“If Her name is called, She answers”
Whether the Tārā figure originated as a Buddhist or Hindu goddess is unclear and remains a source of inquiry among scholars. She is a goddess with numerous forms, widely popular in Nepal, Tibet, and Mongolia, and is the feminine counterpart of the bodhisattva (“buddha-to-be”) Avalokiteshvara. According to popular belief, she came into existence from a tear of Avalokiteshvara, which fell to the ground and formed a lake. Out of its waters rose up a lotus, which, on opening, revealed the goddess. Like Avalokiteshvara, she is a compassionate, succouring deity who helps men “cross to the other shore.” She is the protectress of navigation and earthly travel, as well as of spiritual travel along the path to enlightenment.
Another Buddhist legend tells of a devout Buddhist princess who lived millions of years ago who became a bodhisattva, vowing to keep being reborn in female form (rather than in male form, which was considered more advanced on the path to enlightenment) to continue helping others. She remained in a state of meditation for 10 million years, thus releasing tens of millions of beings from suffering. Since then, she has manifested her enlightenment as the goddess Tara.
Within Tibetan Buddhism she has 21 major forms in all, each tied to a certain colour and energy, however she may have had as many as 108 forms. Each offers some feminine attribute, of ultimate benefit to the spiritual aspirant who asks for her assistance. The souls of Tārās are always born women.
Tārā manifests in many different forms, and may have several emanations. These forms included Green Tārā’s manifestation as the Nepalese Princess Bhrikuti, and White Tārā’s manifestation as the Chinese princess Kongjo (Princess Wencheng). Many well known goddesses in Hindu and Buddhist teachings were also considered Tārās.
Today, Green Tārā and White Tārā are probably the most popular representations of Tārā, known for protection and healing respectively. Other colours include Blue, Black, Red and Yellow.
“Tārā is in fact the name of a whole class of deities. She appears in all the five colours of the Jinas. There are at least ten green forms, seven white, five yellow, two blue and one red. As Sarvajñamitra says of her form: ‘It is a universal form, varied like crystal, since it changes according to circumstance’.She has both peaceful and wrathful forms. Her figure is shown in virtually all postures from standing to sitting, full lotus, half lotus, one leg down, and both legs down. There is apparently also a reclining Tārā. She has two-armed forms, four arms, eight arms, twelve arms, and Getty even mentions a Tibetan painting showing a standing Tārā with ‘one thousand heads and arms’. Ghosh lists seventy-six distinct forms of Tārā, and tradition tells us there are one hundred and eight names for her.”Dharmachari Purna
Thus Tārā may have been akin to a title in the 5th Age. Likely they were a small collective of women bound by the same ethos and teachings, however their exact structure has long been lost to history. Given the Tārā’s venerated status they were likely highly respected, the title itself difficult to attain.
What is known is that the Tārā is considered as a saviouress, and as a heavenly deity who hears the cries of beings experiencing misery in saṃsāra. In many representations, she has eyes in the palms of her hands and on the soles of her feet, as well as in the centre of her forehead, representing her power to see those who are suffering and offer her aid. This is what Tārās did, in myriad forms. They were counsellors, guides, mediators, practitioners of the arts, protectors of the weak, and healers.
They were known for swift aid, and never turning a petitioner away — no matter who asked, or how deserving. They did not judge.
Broadly speaking, each colour was represented as follows:
- Green Tārā, known as the Buddha of Enlightened Activity. She offers succour and protection from all the unfortunate circumstances encountered in the samsaric world.
- White Tārā, known for compassion, long life, healing and serenity. She expresses maternal compassion and offers healing to beings that are hurt or wounded, either physically or spiritually. She may easily be distinguished from Green Tārā by the presence of eyes in the palms of her hands, the soles of her feet and her forehead.
- Red Tārā, of fierce aspect, associated with the attraction of the positive. She teaches discriminating awareness about created phenomena, and how to turn raw desire into compassion and love.
- Blue Tārā, associated with the transmutation of anger. She expresses a ferocious, wrathful, female energy whose invocation destroys all dharmic obstacles and engenders good luck and swift spiritual awakening.
- Black Tārā, associated with power.
- Yellow Tārā, associated with wealth and prosperity.
Known Incarnations of Tārā in the 5th Age:
- Thalia’s soul is reborn as an unnamed Tārā, her colour association in flux between different turnings of the Age; usually Green, Red, and Blue. See Thalia’s Other Lives section for more information.