Commentary on Tārā Praise
Courtesy of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Brilliant Rays of Light
A Commentary on the Praise to Tārā
by Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen
Homage to the noble lady Tārā!
Homage to Tārā, she who liberates from the suffering of saṃsāra. She is swift in aiding beings and gallant in conquering afflictions. Her glance flashes like flares of lightning, a statement that serves as an analogy for its luminosity. She was born on the heart of a blossoming lotus or utpala flower that rose from the tears of the Triple-World’s Lord, Avalokiteśvara. (1)
Homage to her, whose countenance is comparable to many hundreds of full moons, each as radiantly white as on the fifteenth day of the lunar month, gathered together in autumn. This image illustrates the immeasurable number of light-rays that shine from her; this is also conveyed by the image of her smiling and glowing with brilliant radiance, like a thousand stars clustered, ablaze. (2)
Homage, golden-blue coloured lady, shining like the light reflected upon refined gold. A lotus is held in her left hand; it is graced with the symbolic implement of a water-born lotus flower. Through the practice of the six pāramitās: the pāramitā of generosity; the pāramitā of diligence; the pāramitā of endurance; serenity, or, the pacification of afflictions; the pāramitā of patience; and the pāramitā of meditation; and through embodying the pāramitā of wisdom, she attained the form of the goddess Tārā. This is illustrated by her emblem, the utpala flower. (3)
Homage to her, whose total victories over demons, enemies, and all such opposing forces are endless. She is the jewel adorning all the great Tathāgatas’ crowns. She is well served, honoured, and praised by all the bodhisattvas, the heirs of the Victors, those who’ve accomplished all the pefections—the ten pāramitās, which are the essence of all ten bhūmis. (4)
Homage to her, who with the power and light from the mantra syllables tuttāre and hūṃ, fills the desire realms, and the form realm, and the formless realm, unto the ends of space. She tramples underfoot the seven worlds—the five types of desire realm for the five types of beings, and the form and formless realms—and has the strength to summon—to bring others, like kings, under her control—and to fulfil all the wishes of sentient beings. (5)
Homage to her, praised and venerated by Indra, the king of gods, and by Agni, Brahmā, Maruts, and their lord, the great and powerful Śiva. All the eight classes of gods and demons; the bhūtas, such as Gaṇapati; the vetālas, such as Maheśvara; the gandharvas, such as Pañcaśikha; and the yakṣas, such as Vaiśravaṇa, pay tribute to her. (6)
Homage to her, who with the fierce utterances of traḍ and phaṭ crushes the enemies’ yantras, all their evil concoctions, to dust, thereby averting their schemes. With the posture of the right leg bent in and left leg extended, shining, she treads or tramples, the meaning of which is explained above, amidst flames wildly blazing, a sign of her majestic stance. (7)
Homage to her, who with the sound of ture dispels the dangerous demons. She is the fearsome lady, for she strikes terror into these demons. She is the destroyer of the most powerful demons of the afflictions. Having conquered them, she defeats the other three demons as soon as they arise. Tārā’s lotus-face, like a blooming lotus flower, is astonishingly beautiful like that of a heroine, while her deep-furrowed brow reveals her wrath. She is the slayer of each and every foe, such as the opposing forces of the afflictions. (8)
Homage to her, whose left thumb and ring-fingers gracefully hold a lotus flower to her heart. Her three other fingers are extended to symbolize or display the mudrā of the Three Jewels. Her right hand is extended in the mudrā of supreme generosity, and the palm is graced by a wheel adorning every direction. Light streams forth from this wheel, in a dazzling radiance that overwhelms all. (9)
Homage to her, who fulfils the wishes of all sentient beings with supreme joy. She is beautified by a radiantly jewelled garland that crowns her head in a splendour that outshines all others. Smiling and laughing with the sound of the mantra tuttāre, it is through the laughter of this mantra that she brings demons and the world under control. (10)
Homage to her, who can summon the hosts of earthly guardians, the guardians of the ten directions; they follow her orders and thus act as her messengers. Her frown it quivers, for she is the wrathful lady, whose heart center is marked by the syllable hūṃ. She delivers all of us sentient beings from the suffering of every misfortune—the torment of bad circumstances and absence of good circumstances—thereby establishing us in bliss. (11)
Homage to her, who’s so brightly adorned with a sliver of moon, which resembles that of the first day of the lunar month, as her crown, blazing with rays of light. Amongst her locks resides Amitābha, Buddha of Boundless Light, who graces her as another crown ornament. His gleaming rays stream forever forth, constantly benefitting sentient beings with the shining of his boundless light. (12)
