Meditation on Green Tara
On the basis of preliminary trainings and practices, as well as based on receiving the blessings of the Bodhisattva Tara, one is able to perform the meditation on Tara and recite her mantra.
The entry into Buddhist meditation in the Mahayana tradition begins with lojong, training the mind. Of utmost importance is the development and training of compassion.
How do we develop this training? First, we meditate on the kindness shown to us by our mothers. Our mother carried us in her womb and gave birth to us. She fed us and cleaned us when we were helpless babies. Remembering her kindness, visualize your own mother.
As you meditate in this way on your mother, generate love and gratitude toward her. Once you have given rise to this feeling, you can begin to extend this feeling to others, until gradually you are able to extend the feeling of love and gratitude to all living beings in the course of your meditation.
This is possible because in the past since time without beginning, every being has in fact been your own kind mother. As is said in many refuge prayers, 'For all sentient beings who have been my mother, I take refuge.'
Another possibility is that you can also meditate on the love a mother has for her only child, and in the same way extend this feeling to all sentient beings.
Once you have done this, the next step is to begin to give rise to compassion. Understanding the kindness shown to you by your mother, you would never wish to see your mother suffer in any way. This wish to remove your mother from all suffering is compassion. Put yourself in her place, feeling her troubles and whatever hardships she has to suffer. Once this feeling of compassion has arisen in your heart, then you can extend it to others until it comes to embrace all living beings. One genuinely understands the suffering of others and truly aspires to remove them from suffering.
In this state, one is ready to take refuge. Here it is important to understand that you can only take true refuge in a truly free being. It won't ultimately help you to take refuge in all the different worldly gods, just as a petty lord cannot truly protect you in the way a king can.
There are also other mind trainings you can also do to prepare in meditation for the taking of refuge. It is very helpful to reflect on the benefits of altruism as opposed to the apparent benefits of self-interest. All misfortune and suffering actually comes directly from pursuing one's own interest at the expense of what might be best for others.
It is equally true that all benefit and good fortune in fact derives from putting the welfare of others first. What it all comes down to is that if you work only for your own benefit you end up making trouble for yourself. Working for others guarantees that good will come to you in the future.
Likewise, the practice of virtue is an essential part of training one's mind in the dharma. For example, if you has been generous in the past, you will be experiencing prosperity and abundance in the present. If we have been patient in the past, then whoever sees us will automatically be attracted to us and feel positively toward us, giving us power and influence.
Of particular importance is the training in ethical conduct. If one does not practice ethical discipline in this life, it is difficult to gain future human births. Our birth as human beings at this time is due to some previous practice of moral discipline. Such discipline is the true foundation for any and all real qualities to arise.
The basis for this discipline is the practice of virtue. In practice, this means renouncing the ten non-virtuous deeds. These are: (1) killing, (2) stealing, and (3) sexual misconduct for the body; (4) lying, (5) slandering, (6) speaking harsh words, and (7) idle gossip or meaningless speech for the deeds of one's speech; and (8) thoughts of avarice and covetousness, (9) malicious thinking which wishes others harm, and (10) mistaken beliefs or wrong views, for the deeds of one's mind.
The ten virtuous actions of body, speech, and mind arise naturally when one refrains from the ten types of negative deeds. Hence we can see that embracing virtuous discipline is also another basis for the taking of refuge. In this approach, whatever actions you do, they are all offerings and service to the Buddhas.
Now that we have discussed some of the trainings that are the basis for taking refuge, what are the objects in whom we take refuge? They are the three jewels. The first jewel is the Buddha, who possesses the three kayas, or the enlightened body, speech, and mind.
The Buddha is said to possess three kayas or 'bodies' of enlightenment. The Buddha's Dharmakaya is like the vastness of the sky or space. The Buddha's Sambhogakaya manifests without Buddha ever straying from Dharmakaya-it is like the moon in the sky. The Buddha's appearance as the Nirmanakaya of flesh and blood is like the moon reflected in a pool of water.
The second jewel is the Dharma. This is the tripitaka, the three baskets of scriptures. We take refuge in the Dharma because the realization that arises in the minds of practitioners is based on the understanding of the scriptures. The third jewel is the Sangha, the enlightened community, the Arhats, Bodhisattvas, and Deities.
One who has taken refuge is surely and steadily following the path that leads to enlightenment. We take refuge for all sentient beings. This brings our refuge to the level of the Mahayana or great vehicle, which wishes to save every living being.
Buddhahood, enlightenment, is attained through the realization of selflessness, which includes the realization of the emptiness of all phenomena. Training step-by-step and accumulating merit helps us to be able to realize emptiness.
