“Many desire enlightenment in a man’s body, while not even a single [person] strives for the benefit of sentient beings in a woman’s body. Therefore, I shall work for the benefit of sentient beings in a woman’s form as long as saṃsāra has not been emptied.”
–Noble Tārā’s statement (as Princess Jñānacandrā) to sexist monks
“Generally, we wish the highest and lasting happiness to sentient beings throughout space, but here especially to women because Tārā right from the beginning made the commitment that she would come in the form of a woman and thus would work especially for the benefit and purpose of female beings. In the same way, I give this empowerment with the aspiration that it will give the power of Tārā to women and help them rise up and gain equality with men.”
–17th Karmapa in Green Tārā empowerment teaching (2007)
For Tārā Day today, and for the forthcoming five-deity Tārā puja practice led online by HH 17th Gyalwang Karmapa this coming 1st February, am delighted to re-publish this original research and translation on the Green Tārā, normally referred to as Kadiramaṇi Tārā (Sengdeng Dolma) – the Tārā of the Acacia Forest, together with a new translation  of the 1st Karmapa’s Green Tārā ‘five deity Tārā’ short sadhana (སྒྲོལ་མ་ལྷ་ལྔའི་སྐོར་ལས་སྒྲོལ་མ་ལྷ་ལྔའི་རྒྱ་གཞུང། /) in both English and Tibetan (with phonetics) . The lineage of this Green Tārā text from Nāgārjuna, through Dzogchen master, Garab Dorje, and other Indian mahasiddhas to the 1st Karmapa is also detailed in the text, see below. The text states that it was translated from the Sanskrit by famed Lotsawa, Vairocana (rnam par snang mdzad rdo rjes).
The daily practice text with this Introduction, (only for those with suitable empowerment) can be downloaded as a pdf file here on request. It is included in the 9th Karmapa, Wangchug Dorje’s ‘Knowing One Liberates All’ (Chigshey Kundrol) cycle and is one of the ‘five sets of five’ deity’ (lha nga tshan nga) practices of 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (which includes Hevajra, Vajravarahi, Hayagriva, Chakrasamvara five deity sets). For more on the five-deity Hayagriva of 1st Karmapa, see here.
The four other deities visualised with Tārā are forms of
- Ozer Chenmo (Brilliant Light Goddess: yellow),
- Maja Chenmo (Great Peacock Goddess: blue),
- Dugselma (Clearing Away Poison Goddess: green) and
- Relchigma (Single-Clefted Goddess: black).
Interestingly, the Himalayan Arts website section on Tara makes no mention of the 1st Karmapa’s five deity form of Tārā at all, and for that reason there are no images available. I have thus now commissioned the painting of such a thangka by a Tibetan Thangka painter In Dharamsala. If anyone would like to contribute to the cost of the commission of this new artwork, please do so here.
The first Green Tārā empowerment I ever received was from HH 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje in 2007 (for video of teaching, see here) at the Tilogpur nunnery, Himachal Pradesh India (for more on that nunnery and Tilopa’s Cave nearby, see article here), I first met the 17th Karmapa in 2005. In the 2007 teaching, a bright and sparkling (young) 17th Karmapa gave a remarkably wise, gentle and moving teaching on the gender inequality of men and women within Tibetan culture, and maltreatment of women, which has nothing to do with Buddha Dharma. He emphasised how Tārā came in a female form, in particular to be of benefit to females.
For full transcript of that teaching and others in 2012, 2014 and 2018, see below. In these teachings, the Karmapa speaks not just of visualizing but really believing and feeling Tārā’s power and blessing and bringing our her ‘motherly’ love and wisdom qualities, which is why she is called Mother Tārā.
Music? Tārā Prayer by 17th Karmapa, Endlessly by Muse, Always By Your Side by Sade and She by Elvis Costello. May this be of benefit in helping us all realise the power of the mother love of Tārā within us all!
Written and translated by Adele Tomlin, 7th June 2022.
