Thursday, April 17, 2008


A friend and I were talking about Tara the other day, and I was trying unsuccessfully to describe why she has always been a goddess I have identified with, held dear... So, Shane, this is why! :)...

Tara means "star," "planet," or "she who ferries across." She is a bodhisattva embodying compassion in the female form of a young goddess. She is often considered to be such an advanced bodhisattva that she is actually a Buddha.

Tara’s name is said to derive from the verb meaning "to cross" or "to traverse". In Pali the verb tarati means "to get to the other side." This word is cognate with the Latin "trans" (across). The word Tara also literally means "star."

Green Tara (Shyama Tara or Dark Tara)) is seated on a white moon-disk. Her green complexion symbolizes the active function of the fully-enlightened being. The moon symbolizes her peacefulness. The moon is resting upon a lotus. The lotus symbolizes her freedom from any defilement, just as the lotus rises out of the mud of the swamp, but the blossom itself is pure and undefiled. In the same way, Green Tara arises in the world but is completely undefiled by the world.

Her posture is the 'lalitasana' or royal ease asana. Her left leg is withdrawn in the Lotus pose, to symbolize her mastery of Insight and detachment from the 5 Emotional Defilements (Klesha). Her right leg is in the Euro-posture in front of her body, slightly bent, with her foot on a lotus blossom. This signifies her ability to spring into action, to act swiftly for the compassionate protection of all sentient beings.

In each hand she usually holds the stem of a blue utpala flower. Each flower consists of three blossoms indicating that Tara, the embodiment of enlightened activities, is the Mother of the Buddhas of the past, present and future. The Buddha of the past is the Treasure Tower Buddha, the present refers to Shakyamuni, while the Buddha of the Future is Maitreya, the Buddha of Loving Kindness (Maitri or Metta).

Her right hand, (left-facing) is actually in the Dana or Varada Mudra (The Gift bestowing Gesture of Compassion) with the palm turned outwards. The five extended fingers in this mudra symbolize the following five perfections: Generosity, Morality, Patience, Effort, and Meditative concentration.

The left hand is held up, again with the palm facing outward, and grasping the uptala lotus. This is Abhaya Mudra the gesture of fearlessness and refuge.

This Tara was painted by Darma, a Tibetan friend I made while living in India. He taught thangka painting classes and with all of the money he made he maintained a home for orphaned Tibetan boys studying to become monks. I commissioned this piece from him (he asked $50, I gave him many times that), it made it's way to me in NY via a friend who also lived in NY but studied painting and yoga with me in India. This is the first time this thangka has been out of the protective tube and framed and hung and truly appreciated!

She hangs over command central in the nursery...

Another Tara image I found online...

Even Spider-Man has an intense Buddhist experience, thanks to his encounter with the Buddhist superheroine Tara.

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