Lama Palden Drolma teaches how to visualize the deity Green Tara, who embodies one’s buddhanature. Illustrations by Tomi Um.
Tara, the savioress, is the most beloved by Tibetans of all the female awakened beings. Tara is known as “she who ferries beings across the ocean of samsara.” She is fully enlightened and is inseparable from genuine reality, or true nature, the dharmakaya. She rushes to the aid of beings when we call upon her with heartfelt devotion.
Peaceful and wrathful, beautiful and powerful, Tara is the actuality of wisdom and compassion. She is sensual and sexual, empty yet fully manifest, and as real as we are. She transcends dualistic limitations and leads us beyond duality to the infinite bliss and emptiness that is our true nature.
Tara is the Mother of all the Buddhas, the essence of compassion in action. Her right foot is slightly extended, because she is ready to leap to the aid of beings. Her right hand is opened out on her right knee, in the gesture of generosity. Her left hand holds the stem of a lotus flower, which is blossoming next to her left ear.
Meditating on Tara helps us awaken our buddhanature. Through continued meditation practice on her, we can establish a relationship in which we are able to trust and rely on her. It is like getting to know a new friend — we have to invite her over to our home many times until we get to know her. The more we are able to open to her, the more she is able to benefit us.
Like all Vajrayana practices, Tara visualization can be very elaborate. Here is a basic version you can do that contains all the essential steps of deity practice:
Let the mind settle, resting in natural open awareness. Then take refuge in the awakened ones and generate the supreme motivation to awaken yourself for the benefit of all sentient beings. Recite “Until awakening I take refuge in Buddha, dharma, and noble sangha / By the merit of my acts of generosity and other awakening qualities / May I attain full awakening for the benefit of all beings.”
Think that everything dissolves into emptiness/openness. Then visualize that in the sky in front of you, from her seed syllable TAM, Green Tara instantly appears, sitting on a full open lotus and moon seat. She is blue-green, the color of a mountain lake. She is arrayed in silks and jewels, symbolizing the six transcendent perfections and full awakening.
Radiate light from your heart center. Imagine that it purifies the phenomenal world, makes offerings to the enlightened ones, and invites Tara’s actual wisdom awareness to be present with you. Visualize that this happens by numerous small forms of Tara raining down into the form you have visualized. Think that the Tara you have imagined becomes inseparable from her actual wisdom awareness.
While you are repeating her mantra, Om Tare Tu Tare Ture So Ha, visualize that from her outstretched right hand comes a river of wisdom elixir, turquoise-green in color. This removes all fear, gives protection, removes obstacles and obscurations, and transmits enlightened awareness to you. Make prayers to Tara, and receive her blessing.
Then Tara dissolves into light and that light dissolves into you. Think that your mind is inseparable from Tara’s enlightened mind. See yourself in the form of Tara, appearing as a body made of light, emptiness and form inseparable. In your heart area is a blue-green TAM. From it, light radiates out joy, compassion, loving-kindness, strength, and equanimity to all beings. Keep repeating her mantra.
When you have finished repeating the mantra, gradually dissolve the visualization until there is just a drop of turquoise light left in your heart area, the essence of your buddhanature. Then this dissolves into space, like a rainbow disappearing into the sky.
Rest your mind naturally for a few minutes or longer. Dedicate the merit of the practice to all beings: “Through this goodness may awakening spontaneously arise in our streams of being / May all obscurations and distortions fall away / May all beings be liberated from suffering, and the stormy waves of birth, sickness, old age, and death.”