LADY WITH THE FLOWER: NOBLE TĀRĀ AND THE GYALWANG KARMAPAS. Overview of Karmapas’ works on Tārā and first translation of Tārā Supplication by 16th Karmapa

For Dākinī Day today, I offer the first overview of works on Tārā composed by the Karmapas. In addition, the first translation of brief Tārā supplication by the 16th Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje from the third volume of his Collected Works. For a translated outline of this third volume, see here.  

First, a little background on the Karmapas and Tārā, with details of texts, art-works and images by the Karmapas. Then the 16th Karmapa’s Tārā supplication with Tibetan and phonetics.

May this new research and translation on Tārā and the Karmapas be of benefit to the Karmapa lineage and teachings and to us all attaining the noble state of Arya Tārā!

Music? 17th Karmapa chanting Praises to 21 Taras or Tara Prayer  and By Your Side by Sade (lady with the precious flower in the video): ‘Oh when you’re cold, I’ll be there, hold you tight to me, Oh when you’re low, I’ll be there by your side.’

Written, translated and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 29th November 2021.

The Karmapas and Tārā

No research has been done considering  the Karmapas and their connection to Tārā overall. I have written about some of the Karmapas and Tārā before here in relations to sadhanas they composed (see below).

Here, I publish the first English-language catalogue of Tārā texts by the Karmapas, see Appendix below.  They are the Tārā texts by the Karmapas in the Garland of Collected Karmapas’ Teachings (karma pa sku phreng rim byon gyi gsung ‘bum phyogs bsgrigs/. TBRC W3PD1288) published in Lhasa, Tibet[1]. They are not intended to be a definitive list, but as an example of some of the Tārā texts the Karmapas composed. It is the first catalogue produced in English on the Tārā works of the Karmapas.

Interestingly, in terms of the Collected Works, most of the Karmapas have not written that many specific sadhanas or texts on Tārā.  As you can see in the catalogue below, most Tārā texts are from the 8th, 13th and 15th  Karmapas.

I have already translated two of these sadhanas: White Tārā, Wish-Fulfilling Wheel by 8th Karmapa and the Actually Realising White Tārā Daily Practice by 13th Karmapa .  It is said that the 13th Karmapa, Dudul Dorje had a vision of Avalokiteshvara wearing the Black Hat. But that painting is publicly not available in these days. Also, after the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje arrived India, he had a vision of Green Tārā wearing Black Hat. It was then painted in Tibet according to the Karma Gadri Painting Tradition (see image above). For more on the 17th Karmapa and Tārā see below.

White Tārā, Wish-Fulfilling Wheel
(18th Century Karma Kagyu thangka, with 13th Karmapa depicted in it). Source: HAR

In the 15th Karmapa’s Collected Works, there are several Tārā texts, including some from the Chogyur Lingpa treasure cycle, Fearsome Tārā Eliminating All (sgrol ma ‘jigs pa kun sel). More on that in another post!

Art-works and statues of  Tārā  by the Karmapas and some preserved at Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim, India

Rumtek Monastery

There are several previous objects relating to Tārā preserved and stored at the Karmapa’s Indian seat, Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim. These are photos of two of them. In particular, the Tārā   – Siddhis Blaze and Flourish (Drolma Ngodrup Pel Barma) in the gau box is said to have been owned by various Karmapas and made predictions to them.

Images from Douglas and White (1976).

Statues and Drawings of Tārā by 10th and 17th Karmapa

The 10th Karmapa produced some stunning statues and images, here are some of Tārā below. For more on the art and life of 10th Karmapa, see here.

Tārā statue said to be by 10th Karmapa (Rubin Museum of Art) see: https://www.asianart.com/articles/10karmapa/35.html
Tārā statue said to be by 10th Karmapa (Potala Palace Collection) see: https://www.asianart.com/articles/10karmapa/33.html

The current 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, has stated that his first retreat was on White Tārā and he has given the Tārā empowerments several times, some of which I have attended. He recently gave a Green Tārā empowerment (the first in this lifetime) from the 9th Karmapa’s text ‘Knowing One Liberates All’. For more on that, see here: (https://kagyuoffice.org/the-gyalwang-karmapa-bestows-a…/). The 17th Karmapa has also drawn some stunning images of White Tārā (see below).   

16th Karmapa and Tārā
16th Karmapa with Tara statue in Boulder, Colorado. Photograph by Ann Shaftel.

Tārā was said to be one of the main practices of the 16th Karmapa,  Yet, surprisingly, there is only this brief supplication to Tārā in his currently published Collected Works. Documentation from this historic photograph shows shows that the year is 1976, and the 16th Karmapa is seated on a throne in Boulder Dharmadhatu, holding the Tārā.” The Tara statue seen in photo of 16th Karmapa, was brought on his 1976 visit, to present to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. There is a colour image of the same Tārā statue below. For more information about the statue, you can look it up in 1987.1.247 https://shambhalaarchives.zenfolio.com.