History of Tārā – Feminist princess who told sexist monks she would pray to be reborn in a female, not a male, form
One of the stories of the origin of Tārā from the Tārā Tantra (and as described in the 2012 teaching of the 17th Karmapa) was she was born as a princess called Wisdom Moon (Jñānacandrā: Yeshe Dawa):
“Formerly, in beginningless time, in the world realm called Manifold Light, there arose the Tathāgata Lord Dundubhīśvara, Sound of the Drum. Also living there was the king’s daughter Jñānacandrā, “Moon of Wisdom,” who greatly revered the Tathāgata’s discourse. She worshipped the Buddha, together with his retinue — an infinite community of disciples (śrāvakas) and enlightened beings (bodhisattvas) — for hundreds of millions of years. Every day she made offerings equal in value to the amount of jewels completely filling twelve miles in each of ten directions . . . and she generated the Thought of Enlightenment, which is the generation of the foremost thought. At that time, a group of monks implored the princess, “If you aspire to serve the teachings of the Buddha, due to your own roots of virtue, you will be transformed into a man in this very life. In order for it to turn out that way, it is proper to do so accordingly. . . .”2
Princess Jñānacandrā rejected the monk’s advice, offering her rationale for pursuing the bodhisattva path in female form:
“There is neither man nor woman nor self nor personhood nor notion of such. Attachment to [the designations] ‘male and female’ is meaningless, and deludes worldly people with poor understanding. . . .She then vowed: Many desire enlightenment in a man’s body, while not even a single [person] strives for the benefit of sentient beings in a woman’s body. Therefore, I shall work for the benefit of sentient beings in a woman’s form as long as saṃsāra has not been emptied.”
She then stayed in the palace and attained the state of meditative concentration (Samadhi) called “liberating all beings,” for millions of years, by the power of which she was able to liberate millions of beings from samsaric suffering every morning and would not eat until she had established them in the realization of emptiness. She thus attained the name “Drolma” which means, “the Liberator.” Her success led to the prophecy by that Buddha, Tonyo Drupa, that as long as she manifested unexcelled, perfect enlightenment, she would be referred to as “Goddess Tārā.” For more on the background of Tārā, see here.
Green Tārā name, origins and Nāgārjuna’s lineage of Tārā to 1st Karmapa
The name of the Green Tārā, Khadiravaṇi-Tārā (Tib: Sengdeng Nagki) literally means Acacia Forest as explained above. How and why did she get this name? In her Green form, she is said to have appeared to Nāgārjuna (150-250 CE) in the Khadiravani forest of South India and protects from the eight great fears. The bark and resin of the acacia tree are noted for their medicinal powers. Green Tārā is also associated with the Ashoka Tree (‘Beyond Suffering’). This tree and its branches are referred to in the 1st Karmapa’s practice text.
Lineage from Nāgārjuna to Indian Mahasiddhas and Dzogchen masters to 1st Karmapa
This Green Tārā lineage has continued to the 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khenpa (1110-1193) and onwards. In the 1st Karmapa’s text, the lineage lists first:
- Nāgabodhi (klu’i byang chub),
- Prahevajra/Pramodavajra/Garab Dorje ((c. 665) dga’ rab rdo rje),
- Vajrasanapa/Dorje Denpa rdo rje den pa),
- 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193),
and onwards, through to 9th Karmapa and ending with Sonam Pel. Interestingly, this Green Tārā lineage was passed down through Indian mahasiddhas to the Dzogchen master, Garab Dorje who was the semi-historical first human to receive direct transmission teachings from Vajrasattva. Garab Dorje then became the teacher of the Ati Yoga or Great Perfection teachings according to Tibetan buddhist and Nyingma school traditions.
‘Five deity Tārā’ of 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa and the Karmapas and Tār̥ā
The five-deity Green Tārā practice of 1st Karmapa as passed down from Nāgārjuna, does not seem to be widely practiced in Karma Kagyu but may have been revived by the 16th Karmapa when he was at Rumtek monastery . The 17th Karmapa has also given three empowerments and teachings on it in 2007, 2012 and 2018 (see below). The Green Tārā texts and practices appear to be more prevalent in the Sakya tradition though. The 17th Karmapa explained in 2018 that:
This was one of 1st Karmapa’s main deity practices. He had five main deity practices and each practice involves five deities, including the main one, that is why is it called five sets of five deities ((lha lnga tshan lnga). In addition to Tara five deity practice, they include the practices of Hevajra five deity, Hayagriva five deity, Chakrasamvara five deity, and Vajra Varahi five deity. The main deity is Green Tara and there are four deities around her you also supplicate, but it may be too difficult for you to visualise all of them, so if you visualize just the Green Tara that is fine. So the 1st Karmapa had these five main deity practices, which all involved visualizing five deities, including the main one.
