peace,
NYA-NGEN DE-SHI CHÖ-JUL NYI-MA
She who is the embodiment of the field of experience of Nirvana’s Peace.
SO-HA OM DANG YANG-DAG DEN-PE
She who, through that which truly possesses swaha and om (Tara’s mantra)
DI-PA CHEN-PO JOM-PA NYI-MA
Is the embodiment of the defeat of great bad karma.
– Mahashanti Tara, shiwa chenmoy drolma, Liberating One with Great Peace; white. Six arms, in her right hands a mala, giving mudra and a stick, in her left hands a lotus, a vase and a cup filled with fruits.
– Rabchema, very peaceful, white in colour. Her activity is to pacify all bad karma and negativities. She holds a small vase with a flat bottom.
CHA-TSAL KUN-NE KOR-RAB GA-WE
Namo. She who totally vanquishes the bodies of the enemies
DRA-YI LU-NI RAB-TU GEM-MA
Of those with perfect joy at the complete circling.
YI-GE CHU-PE NGA-NI KÖ-PE
She who is the Saviouress arisen from the Wisdom-hung
RIM-PA HUNG LE DROL-MA NYI-MA
Of the arranged ten-syllable speech.
– Raga-nisudana Tara, chakpa jompay drolma, Liberating One, Victorious over Attachment; orange-red. Two arms, a trident in her right hand and a tree branch in left.
– Barwe orgyen, means “blazing with colour”, red. She is Buddha’s activity aspect, holding a double dorje.
CHA-TSAL TU-RE SHAP-NI DAP PE
Namo. Ture, who by stamping Her Feet,
HUNG GI NAM-PE SA-PÖN NYI-MA
She who is the nature of the Seed in the form of a hung,
RI-RAB MEN-DA-RA DANG BI CHE
Shakes the Sumeru, Mandara and Vindhya mountains,
JI-TEN SUM-NAM YO-WA NYI-MA
And all the three worlds.
– Sukha-sadhana Tara, drolma dedrupma, Liberating One Accomplishing Happiness; orange. Two arms, holding a moon disc with both hands.
– Pame nönma, mild orange, holding a chörten (stupa) on lotus. Pame means immeasurable and nönma means to press on, so, stamping her feet.
CHA-TSAL LHA-YI TSO-YI NAM-PE
Namo. She who holds in Her Hands that which has the emblem of a wild animal
RI-DA TA-CHEN CHA-NA NAM-MA
And has the form of the Lake of the Devas.
TA-RA NYI JEU PEH CHI YI-GE
She who eliminates all poisons without exception
DU-NAM MA-LU-PAR NI SEL-MA
Through reciting the two taras and the syllable phat.
– Viaya Tara, drolma namgyalma, Victorious Liberating One; white. Seated on a goose she has four arms, two hands above the head in the mudra of joy, holding hooks. Other right hand in a giving mudra and other left hand holding a lotus, upon which rests a text.
– Magya chenmo, peaceful, white in colour, holding a moon. She eliminates all poisons, which is clearly mentioned in the text.
CHA-TSAL LHA-YI TSO-NAM JAL-PO
Namo. She to whom the multitudes of Deva-Kings
LHA-DANG MI-AM CHI-YI TEN-MA
Devas and Kimnara depend.
KUN-NE GO-CHA GA-WE JI-CHI
She who eliminates quarrels and evil dreams
TSÖ-DANG MI-LAM NGEN-PA SEL-MA
With the majesty of Her joyous complete armour.
– Dukha-dahana Tara, drolma dug-ngal selma, Liberating One Burning Suffering; white. Two arms, holding in her hands a triangle symbolizing fire.
– Mipham gyalmo, she is bright white and carries a white umbrella eliminating quarrels and evil dreams.
CHA-TSAL NYI-MA DA-WA JE-PE
Namo. She with the intensely vivid light
CHEN-NYI PO-LA Ö-RAB SAL-MA
Of the full sun and moon in both eyes,
HA-RA NYI JÖ TUT-TA-RA YI
She who eliminates extremely fierce diseases
SHIN-TU DRA-PÖ RIM-NE SEL-MA
By reciting the two haras and tuttare.
– Siddhi-sambhava Tara, drolma ngöndrup jungma, Liberating One Source of Accoplishments; orange. Two arms, holding in her hands a vase containing the accomplishments (supernormal powers and the realisation of the nature of the mind).
– Ritöma, ritö lhamo, orange. She carries a casket (with a corpse) on top of a lotus and her activity is to eliminate diseases.
CHA-TSALDE-NYI SUM-NAM KÖ-PE
Namo. She who truly possesses the power of Peace,
SHI-WE TU-DANG YANG-DAG DEN-MA
Through the arrangement of the three Thatnesses,
DÖN-DANG RO-LANG NÖ-JIN TSO NAM
She who is the totally supreme ture, the conqueror
JOM-PA TU-RE RAB-CHO NYI-MA
Of the multitudes of avaharas, vetalas and yakshas.
– Paripurana Tara, drolma yongzok jema, Liberating One Who has Achieved Perfection; white. Seated on a bull, two arms, her right hand in the mudra of protection and left holding a trident.
– Özer chenma, she is reddish white and holds a golden fish on top of a lotus. Her activity is to prevent stealing and robbery and all kinds of mishaps.
TSAWE NGA CHI TÖ-PA DI-DANG
This praise of the Root-Mantra
CHA-TSAL-WA NI NYI SHU TSA CHI
And the twenty-one Namos.