This is the fourth installment of the 12-part series sharing my understanding of the practice Liberation from Sorrow.
Praising Tara by her destroying opponents
Homage to you who by saying TRÄ and PHAT
Completely destroy the obstructions of enemies.
You suppress with your right leg drawn in and your left extended,
And blaze with a fierce and raging fire.
I think there are two ways we can understand this. First, her wisdom blessings act like a fierce and raging fire that radiate out in all directions like a protection circle, dispelling all obstructions of enemies, keeping them at bay. Second, because she is a Buddha she has universal compassion even for those who would oppose the Dharma. To destroy the obstructions of enemies means she has the power to destroy the delusion obstructions and the obstructions to omniscience of her would-be enemies. Geshe-la once famously said in Toronto that “Love is the real nuclear bomb that destroys all enemies.” In the same way, Tara completely destroys opponents by destroying the obstructions to enlightenment on their minds. This shows her skill in loving living beings while directing wrathful energy against their delusions.
Praising Tara by her purifying demons and the two obstructions
Homage to TURE, extremely fearsome one,
Who completely destroy the chief of demons.
With the wrathful expression on your lotus face
You vanquish all foes without exception.
Where do demons come from? They are mere karmic appearances to mind, ripening from our negative karma. The way to actually destroy all demons is to purify the negative karma that sees or appears anybody as a demon. Nobody is a demon from their own side, they only become such when we view them with a deluded, contaminated mind. This is how she purifies all demons. It also says she vanquishes all foes without exception. In Buddhism, there are no outer enemies, only inner enemies. To vanquish all foes without exception, therefore, refers to her ability to vanquish the inner enemies of the two obstructions – delusions and their imprints.
Praising Tara by the objects she holds in her right and left hands
Homage to you whose fingers perfectly adorn your heart
With the mudra symbolizing the Three Precious Jewels.
Adorned with a wheel of all directions
Whose radiant light outshines all.
Buddhas hold different implements in their hands to symbolize their inner qualities and abilities. Her hand in the mudra symbolizing the Three Precious Jewels indicates that she is the synthesis of all three jewels, and that she also performs the function of all three jewels. She blesses our mind like a Buddha, she teaches and protects the Kadam Dharma, and she helps us like loving Sangha. I’m assuming the wheel here refers to the Wheel of Dharma which outshines all because it enables us to escape from samsara.
Praising Tara by her crown ornament and the sound of her laughter
Homage to you whose very joyful and shining crown ornament
Radiates a garland of light;
Who, with your mirthful laughter of TUTTARE,
Subdue the demons and worldly gods.
Here, we can imagine that infinite light rays radiate out from Tara’s crown ornament, bestowing blessings and peace on all living beings. We can then rejoice in her enlightened actions, wishing to gain the ability to do the same ourselves. Mirthful laughter means a merry or amused laugh. We should never underestimate the power of laughter. More often than not, we take everything too seriously. This makes us tight and our grasping stronger. But when we can laugh at the absurdity of samsara, then it takes the sting out of it. Samsara makes me laugh! In particular, it is important to be able to laugh at ourselves and our delusions. This is one of the most powerful ways of cutting the power of our delusions over us because we are able to view them from a distance and laugh at how ridiculous they are. Being able to laugh at others in a way that also enables them to stop taking themselves or their samsara too seriously is a whole other level of skill at mirthful laughter. Normally, people can take it wrong that we are laughing at them or their plight, and they can become quickly offended. But Tara has the ability to use skillful mirthful laughter to even subdue demons and worldly gods, disarming their ill intent or pretension.
Praising Tara by her accomplishing divine actions through the ten directional guardians
Homage to you who are able to summon
All the directional guardians and their retinues.
Frowning and shaking, with the letter HUM,
You rescue all from their misfortune.
In the Tsog offerings, we invite the directional guardians, evil spirits, zombies, givers of harm, smell-eaters and other such beings from the charnel grounds, offer them Torma and Tsog offerings, bless their mind, and effectively “enlist them” to help Dharma practitioners and flourish the Dharma instead of oppose them. From a deeper point of view, we imagine that all of these beings are actually emanations of the principal deity sent into the realms of samsara to help the beings in every terrifying corner of the six realms. From the letter HUM at the heart of the principal deity, light rays radiate out and invite these beings to come before the deity to then work on the deity’s behalf. When we recite this verse, we can imagine Tara does the same, inviting all such beings from the charnel grounds who come before her, and then commit to working on her behalf to rescue all beings from their misfortune. In this way, she also rescues these beings themselves from their misfortune by inspiring them to engage in virtuous actions of protecting practitioners.
Praising Tara by her crown ornament
Homage to you with a crescent moon adorning your crown,
And all your ornaments shining brightly;
With Amitabha in your top-knot
Eternally radiating light.
Here we can imagine different details of Tara’s form, recognizing them all as manifestations of her inner realizations. Buddhas have the ability to manifest their mind as form. When we engage in checking meditations of different deities, we focus on different aspects of their form recalling the inner realization it represents. A moon in Buddhism symbolizes the realization of emptiness. The ornaments of a Buddha’s body typically symbolize their inner realizations of the six perfections. Amitabha in her top-knot indicates Amitabha is her spiritual guide. Amitabha is the Vajra Speech of all the Buddhas, and is the same nature as Geshe Langri Tangpa, the author of Eight Verses of Training the Mind, our root text for Lojong practice. Recalling this, we can generate faith that through our reliance on Tara we will be able to realize emptiness, complete the six perfections, and train in transforming adverse conditions into the path.
Praising Tara by her wrathful posture
Homage to you who dwell amidst a garland of flames
Like the fire at the end of the aeon.
With your right leg extended and left drawn in,
You destroy the hosts of obstructions of those who delight in the Dharma Wheel.
Buddhas engage in four types of enlightened action – pacifying, increasing, controlling, and wrathful actions. Wrathful actions are forceful actions that skillfully differentiate between the person and their delusions or faults. They are able to be ruthless with delusions while being loving with the person. They are like a wisdom anger against the inner objects to be abandoned along the path. If we fail to make the distinction between the person and their delusions, our wrathful actions are just ordinary anger and usually wind up harming living beings. Pacifying and increasing actions are relatively easy to do without delusions, controlling actions can be done if we are free from attachment to the other person doing what we want, and wrathful actions can only be performed with compassionate wisdom differentiating clearly the person from their faults. They also typically require the other person to have faith in us to receive well our wrathful actions, but this isn’t always necessary. Buddhas are often surrounded by blazing wisdom fires indicating their ability to burn through negativities and protect others with great power. When we recite this version, we imagine Tara radiates such powerful energy around her like the fire at the end of the aeon. Her right leg extended symbolizes her ability to swiftly come to the aid of living beings. Because she is the completely purified wind element, she can move as fast as mind to any object. If we think of the moon, our mind is instantly there. But how does it get there? By being mounted upon winds. Tara is the wind all virtue is mounted upon. Her right leg extended shows her swift ability.