Homage to her, seated in a halo blazing with apocalyptic flames, just like those of the seven suns which burn all the earth, stones, and mountains at the end of the eon. Her posture, with her right leg stretched out and left bent inward, is the opposite of before. Immersed in joy, she crushes all the opposing forces, the legions of foes. (13)
Homage to her, who on the earth’s surface strikes her left palm and makes the threatening mudrā and stamps her feet. Her brow deeply furrowed, with the utterance of the syllable hūṃ, light shoots forth from the vajra in her right hand. This light fills the seven netherworlds and all their obstacles are dispelled. (14)
Homage to her, the lady who is blissful, since she is endowed with untainted bliss; and gracious, because she is free from what needs to be abandoned, the afflictions. She acts out of the domain of the peace—the pacification of suffering—of nirvāṇa, which is the total exhaustion of all thoughts. With the essence of her enlightened from, oṃ and svāhā in perfect union, she lays to waste every terrible evil—the afflictions of others, which must be abandoned. (15)
Homage to her, who, immersed in rapture, shatters the bodies of all her foes. She manifests from the wisdom-syllable hūṃ, for this is the essence of her wrathful mantra—oṃ namas tāre namo hare hūṃ hare svāhā. She likewise displays each of her peaceful mantra’s ten syllables—oṃ tāre tuttāre ture svāhā. (16)
Homage to Ture, whose wrathful emanation enters a dance. Her feet stomping boldly, she pacifies obstacles wherever they may be. Her wrathful body is born or formed from the seed of the syllable hūṃ. The supreme mountain of the three-thousand-fold world system, called Mandara, is pierced by the light radiating from the syllable hūṃ. All the three worlds—the desire, form and formless realms—she causes them to quake. (17)
Homage to her, who holds in her hand the maṇḍala of a deer-marked moon, which is likened to a divine lake. This is a sign that she has cleared away the poison of the afflictions. With tāra twice and then with phaṭ, and with the mantra tāre, she totally cleanses all of the poisons of the world and all that moves within it. (18)
Homage to her, who is served—worshipped—by kings of hosts divine, and leaders of gods and of the kiṃnaras, such as King Druma. She is suited or manifests in a deity’s form and mantra, which serves as her armour of joy and splendour. She dispels all nightmares, soothes away the strife caused by those opposed to the Dharma. (19)
Homage to her, whose eyes become sources of shining light. They both shine with luster, bright with the fullness of her right eye, represented by the sun, and her left eye, represented by the moon. With twice-uttered hara—a mantra that is both peaceful and wrathful—and tuttāre she pacifies all, including the most intractable diseases. (20)
Homage to her, who has the power to free us from all afflictions. She puts forth the realities of enlightened body, speech and mind as a set of three—the syllables oṃ, āḥ and hūṃ. Supreme Ture, she completely pacifies and destroys all opposing forces—the hordes of grahas, vetālas, and yakṣas that create obstacles—through the power of the ten-syllable mantra. (21)
This Praise with the twenty-one verses of homage
Is itself the root mantra of all peaceful and wrathful Tārās.
The wise who recite these words in earnest, with body, speech and mind filled with devotion for this goddess, (22)
Should recall her wrathful form at dusk, and also having risen at dawn her peaceful form. With the mere recollection of her divine form, they will be granted fearlessness; and likewise, just by recollecting her, they will utterly eliminate all misdeeds, and surmount all evil destinies, their results. (23)
Seventy million victorious buddhas will swiftly and immediately confer empowerment upon them, and they will attain the common result of greatness in this world, and not only that, but they will also reach the ultimate state of buddhahood. (24)
Even the most powerful and toxic poisons, such as those used by dangerous thieves, which derive from plants, or living beings, such as those from dangerous snakes, whether eaten or taken as a draught, will be purged entirely by recalling this praise, this mantra, and the deity herself. (25)
Reciting this two or three or seven times, however much you can, while visualizing the goddess before you, will eliminate multitudes of both the causes and results of suffering brought about by spirits, pestilence, and poisons. Through this praise you have the power to aid others and therefore this applies even to other beings as well. (26)
Those who wish for progeny will bear them; those who wish for riches will acquire them; thus each and every wish—all the supreme or common accomplishments—will hereby be fulfilled, and obstacles will be entirely vanquished, for everything that had to be abandoned has been overcome by its appropriate antidote. Thus, there will be no more obstacles left to hinder the one who recites this praise. (27)
This completes the Praise to Bhagavatī Tārā as spoken by the completely perfect Buddha, the great Vairocana.
