Teaching on Green Tara
Transcription of His Eminence's Teaching on Green Tara (June 1, 2013 in Hong Kong)
Basically, whenever if you receive some Buddhist teachings, you might notice that every master might give different teachings – there is Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Then even within Vajrayana also there are many lineages. Sometimes, you might even wonder and some people tell me that it is very confusing to be a Buddhist. In Vajrayana, there are so many different paths, different practices…they don’t even know what to practice. They wish it would be simpler. In a way, they are right. It is confusing especially at first. Buddha Shakyamuni had given 84000 different teachings because we all have different types of personalities and different emotions. For example, today all of you guys are dressed very differently. Some are wearing white shirts, some are in casuals, some in fashion. So that is because we all have a different sense of style, different desires. So if we give one t-shirt and ask you all to like it, all may not like it. So if Buddha Shakyamuni gave only one teaching to all, it may not have been suitable to everybody. His kindness led to give so many teachings. That is why Buddha Shakyamuni had given 84000 different teachings because we all have different types of personalities.
So looking at it from a different point of view, there are so many different types of teachings and thus kind of shows, how kind Buddha is. How infinite his compassion is that he showed so many different paths. But no matter what path it is, if you want to understand little bit about the Dharma, we have to know how to draw the essence of all the 84000 teachings. If you know the essence then we will understand all the dharma. So essence of dharma is three things actually. (i) One is do not do negative deeds which are harmful to others, because things that are harmful to others is the cause of suffering to yourself and to others. (ii) Do positive deeds which are beneficial to others which will automatically be beneficial to ourselves. (iii) Third is why do we do negative deeds? Why would I talk kindly to somebody or talk harshly to somebody. It is because of the mind. Mind can be from compassionate mind, understanding mind, loving mind – pleasant things will come out. From a hateful mind, anger mind - negative things will come out. So his third teaching was to tame the mind. Do positive deeds, avoid negative deeds and tame the mind which is the source of …which is the Boss. Mind is the Boss, Body and Speech are the attendants / servants. Even you go to different temples, even if there are 10000 different pujas, essence is within these three. For example, like today we hear because Buddha said that by doing good deeds, you will be receiving the good things. So today and good things can be anything that is done to others, it can be in the form of offering to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with the good wish to benefit all sentient beings or it can be with the good karma of helping people who are in need.
Good karma does not mean that you have to go to Africa to help. For example, when you guys are coming here, in terms of being understanding in sitting arrangement, welcoming others, all these are accumulation of good karma. So all of these offerings are kind of good deeds. And in the path of practice, there is something called purification where we, if we have done negative deeds, we purify it. And then the reason why there are so many offerings – for example, today is little bit less offering you know compared to some other times, if you understood what we visualize, you will get shocked. We visualize dancing girls also as offering. And dancing men, women, car…..everything and these musical instruments which Vajrayana uses so frequently. In a way, you should do prayer very silently, quietly, why make so much loud noise. So the reason for that is, this musical instrument in this day and time is like an exotic but may be a thousand years ago, these were the rock music of the time. So one might ask, if these bells and drums are the rock music a thousand years ago, what is the point of offering such music to Buddha.
There are two reasons and none are because the Buddha likes this music. That is not the reason. It is because one is from the karma point of view. From the Karma point of view, whatever we want-- something for example if you want good health, you have to give medicine to others, you have to be the cause of good health to others. If you want to hear good sounds, always good news, good sounds, people not shouting at you all the time, we want a Boss who always speaks nicely to us, like that kind of good sound, we have to in our daily lives speak kindly to others. But in terms of practicing dharma, we offer musical instruments – that is from the karma point of view. Because I told you that Buddha Dharma is about 3 things - accumulating merit, not doing negative deeds and taming the mind. So from the point of view of taming your mind, we offer this sound to Buddha, basically whenever we are offering, you are letting go. Even if you want to offer one dollar to a beggar, we have to let go. So here mentally, we are letting go of the musical sounds, the pleasing sounds to the Buddha. What difference does it make because we human beings – for us we are so attached to the sound which is actually empty. For example, if somebody says you are a very nice person, immediately a big smile comes on our face. After two minutes, is somebody says you are a very bad person, immediately our mood is off and we become sad. Actually whether somebody says we are good or bad, we do not become beautiful or become ugly or fat. That is just a sound. Scientifically speaking, they say that sound is made of small atoms--- there is nothing good, bad or happy about it. It is just our attachment to the sound that gives you happiness and sadness.