Tārā statue given to Chogyam Trungpa by 16th Karmapa in 1976.

In terms of Tārā from Acaccia Forest (Green Tārā), this was said to be one of few main practices of 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa and, I have been told, re-appeared in 1975 in Rumtek as gift given by the 16th Karmapa to English-Canadian Namgyal Rinpoche, whom the 16th  Karmapa recognized as long awaited reincarnation of great Mipham Rinpoche.  In an interview, said to have been conducted at Rumtek, the 16th Karmapa is alleged to have said that one particular day he was doing very intensive prayers to Tārā to help in very difficult ( danger of war ?) situation between Russia , China and Vietnam. War did not erupt but peace was established. 

This very short supplication to Tārā was written by the 16th Karmapa in what he called ‘degenerate times for the Buddha’s teachings’ when compiling and printing the renowned Four Mandala Offering to Jetsun Tārā by Katog Tsewang Norbu.  Such words are called ‘parjang montshig’ in Tibetan: words composed to bless the printing of a text. It is the only Tārā text in his currently available Collected Works.  I have published the translation (with Tibetan and phonetics) in full below. It is also available as a free pdf, on request.

Katok Tsewang Norbu’ (ka’ thog tshe dbang nor bu, 1698–1755)

Katok Tsewang Norbu’ (ka’ thog tshe dbang nor bu, 1698–1755) was a teacher of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism who notably championed the shentong ( gzhan stong) or “empty of other” view first popularised by the Jonang school by masters such as Dolpopa. Despite the shentong view being banned as heretical, he successfully taught and cultivated its teachings as a legitimate view among the Nyingmapa. He also wrote some non-religious works on history and geography and travelled widely, making several journeys to Nepal. His seat was the Katok Monastery of Tibet.  He was also very close to the 12th Karmapa (1703-1732), and important Karma Kagyu lamas, who are said to have introduced him to the Jonang teachings[1].

 

Aspiration words of  supplication and offering to Jetsun Drolma for the publication of the renowned ritual: The Four mandala Offering to Tārā: The Wish-Fulfilling Tree that Satisfies All Wishes, compiled by Khatog Rigzin Tsewang Norbu[3]

ཀ༔་ཏོག་རིག་འཛིན་ཚེ་དབང་ནོར་བུས་ཕྱོགས་བསྒྲིགས་འཕགས་མ་སྒྲོལ་མ་ལ་གསོལ་གདབ་མཆོད་པ་མནྡལ་བཞི་པར་གྲགས་པའི་ཆོ་ག་འདོད་དོན་ཡིད་བཞིན་འགྲུབ་པའི་ལྗོན་ཤིང་གི་སྤར་བྱང་སྨོན་ཚིག

ཨོཾ་སཱ་སྟི།

OM SWASTI

བརྟན་གཡོའི་བཅུད་ཀུན་བརྟས་པའི་གོ་ས་ན༎

ten yö chü kün té pé go sa na

State of the whole essence of animate and inanimate,

 རྡོ་རྗེའི་ལང་ཚོ་རྫོགས་པའི་ མཚར་སྡུག་འཆང༎

dor jé lang tso dzok pé tsar duk chang

Holder of amazing beauty, the perfect, youthful vajra,

སྲིད་ཞིའི་བདེ་ལེགས་སྦྱིན་མཛད་རྗེ་བཙུན་མས༎

si zhi dé lek jin dzé jé tsün mé

Jetsunma who creates auspicious blessings in peace and existence,

འཆི་མེད་ཚེ་ཡི་འཁྲིད་ཤིང་བརྟན་གྱུར་ཅིག།

chi mé tsé yi tri shing ten gyur chik

May your vine[3] of immortality remain stable!

གང་དེའི་ཆོག་གཞུང་ལུགས་རྣམས་ཀུན་གྱི་བཅུད༎

gang dé chok zhungluk nam kün gyi chü

Essence of all the textual traditions whatever they are,

ཕྱུངས་ཏེ་ཀ༔་ཐོག་རིག་འཛིན་ཆེན་པོ་ཡིས༎

chung té ka tok rigdzin chenpo yi

Originated from the great Khatog Rigdzin

དཀྱུས་སུ་བསྡེབས་པའི་ངོ་མཚར་བྱེ་བའི་དཔྱིད༎

kyü su debpé ngo tsar jewé chi

Spring of billions of amazing direct instructions;

འོག་མིན་རུམ་དགོན་ཀརྨྤའི་ཆོས་སྒར་ཆེར༎

ogmin rum gön karmpé chö gar cher

In the great Dharma place of Karmapa, Akanishta Rumtek Monastery;

