She has seven eyes: the two usual eyes, plus an eye in the center 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 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 image of the White Tara with her feminine charm and sophisticated imagery represents a superior conception unparalleled in any other art tradition. Open to diverse interpretations both on the sensual and spiritual planes, the White Tara has 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.
This description by Nitin Kumar, Executive Editor, Exotic India.
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Lipton, Barbara, and Ragnubs, Nima Dorjee. Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collection of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
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