So by offering the musical instruments to the Buddha, we reduce our attachment of how we are affected by the sound - which we classify as good sound, bad sound, praise, blame, criticism. That is the karmic reason as well as taming the mind reason. And what we enjoy and what we experience, are usually what we call five sensory objects because we have 5 sense. So we like soft touch, we do not like hard touch. We like beautiful objects, we do not like ugly objects. Similarly, sound, taste, smell- we have 5 sensory objects. These are what we want as well as what we desire. That is why offering to the Buddha can be anything that are five sensory objects. That is why now it will make sense in why we offer dancing boys and girls because that is visual attachment – attachment to the visual objects. So we offer the entire beautiful objects – men, women, house- whatever we find beautiful in our eyes can be offered to the Buddha. The point is not that – this is Buddha’s favorite dish but the point is that this is what we desire in terms of karma and that is also what we are attached to - so to reduce the attachment. So that is why we can offer anything that is attractive to our 5 senses. So we can offer, flowers, fruits, clothes, beautiful decorations – all these are offering to the Buddha because this is what we desire and what we are strongly attached to. That is why we offer to the Buddha. See the point is not about pleasing or not pleasing the Buddha, because to Buddha, whether you offer 1 million dollars or a stone, for him it is same. You criticize him or you praise him for 24 hours, it does not make any difference to him. We will accumulate merit or demerits but the Buddha himself will not make any difference. So since the point is about our mind, that is why in the Vajrayana and Mahayana, when we do offering, for example, today we may be having few flowers but in our imagination, we can imagine entire university filled with flowers. We can offer the whole of Hong Kong to the Buddha. Even though Hong Kong is not ours to give, but in terms of visualization, we can do that. And we accumulate the merit because it is from our mind that we do and reduce our attachment also. It works that way.
Now since I talked a lot about Karma, let’s talk a little about the karma. Before we can talk about karma, I think first we have to reflect a little bit. In this world, forget about this world, in this room, every one of us are different. Different in terms of our lifestyle, where we come from, what family we have, our social status. And forget about that—even our eyes and nose are different to some extent. Some have more beautiful nose, some of us have big ears, and some of us are born in the same family but some are better educated, more intelligent, less intelligent – some are square, some are round. All these differences we can see in ourselves and around us. So the questions is why there are such differences. The modern people might say because of my genes or something like that but why is it that you are the one who is born with these genes. Modern scientist can explain how but I don’t know whether till now from my limited understanding, they have not explained the why part? So this “why” part I think from my understanding - there are 3 kinds of answers:
- One is called the Divine Will. That is somebody up there whoever you believe whether it is a Buddha or a Bodhisattva whoever is up there and has decided whether we should have a big nose or small nose. Who we should meet—today all of us should go to the Luka hotel and meet us and do this puja together. And tomorrow you have diarrhea is also decided by somebody. You know may be Buddha decides that you have diarrhea tomorrow. Basically you believe in a divine creator or a divine being up there that controls our fate. So if you believe like that then no need to worry about karma. So you don’t need to weigh karma in terms of long life, save lives or for good health, you need to give good health. You don’t need to worry about that. Whatever you do, other things really doesn’t matter. You just have to make sure that your Boss up there is happy. As long as the Boss is happy, whatever you do does not matter. Whether you are a good person or not, it really doesn’t matter. Main important is the Boss up there - make him happy. Other than that, nothing else matters. That is one view. I am not here to tell you whether this is right view or wrong view. So if that is your view, then Karma will not make much sense to you. Most important is pray well and make the boss happy. That’s it.
- And the second view is that everything is an occurrence by chance, by accident. There is nothing from up there- there no divine being up there. Whatever happens is accidentally and not due to karma. Accidently, you are born with that gene or you are poor or rich…if that is the case, then you have be little bit careful when you drive because you may be driving towards here but may reach Macau. There is no cause and effect. Everything is an accident. You might cook Chinese food but it may become Italian food. You walk forward but you may end up backward. Everything is by chance and accident. You plant rice and diamond may come up. There is no room for Karma in this view.
- The third view is the Buddhist view or what Buddha taught. That is whatever is happening to us is not because Buddha set it that way. If whatever we do - good or bad does not make any difference, and is determined by Buddha, Buddha is unconditionally compassionate, so we can just sleep. Tomorrow when we get up, our room will be full of diamonds if that is what we want or we will all be enlightened tomorrow morning when we wake up. Buddhas are all unconditionally compassionate. But sadly that is not so. Buddha said that whatever is happening to our lives is not set from above nor by accident but determined by our own actions. Our body actions, our speech actions, our thought creates this world. Some are our past life action, some are this life’s actions- past life and present life is the reason for the situation we are in now – good or bad and our future situation depends on what we are doing now. So our action matters. Our speech, our thought matters in this world and it makes a difference in our life as well as collectively or individually we are responsible. That is why dharma is all about transforming our mind. It is not about pleasing the Buddha. When we transform our mind, we transform our body action and our world is transformed. For example, let’s say most of our friends don’t like us because we are very short tempered, because we lack understanding, so we do not have many friends and nobody likes us very much. So we can’t say that it is because of the guy up there that no one likes me so much or accidently they don’t like me. That is not true. There is a reason behind it. The reason why people don’t like us is because we are short tempered, we lack understanding, and we are selfish- so first we have to understand that. If you don’t understand the cause, you will never come to the solution. We blame who is up there, we blame accident, and we blame everybody else except ourselves but what is our contribution to it. So that is in a simple way understanding of the karma. Of course you can say I was born short tempered because in our previous life also, you were very short tempered. We did nothing to control our temper, no practice, develop compassion so of course next time also we will be like that. So from the dharma/ karma point of view is that whatever is happening to us in this life is the result of our past lives and the present actions. So we are responsible for both positive and negative future and present. That is the very general understanding of karma. For example we know that from an apple’s seed, an apple will come out but do we know in detail….how that’s comes. We just know that an apple comes. For example, from the same apple seed, this year the apple is very small and sweet, next year apple is medium after that is very big from the same tree, same land. In order to become an apple, there are so many causes and conditions that has to come together. For example, it didn’t rain enough, something in lacking in the soil—it is so difficult to understand a simple apple in detail. So how can we understand life…life is not one apple. Life is everyday….so many things happening - it’s more complicated than internet webs. So many data transferring. So many causes and effects coming together. That’s why Buddha is known as the one who knows everything because only he can understand and tell in detail. In general we can say Buddha has taught that if you want good health, offer good health to others, if you want long life, give life to others in general. Nobody can give details on this. So that is why you cannot predict 100% about what factor will come in – when you are doing something, some motivation change. And again this has affected the karma. So karma is like a destiny (later corrects that it is not). For example, destiny is something that cannot be changed. No that’s not true also.