This Praise was transmitted by Nāgārjuna to Nyen Lotsawa Darma Drak who translated it into Tibetan. Later, the great Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen revised the translation. This completes the commentary on the Praise to Tārā with Twenty-one Verses of Homage, entitled Brilliant Light.
Tibetan edition and English translation based on
- grags pa rgyal mtshan. 2007. “bstod pa’i rnam bshad gsal ba’i ’od zer.” In gsung ’bum grags pa rgyal mtshan/ pod gsum pa/, 638–646. Pe cin: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang.
- Lhasey Lotsawa (trans.) The Praise to Tārā with Twenty-One Verses of Homage, and the Excellent Benefits of Reciting the Praise. Lotsawa House.
- Mabbett, Ian. “The Problem of the Historical Nāgārjuna Revisited.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 118, no. 3, 1998: pp. 332–346.
- Obermiller, Eugéne (ed.). History of Buddhism (chos ’byung) by Bu-ston, vol 1 & 2. Heidelberg: In Kommission bei O. Harrassowitz, 1931 & 1932.
- Roerich, George N. (ed.). The Blue Annals. Calcutta: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1949.
- Willson, Martin. In Praise of Tara: Songs to the Saviouress. Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 1996.
Drakpa Gyaltsen connects blue here with gold, the colour of Tārā’s appearance. Other commentaries explain that blue describes the colour of the lotus flower in Tārā’s hand. ↩
Drakpa Gyaltsen’s commentary reads tuttāre instead of tuttāra. ↩
The word yantra (’khrul ’khor) designates an instrument or other type of mechanical device (esp. one used in warfare), or a magic diagram. ↩
Drakpa Gyaltsen reads ture as a mantra sylable uttered by Tārā. Other commentaries read ture as an epithet of Tārā. ↩
Dangerous demons here could be understood as a reference to the eight great dangers (‘jigs pa chen po brgyad). ↩
Drakpa Gyaltsen here describes Tārā as being victorious over the four māras or demons. These are the demons of 1) the aggregates, 2) the afflictions, 3) the Lord of Death, and 4) the sons of the gods. ↩
Tārā is not described here as holding an actual wheel; rather, this sentence implies that her hands and feet are marked by wheels, as in the first of the thirty-two major marks. ↩
These are: 1) Indra in the east; 2) Yama in the south; 3) Varuṇa in the west; 4) Kubera in the north; 5) Agni in the south-east; 6) Nairṛta in the south-west; 7) Vāyu in the north-west; 8) Īśāna in the north-east; 9) Brahmā at the zenith (above); and 10) Viṣṇu at the nadir (below). ↩
Drakpa Gyaltsen’s commentary reads “fill” (‘gengs), unlike most versions of the Praise which read “smash” (‘gems). ↩
Drakpa Gyaltsen here does not comment upon the word tranquil (zhi ma). ↩
Drakpa Gyaltsen reads ’bigs byed here as the verb to pierce. Accordingly, it is the light radiating from Tārā’s seed syllable hūṃ that pierces the supreme mountain Mandara. The Sanskrit versions of the Praise as well as other Tibetan commentators (see for example, Willson 1996: 153) suggest that the line of the Praise in question (ri rab mandara dang ‘bigs byed) provides a list of three mountains, namely Meru (ri rab, literally “supreme mountain”), Mandara (mandara) and Vindya (‘bigs byed). Both the Sanskrit version and other Tibetan commentators read ri rab as the proper name for Meru, rather than an epithet for Mandara as in this commentary; they read ‘bigs byed as the proper name for Vindya mountain, rather than a verb as described. ↩
Drakpa Gyaltsen reads “with complete faith” (rab dad brjod) instead of “in earnest” (rab dang brjod). ↩
Thieves and snakes are part of the eight great dangers. Drakpa Gyaltsen appears to read poisons here as referring to both actual poisons and mental afflictions. ↩
The Nāgārjuna who authored Tārā-related literature appears to use this as a pen-name; his precise identity remains unclear. Presumably, the author of this practice tradition of Tārā lived in the ninth century or later. For a discussion of the problematic authorship of Nāgārjuna, see: Mabbett 1998: 332–346. ↩
The translator of Nyen, Darma Drak (gnyan lo tsā ba dar ma grags, late 11th century), is said to have taken part in the council of 1076. He accompanied Ra Lotsawa (rwa lo tsā ba, 1016–1128?) to India where he stayed for twelve years. Darma Drak is credited with Prajñākaramati’s commentary on the Bodhicaryāvatāra, texts on Kālacakra and Tārā, and other works (Roerich 1949: 71 & 293; Obermiller 1931: 219). ↩