This is the fifth installment of the 12-part series sharing my understanding of the practice Liberation from Sorrow.
Praising Tara by the light that radiates from the letter HUM
Homage to you who strike the ground with the palm of your hand
And stamp it with your foot.
With a wrathful glance and letter HUM,
You subdue all seven levels.
This also refers to Tara’s ability to engage in wrathful actions and can be understood from the above. I’m not sure what the seven levels are.
Praising Tara by her Dharmakaya aspect
Homage to you who are happy, virtuous and peaceful,
Within the sphere of the peace of nirvana.
Fully endowed with SÖHA and OM,
You completely destroy heavy evil actions.
This verse refers to definitive Tara. The conventional Tara is the green deity we know and love. She manifests this form so that living beings can more easily develop a relationship with her. But actual Tara is Dhamakaya Tara, or Truth Body Tara. This is definitive Tara. The Dharmakaya is a Tara’s realization of great bliss mixed inseparably from the emptiness of all phenomena. She is referred to as the mother of all Buddhas because all Buddhas arise out of her Dharmakaya – she gives birth to them from her realization of bliss and emptiness. What does the Dharmakaya feel like? Happy, virtuous, and peaceful. This is her inner pure land, and anytime we ourselves feel happy, virtuous, or peaceful, we are experiencing a similitude of her pure land.
Praising Tara by her divine actions of peaceful and wrathful mantras
Homage to you who completely subdue the obstructions
Of those who delight in the Dharma Wheel;
Rescuing with the array of the ten-letter mantra
And the knowledge-letter HUM.
Peaceful actions refer to a Buddha’s ability to pacify negativity, delusions, or their imprints in either ourselves or in others. All living beings possess Buddha nature. What does this mean? It means we all possess within ourselves the potential for an enlightened mind, and all we need to do is purify our mind of all that defiles it and our natural enlightened state will be unleashed or uncovered. What is our mind defiled by? Principally three things: negative karma, delusions, and their imprints. Technically negative karma is also an imprint of a delusion which is why we normally say the “two obstructions,” referring to delusions and their imprints. But from a practical point of view, we place particular emphasis in the early stages of our practice on purifying our negative karma (lower scope meditations), then overcoming our delusions (intermediate scope meditations), and finally the remainder of our contaminated karma (great scope meditations). Tara can help us pacify all three of these, as explained by her ten-letter mantra whose principal function is to bestow all of the Lamrim meditations. According to Tantra, the two main objects to be pacified are ordinary appearances and ordinary conceptions. Ordinary appearances are phenomena appearing to exist independently of our mind (the things we normally see), and ordinary conceptions are grasping at the wrong belief that objects do in fact exist in the way that they appear. For example, when we think of ourself, we see our ordinary body and mind. This is an ordinary appearance. When we grasp at them actually being ourselves, this is an ordinary conception. Tara also has the power to pacify all our ordinary appearances and conceptions.
Praising Tara by her divine actions of wrathfully shaking the three worlds
Homage to TURE, stamping your feet,
Born from the seed in the aspect of HUM,
Who cause Mount Meru, Mandhara and Vindhya,
And all the three worlds to shake.
Buddhist cosmology is incredibly vast. The universe as we know it actually only one world system. There are the thousand worlds, which is a thousand world systems or universes as we know them. There are the two thousand worlds, which is a thousand of the thousand worlds, or one million universes. And there are the three thousand worlds, which is a thousand of the two thousand worlds, or one trillion universes. In truth, there are countless universes, and the three thousand worlds is a shorthand for implying countless that makes it somewhat easier to grasp. Just as the stars in the sky form galaxies, super clusters, and so forth, the three thousand worlds also cluster together and are arranged in different ways, so too the three thousand worlds cluster together and are arranged in particular way. In the center of the three thousand worlds is Mount Meru, which is actually comprised of countless different pure lands at different levels of purity, such as the Land of 33 Heavens where Buddha went to teach his mother after she took rebirth there. At the top of Mount Meru is Heruka’s celestial mansion. Surrounding Mount Meru are the four major and eight minor continents, like an archipelago of different clusters of universes – they can be likened to superclusters of galaxies. The universe that we live in is simply one of many universes in what is known as the Eastern continent, but is in reality just a cluster of universes. Traditional cosmology as we know it just talks of our one universe where the Big Bang unfolded, but this one universe is as insignificant as our own planet is in our universe. The vastness of Buddhist cosmology is almost beyond comprehension. Interestingly, some astrophysicists have a similar view arguing we live in a multiverse, or a n-dimensional multiverse, but they have no idea how these universes are shaped. Just as the science of quantum physics is gradually catching up with Buddha’s teachings on emptiness, it is only a question of time before science catches up with Buddha’s teachings on cosmology. Tara’s blessings and power pervade everywhere. Vajrayogini and Tara are actually the same being, just appearing at two different levels – Action Tantra version as Green Tara and Highest Yoga Tantra version of Red Vajrayogini. Vajrayogini is in union with Heruka inside his celestial mansion atop Mount Meru and her wisdom is able to cause all three thousand worlds to shake!
Praising Tara by her divine actions of dispelling internal and external poisons
Homage to you who hold in your hand
A moon, the lake of the gods;
Saying TARA twice and the letter PHAT,
You completely dispel all poisons.
Conventionally, Tara’s blessings are particularly powerful at dispelling external poisons, such as those we might ingest. I personally suffer from terrible allergies, some of which are deadly. When I have a strong allergic reaction to something I eat, I of course take my Benadryl or other allergy medications, but I also recite with great faith Tara’s mantra requesting that she protect me. Those who have allergies can do the same, even allergies as light as hay fever. But principally, Tara’s blessing dispel the inner poisons of our delusions. Outer poisons can at most harm us in this one life, but the inner poisons of our delusions harm us in all our future lives. Considering our delusions to be inner poisons is a particularly powerful way of thinking of them. If we ingested an external poison, we would do everything we can as quickly as we could get rid of it from our body or to take an antidote. But we would never think that the poison is us, we see clearly the difference between the poison and ourselves. In the same way, our delusions are not us, but they do terrible harm to us, and we should feel great urgency to purge them from our system. Tara is the antidote to all of the inner poisons of delusions. She is known as the Lamrim Buddha because she helps Atisha’s followers and her blessings specifically function to bestow Lamrim realizations. Lamrim is like a net of virtuous minds that functions to oppose all delusions directly or indirectly. By weaving the Lamrim within our mind, we protect ourselves against any possible combination of delusions, and thus achieve protection from all inner poisons.