Holy Mother Tara comes to KFR!
Or view the video on the server at: http://video.tsemtulku.com/videos/KFRHolyMotherTara.flv
One of the most popular deities and practices in the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon is that of the female Buddha Tara. There are varying legends about her origins and how she arose. In some traditions, Tara is said to have emanated from the tears of Avalokiteshvara (Tibetan: Chenrezig). He had been working for a long time to alleviate sentient beings’ sufferings. One day however, Avalokiteshvara came to realise that there were still countless beings to help and he manifested despondency at the apparent hopelessness of the task at hand. He began to cry and from the pool formed by his tears, a lotus arose and inside the lotus was Tara. She spoke to Avalokiteshvara, telling him not to worry and reassuring him that he would have her assistance.
Another tradition tells that many aeons ago, during the time of Buddha Dundubhisvara, there lived a princess named ‘Moon of Wisdom-knowledge’ (Tibetan: Dawa Lhamo). She was a very devoted disciple of the Buddha and Sangha, making offerings to the Three Jewels every day. Eventually the princess herself generated bodhicitta. Upon hearing this, some monks (bhikshus) went to visit her to pay homage. During their visit, they encouraged her to dedicate her merits towards being reborn as a male.
Their encouragement may sound strange to modern ears but these bhikshus were well-meaning. They were not speaking to degrade women in any way, but really believed (as was the norm at the time) that women were not equal to men. Since women were considered not equal to men, it was also believed that their bodies must be inferior too and an impediment to achieving enlightenment. Thus the bhikshus spoke to the princess in this way, out of concern for the physical difficulties associated with being female and wanting her to avoid them.
The princess firmly and politely refused, telling them that there is no difference between men and women. She explained that women are just as capable as men in achieving enlightenment because Buddhist practices are concerned with the transformation of the mind, and not the physical form. Then she made a vow that when she became fully enlightened, she will do so in the form of a female to demonstrate her point. In that very lifetime, she fulfilled her vow and became fully attained, thereafter predominantly manifesting in the female form to benefit sentient beings.
Regardless of which origins story we subscribe to, the common theme is that this holy goddess arose out of her compassion to benefit sentient beings. She is extremely popular in the Tibetan Buddhist world, regardless of sect or tradition, because her practice is a gentle one that, although simple, still confers great benefits and protection. According to His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, Tara is so holy that images of her are automatically sacred and blessed, and need not be consecrated. Thus most Tibetan Buddhist altars and Dharma centres will have some depiction of Tara, and Kechara is no exception.
On May 24, 2016 Kechara was very fortunate to welcome the arrival of our 9-ft stone Tara statue, placing her at the start of Tara Walk. It had been many months in the making, with regular visits to the workshop and craftsmen to ensure her iconography was absolutely perfect. With one face and two arms, and a gentle motherly smile, Tara is depicted as a young girl adorned with the six ornaments – her crown, necklace, armlets, anklets and her body itself which is said to be so beautiful, no woman in samsara can compare. These ornaments represent Tara’s attainment of the six paramitas.
In the following weeks since her arrival, the Kechara Forest Retreat (KFR) team have been hard at work beautifying the area surrounding Tara by planting trees, shrubbery and flowering plants. Many of these plants were personally selected and purchased by His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche, who wanted to make sure the environment around her would be lush and beautiful, as a splendid offering to Mother Tara. The KFR team also constructed a natural-looking water feature, to fill the air with the soothing sounds of running water.
Next to Tara a grotto was built for offering candles. Made of stone, it was designed to match Tara’s pedestal, and to be weatherproof and fireproof. The grotto itself was inspired by grottoes that Rinpoche saw during his trip abroad.
The KFR team also built two circumabulation paths around Tara – a short and long one – so that pilgrims might circumambulate around her holy body, performing supplications of the body, speech and mind. The paths take you on a gentle sloping walk around Tara, with the longer one going past the water feature. Immediately opposite Tara is a low stone bench, so practitioners can sit in front of Tara and recite their prayers.
As work on the Tara area neared completion, Rinpoche himself visited the site to do a consecration puja. Rinpoche recited A Song Of Longing For Tara The Infallible as well as A Gem to Increase Life and Wisdom, which is a praise of White Tara composed by the 1st Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Gendun Drub. Rinpoche also recited the mantras of the 21 Taras, inviting the holy Mother Tara to reside in the statue and enthroning her thus. In doing so, Rinpoche requested for Tara’s wish-fulfilling energies, as well as her healing, protection and long life energies to abide in the statue and the surrounding area.
Rinpoche said that his wish is for everyone who comes to pay homage to Tara to experience healing of the body and mind, and for them to come away blessed and protected and their wishes fulfilled. 200 candles were offered and the merits of creating the shrine was dedicated to the sponsor, as well as to all beings in need of Tara’s assistance. As the consecration ritual came to an end and Rinpoche and his entourage started to recite dedication prayers, it began to drizzle very lightly. The rain stopped a short while later. Rinpoche took it as a good sign and an auspicious omen that whatever prayers made to Tara will come true, and that those who come on pilgrimage to visit her will have their wishes fulfilled.
We would like to invite you to visit her, and pay homage to the Mother Goddess who frees us from the eight fears and fulfils our wishes. Come and connect with this female Buddha and offer a candle (or two!) to her. For more information on how to get to Kechara Forest Retreat or to arrange to visit, please check out our website or call the Kechara House Front Desk at +603 7803 3908.
Kechara Forest Retreat’s Stone Tara
Where we are located
For more interesting information:
- Information about Tara on my official website
- Tara Blesses The Land
- Spectacular White Tara…
- A Song of Longing for Tara the Infallible
- Praises to the 21 Taras
- A Gem to Increase Life and Wisdom
- Green Tara
- White Tara
- Shize: A practice for healing and long life
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If you are in the United States, please note that your offerings and contributions are tax deductible. ~ the tsemrinpoche.com blog team