Tara (Sanskrit: तारा, tārā; Tib. སྒྲོལ་མ, Drolma) or Ārya Tārā, also known as Jetsun Dolma (Tibetan language:rje btsun sgrol ma) in Tibetan Buddhism, is a female Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism who appears as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism. She is known as the “mother of liberation”, and represents the virtues of success in work and achievements. In Japan she is known as Tara Bosatsu (多羅菩薩), and little-known as Duōluó Púsà (多罗菩萨) in Chinese Buddhism.
Tara is a tantric meditation deity whose practice is used by practitioners of the Tibetan branch of Vajrayana Buddhism to develop certain inner qualities and understand outer, inner and secret teachings about compassion and emptiness. Tara is actually the generic name for a set of Buddhas or bodhisattvas of similar aspect. These may more properly be understood as different aspects of the same quality, as bodhisattvas are often considered metaphoric for Buddhist virtues.
The most widely known forms of Tārā are:
1. Green Tārā, known as the Buddha of enlightened activity.
2. White Tārā, also known for compassion, long life, healing and serenity; also known as The Wish-fulfilling Wheel, or Cintachakra.
3. Red Tārā, of fierce aspect associated with magnetizing all good things.
4. Black Tārā, associated with power.
5. Yellow Tārā, associated with wealth and prosperity.
6. Blue Tārā, associated with transmutation of anger.
7. Cittamani Tārā, a form of Tārā widely practiced at the level of Highest Yoga Tantra in the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism, portrayed as green and often conflated with Green Tārā.
8. Khadiravani Tārā (Tārā of the acacia forest), who appeared to Nagarjuna in the Khadiravani forest of South India and who is sometimes referred to as the “22nd Tārā”.
There is also recognition in some schools of Buddhism of twenty-one Tārās. A practice text entitled In Praise of the 21 Tārās, is recited during the morning in all four sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
The main Tārā mantra is the same for Buddhists and Hindus alike:
“oṃ tāre tuttāre ture svāhā”.
It is pronounced by Tibetans and Buddhists who follow the Tibetan tradation as “oṃ tāre tu tāre ture soha“.
Within Tibetan Buddhism Tārā is regarded as a Bodhisattva of compassion and action. She is the female aspect of Avalokitesvara (Chenrezig) and in some origin stories she comes from his tears. Tārā is also known as a saviouress, as a heavenly deity who hears the cries of beings experiencing misery in samsara. Tārā became a very popular Vajrayana deity with the rise of Tantric Buddhism in 8th-century Pala India and, with the movement of Indian Buddhism into Tibet via Padmasambhava, the worship and practices of Tārā became incorporated into Tibetan Buddhism as well. She eventually came to be considered the “Mother of all Buddhas,” which usually refers to the enlightened wisdom of the Buddhas, while simultaneously echoing the ancient concept of the Mother Goddess in India. Independent of whether she is classified as a deity, a Buddha, or a bodhisattva, Tārā remains very popular in Tibet (and Tibetan communities in exile in Northern India), Mongolia, Nepal, Bhutan, and is worshiped in a majority of Buddhist communities throughout the world (see also Guan Yin, the female aspect of Avalokitesvara in Chinese Buddhism).