Karma is something like if you don’t do anything, probably it is like a destiny but we have ability to change it. Let’s just imagine that there was an earthquake last night. There was big crack on the roof. So we have 2 choices, either we can wait for the day for the roof to fall down. That is destiny and one day it will fall on our head. The second option is before the roof falls down, we can get engineers and repair it before it falls down. So in one way, karma is destiny because if you don’t do anything, it will definitely fall down, but if you do purification and accumulate merit, in order to purify negative deeds, we can change the cause. To what extend depends on how strong is our purification. Either we repair completely or we can partially repair to avoid the falling tomorrow but may fall after 10 years or only one or two stones will fall and not all will fall. It depends on how good a repair job we do. How good a purification we did. So what is equivalent of the repair job in Buddha’s teaching is called the purification.
What qualities should purification have? It should have 4 qualities. (i) One is deep sense of regret for the negative deeds we can remember or if we cannot remember also, many past lives we cannot remember, so basically whatever I have done that is harmful to others which comes from ignorance, desire, and anger and whatever I have done from my body, speech and mind, I purify – deep regret. (ii) And the second quality is a vow of not committing such deed again. Maybe whether you do it tomorrow or not, at the time of the purification, this strong commitment is very crucial for the purification practice. First is regret, second is commitment. (iii) Third is taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha especially in Vajrayana is the Vajrasattva which is known as the Buddha of purification - Buddha dedicated for purification. (iv) And the fourth one is doing positive deeds for the sake of purification. For example like in the eastern Tibet, many people used to live a life of robbery and once they hear the dharma, they feel deep sense of regret - they say for the negative deeds I have done by killing people, I am going to do prostration from eastern Tibet to the Lhasa temple or they built a stupa or they make a bridge to help people cross. Whatever certain positive deed dedicated for specific purification itself - Not in general but for purification purpose itself. These four are recommended: regret, commitment not to do it again, taking refuge, doing positive deed dedicated for purification. For example in Bhutan, after they had a short war with the insurgents, the Bhutanese Royal family built 108 stupas as a purification for that war. The repair job is too late after it has fallen on our head. By the time we have got a bloody head or potatoes in our head, its bit too late. So we need to do the repair job before the roof falls down. So that is the reason why we are doing the Green Tara practice today and I think the island is doing the smoke puja tomorrow. It is actually my request to do this for the Hong Kong people in general especially to the people I know, people with whom I have connection with. It is only when we have karmic connection, spiritual connection, we can help directly. Because as you know as a spiritual teacher, there are thousands and thousands of request. And most of the request are not like you know… come to a Champaign party. Most of the request are—someone is very sick, suffering, going through some difficulty, please pray for them. It is of course our duty to do and we do our best, we pray but often times, sometimes it is bit late. The roof has already fallen on their head. And maybe we can help them to recover from the head injury but we cannot rewind the time and put it back like in movies because the karma has already ripened. It is like an apple going back as seed is not possible.
Since I am in the form of spiritual guide, it is my duty to teach them through the dharma, not only the enlightenment which is the ultimate goal but in this temporary life also that they are healthy, happy, and successful and of course most importantly the spiritual happiness but material happiness also importantly needed. I always think that if Buddha Shakyamuni saw someone in front of him hungry, not eaten for 3 days, I don’t think Buddha will say food is not important, enlightenment is important, practice dharma. I don’t think Buddha will say that. Buddha will first give food and clothes and then talk about enlightenment. Similarly when the beings have so many temporary wishes, that is why Buddha Shakyamuni and especially Vajrayana has so many different practices for good health, good life. When I was younger, I used to feel these are all nonsense. But now when I am understanding little bit of difficulties that people face, I truly feel the compassion of Buddha in such different practices, different blessings. So it is my duty to assure as much as possible, positive karma, happiness in this life and next. That is why I requested from 3 years ago starting from Bhutan to all the Bhutanese volunteers, students, to all over Asia which I look after, from now on either the beginning of the year or the end of the year, they must do a practice starting with smoke puja, Tara and dharma protectors as a purification for the coming year, as a purification of their deeds in the past years so that it doesn’t affect their life before the suffering comes. And accumulate the merit so that the coming years and coming lives are positive and filled with happiness. In a way I feel it is true insurance. This is because normally life insurance does not really help because people are already dead. It does not really help the person—he is already dead. It helps the family which is very good but it is not really a life insurance, it is a dead insurance. But this dharma we are practicing is truly life insurance. This inspiration I got from the Himalayan tradition especially Bhutan.