For more on the Karmapas and Tārā, which has always been one of their main practices, including the current 17th Karmapa, see my article, Lady with the Flower and the Gyalwang Karmapas here. It is said that after the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, arrived in India, he is reported to have had a vision of Green Tārā wearing the Black Hat. It was then painted in Tibet according to the Karma Gadri Painting Tradition, and is said to be very powerful protection for anyone who has even a copy of it.
Three main forms of Green Tārā
According to Himalayan Arts, there are three iconographic categories of Green Tārā, see video explanation here:
“The principal and minor forms of Green Tārā all have one face and two hands, green in colour, and seated with the right leg extended and the left drawn up. The right hand is typically extended across the knee in a gesture of generosity. In some examples the hand is placed over the knee with the fingers pointing upwards in a fearless gesture. All are peaceful in appearance with corresponding ornaments and heavenly garments. The only exception to this is the Peaceful by Day, Wrathful by Night Tara that also has the fierce form.”
The 1st Karmapa’s Green Tārā (from Nāgārjuna) is peacefully seated with left hand holding an Utpala flower, the right is generously pouring nectar.
As I mentioned before in relation to Tāranātha’s Commentary on the 21 Tārās (see here), Green Tārā appears in the Suryagupta lineage of Tārās but not in the Atisha one (in which the main one is red). For more about the three main lineages of the 21 Taras and their different forms, see the Appendix below and here.
Four deities with Tārā in five-deity mandala and commissioning of new thangka painting
After translating the 1st Karmapa’s text, I can now reveal that the four other deities visualised with Green Tārā are forms of:
- Marici/Ozer Chenmo (Brilliant Light Goddess: yellow),
- Maja Chenmo (Great Peacock Goddess: blue),
- Dugselma (Poison Eliminator Goddess: green) and
- Ekajati/Relchigma (Single-Clefted Goddess: black).
Even though the Himalayan Arts website does not mention the five deity Tārā mandala, it does mention the three-deity form of Tārā, with Marici and Ekajati (an example of which is below).
As I have not seen an image with all five deities in that arrangement, I have now commissioned a new thangka of one by a talented local Tibetan Thangka painter. If you would like to contribute funding to the painting of this thangka, and receive a signed poster copy of it on completion by the artist and myself (on the back), you may donate here. For information about other ongoing painting/art commissions, I will post about this soon.
‘Knowing One Liberates All’ cycle of empowerments by 9th Karmapa
The 1st Karmapa’s Green Tārā is included in a cycle of empowerments composed by the 9th Karmapa (1556-1603) “Knowing One Liberates All” (Chigshey Kundrol). I attended this set of empowerments and transmissions by 9th Karmapa when it was recently given by 12th Gyeltsab RInpoche in Sikkim in 2019, for more on the 9th Karmapa’s collection and those transmissions, see here. As the announcement for the empowerments stated:
Liberating All by Knowing One is a collection of empowerments of the most important deities of Vajrayayana Buddhism found in Tibet. The collection Liberating All by Knowing One is called such because each empowerment has same set of rules: the empowerment of enlightened body, speech, mind, quality and activities. After receiving this set of empowerments, one is allowed to visualize, recite mantras and read daily practice of almost all the well known deities of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. This collection was compiled by the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje, and since then it widely flourished in Karma Kagyu tradition having been given and received by many eminent masters. After the 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje had given the complete empowerments to the four heart sons and other sanghas, a part of text which deals with the empowerments of the dharma protectors was lost for sometime. Fortunately, it was recently found by the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje.
Empowerments and transcripts of Green Tārā (Sengden Naki) by 17th Karmapa – 2007, 2012, 2014 and 2018
The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa has given three Green Tārā (Sengden Nagki) empowerments, first in 2007 (see video here), then in 2012 at the Dekyiling Tibetan settlement in India, which I was present at, for video of the teaching, see here. In 2014 at Bodh Gaya, India, for a report on the 17th Karmapa’s bestowal of the Tārā empowerments in 2014, see here. Afterwards in 2018, he gave it in New York, see here.
I was present at the 2007 and 2012 ones in India, and took the 2018 one online. There is no published transcript for the 2007 one, or for the 2012 teaching (which was given only in Tibetan). I have now created transcripts of all these teachings below. They can also be downloaded as a pdf file here.