For this, one needs to cultivate the firm resolution to attain the state of enlightenment. It is also necessary to generate the precious bodhichitta. In order to be able to generate bodhichitta, it is necessary to cherish the welfare of others. It is often said in the teachings that all suffering originates from selfishness, while all happiness comes from valuing and seeking the welfare of others. This cherishing of the welfare of others can then lead to bodhichitta, the altruistic motivation to free all beings from suffering and establish them in the state of enlightenment.
It is further said that all of the teachings of the Buddha can be understood in terms of the law of karma, the law of cause and effect. If you sow seeds of virtue, this will bear the fruit of fortunate results and positive circumstances. If you cultivate non-virtuous behavior, it will lead to unhappiness.
In Buddhism, we speak of the importance of the law of cause and effect. In Christianity, the emphasis is on faith in a god. But this faith is itself is still a cause, a virtuous cause, so happiness can indeed be derived as the effect or result of a cause, which is cultivating faith. So, in fact, the Christians are also speaking of the law of cause and effect. These two religious teachings may use different concepts and yet share some very similar ideas.
When one receives empowerment and does the practice of Green Tara, she should be seen with the faith that she is the embodiment of all the enlightened activities of all the Buddhas. Thus one may learn to pray to the Bodhisattva Goddess Tara. Beyond any doubt she is able to allay and pacify all fears.
Both Tara and the female Buddha Vajrayogini are one in essence, since both are wisdom goddesses, enlightened ones. Even if one is not able to practice all the details of the eleven yogas of Vajrayogini, one who knows how to really pray deeply to the goddess Tara will receive the same benefits.
Often together with refuge and generating the wish to save all beings one also recites the seven-branch prayer, which is found near the beginning of many sadhanas. The seven branches are: paying homage, making confession, rejoicing in the virtues of others, resolving the bodhichitta enlightenment thought, requesting to turn the wheel of dharma, requesting not to pass into nirvana, and dedication of merit. Each of these branches reveals an important component of the path.
Having taken refuge and paid homage, one sees Tara as the sole object of refuge to whom you entrust your faith. This is the first of the four powers of confession, which is the second branch. The first power of confession is the 'power of the shrine'. Now one is ready to confess misdeeds with strong remorse, like one who has mistakenly taken poison and so has genuine regrets. You see how harmful it is to have committed such misdeeds, and, with remorse and contrition, you confess. This is the second of the powers of confession, the 'power of regret'
The third power of confession is the 'power of the antidote'; in short, this means promising with sincerity never to repeat the negative conduct again. As a result of this, all negativities will be fully repaired and virtue will be restored and revived. This is the fourth of the powers, the 'power of renewal or restoration'. Unless we confess negative deeds, we keep on continuously accumulating the causes of suffering.
An example of the third of the seven branches, the branch of rejoicing in virtue, is illustrated by the story of a beggar who rejoiced in the merit of a king presenting a lavish feast for the Buddha. By his rejoicing, the beggar gained even greater merit than the king himself. Similarly, if you know of someone who has completed the recitation of many millions of mantras, then if you rejoice in their practice, you are able to share in their great merit.
This illustrates that even without great effort on one's own part, through rejoicing in the merit of others, one is able to gain vast stores of merit.
Another of the seven branches is the request to the Buddhas to turn the wheel of Dharma. Without such requests, the teachings do not reach sentient beings. This is illustrated in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha.
When Buddha became enlightened, he made a famous statement that is recorded in the sutras:
"I have found a Dharma which is like nectar; it is uncompounded clear light, profound and peaceful, beyond conceptual elaboration.
Were I to explain it, others would not understand, and so I shall remain in the forest without speaking."
In response to this, the god Brahma, the creator, requested that Buddha turn the wheel of Dharma according to the particular needs of the varieties of sentient beings.
The final of the seven branches is dedication of merit. Dedication of merit is the most important of all of the seven branches. Whatever meditation, whatever practice or virtuous deeds one performs, we should always dedicate the merit so that our virtue is not dissipated.
Unless you dedicate the merit, however great it may be, it will not be of much benefit compared to merit which has been dedicated, and the result of our actions may even lead somewhere else! On the other hand, however small a virtue or meritorious deed one may have performed, by dedicating its merit, the benefits will go on increasing and increasing.
For example, however small an act of generosity, such as just giving a drink of water to a thirsty person, if followed by dedication of merit, it will go on increasing one's store of virtue. Without dedication, even the virtue gained through great deeds is easily exhausted.
The Buddhist scriptures teach that so much as a moment of anger can destroy great stores of undedicated virtue. Anger is the most destructive of the afflictive emotions. We dedicate whatever merit we generate immediately so that it cannot be destroyed by our negative thoughts, words, and deeds.