In Bhutan usually towards the end of the year, they do 3 day practice called lochoed which means one year’s accumulation of merit and purification offering to the divine beings. So for 3 days, they themselves also do the chanting, and they ask the monks to come to their house and do prayers and chanting to purify the negative deeds they have done and accumulate positive merit for the coming year. Then after that they finish that, they change the flag on top of their house, so after the loched is a new flag. That’s like a sign. Now it has become a bit of a festival for the house also. But initially it started with that idea. I thought it was very smart. When we are sick, we request many pujas so why don’t we prevent that by doing when we are here, you guys joining the practice together and look forward to a positive year. So this is why which we are going to do annually, the Tara at least once a year, the Tara, smoke puja and Mahakala puja - dharma protectors. So as I was telling you, the essence of Buddhist teaching is not doing negative deeds, accumulating merit. ….. How we do it, in Vajrayana, it can be very elaborate, in Mahayana- it can be in simple ways. Whatever the method, whatever works – goal is the same.
Now third thing is taming the mind. Taming the mind for example -- offering is done to reduce attachment, it is not about giving the object but it is about reducing the attachment. Now why is that important – lets imagine that we have a very nice handbag and 10 years ago, it was very much in fashion. You loved it so much. Who knows, maybe you would have prayed to Buddha to get that handbag. And then you got the hand bag and you are very happy about it. If at that time, somebody stole your handbag, you would be very sad because that’s your favourite handbag and most fashionable. But maybe now after 10 years, it is somewhere under the bed. No value and not in fashion anymore. If someone stole it also, you would say “oh its old, its ok I don’t mind”. I am glad that he didn’t take my new bag. So the point to reflect upon is that the handbag is the same whether it was 10 years ago or now but our attitude towards the handbag is different. Before it was very precious to us, very attached to us but now we do not care so much so even if it is stolen also it does not really matter. Temporarily speaking, through the karma and all, we need good luck, happiness, success, but true happiness and true suffering really comes from the mind. That is why together with accumulation of merit, and purification, taming the mind is very crucial.
Now let’s talk about the Tara practice because it is through the Tara practice – as I told you that there are many ways - thousands of different ways of practicing – ultimately, it is accumulating merit, purification, transforming the mind- whether you are doing Guru Padmasambhava practice or whether you are doing the Theravada Srilankan practice or any practice you do. Basically, essence of any Buddhism are these three: Accumulating merit, purification and transforming the mind. That’s it.
Today we are using the method of the Green Tara practice to achieve these three things. So let’s kind of discuss about who is Tara, what is green Tara? From the Vajrayana point of view, there is the (i) outer green Tara; (ii) inner green Tara and (iii) secret Green Tara. Outer green Tara will be our Guru in the human form. Inner Green Tara will be the historical Tara you know what you see in image. Now who is Green Tara - the historical green Tara - there are many descriptions in sutras. One of the description describes her as the princess many thousands of eons ago and once she invited 500 enlightened monks/ arhats to her palace and offered lunch. Even now we do but it is not so obvious but especially during those times, after you offer lunch to the monks, the monks will ask you, by the merit which you have accumulated by offering lunch, what do you wish for, what do you want us to pray for and dedicate for? In Bhutan they still do that. After you offer tea or lunch, the patron prostrates three times with one knee and sits down and then the chief monk will pray and the other monks will say let it be so, let it come true…..something like that (Ngowa). So in anyway, in the olden days, the arhats said that we will pray for you so that from next life, you will never be born as a woman and you will become enlightened. And Tara’s answer to the arhat was that it is true that I want to become an enlightened Buddha for the sake of all beings, I want to make a difference to them, but I don’t want to become a male in my next life. She answered that enlightenment is not about the male or female, it is about the wisdom and compassion which is beyond gender. Anybody can achieve it. So I want to become a Buddha in a female form as an inspiration to the female practitioners since Buddha is neither male nor female. So that they will also feel that in terms of becoming a Buddha, whether male or female, there is no difference and both can achieve enlightenment. As an inspiration to females, I will become Buddha; so please dedicate it like this. This is what she re-requested. So that was the start of her path to become Buddha. That time that was the first time. For example, today, after we do prayers, we have a strong wish that may I become enlightened for the sake of all beings. Then that is the start of our journey. So that was Tara’s first start on her journey to become Buddha. So after that for many eons, I am not talking years but eons and eons that’s talking from Mahayana point of view, eons and eons of accumulation of merit, practice purification, transformation of the mind through the 6 paramitas and through many eons and practice, she practiced.