ལེགས་བྱས་ཕྱི་མོའི་ཟླ་སྣང་ཤར་པའི་མོད༎

lek je chimö da nang sharpé mö

May copies of this excellent deed, dawn of the moon’s appearance,

ཕྱོགས་བཅུའི་བདེ་ལེགས་ཆུ་སྐྱེས་འཛུམ་ཕྲེང་རྩེར༎

chok chü delek chukyé dzum treng tser

Be auspicious in ten directions; as at the tip of a smiling garland blossom 

རྟག་ཆགས་སྐྱེ་དགུ་བྷྲ་མ་ར༔་ཡི་སྙིང༎

tak chak kyegu bhrama ra yi nying

like a bee’s heart, may permanent and impermanent beings[4],

ཡོངས་སུ་ཚིམས་ནུས་དགའ་སྟོན་འཕལ་གྱུར་ཅིག༎

yongsu tsim nü gatön pal gyur chik

Be completely satisfied and power and joy increase!

This was written during the time when the Victor’s teachings are degenerating. Having given rise to a pure mind of altruism, while printing the Supreme Noble Tārā’s Four Mandala Offering. These aspiration words arose in 16th Karmapa while holding the crown of blue-black. By this may the Victor’s teachings flourish and become vast!”

Compiled and translated by Adele Tomlin, 29th November 2021. With thanks to Geshe Tenzin Nyima for clarifying some of the words.

WORKS ON TĀRĀ BY THE KARMAPAS

These are the Tārā texts by the Karmapas contained in the Garland of Collected Karmapas’ Teachings (karma pa sku phreng rim byon gyi gsung ‘bum phyogs bsgrigs/. TBRC W3PD1288) published in Lhasa, Tibet[1]. They are not intended to be a definitive list, but as a provisional example of some of the Tārā texts the Karmapas composed.  I have not looked in detail within texts, such as the Vajra Songs of 10th Karmapa and so on. It is the first catalogue produced in English on the Tārā works of the Karmapas.

1st Karmapa

The Indian Root Text of Tārā from the Section on the Five Forms of Tārā (sgrol ma lha lnga’i skor las sgrol ma’i rgya gzhung/ 1:348-352).

Permission Empowerment of Tārā (sgrol ma’i rjes gnang/ 1:352-354).

6th Karmapa

Praise to Noble Tārā (rje btsun ‘phags ma sgrol ma la bstod/  28: 68 – 68).

7th Karmapa

Praise to Noble Tārā (sgrol ma la bstod pa/ 31: 327 – 327).

Pearl Choker Necklace, Praise to Tārā (sgrol ma la bstod pa mu tig mgul rgyan/ 31: 327 – 331).

Praise to Noble Tārā (‘phags ma sgrol mar bstod pa/ 31: 378-379).

The Long Life of White Tārā and Recitation of Noble Avalokiteshvara (sgrol ma dkar mo la brten pa’i tshe sgrub dang ‘phags pa spyan ras gzigs kyi sgom bzlas/  32: 21-25).

Supplication to Jetsunma Tārā (rje btsun sgrol ma’i gsol ‘debs/ 32: 524-5).

8th Karmapa

Praise of Tārā statue kept in Rong Ngurmig (rong ngur smrig gi rje btsun sgrol ma la phul ba’i bstod pa/

43: 498-503).

Supplication to gentle, meaningful Tārā (cam don yod sgrol mas gsol ba btab ngor gnang ba/ 44: 349 – 351).

Extremely Concise Sadhana of White Tārā (grol dkar yid bzhin ‘khor lo’i sgrub thabs mdor bsdus pa/

67:  288 – 293).

13th Karmapa

Daily Practice of Directly Realising White Tārā (sgrol dkar mngon rtogs rgyun khyer/  92: 145-  147).

Supplication to Venerable, Noble Tārā (rje btsun ‘phags ma sgrol ma’i gsol ‘debs/  92: 147-  149).

Supplications to Venerable, Noble Tārā (rje btsun sgrol ma’i gsol ‘debs/ 92: 161).

Aspirations to the Eight Protectors Tārā (grol ma ‘jigs pa brgyas skyob pa’i smon lam/ 92: 180-  182).

Supplication of White Tārā (grol dkar gsol ‘debs/ sbyin bdag gnyer pa khro tsher gnang ba/ 92: 188-  188).

Sadhana and empowerment of Tārā (grol ma bkra shis don ‘grub ma’i sgrub thabs rjes gnang / 93: 162-  180).

15th Karmapa

Praise and Supplication of Tārā  (Rje btsun sgrol ma la bstod pa dang gsol ‘debs/ 95: 19-20).

Supplication of White Tārā (Rje btsun sgrol dkar la bstod pa/ 95: 37-38).

Praise to Tārā  (grol ma/ spyan ras gzigs/ ‘od dpag med bcas la bstod pa/ 95: 38-39).

