Venerable Chöje Lama Phuntsok
Noble Green Tara
Before speaking about Noble Green Tara, Jetsün Drolma in Tibetan, I want to ask you to give rise to the mind of awakening, Bodhicitta, and to recall that you are receiving these instructions for your own benefit as well as for the benefit and welfare of all living beings.
Generally speaking, Jetsün Drolma manifests as a woman. Before attaining enlightenment, she looked at the world and resolved to always be born as a woman after she attained enlightenment in order to help others. Her Tibetan name is Drolma, often translated as “She who Liberates.” Drol means “knot” and ma is the particle for the feminine gender, so her name denotes that she helps beings in exceptional ways to untie the knot of any hindrances and difficulties that they encounter and experience. While on the path of accumulating merit and purifying her obscurations, she promised to engage in activities that would help living beings solve their most difficult problems and sufferings. If we pray to her, she will grant her help. Of course, if we don’t pray and ask for her help, then we will not connect with her and cannot benefit. For example, if a cow that can give milk isn’t milked, then we cannot get any milk. Likewise, Jetsün Drolma can help, but if we do not pray to her, then we cannot receive her help. Is it like this or not?
Everyone experiences problems and suffers in one way or another. So it is important to check and know which problems and obstacles are strongest in ones life. There are so many problems people have - outer, inner, and secret. Outer obstacles are those caused by the elements, e.g., through floods, fires, storms, and earthquakes that harm and kill many living beings. Inner obstacles are those brought on by blockages in ones channels that disrupt and impede the harmonious energy-flow in ones body, causing imbalances that lead to sicknesses. Secret obstacles are unwholesome thoughts. Everyone is subject to the three kinds of obstacles, although outer hindrances are not experienced to the same extent by everyone. Most people experience inner obstacles of sicknesses and diseases, though, and everybody has secret obstacles. Everybody gets sick and experiences both physical and mental pain at one point or another and both present obstacles and problems. There are great differences as to the experience of inner obstacles. When blockages impede the energy-flow in ones physical channels and ones winds do not flow smoothly, then one can become sick. This doesn’t mean to say that everyone necessarily becomes sick. In any case, some people have great problems when they get sick, whereas others don’t. As to secret obstacles, everyone without exception has negative thoughts, some more so than others.
Some countries are subject to more horrific outer obstacles than others. Fires rage in certain parts of the world quite often, whereas earthquakes occur more frequently in other areas. Floods and tornados sweep away entire villages and landscapes in many parts of the world and not in others, so there are great differences.
The most crucial obstacle that we all have in common is the secret impediment, namely unwholesome thoughts and views. We have no difficulties when we have kind and benevolent thoughts, but we do have problems when our thoughts are not beneficent. And we have a great variety of negative thoughts that determine the problems we experience. For example, the relationship between parents and their children is not always in accord, because everyone has different wants and needs and as a result problems arise. Looking at the various vocations and aspirations that people have, some are merchants, others are politicians, while many people are only concerned about eating, drinking, and sleeping. A great number of problems arise in situations in which it is necessary for people to come to a mutual agreement. So it is evident that the root of all our problems and difficulties is our thoughts. Our thoughts drive us to have wishes and anything that impedes the fulfilment of our wishes is seen and experienced as a problem. And these kinds of problems need to be solved. How is this done?
One of the most extraordinary methods is to supplicate a Yidam who has achieved supreme enlightenment and to engage in the practice. Jetsün Drolma is the supreme Yidam to help solve problems and overcome hindrances, because while on the path to enlightenment she promised that when she achieved enlightenment she would help living beings overcome their problems and obstacles while they engage in the practices to achieve enlightenment. Due to the sincere promise that she made, she is able to fulfil her sacred commitment. But, it is necessary to make a connection with Jetsün Drolma’s wonderful ability to help us by supplicating and praying to her, without fostering expectations that she will solve all our problems in the evening if we pray to her on the morning of that very same day.
It is necessary to connect with Jetsün Drolma and to consciously develop and increase the wish to end our problems and obstacles by becoming more and more confident that it is possible to receive her help by engaging in her practice. For example, Jestün Drolma was the Yidam of the Great Indian Siddha Chandragomin, who had steadfast devotion for her and knew that she would help him overcome all obstacles and problems, which she did. Chandragomin owned next to nothing and lived in a cave. He didn’t even have a shrine, but only owned a small statue of Green Tara that he used as a reference for his practice. He surmounted all obstacles and impediments while meditating Arya Tara and as a result was able to help many living beings.