And as a Bodhisattva, she noticed that as I was telling you earlier about the hungry man and the Buddha, she noticed that in this world so many people are going through lot of fear and suffering because they have fear of being prisoned, fear of poison, fear of ill health, fear of being killed, fear of robbery, fear of wild animals, and so many fears as well as so many unfulfilled wishes. So much suffering because of fear and unfulfilled wishes. So it was her prayer that because of my Karma of 3 eons, when I become Tara, Tara means liberation, - liberate from fear is the Sanskrit word – just by hearing my name, just by remembering me by my prayer, by my practice, may people be free from any danger, may all their temporary as well as ultimate wish of enlightenment be fulfilled, because I cannot bear to see so many beings suffering because of unfulfilled wishes. Even though from an enlightened point of view, the wishes may be illusory, and they may be nothing, from their own point of view, it is very important to them. When you wake up from your dreams, it is nothing but until you wake up, when you are dreaming, definitely, it is real to you. Fear, danger, happiness, sadness, that’s why you can wake up in tears or in laughter or with a smile. So as long as you are in samsara, definitely Buddhas have to fulfil and in any way that was her aspiration, and her prayers. And all her dedication was for that. So after Tara became enlightened, she became the main practice of all the Masters. She is also known as the Buddha of activity. So actually in the Vajrayana and Mahayana, I think there is no Master who does not practice Tara. Some obviously some not so because for a Buddhist Master also, Dharma activities have to flourish and for mundane person also, their activities have to flourish. The Tara is very much recommended. And there are numerous stories of how by praying to Tara, they were saved from war, prison, disease, so many things and doing the Tara practice, is not made from Himalaya, Tibet or Bhutan. It came from India. So it is more than 1000s of years of practice. In the Nalanda and some of the old temples...I think the Ajanta Alora, we could see the Tara painting there and those are 1000s of years old monastery. So it is a very old practice. There are many stories of some being able to see the Tara directly, receive teaching from her.
For example, in the Nalanda, before there is said to be one Tara statue which is in gesture of talking. That is because there used to be one non-Buddhist who used to always criticize Dharma and especially Tara practice but when he was in the ocean, one day he was nearly drowning and suddenly he remembered Tara and then Tara said usually you don’t remember me but when you need me, everybody remembers Tara. And the Tara came and saved him. And when he reached the shore, the Tara became a statue. So that was kept in Nalanda -- it is said like that. Anyway that kind of story is there. But more near to us, those of you who have been fortunate to meet HH Gyalwang Drukpa, His teacher Ngongtrul Rimpoche, when he was coming from the Himalayas, he was chased after by some armed people so he made a vow that to protect himself and his entourage especially, he will recite the 21 Taras 100,000 times. So every night when he used to clean his robes, the bullets used to fall out – maybe 3, 4, 5. Maybe he was shot but the bullet did not pierce. So many times it happened. So that is very near to us. Anyway when you practice yourself, we ourselves will realize, and even Drukpa Singapore they have been practicing and they were telling me that the day they practice Green Tara, they always see green everywhere. Sometimes I find that we human beings have the tendency to project ourselves on to other people. For example, we might say that if I pray to Tara, probably Tara will not come, probably Tara or any Buddha may be too busy. They have no time for me. Oh I don’t know them very well, I have not been introduced well by a mutual friend. We might feel like that. The reason why we think like that is because that’s how we are. We are so busy ourselves, we do not have time for anybody. If somebody needs something from us, probably, we will say may be next month I will be free. This month I cannot come. So we think that oh Buddha also must be like that. But we have to remember that enlightened beings worked for 3 eons, so that they can benefit sentient beings. And other than benefitting beings, they have no other job or no other side job. That’s their 24 /7 job. So the moment we remember in our Vajrayana tradition, there are certain prayers where we invite the Buddhas, so as soon as we do that, immediately we offer smoke, incense because we know that whether we have the Karma to see them or not, they will definitely come. So they are welcomed with the incense offerings. So as soon as we remember them and recite them, they will come for sure. That’s their job you know. They have no other job. So definitely they will come and they will bless but how much blessing we receive is very much dependent on the strength of our practice, strength of our mind, you can call it devotion, strength of our body, speech ad mind’s efforts.
Today I think not many Professors are in here….Professors may ask a question that “but I thought you said that Buddhism is not about getting blessing from up there. It is about your Karma.” And that’s very true. Actually you know that is why, you need to practice Tara, make offerings to Tara, visualize Tara, chant the Tara mantra. As an example, let’s imagine that Tara is a field, land, earth, soil extremely fertile soil – there are some soil in which rice or fruits will grow only once a year, some soils are so fertile that harvesting can be done twice. Some soil are so hard, only potatoes will grow some are so hard, nothing will grow. So the green Tara because of her own eons and eons of practice and dedication, it is like the extremely fertile soil so we offer small bit of things to her, immediately big flowers come out. Food comes out fast. Not because we are great but because she has done so many eons of practice and Karma to make herself like that - like the wish fulfilling jewel. So we just have to do little prayer to her, practice to her and the benefit is multiple because of her Karma…..we just have to plant the seed. So that is how the entire blessing thing works if we think logically so to speak.