When I watched the 2007 teaching and empowerment again a couple of days ago, I was brought to tears not only by the Karmapa’s energy and vitality but the content of the teachings itself. It reminded me that even in 2007, at the young age of 20, the 17th Karmapa was talking about the inequality and lack of freedom and independence of women in Tibet and elsewhere and how this has nothing to do with Buddha Dharma. This remarkably passionate and clear exposition of the gender inequality aspect of the Karmapa’s teaching (unparalleled by any other major Tibetan Buddhist leader, with the exception of HH 14th Dalai Lama) is worthy of preservation and publication for that reason alone, he says:
In the Buddhist texts, I have seen nothing which clearly mentions that there should be inequality between men and women. Even if it is there, it should not be there and it is not good. It is not just in Buddhism thought but in other paths and situations, when discussing women’s equal treatment and equality.
For example, in Tibet, the differences and inequality and treatment of women is not because of the Dharma or Buddhism. It is to do with society. It is not Buddhism, it is because of the different traditions in the world and society that they sometimes try to justify that and bring some unrelated quotations from the Dharma to support that kind of unequal treatment but it does not work in relation to the actual Dharma.”
The 17th Karmapa also mentioned the sponsor of the event wearing green, I have included a photo of her from the day, but have no idea who it is, please let me know if you know her name.
TRANSCRIPTS/SUMMARY OF GREEN TARA EMPOWERMENTS by 17th Karmapa
2007 empowerment at Tilogpur Nunnery, Himachal Pradesh, India
“Today, I will give the Jenang permission empowerment of Sengdeng Drolma. As I said yesterday, in the world there has been right from the beginning there has been discrimination against women and girls, as a result there has been a lot of co-operation and relations between men and women, but there have been many instances where the relation has not been co-operative or honest and women have not had independence and freedom and women have been treated unequally.
In the Buddhist texts, I have seen nothing which clearly mentions that there should be inequality between men and women. Even if it is there, it should not be there and it is not good. It is not just in Buddhism thought but in other paths and situations, when discussing women’s equal treatment and equality.
For example, in Tibet, the differences and inequality and treatment of women are not because of the Dharma or Buddhism. It is to do with society. It is not Buddhism, it is because of the different traditions in the world and society that they sometimes try to justify that and bring some unrelated quotations from the Dharma to support that kind of unequal treatment but it does not work in relation to the actual Dharma.
I do not want to talk too much as I get a head-ache (smiles) and we do not have a lot of time so cannot go into detail. So, in brief, men and women even if we look at the physical side, there is not much difference, whatever is there in men is also in women. Similarly, basically, especially if you look at the mind and intelligence, and the brain then it is exactly the same. If one makes efforts to look at that there is absolutely no difference. Certainly, from the Buddhist point of view, any woman can become enlightened just like men. So there is no difference.
I am not saying that women should come up and fight and am aggressive with men to get the equality, but especially in Tibet, there are probably more women than men, yet due to the traditions, society and culture, they have been unable to raise themselves up and become equal with men. Not by fighting with men but with confidence and standing one’s own ground truthfully, it is very important that you stand up and become equal. That is very important. That we are here at this nunnery especially for the nuns, which is a sign that the women of Tibet are standing up.
Today I am giving the Tara empowerment, who is in the form of a female, we cannot say if she is a man or woman, she is both there is no difference. However, she is in the form of a woman, Therefore, I do the empowerment of Tara today and make strong prayers and wishes that all of you receive the power of Tara. Even today, our big sponsor is wearing a green dress and she also wants to get the power and blessings of Tara (laughter). Generally, we wish the highest and lasting happiness to sentient beings throughout space, but here especially to women because Tara right from the beginning made the commitment that she would come in the form of a woman and would work especially for the benefit of female beings. In the same way, I this empowerment with the aspiration that it will give the power of Tara to women and help them rise up and gain equality with men.
Although we say that men and women are equal, yet the one who gives the empowerment is a man (laughs). I am sorry! (laughs). “
Karmapa gave the Jenang empowerment.
“All these empowerments need visualization and concentration to receive it well. Now we come to the torma empowerment, it is not so necessary to visualize so much. It is more the blessing given by the lama and the lineage of Tara that we should concentrate on more.
