The word Tara itself is derived from the root 'tri' (to cross), hence the implied meaning:' the one who enables living beings to cross the Ocean of Existence and Suffering'. Her compassion for living beings, her desire to save them from suffering, is said to be even stronger than a mother's love for her children.
Legend says Tara was born from the compassionate tears of Avalokiteshvara (The Buddha of compassion):
"Homage! Tara, swift, heroic! With a glance like flashing lightning, born from a blooming lotus sprung from the tears on the face of the Lord of the World!"
... Chapter III, Tara Tantra
The above verse refers to the legend of Tara's origin. Avalokiteshvara was looking down from his heaven on the world of suffering beings, and he wept to see that more and more of them were in pain. From the tears streaming down his face two Taras were born, a peaceful white one from the left and a fierce green one from the right. Tara is thus also often referred to as Avalokiteshvara's consort.
White Tara is often referred to as the Mother of all the Buddhas. She represents the motherly aspect of compassion. Her white colour indicates purity, but also indicates that she is Truth, complete and undifferentiated.
She has seven eyes: the two usual eyes, plus an eye in the centre of her forehead and eyes in each of her hands and feet. These indicate that she sees all suffering and all cries for help in the human world using both ordinary and psychic or extraordinary means of perception. They thus symbolize the vigilance of her compassion.
White Tara has a lovely, young face. Her ornaments are covered in jewels. Her silk robes and scarves are painted in an exceptionally lively manner. Her tight fitting garments are embossed with large, rich floral designs. These filmy garments; bright gauzy silks fluttering from the shoulders and a series of many hued silken skirts- leave the slender torso and smoothly rounded breasts uncovered in the manner of ancient India. The whole effect is so ravishing that she might well arouse the very passion she is frequently invoked to calm, were it not that she inspires the kind of exalted reverence a palace guard might be expected to feel for a young and lovely princess entrusted to his care.
With her right hand she makes the boon granting gesture and her left hand, holding the stem of a white lotus flower between her thumb and fourth finger, is in the protection position.
The elaborate lotus flower, held in the left hand is called Utpala. It contains three blooms: the first, with seeds, symbolizes the past Buddha Kashyapa; the second in full flower, symbolizes the present Buddha Shakyamuni; and the third, ready to bloom, symbolizes the future Buddhas Maitreya. This signifies that White Tara is the essence of all the three Buddhas of the past, the present and the future.
She sits with both legs raised and crossed in the vajra (diamond) position and regally displays both grace and calm.
Her incomparable beauty have inspired her worshippers to address her thus:
"Radiant as the eternal snows in all their glory, homage to the
Youthful One with full breasts, One face and two arms. And is
filled with great bliss"
White Tara is an emanation of Tara who is connected with longevity. She is also the special goddess who helps her devotees overcome obstacles, particularly impediments to the practice of religion.
Indeed in the vast expanse of Buddhist art the images of the two Taras with their feminine charm and sophisticated imagery represent a superior conception unparalleled in any other art tradition. Open to diverse interpretations both on the sensual and spiritual planes the two Taras have inspired generations of devotee artists to achieve creative heights while adhering to the strict iconographical cannons laid down in the ancient texts, and in the process acquiring both spiritual merit and the boon of the Goddess.
In the top-most layer of the painting can be seen in clockwise direction; Padmasambhava followed by Shakyamuni Buddha and at the right most corner is shown Buton Rinpoche.
On her crown can be seen a small image of the Buddha.
This description by Nitin Kumar, Executive Editor, Exotic India.
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