So we talked about Tara. So basically Tara herself has become full of blessing but in order to receive the blessing, we need to accumulate the Karma. So our prayers, our practices, offerings, visualizations all these to Tara- just by simply doing this we accumulate the Karma so that we can purify our negative Karma and accumulate so much Karma that our wishes are fulfilled automatically. Now we have covered the first two kinds of Tara – (i) outer Tara is our Guru in human form; (ii) inner Tara is the historical Tara - the green Tara, the white Tara and now we will talk about the secret Tara. The secret Tara is none other than the nature of your mind. The non-fabricated nature of your mind. So in a way this outer Tara, inner Tara, secret Tara basically brings the Buddha closer and closer to you. Outer Tara may be the Guru in the human form, very far away because human form is a bit far away from us because I am a Chinese, the Guru is Indian, very much conceptually speaking. In one way we can say we are human beings but conceptually we are separated. Then the historical Tara is very near. The Buddha can come anywhere...so little more near and then ultimately, whether it is the Tara which is inseparable from the Guru and the Guru is inseparable from our own nature of the mind. Because ultimately Buddha has to be found within our self. For example, one day, when you get enlightened, nobody will suddenly put something inside you, and then now you become Buddha. You have to realize the nature of your own mind and then you become Buddha. So ultimate point of view, Tara has to be found within our self. In a way, outer Tara- more concepts are there. My Guru is from there, he is knowledgeable, tall, short, with very strong concepts. And then the inner Tara – we do not think from this point of view, handsome, not handsome, and good-looking not good-looking- these nonsense does not come. Conceptualization is very less.
So in Vajrayana, we recommend, to visualize the Guru as a Buddha so that there is less conceptual mind. And ultimately, in every Vajrayana practice, Guru inseparable from the Buddha, will always be dissolved into your heart in the form of a light. And we remain in the non-fabricated nature. So that is to make us understand that relatively speaking , we might say this is good, this is bad, this is happy, sad but ultimately everything is manifested from the mind and the mind’s own nature is free of all these dualistic concepts and that is the Tara- that is the Buddha. In Mahayana, we talk about Buddha nature that is what Buddha nature is. When I was young and people used to talk about Buddha nature, I used to imagine a small Buddha statue inside out heart. But I don’t think it means like that. It just means that our nature of the mind is beyond any dualistic concept and clear and bright and that is the ultimate Tara……that is the Buddha. In order to recognize that you dissolve the Tara or any Buddha practice in Vajrayana- either you dissolve the Buddha into yourself or you dissolve into the Buddha. These are two options.
If you don’t practice and understand the secret Tara and if you pray only to the Tara outside, for example, I am Mr. so and so….I pray to the Tara, I offer to the Tara, without doing the dissolution and without understanding that secret Tara is within yourself --- you will get merit, you will get good luck, happiness, also you can do purification but spiritual qualities, understanding the nature of the mind, realizing the emptiness, enlightenment will never happen even if you pray like that for 1000 years. Maybe because you pray to Tara so much may be Tara will come in human form and teach us the deeper secret Tara. Maybe that is so but by itself, you will get merit and purification but will never get enlightenment. Why is that? Because ultimately Buddha Shakyamuni said relatively, yes Karma and all but ultimately aim of any dharma practice is to realize the egoless self. But when we do not understand the Tara as our self, we are practicing in a very egoistical way. Instead of reducing the “I”, our “I” is becoming stronger in a way. I love Tara so much, I pray to Tara so much, my favorite Buddha is Tara --- so our dualistic concept is getting stronger. May be its dharma dualistic but it is dualistic nonetheless. So instead of reducing our ego, understanding the grasping to the ego, the self-existing idea of ego, our dharma practice kind of reaffirms it or strengthens it. We are convincing ourselves more of our ego. I pray to Tara so much. Tara blessed me so much. Me - - Tara. Ego is becoming stronger. We are not checking about the ego of our self. So to such a practitioner, blessing will be there, merit will be there but enlightenment will not be there. That is why in Vajrayana practice, to understand the secret Tara and ultimately to dissolve the Tara which inseparable from Guru into oneself and remain in the present moment, non-fabricated nature of mind – this is key to the Vajrayana practice. Praying to the Tara and making offerings is the relative path, dissolving and remaining in present moment is the ultimate path. So now we will go to the practice. I will teach something that you can practice in your daily life and not the full sadhana.
There are 21 Taras because Tara has 21 different activities. For example, curing sicknesses, protecting from danger, protecting from bad omen dreams, and protection from spirits. So Tara has 21 manifestations. It is like someone who is so kind and do so many jobs. In the 21 Tara practice, benefit of the reciting, it is said that, if you recite the 21 Tara two times with the devotion and compassion or three times or seven times, in a day either in the morning or evening, whatever your wishes will be fulfilled, protected from any danger, and temporarily all the wishes will be granted and ultimately next like because Tara is also considered the manifestation of Amitabha Buddha also so you will be born in Amitabha pure land. And ultimately get enlightened.