When I was young I did a full retreat on approaching Tara (Nyen Dolma) and when I did that, people told me you are the Karmapa, so when you approach Tara you will actually have a vision of Tara. I also thought maybe that is true, but that did not happen. However, when I came out, when the retreat finished on the same day somebody from a western country sent a thangka of Green Tara and that was the first thing I saw when I came out of retreat. So, although I could not see a vision in the retreat, I saw a painting of her as soon as I left the retreat and so I considered that as important and a special blessing, as like a blessing of the Tara. Although am not very special and do not have special qualities, my teachers have been great. So, if you really think and feel you have received the Tara power and blessings through the power of Tara’s aspiration and blessings and all the lineage teachers and myself too, then maybe you got some blessings from that. So now do not just think but feel that you have received the blessings, power and lineage of Tara. And feel that in front of you is Tara and all the lineage lamas are also in the space in front of you. It is not about thinking, in terms of all the lights and colours and so on. It is about feeling and believing that you actually receive the power of Tara.”
So now you have received the empowerment, now what to do? We all have certain qualities of Tara but we have to bring it out the power of Tara, her qualities of knowledge, love and power. With this empowerment, we might not have any special signs, tears coming down or special experiences of hairs on body rising up (Goosebumps) not of that. I hope that a little, positive seed is sown but now we need to bring that out, to sprout that seed and bring out that motherly love towards all the sentient beings. She came in a female, not male form, and she is like a mother to everyone in the form of a female, a mother, her qualities are that of a mother. We call her mother Tara, so we have to try to become like a mother towards all sentient beings, with love, and wanting to benefit others like a mother does. If one is able to make those qualities of body, speech and mind of Tara sprout from this seed, that is the hope and aspiration.”
2012 Green Tara Empowerment at Dekyiling Tibetan Settlement (Summary only)
First the Karmapa spoke out the difference in scope of the three types of different individuals, and the importance of the scope of one’s motivation and intention and way of thinking. He shared the advice of a lama with some experience who said ‘If one practices Mahayana it is Mahayana. If one practices, Hinayana it is Hinayana. For me there is no difference between Hinayana or Mahayana. In brief, that means that whether one practices Hinayana, Mahayana or Secret Mantra Vajrayana depends on one’s mind and motivation. But ultimately speaking, there is no difference between any of them. The intention and motivation is very important.
These days, people call Cho, the Dharma ‘spiritual’, the mind that wants to benefit. He spoke about how these days people think Dharma is like something to make oneself feel good and peaceful and happy, like getting a massage. Like fiving the mind a massage to feel relaxed etc. However, the actual Dharma is not like that at all. Making one’s mind relaxed and peaceful and pleasurable it is not about that alone at all. If one really understands and recognizes Dharma, It is about the happiness of far-reaching time ahead. These days materialism is very popular and people think it will answer their problems and difficulties. But in actuality, it has made problems and difficulties worse in some ways.
It is difficult to say who is really a practitioner or not. We cannot say they are a practitioner based on them reciting Mani mantra and wearing robes and so on. It all depends on what is in their mind while they are reciting or afterwards. If the recite Mani mantras and their minds are disturbed. If they really have the essence of the practice of Chenrezig, of love and compassion, to say they have that is not easy to tell. The mind and what they are saying needs to be in accordance and integrated. For example, if someone has a negative mind, easily angered, huge aversion and jealousy, then slowly due to those faults they will experience criticism and difficulties. However, if they reduce jealousy and anger then that is what makes someone a good or excellent person. Then slowly if one can transform one’s mind like that, then one could say that person is a Dharma practitioner. Generally, a guru cannot do that for us. It all depends on ones’ individual effort and practice, teacher, path.
When we speak about what an excellent or good person is, it is not about who has the most beautiful face or appearance physically at all, it is about who has the most excellent and good mind.
The Karmapa then explained how the word Sangye means free of stains and that we all are Buddha ultimately in terms of our basis and nature.
He then gave an explanation of the history of Tārā. Daughter of a King, called Yeshe Dawa, who had great faith in Buddha. In brief, this ultimately means that the division between male and female in terms of giving rise to the liberated millions of beings in Samadhi. Then she was given the name Drolma, Liberator.
2018 Green Tara Empowerment Teaching in New York, USA
“In the Tārā cycles of the 9th Karmapa, there are two Green Tara empowerments therein, the one for today is known as the Tara Empowerment with Five Yidam Deities. This empowerment of Green Tara belongs to the Secret Mantra, which is divided into four graduated sections: the Kriya or Action Tantra, the Upa or Performance Tantra, the Yoga tantra, and the Annutarayoga or Highest Yoga tantra. Today’s empowerment belongs to the three lower tantric schools, Action, Performance and the Yoga Tantra. To practice the lower tantras it does not require taking the commitments of the Secret Mantra as described in the major texts. However, the main vow and commitment here is the bodhisattva vows.”