There was a very poor Brahim living during those times who wanted to see his daughter married, but he couldn’t afford to pay for the jewellery that should be part of her dowry and the elaborate wedding feast that he needed to finance, as was the custom of those times. This made him very sad. Knowing that Chandragomin was near, he decided to seek his help. When he found him, the Brahmin told Chandragomin, “My daughter should be married and needs to have beautiful jewellery, but I’m too poor to afford them and cannot give her anything. Please help me.” It was rather strange, seeing Mahasiddha Chandragomin had nothing to give the Brahmin. He placed his little statue of Green Tara in front of the Brahmin and told him, “Now pray to Green Tara and I will pray to her too.” Chandragomin fervently prayed to Jestün Drolma, saying, “Here is a Brahmin. He has a daughter who needs to be dressed beautifully and adorned richly for her wedding. Please help him.” Now, Jetsün Drolma is a beautiful young woman, adorned with the most precious jewels and dressed in the most beautiful silk clothes. After having prayed, Chandragomin looked at the statue and saw that it was richly adorned with all he had prayed for. He took the jewels and silk clothes from the statue, gave them to the Brahmin, and said, “Please take these to your daughter.” The Brahmin did as told and amazed all the wedding guests, who asked him how he had managed to get all the beautiful things. The Brahmin replied, “I prayed and Arya Tara gave me these things.” The problem of the Brahmin was his poverty and the moment he opened his heart and prayed to Jetsün Drolma, all his problems and obstacles vanished. Likewise, we all have many problems and impediments. Turning to Jetsün Drolma and asking for her help with utmost confidence is the means to solve problems that we all have. But, we will be disappointed if we expect immediate results. If, on the other hand, we practice with devotion, confidence, and trust, then we will receive her help and our problems will be solved.
Lord Buddha had prophesied that Arya Tara would manifest as a woman and would benefit living beings in this form. Actually, there is no difference between men and women, but there are less manifestations of women who engage in Bodhisattva activities than men. If we look around in the world, especially in the West, we will notice that there are no real differences between men and women; the differences in the East are still big and evident. But, in truth, there is no difference – differences only prevail based upon an individual’s willpower. The times in which Arya Tara promised to practice and manifest as a woman in order to help living beings were different and have changed. She is exceptional when it comes to helping living beings solve their obstacles and problems. No other Yidam deity is as efficient and as helpful as she is.
Arya Tara was the main Yidam of the great past sages and saints Nagarjuna, Atisha, and Chandragomin. She was also one of the main Yidams of many most renowned Tibetan Lamas, specifically of the First Gyalwa Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa, who had five Yidams that accorded with the five aspects of enlightened activity. Arya Tara represents the aspect of speech and the elimination of obstacles. The First Karmapa’s other Yidams were Vajrayogini, Chakrasamvara, Gyalwa Gyatso who is Red Chenrezig, and Hayagriva. If we whole-heartedly supplicate Arya Tara and ask her to help us overcome our problems, then we will succeed and, until solved completely, our problems will not affect us as strongly.
There are many stories in her hagiography about how she saved beings from being burned alive or poisoned by snake bites or being devoured by a tiger or other wild animal. She eradicates our fear of tigers and snakes. Yet, we should not think that we are free, seeing waves and waves of thoughts overpower and cause us to have many wishes and needs that torment us. Nowadays, people do not like to walk and take the car instead. They take the plane or the train too. Free of the fear of tigers and snakes, nevertheless these things are very dangerous too. There are so many moments of intense fright when driving down the freeway, and we will notice that praying to Arya Tara pacifies our fears. In modern times, so many youngsters take life-endangering drugs and they become addicted. This, too, is a great obstacle and is quite terrifying. Young people who have the thought of taking drugs experience horrific obstacles. I think it’s very important to sincerely supplicate Arya Tara when such thoughts arise and to ask for her help. When people become sick and cannot be cured with medicine, then praying to Arya Tara for her help is very beneficial. To make their wishes come true, some people work so hard, almost to the point of total exhaustion, but nothing seems to work out for them. It would be very good for them to pray to Arya Tara so that their obstacles are overcome. In short, we all have many obstacles and experience a great deal of problems, so it is very good to pray to Arya Tara for her help. Looking at the world, it is overflowing with problems, so praying to Arya Tara for the welfare of the whole world and all its inhabitants while supplicating her would be very good. But we must be confident that she can truly help. If we have trust and confidence and make a connection with her, then we can receive her help. How do we pray to her?
There are various instructions on how to meditate Arya Tara, but they all have in common that one prays to her and recites her mantra, which is:
/ OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA //
Without the syllables OM at the beginning and SOHA at the end, her mantra consists of three Sanskrit words that describe her Buddha activities. TARE stands for her Tibetan name Myur-ma dPha’-mo and means “She is the swift heroine.” Myur-ma means ”swift,” i.e., she doesn’t hesitate and helps living beings who supplicate her very fast. dPha’-mo is the femine gender for the term “hero,” which means to say that she is extremely determined and courageous to help those who pray to her.
TUTTARE is the Sanskrit term for her Tibetan name ‘Jigs-pa Sel-ma and means “She is the One who dispels fear.” She has the ability to dispel any fear that we have, and we do constantly live our lives driven by fear of one kind or another. For example, wealthy people live in fear of robbers and thieves and poor people fear not being able to find a job. After a couple gives birth to an offspring, they fear that their baby will get into trouble when it starts to crawl and when it learns to walk with its chubby little legs. Not every youngster in school is the best and some children have trouble learning. Then parents live in fear that their child will flunk in school and will fail in life. There are so many kinds of fear that are obstacles, for instance, fear of not accomplishing a goal or of not being able to finish a job. This has nothing to do with the work itself, rather it is fear that is created in ones own mind. Problems are created by hopes and fears that everyone has. For example, if one is given medicine when one is sick, one has fears and doubts that it will help. Whether ones fear is strong or weak, it is very helpful to supplicate Arya Tara, because she is able to dispel and eradicate any fear that one may have.