According to your need, Tara has to be visualized differently. For example, when it is general wish fulfillment, then Tara can be visualized as she is right now. Tara’s left hand is holding the Utpala lotus, and the right hand (open palm facing up) is called the wish fulfilling gesture. But let’s imagine that you or someone you know is in danger, then the Tara’s wish fulfilling gesture is changed to the protective mudra, and under the Tara’s protective hand, then you can visualize that ourselves and all sentient beings especially the focus of our prayer should be the person who is in great danger is especially under the protective mudra of Tara. And then we recite the 21 Tara. And when you are sick or somebody is sick, and you want to help, of course under the protective mudra but on top of that we visualize that from Tara’s entire body, nectar drops out. White, bright nectar drops out. And then that seeps into the all the sentient beings including ourselves and especially the sick person’s body like rain. If it rains, and there is sand below, it will seep in. The nectar seeps into the sick person. And then the sick person’s negative deeds are purified, and the initially sickly looking person and now all his sickness getting purified. Now he or she looks radiant, bright and healthy because of Tara’s nectar. With that kind of visualization, you can do the 21 Tara.
SEVEN WAYS OF MAHAYANA ACCUMULATION OF MERIT - 7 methods of taming down negative emotions
Potola - is the pure land of Tara, from there a green letter TAM appears. Visualize the Tara and the letter TAM enters the Tara statue. Now truly the green Tara is in front of us surrounded by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. (i) First we visualize that our own body and 1 billion bodies are manifested and we prostrate to the Tara. (ii) Second is whatever we can offer here, some fruits and flowers but in visualization, the entire space, the entire universe is filled with our offering. Offer all 5 sensory objects. Beautiful sight, pleasant sounds, taste, touch,… Similarly offering can also be like that. Whatever is beautiful…anything in the entire universe can be offered. (iii) Third is the purification- whatever negative deeds I have done in the past and the present- I confess before it is ripened, I regret and take a vow that I will not commit again, - I request Tara’s blessings to purify my negative deeds. After that is the rejoicing. (iv) We rejoice in the activities of the Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas. If you see somebody doing Mani and doing one prostration, you rejoice in that. The reason why rejoicing is important is because Buddha Shakyamuni said that if you see someone doing good things, if you feel happy and rejoice and admire them, you get almost 60% of the merit. So when you are sleeping, if your husband or wife is getting up and doing prayers, if you can’t get up its ok you know, you rejoice in their practice. (v) The next is requesting Buddha’s to give teachings. If you really count, Buddha Shakyamuni got enlightened in the 4th lunar month but he gave teaching only on the 4th day of the 6th lunar month. So what was Buddha doing till then? Actually after Buddha got enlightened, for 7 weeks he did not give teaching because he was waiting for somebody to request him. Because that person who request will get tremendous amount of merit. Because he requested how many people would benefit in the future? So that is why he gave teachings only after the Brahma and the Indra offered the dharma wheel and the white conch and then Buddha said ok. And because of that Brahma and Indra accumulated so much merit. So that is why requesting Masters to give teachings –even now there are many Buddha around different paths. So when we visualize requesting them to give teachings, we accumulate tremendous amount of merit. (vi) After that is requesting the enlightened beings to live long. (vii) And then the 7th one is whatever merit I have accumulated from doing prostration, offering and so and so, I dedicate for the temporary and ultimate wish of all sentient beings. These are called the 7 ways of Mahayana accumulation of merit very powerfully and quickly and very easily. You don’t have to go anywhere to request Buddha to live long or offer the golden wheel, we can just through the visualization and aspiration accumulate merit. And these are also called the 7 methods of taming down negative emotions.
The prostration is the antidote to the ego, pride. Because when you are proud, what pride means is that, you don’t respect anybody. When you don’t respect anybody means, you do not respect anybody’s opinion. So when you do not respect anybody’s opinion means my opinion is the best. You must follow what I say; what I think is the best. So what is the result? Result is misunderstanding, argument, hatred. So that is why the humbleness – humble does not mean tomorrow you have to buy very cheap clothes and not drive a car- whether you drive a car or ride a bicycle, if you do not respect anybody you are still proud. Humbleness is very much to the mind, to respect other people, when you think you are better than somebody, because you are driving a nice car, then that’s really bad. As long as you have the respect for everyone, I am no more special than any other, we are all human beings, we all want happiness, do not want suffering --- we have that respect as equal, you are a humble person. That is why Buddha Shakyamuni in one of his ..…told the monks that even if you are the most perfect of the monk, in terms of your going bare feet, your begging, your chanting, shaving everything, you don’t break even one of the vows, but if you are proud of it, you are not a perfect monk. If you have the ego/pride, you are not a perfect monk. What is the point of doing all of these things? Buddhist laws are not the law of the government. Government law is that you break it, you are a criminal. That’s it. Buddhist laws are designed to improve us. So the improvement is the key, not the law. Going around begging is one of the methods, but it is not the key. Key is the humbleness. How you reach there is up to you. Vinaya has Vinaya vows, Mahayana has its methods, and Vajrayana has its methods. But key is to reach the humbleness. So that is why the prostration- looks very simple and does not make much sense but when you really do prostration, and when you visualize doing prostration, it will be more and easier for you to understand other people’s opinion and put yourself in other people’s shoe.
White Tara is the Tara of long life.