First, we make a supplication to the guru who is inseparable from the Green Tara and request them to bestow the initiation. So, the student should view the one bestowing the empowerment and inseparable from the guru themselves.
So, before the empowerment, we have to take refuge in the three jewels then as a Mahayana practitioner we have to take the bodhicitta vows. These two are very important for setting the right motivation and intentions. So, the guru is inseparable from the deity and Green Tara and take refuge from the deity. The Guru is also the embodiment of the three jewels and we take refuge in the guru. Although, we may not practice and attain bodhicitta immediately on taking it, but it does generate it and plants a seed for generating bodhicitta in the future. It will be a cause in the future to attain bodhicitta. For those who already received it, it is refreshment.
Now the student generates oneself as Green Tara. As I mentioned before, this was one of 1st Karmapa’s main deity practices. He had five main deity practices and each practice involves five deities, including the main one, that is why is it called five sets of five deities ((lha lnga tshan lnga). In addition to Tara five deity practice, they include the practices of Hevajra five deity, Hayagriva five deity, Chakrasamvara five deity, and Vajra Varahi five deity. The main deity is Green Tara and there are four deities around her you also supplicate, but it may be too difficult for you to visualise all of them, so if you visualize just the Green Tara that is fine. So, the 1st Karmapa had these five main deity practices, which all involved visualizing five deities including the main one.
When practicing the Secret Mantra, the main purpose is to turn around our ordinary way of seeing, which is very limited. Here we transform into the deity to uplift our being and capacity so we are inseparable from the deity. The benefit of that is it changes our perceptions and changes our behavior. For example, when one sees oneself as inseparable from the deity, such as Chenrezig, one would not get angry. So that is the benefit of doing that. Seeing oneself as inseparable from the deity enhances one’s ability. So before generating oneself as the deity, one meditates on emptiness, be that Chenrezig or Green Tara or any deity.
The empowerment of body, speech and mind is we are requesting permission to meditate on the deity. So the body is permission to meditate as the form, the speech the mantra, the mind to meditate on the Samadhi.
The main point is that practice should be combined with the view of emptiness. Any yidam deity practice begins with everything dissolving into emptiness, and out of that empty state arises the mandala of the yidam deity.”
In this present context, the mode of visualization is to let the deity arise all at once and complete. And we do not focus just on the form of the deity, but clearly bring to mind its nature as well. The mind has many different abilities. Usually it is muddling around thinking of various things, and we should reduce this as much as we can so that our mind is not trapped in our usual world, especially when envisioning a deity such as Tara or Avalokiteshvara. When focusing on their essential nature, it would be strange if they manifested with all sorts of thoughts, such as anger or jealousy. If we can reverse our attachment to the ordinary, it will allow new and pure appearances to arise. The empowerment of the noble body allows us to meditate on the deity’s form; the empowerment of the deity’s speech allows us to recite their mantra, and the empowerment of the deity’s mind allows for meditating in samadhi.”
For a report on the Tāra empowerments given by the 17th Karmapa in 2018 as part of the Knowing One Liberates All cycle, see here.
Written and transcribed by Adele Tomlin, 7th June 2022.
For more research and translations on Tārā, see the website section here.
APPENDIX – Three main Tārā lineages
There are three main lineages and depictions of Tārā in Tibetan Buddhism. For more details about that see the Himalayan Arts website here.
From the tantra known as the ‘Twenty-One Praises of Tara’ spoken by the Buddha Samantabhadra arises the system of practice with Twenty-one Tara emanations – one for each verse of praise. Each form of Tara has a specific colour and accomplishes a specific activity. Based on that, there are three well known and distinct lineages for the different sets of Twenty-one Taras.
The Suryagupta (Ravigupta) Tradition has many forms of Tārā. The two most famous are the Seventeen Deity Tara Mandala and the system of Twenty-one Tārās.
- ATISHA TRADITION
In the Atisha system all the Tārās appear in the same basic appearance and only differ in the colour of the body. Green is considered the primary colour of Tārā based on other teaching lineages describing Tara in solitary form or with the accompanying deities Marichi and Ekajati. However green is not included in the enumeration of the Twenty-one Tārās of Atisha. There are four red Tārās, six white, three yellow, four orange, two maroon (red-black) and two black Tārās for a total of 21.
