This is the sixth installment of the 12-part series sharing my understanding of the practice Liberation from Sorrow.
Praising Tara by her divine actions of dispelling conflicts and bad dreams
Homage to you who are honoured by the kings of the hosts of gods,
And the gods and the kinnaras.
Through your joyful and shining pervasive armour
All conflicts and bad dreams are dispelled.
These are particularly practical ways we can rely upon Tara. We all, from time to time, experience conflict and bad dreams in our life. Every time we find ourself in some sort of conflict, we can recall Tara’s swift ability to dispel conflicts, and recite her mantra with strong faith requesting that she do so. Ultimately, all conflict is sustained by anger, attachment, and self-grasping – in either ourself of those we are in a conflict with (usually both). When we recite her mantra, we should request that she dispel the inner causes of our conflict from all concerned. For myself, much of my work revolves around the U.S.-China relationship, which is obviously plagued by different types of conflict. To help dispel this conflict, I try generate pure view of the Consulate I work for and my boss as emanations of Tara and request that through them both, all conflict between China and the United States can be dispelled.
Tara is also helpful for dispelling bad dreams. When I was very young, I had a few particularly scary bad dreams, and became terrified of having more. Every night when I would go to sleep, I would pray, “please please please please (repeated millions of times) protect me from bad dreams.” It actually worked, and after I started praying like this when I went to bed, I had very few bad dreams. Later, when I became a father myself, my kids started having bad dreams, and I taught them Tara’s mantra and gave them small Tara statues to hold in their hand as they went to sleep to protect them against bad dreams. Their bad dreams became much less afterwards, almost without fail.
Praising Tara by her divine actions of dispelling diseases
Homage to you whose two eyes, like the sun or the full moon,
Radiate a pure, clear light.
Saying HARA twice and TUTTARA,
You dispel the most violent, infectious diseases.
When the Coronavirus first broke out, Geshe-la advised Kadampas around the world to do Tara practice due to her power to dispel violent, infectious diseases. Some centers did 24-hour Tara pujas on Tara day every month for some time. The way these work is every four hours, one engages in the Liberation from Sorrow sadhana, and recites the praises to the twenty-one Taras seven times each session. While it is true the coronavirus still spread all over the world, but we cannot say it would not have spread worse if such actions were not performed. If we have faith in Tara, there is no doubt that such actions help and perhaps saved many, many lives.
Praising Tara by her divine actions of subduing evil spirits and zombies
Homage to you who have the perfect power of pacifying
Through your blessing of the three thatnesses;
Subduer of the hosts of evil spirits, zombies and givers of harm,
O TURE, most excellent and supreme!
In many ways, this verse is like the summary of all of the previous verses. It refers to her power to pacify, bestow blessings (in particular of the wisdom realizing emptiness, or thatness), and subdue outer and inner obstructions. She truly is most excellent and supreme!
This concludes the praise of the root mantra
And the twenty-one homages.
Normally, we talk of these praises as to the twenthy-one Taras, but here we are also reminded that these are also praises of Tara’s mantra. In Buddhism, we often describe things as existing at gross, subtle, and very subtle levels. Green Tara is the gross deity, her mantra is like a subtle emanation of Tara, and the Dharmakaya is the very subtle version of Tara. In this way, we can understand the mantra as like a bridge between the Tara we normally know and definitive Tara. With sufficient faith in and understanding the nature of the mantra, reciting the mantra has exactly the same function and power as reciting the twenty-one homages.
Benefits of recitation of this Sutra
The wise who recite this with strong faith
And perfect devotion to the Goddess,
In the evening and upon arising at dawn,
Will be granted complete fearlessness by remembering her.
A qualified mind of refuge has two main parts, fear of samsara and faith in the three jewels. Normally, we don’t have much difficulty generating faith, but for our faith to have any meaning, it must be informed by an appropriate fear of samsara. Without this, our Dharma practice just becomes feel-goodism. But with healthy wisdom fears of samsara and faith in the three jewels, we are pushed to engage in Dharma practices, such as replying upon Mother Tara. Through this we attain fearlessness in two ways. First, because we will have a powerful protector at our side; and second, because we will gain inner Dharma realizations, which provide us with permanent protection from all suffering. In particular, we need the wisdom that knows how to transform adversity into the path to enlightenment. Normally we fear things that can harm us. Most of samsara’s sufferings can harm us only because we don’t know how to transform experiencing them into causes of our enlightenment. But through relying upon Tara, we can gain this wisdom, and then we will have nothing to fear. We receive this protection merely “by remembering her” because wherever you imagine a Buddha, a Buddha actually goes; and wherever a Buddha goes, they perform their function, which is to bestow blessings. In other words, by merely remembering Tara, she comes swiftly to our side and then blesses our mind to gain wisdom realizations. The sadhana says we need to rely upon her with perfect devotion. What does that mean practically? It means we move beyond simply having faith in her to actively working to accomplish her wishes in the world. Somebody who is devoted moves beyond inner faith to practical action. Tara’s main wish is for the pure Kadam Lamrim of Atisha flourish throughout the world, both externally and internally. If we are to enjoy complete fearlessness, we need to not only rely upon her, but to actively devote ourselves to realizing her pure wishes.
Through the complete purification of all negativity
They will destroy all paths to the lower realms.
They will swiftly be granted empowerment
By the seventy million Conquerors.
The cause of lower rebirth is negative karma on our mind. The quality of mind we generate at the moment of our death determines the quality of our next rebirth – a negative mind will activate negative karma resulting in a lower rebirth, a positive mind will active virtuous karma resulting in an upper rebirth, and a pure mind will active pure karma resulting in a rebirth outside of samsara. Avoiding a negative mind at the time of death will help protect us from a lower rebirth, but the only way to destroy all paths to the lower realms is through the complete purification of all our negative karma. If we have no negative karma remaining on our mind, even if we generate a negative mind at the time of death, there will be no negative throwing karma to activate and it will be impossible for us to take lower rebirth. Tara’s blessings can help us purify swiftly all of our negative karma, and we can recite her mantra as a practice of purification similar to Vajrasattva practice.
Relying upon Tara also creates the causes for us to receive the empowerments of all the Buddhas. What is an empowerment? During an empowerment, our Spiritual Guide places within our mental continuum a personalized emanation of the deity who will remain with us between now and our eventual attainment of that deity. This emanation is our personal yidam, or personal deity. By virtue of this emanation, we can gradually learn to identify with the pure body and mind of the deity and gain the ability to use these as if they were our own. Tara is the mother of all Buddhas, and all Buddhas respect and are devoted to their mother. When we rely upon Tara, all of her children – the Buddhas – then come into action to help fulfill their mother’s wish for us. They do so by granting us empowerment.