Basically, the practice of Tara is recommended – different Buddha have different kinds of aspiration. For example, medicine Buddha – when he was a Bodhisattva, he saw many sick people suffering from sickness and of course his main aspiration is enlightenment of all sentient beings but you know it’s like what you are moved by, inspired by to become a philanthropist so similarly Tara was moved by the dangers that people faced and suffering from wishes not being fulfilled. And from the Buddhist point of view, what we are doing is accumulating Karma. Chabjey Dudjom Rinpoche said that rather than putting a mountain of effort, it is better to accumulate a small spark of merit to order to fulfill our wishes because merit can be example like a seed…and our efforts like our smartness, education, strategy like putting water, soil manure. So no matter how much manure we put, how much water we put, if there is nothing inside, nothing will come out. Depending on the strength of the Karma, if the Karma is very strong, lot of positive Karma, wishes are fulfilled without effort. For example, you sleep and tomorrow you win a lottery. If you are born in a nice family, very nice. So that Karma is very strong. When the Karma is medium strength, then we need to put some effort and then results come. When there is no Karma at all, no matter how much effort we put, sometimes nothing ever comes out. Even what used to be working one year or 10 years before, now it no longer works. What works for everybody else does not work for you. That time it is when there is no Karma at all. That is why together with the external condition to fulfill wishes, internally, accumulating the merit and purification is very much needed.
Before one gives the Vajrayana initiation, of course the Master himself, should have received it from a genuine master and between him and his own Guru, the lineage has to be unbroken in the sense that his and his Guru’s relation should be very pure. So the blessing is not just from the Tara, from the Master but from all the lineage Masters who have practiced Tara-- let’s say 100 Masters who have practiced Tara. All the blessings from the 100 Masters is being transferred. So that is why if there is a breakage in the Samaya, the pipe is blocked. Usually when you want to check the Master, how you check usually is ..there are many ways but one way and very important requirement is between your Master and his own master – there should be a very pure Samaya. Other than that before giving initiation, first the entire Tara’s mandala has to be welcomed here. Almost same like human relationship. Now we are talking about relative world. For example, first you welcome a guest and then you offer tea and then ask how are you? Praise to Tara is not to feed Tara’s ego but by praising enlightened beings, may we accumulate merit and may we also learn the habit of praising other people. Usually in our life, how many times we have criticized people, many times. To say somebody is very beautiful girl but nose is little bit too big, very good family but daughter is little bad. Because of our ego, we can’t stand someone better so we either put them down or at least make them equal because of the jealousy we have. So how many times from our heart do we say, what a beautiful person? What a nice family? We can’t say it because the jealousy in us is very strong. So that is why when we praise to the Tara, in a way we are praising to the Tara, actually, it is again accumulation of merit, and training of the mind to praise other people so our jealousy will go down. So then when the Tara mandala is entirely here, then the initiation is given. Body speech and mind blessing, permission to chant Tara, visualize Tara is given and then after that mandala is dissolved. So this is how the initiation works. That is why we have to do the Tara practice.
3rd time focus is for the sick people. People who are not in good health, right hand mudra facing down on the sick person and nectar dropping like rain from the entire body of the Tara and the rain is absorbed by all the sentient beings like a bright white drop of nectar and as soon as the nectar is absorbed by our body, all the negative deeds we have done in the past, which is the inner cause of present sickness, outer is of course the imbalance but inner true cause is the negative karma. When we visualize that ourselves and sick people, they look more radiant more healthy and brighter with more energy and youthful. We visualize like that and recite the 21 Tara.
Now is the making wish time from the merit and the blessings. Visualize offering the entire universe to the Tara and Guru also inseparable from Tara in order to have the merit to receive the Tara’s blessings.
The Tara lineage came from Buddha Shakyamuni himself. And Tara to Ngagi wangchuk and Master Atisha and Atisha brought this teaching to the Himalaya area.
Before receiving initiation, taking refuge and bodhichitta is very important. So in order to have a sense of refuge, it is important to have a sense of renunciation from samsara. For time being we can pray for happiness, good heath, success, good relationship and all of that and there is nothing wrong in that but deep within the heart the long term goal should be “May I and all sentient beings be liberated from the samsara”. That sense has to be there. That is because until that enlightenment is received, there is no end of our problems, it goes round and round. Simply speaking, samsara is our life for example, doing the same thing again and again. Even if a problem is solved, again another problem comes. So no matter how much blessing we receive, and ultimately if that wish is not there then we will be going round and round. So that long term goal, we must have that. So when we are doing Tara practice, temporary wish fulfillment to be free from suffering, ultimately to be liberated to realize the nature of our mind to become enlightened - so that the round and round can be stopped. That wish is called renunciation. Now we will take refuge. Visualize Tara and the Guru as the Tara and then take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha three times. During the third time, you should have the feeling that now I have received the vows- refuge bodhichitta vow – and together with that if you have already received refuge and bodhichitta vow then it will be confirming, reaffirming because refuge is something we have to all the time. Do it 9 times a day. Morning 3 times, lunch 3 times, evening 3 times
The refuge name is in a way a blessing, in a way it is a bond between the Master, the lineage and the student. For example in the Drukpa lineage, all the names we give start with a Jigme because our root Guru HH’s name is Jigme Pema Wangchen. Having a part of the Guru’s name is a blessing and it is said that by such a name your Guru will recognize you in your lives and lives to come.