- LONGCHEN NYINGTIG
Then there is the Longchen Nyingtig Tradition popularized by Jigme Lingpa is very similar to the system of the Atisha Twenty-one Taras. In the Longchen system the figures have a single face and two arms with the right hand and leg extended forward. Held in the left hand, blossoming over the left shoulder, is a flower supporting a symbolic attribute for each of the twenty-one Taras.
As I mentioned before in relation to Tāranātha’s Commentary on the 21 Tārās (see here), Green Tārā appears in the Suryagupta lineage of Tārās but not in the Atisha one (in which the main one is red).
 Several months ago, a follower of this website informed me that this text re-appeared in 1975 in Rumtek as a gift given by the 16th Karmapa to an English-Canadian Namgyal Rinpoche whom the 16th Karmapa is said to have recognized as long awaited reincarnation of great Mipham Rinpoche, The same person kindly sent me an English text said to have been be translated by Gelongma Palmo (Freda Bedi) the first female translator of the Gyalwang Karmapas. However, as there was no Tibetan with it, and the English translation was very different (in content and meaning) from the Tibetan text written by the 1st Karmapa, I have done my own translation from the original Tibetan text contained in 1st Karmapa’s Collected Works. For more on the translations of Gelongma Palmo for 16th Karmapa, see here.
 The text can be found in an edition of the Collected Works of the Karmapas. sgrol ma lha lnga’i skor las sgrol ma lha lnga’i rgya gzhung / karma pa sku phreng rim byon gyi gsung ‘bum phyogs bsgrigs/ Volume 1 Pages 359 – 363.
 According to Miranda Shaw, “Motherhood is central to the conception of Tara”. Her titles include “loving mother”, “supreme mother”, “mother of the world”, “universal mother” and “mother of all Buddhas” (316-317).
 There are ten extant versions of the original Green Tārā Nāgārjuna text in various Tengyur editions, preserved by the BDRC online, This 1st Karmapa sadhana of Tārā from Acacia Forest, together with four other deities (five-deity Tārā) was said to be one of few main practices of Dusum Khyenpa.
 Also interestingly it is said that the Green Tārā practice from Tilopa went to Nāropa and Nāropa gave it to his Indian disciples (not Marpa) and gradually it came into the Sakya lineage.
 In Bodh Gaya, at the 32nd Kagyu Monlam, the 17th Karmapa gave the peaceful deities empowerments from this cycle by the 9th Karmapa. During that initiation, the Karmapa gave some some background information for the cycle―its traditions, structure, and the present Karmapa’s connection to it and how he recovered the protector sections of it , reported in full here:
Depending on the capacity and inclinations of beings, the Buddha taught various types of dharma, which can be subsumed into two categories, the sutras and the tantras. The key difference between these two is the initiations given in the tantric tradition. The tantras are further divided into four main types: kriya, charya, yoga, and anuttara yoga, each one of which has its own special empowerments. The Hevajra initiation, for example, has a particular structure and way of being given. In order to receive these initiations and their practices, many Tibetan masters travelled to India, and in turn, Indian masters came to Tibet to bestow them. In doing so, the masters transmitted the specific view, initiation, and practice related to each individual deity.
It was difficult, however, to receive this immense variety of initiations, and so collections were made. Two famous ones came from India. The realized master Mitra Yogi gathered one hundred initiations into a text known as “The Hundred of Mitra” (Mitra brGya rtsa), which was translated into Tibetan by Rinjung Zhiwa and known as “The Hundred of Rinjung” (Rin byung brGya rtsa). Another Indian compilation was made by Abhayakara (Mijikpay Jungne,Mi ‘jigs pa’i ‘byung gnas) and known in Tibetan as “The Ocean of Sadhanas,” (sGrub thabs rGya mtsho).Compendia of initiations were also created in Tibet, such as Jamgön Kongtrul Lodro Thaye’s “Precious Treasury of Termas.”
The Ninth Karmapa’s initiation text “Knowing One Liberates All”and Mitra Yogi’s text of one hundred initiations differ from other collections that have specific initiations for each deity. In”Knowing One Frees All,”the ways of bestowing the initiations are the same: a template serves as a basis for giving the initiations, while the names of the deities are changed. This stable framework is what the One in the title points to. The practices, however, are different depending on the deity. (Recently, they have been translated into English and Chinese, so that disciples may do a practice to which they feel a special connection.)