It is taught that patience serves as the antidote to anger. The virtue accrued through the practice of patience is immense. Whatever abusive words may be spoken to you, simply practice patience.
Since this is so important, let us pause here to consider the virtues of practicing patience. Patience is counted as one of the six or ten paramitas, the perfections of the Bodhisattvas. There are three types of patience. The best of the three is to know the emptiness of all things. Next best is non-retaliatory patience, where one does not retaliate or take revenge on others who have abused or behaved badly toward oneself. This means that one voluntarily accepts whatever suffering or harm may be heaped upon oneself without striking back.
Practicing patience is one of the highest forms of asceticism. Through this practice, all aggression will be pacified by itself. When two communities are in conflict, if one of these is able to exercise patience, the strife between them can diminish and gradually subside all together.
Patience is sometimes thought of as the highest of all virtues; it is very sacred. If one has practiced patience, it leads directly to being born with a beautiful form. Though we think being born beautiful is due to some kind of heredity from our parents, in fact it is largely due to the merit of practicing patience in one's previous lives.
Indeed, the good fortune of being born as a human being is due to the performance of ethics, of moral deeds, in one's previous lives. But not all humans are born with a beautiful form; it is only those who have practiced patience who are graced with such an appearance.
Those who are patient are generally admired by everyone; from kings and dignitaries down to the most ordinary person, all will respect one who is patient. This is because patience consumes one's anger, the cause of the worst suffering. There is no non-virtue like that of anger and hatred; it destroys all seeds of virtue. In contrast, practicing patience destroys anger and hatred. There really is no virtue that can match the virtue of patience.
Another of the six or ten paramitas or perfections of the Bodhisattvas is the perfection of diligence. Whatever you undertake, you must apply diligence to the task. If you have diligence, you can even make a hole in a rock using your hands. The practice of diligence in this life will enable one to do things quickly and successfully in future lives, without facing many obstacles.
Yet another of the paramitas or perfections is the perfection of concentration. The benefits of the training in concentration are that one becomes contented and peaceful and easy-going. One finds one's mind easy to tame, and things are fine and as they should be. These are some of the virtues of the positive karma that arises through the perfection of concentration.
Especially important is the prajna paramita, the perfection of wisdom. It gives one the ability to discern matters with mental clarity and clear reasoning.
The law of karma, of cause and effect, is infallible; it will never let you down. Non-virtues definitely do create unhappiness. Even if one has the good fortune to be born as a human being, if non-virtuous causes are present in oneself, these will perpetually create suffering, even if one gains higher rebirth, such as that of a human being.
The realms of suffering such as the hells are the result of one's own wrong thoughts and deeds. There are no 'places' such as the hells. The hellish fires of the hot hells are the manifestation of unresolved anger and negativity stored in the mind. These karmic accumulations manifest as what appears to be a real world or realm that one must experience. Due to negative karma, one has a distorted perception of all of reality, not realizing that whatever reality one seems to be experiencing is in fact created by one's own mind.
All meditation practices must be structured according to the three excellences: that which is virtuous in the beginning, that which is virtuous in the middle, and that which is virtuous in the end.
In meditation, the most important thing is meditation on emptiness. All the attainments of the Buddhas are the result of meditation on emptiness. We ourselves have not become Buddhas because we have not effectively meditated on emptiness.
What is virtuous in the beginning is refuge. What is virtuous in the middle is the main part of the practice. What is virtuous in the end is the dedication of merit. Hence we can see that the taking of refuge is the basis of all further practice.
In the Earlier Translation school they speak of nine vehicles of Buddhism, which includes six tantric vehicles, while in the Later Translation schools they speak of four vehicles or classes of tantra: kriya or action tantra; charya or performance tantra; yoga tantra; and anuttarayogatantra or unsurpassable yoga tantra.
In the practice of Kriyatantra, one visualizes the deity, such as the goddess Tara, in the space above and in front, and thinks of oneself as a loyal subject supplicating a king or queen, hoping to receive their kindness. This is the nature of the relationship of the meditator and the deity in Kriyatantra. In Charyatantra, you would regard the goddess as a friend, one who you ask for some favor or assistance or blessings. In Charya or performance tantra, the relationship between the meditator and the deity is like that of a friend to a friend.
In Yogatantra, one is unifying one's own nature with the nature of the deity, unifying one's own appearance with the appearance of Tara. In Anuttarayogatantra, one does not view oneself and the deity as separate in nature. Based on this, one transforms one's ordinary body, speech, and mind into holy Tara's body, speech, and mind.
In order to do this, you must have received the permission-initiation. This is what enables you to transform your ordinary body into the divine body, to transform your ordinary speech into enlightened speech, and to transform your mundane thoughts into the wisdom of the goddess Tara through meditating on emptiness.
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