‘Fearsome Tārā Eliminating All: The individual empowerments, practice and notes, that Brings the Nectar of the Blessings (sgrol ma ‘jigs pa kun sel gyi lha so so’i phrin dbang gi lag len mtshams sbyor byin rlabs bcud sbyin/ 102: 110-150).

Verse on Generation of the Deity Retinue of Tārā (sgrol ma’i ‘khor gyi lha bskyed tshigs bcad ma/ 102: 146-149).

Fearsome Tārā Eliminating All: Four Activities, fire offering, Mandala of jewel crystal fire (sgrol ma ‘jigs pa kun sel gyi las bzhi’i me mchod me shel nor bu’i dkyil ‘khor/ 102: 152-168).

Notes on the propitiatory and realization practices of  White Tārā, written on the basis of AtIsha’s system

(sgrol dkar bsnyen zin/ 107: 362-366).

Aspiration and Supplication of Noble Tārā  (‘phags ma sgrol ma’i gsol ‘debs smon lam/ 108: 245-246).

 

Sources/Further Reading

Douglas and White (1976). Karmapa: The Black Hat Lama of Tibet.

Tomlin, Adele:

NEW TRANSLATION: ‘White Tārā, Wish-Fulfilling Wheel’ by 8th Karmapa

NEW TRANSLATION: ‘Actually Realising White Tārā Daily Practice’ by 13th Karmapa

Noble Tārā

The Black Hat Eccentric: Tenth Karmapa, Choying Dorje, Supreme Artist and Visionary

Garland of Karmapas’ Collected Teachings (dpal brtsegs bod yig dpe rnying zhib ‘jug khang / Lha sa/ 2013?)

 


ENDNOTES

[1] In Katog Tsweang Norbu’s Treasury of Lives bio:

“In 1725, Tsewang Norbu went to central Tibet, where he received an audience with the Twelfth Karmapa Jangchub Dorje (karma pa 12 byang chub rdo rje, 1703-1732) and the Eighth Zhamarpa Pelchen Chokyi Dondrub (zhwa dmar 08 dpal chen chos kyi don grub, 1695-1732). He also met the Third Trewo Lama Karma Tendzin Dargye (tre bo 03 karma bstan ‘dzin dar rgyas) who became his third root lama, and introduced him to the Jonang tradition.

Tsewang Norbu later received the entire Jonangpa tradition’s teachings from Drubchen Kunzang Wangpo (grub chen kun bzang dbang po, seventeenth century), and he is credited with bringing about a renaissance of the teachings, particularly of the Jonang zhentong, or  “other emptiness” view (gzhan stong). Tsewang Norbu had first attempted to meet with Kunzang Wangpo in 1726, while en route to Nepal, but was unable to do so. When he returned to Tibet the following year, the two met, and Tsewang Norbu received the extensive transmission at the hermitage Ganden Khacho (dga’ ldan mkha’ chos) in Tsang, which was named Rulak Drepung (ru lag ‘bras spung) prior to its forced conversion to Geluk. Tsewang Norbu transmitted the Jonang teachings to many Kagyu and Nyingma lamas, most importantly to the Eighth Tai Situ, Chokyi Gyeltsen (ta’i si tu 08 chos kyi ‘byung gnas, c.1699-1774), with whom he spent time at the Swayambhunath Stūpa in Kathmandu in 1748.

In 1733 both the Twelfth Karmapa and the Eighth Zharmapa died en route to China, and Tsewang Norbu became involved in the search for their replacements, attaining a heightened level of influence among the Kagyu community. He was a proponent of the Shentong approach and wrote several works on this and also on the Kalachakra Tantra.”

The Katok Getse Incarnations are: The First Katok Geste, Gyurme Tsewang Chokdrup aka Katok Getse Mahapandita (1761-1829); The Second Katok Getse, Tsewang Rigdzin Gyatso (1830?-1885?); The Third Katok Geste, Gyurme Tenpa Namgyal (1886-1952); The Fourth Katok Getse, Gyurme Tenpa Gyaltsen (1954-2018).   Tragically, as I wrote about here before, in an eery coincidental prophetic advice, I got during a Vajrakilaya Drubchen in Pharping, Nepal 2018, warning me to be careful as ‘people will do terrible things, including murder for money, power, status and reputation’ that was connected the Jamgon Kongtrul car ‘accident’, The most current Kathog incarnation (then the elected head of Nyingmapa) tragically passed away the following day in a freak (and some say unexplained) accident. For me it was too bizarre a coincidence to ignore. I do not know if he had a connection or relation with the 16th Karmapa or not. If anyone has any information, please let me know. 

[2] Son of Chogyur Lingpa, holder of the Khatog Nyingma lineage.

[3] Khrid shing

[4] Bramarah here is said to mean ‘bee’.

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