It seems that this type of compilation created by the Ninth Karmapa is unique in Tibet. Why so? In his ‘Introduction to A Compendium of the Classes of Tantra’, the Sakya scholar Loter Wangpo (a disciple of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodro Thaye) explained that it takes a very special lama to bring together so many initiations and distil them into one. First of all, the lama must have realization, and secondly, the yidam deities must give their permission. And in order to receive these initiations, a disciple must have received an empowerment from one of the four classes of tantra. To make sure that this happens and to show his great respect for the Sakya tradition, the Karmapa invited His Holiness Sakya Trizin to bestow an initial empowerment from his own tradition of the highest kriya tantras.
Turning to the text itself, it is divided into three sections:(1) the practices of the peaceful deities known as “The Garland of the Peaceful Ones;” (2) the practices of the fierce deities, known as “The Garland of the Fierce Ones;” and (3) the protector practices known as “The Garland of Lightning.” At Palpung Monastery in Eastern Tibet, the Eleventh Situ Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo (1886–1952) made a wood block print of “Knowing One Frees All” but it did not include the protector section. When the Sixteenth Karmapa gave the initiations to his four heart sons, he gave the protector section from a text, handwritten in ume script, which subsequently disappeared. So when Situ Rinpoche offered the initiations to the present Karmapa, he could only offer the first two sections. To keep the transmission of the protector practices unbroken, the Karmapa had searched for them extensively. In 2007, when he met with Shamar Rinpoche in Delhi, the Karmapa asked him to share a copy of these initiations if he had one. Shamar Rinpoche replied that he would go back and look, but nothing ever came of it.
The Karmapa then heard that Yuthok Khenpo was going to Tibet and asked him to search for the text. When he arrived there, Yuthok Khenpo asked around and discovered that a lama in Eastern Tibet had a copy. Yuthok Khenpo travelled there, found the lama, and made a photocopy, which came into the Karmapa’s hands about a month ago, in November of 2014. Once the Karmapa receives these protector empowerments, he will have received the entire range of empowerments from his own tradition as well as many from other schools.
4 thoughts on “GREEN TĀRĀ OF THE ACACIA FOREST (Sengdeng Nagki) AND THE FIVE-DEITY TĀRĀ MANDALA OF FIRST KARMAPA: Overview of Green Tārā origin and lineage and new translation of Five Deity Green Tārā short daily practice from 1st Karmapa’s ‘Five sets of Five’”
Thank you Adele for your efforts in pulling all of this material together from so many different sources and making these teachings, traditions and practices so accessible for the average non-academic layperson or ordinary everyday practitioner with an interest in these profound topics. There is no question in my mind that the actual practice and veneration of Tara can be totally mind and life transforming. To have a living tradition of these practices with unbroken human lineages passed on from ‘mouth to ear’ over so many thousands of years is truly miraculous. As far as I am aware there is nothing comparable to this in any other present day culture, excepting perhaps the closed and secret traditions of the various Brahmin family blood lineages. In contrast to the latter how fortunate we are that the Tibetan Buddhist vajrayana masters have completely opened up their priceless treasury of profound and eminently practical teachings to the world at large. In that regard Adele you are providing an invaluable service to the average Western person who is neither scholar nor monastic but nonetheless retains an abiding interest in these ultimately highest of spiritual teachings. Your diligent academic research, distillation and colourful as well as musical presentations of the myriads of Dharma topics covered on your Dakini Translations website are truly a ‘tour de force’ worthy of Tara’s blessings.
Wow, Paul, a ‘tour de force’! High praise indeed, thank you! 🙂 Such inspiring words and encouragement are always welcome and happy to hear people such as yourself find it valuable and beneficial. You have totally got what am trying to do with this website and work, share the Dharma in a way that is profound, thorough yet also accessible, colourful and alive. No po-faced, serious ‘scholarly’ energy here….well maybe a little bit now and again, to keep the scholars happy ha ha ha Am very happy to hear that you think it is hitting the target!
I agree with what you say about the treasure that are these lineage teachings and Tara is a liberator and mind-transforming indeed. Love and warm wishes, Sarva Mangalam!
Thanks so much for this discussion of Green Tara of the Acacia Forest. I received this empowerment from my Guru Vajradhara Tai Situ Rinpoche. I also have done retreats on both the outer and inner practices of the Zabtik Drolchok cycle. Since I also give teachings on Tara at Kalu Rinpoche’s center in Santa Fe, NM (www.nobletruth.org) as well as Kagyu Mila Guru Stupa in Questa NM, the information here will be invaluable to my students.
Hello Fred, many thanks for your kind comments here. Happy to hear it is of benefit! Do let me know if I can be of any assistance further.