TURE is the Sanskrit term in her mantra for her Tibetan name ‘Död-kün-sbyin-pa’i-Drolma and means “She is the Liberator who fulfills all wishes.” We all have wishes and experience obstacles while trying to achieve our aims. Therefore, if we supplicate Arya Tara and ask her to help us overcome our obstacles, then our wishes will be fulfilled. So, she is the One who grants all wishes.
We need to know the meaning of her mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA, when we recite it. OM TARE means “She is the One who swiftly comes to help.” TUTTARE means “She is the One who dispels all my fear.” And TURE means “She is the One who fulfils all my wishes.” One needs to be fully aware of the meaning of the three aspects of her mantra and be confident that she has the ability to really help, otherwise one would resemble a bird merely twittering in the treetop while reciting her mantra.
It is possible to easily engage in the practice of Arya Tara while involved in daily activities, for example, one can recite her mantra while driving or while busy with household chores and at any time. It is the custom in India, Nepal, and Tibet for individuals who have little time to ask monks or nuns of a monastery to recite Arya Tara’s mantra 100,000 times for someone’s benefit. They will gladly do this, even if one cannot make a donation, although it would be proper to do so. Let me again stress that the most important factor is ones personal conviction that she will help and to make a connection with her. And please know that wishful-thinking is in vain.
Connecting with Arya Tara is a process that takes time through practice and leads to a personal experience. If one practices for a long time and ones heart truly opens, then it can happen that tears come to ones eyes. We shouldn’t think that she will throw her blessings our way and help us overcome obstacles merely for the asking.
It is a fact that due to the realization that she attained by practicing diligently and without wavering, she has the ability and power to help us. For example, her ability can be compared with someone who is determined to become president of a country or nation and who works hard until he accomplishes this goal. Even those persons who become presidents had once resolved to achieve that position and worked and worked in order to win the elections. A president has immense power and if he is benevolent, then he will be able to help many people, whereas if he is mean and malicious, then the results of his decisions and decrees will be negative. There is no need to doubt or fear that Arya Tara will ever misuse her power and harm others. The point is that first there is the resolve, then the will to carry it through, and then the activities that bring results. This is true for us too. We need to be aware of our goal and keep it in mind while diligently working to achieve it. Talking the talk leads nowhere. If we wish to practice, then it is necessary to clearly know where the path leads and why we are practicing, otherwise we are like a flag fluttering in the wind.
As mentioned earlier, there are a great variety of instructions on how to meditate Arya Tara. Many practices are quite long, are very detailed and difficult to understand. The First Gyalwa Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa, composed a short liturgy of Green Tara, and I would suggest you practice that text while appreciating and integrating the meaning of her mantra in your lives. Allow it to become an experience by reciting it and proceed from there.
Life situations are quite varied. It is the profession of Lamas who live in a monastery to practice long and detailed pujas, whereas individuals who work for their living don’t have much time. So, it would be appropriate for you to practice the short liturgy, which is easier to master than a long one. The quality of your practice is decisive. If you understand a short text well and practice it regularly, then you will surely benefit. It would be useless, on the other hand, to struggle through a long and complex text without knowing the meaning. The core of the liturgy is her mantra:
Jowo Atisha was the Indian sage who was invited to restore Buddhism in Tibet after it had been banished and almost vanished in the middle of the 11 th century. He was quite surprised to see Tibetan Lamas recite long texts when he arrived and asked them, “Why did you call me?” After he noticed that they were merely reciting the words without knowing the meaning, he realized that his coming to Tibet had a purpose. Likewise, if we recite long pujas in Tibetan without knowing the meaning, then it is not beneficial. So, it would be very good to study the text in your native language and to base your practice on the translation. The short mantra of Arya Tara is Sanskrit, so it is important for you to know the meaning. Thank you very much.
Through this goodness may omniscience be attained
And thereby may every enemy (mental defilement) be overcome.
May beings be liberated from the ocean of samsara
That is troubled by waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
By this virtue may I quickly attain the state of Guru Buddha and then
Lead every being without exception to that very state!
May precious and supreme Bodhicitta that has not been generated now be so,
And may precious Bodhicitta that has already been never decline, but continuously increase!
May the life of the Glorious Lama remain steadfast and firm.
May peace and happiness fully arise for beings as limitless in number as space is vast in its extent.
Having accumulated merit and purified negativities,
May I and all living beings without exception swiftly
establish the levels and grounds of Buddhahood.
Presented at Karma Theksum Tashi Chöling in Hamburg in October 2008. With sincere gratitude to Madhavi Maren Simoneit for making the recording of the teachings available to us and for her immense help. Translated into English in reliance on the German rendering kindly offered by Rosemarie Fuchs by Gaby Hollmann, responsible and apologizing for all mistakes. Copyright Karma Lekshey Ling Institute in Kathmandu as well as Karma Theksum Tashi Chöling, 2008.