While we often do not think of gods and deities when we think about Buddhism, the fact remains there are symbolic gods and goddesses in certain modes of Buddhist practice. This is most evident in Tibetan Buddhism where the Goddess Tara appears frequently in symbols and images. Those interested in the subject of Tibetan Buddhism would certainly benefit from taking a closer look at this particular goddess. Such an exploration would aid in gaining an understanding of what she represents. From this, a clearer understanding of what Tibetan Buddhism represents can also be derived.

Tara is considered a ‘savior goddess’ who impacts Buddhists on many different levels of her life. Such a facet makes her the most important all of the goddesses in Tibetan Buddhism. Mantras incorporating her name are among the most oft repeated mantras in all of Tibet. This alone can give an amazing insight into the popularity and importance of this goddess in the practice and study of Tibetan Buddhism.

As with other deities, Tara is conceived of a certain symbolism. Specifically, she is symbolic of virtue and compassion. These are two attributes that are necessary for the development of enlightenment which is why she is a goddess that is considered a vital guide for those that wish to seek the path to eternal spiritual enlightenment.

The Goddess Tara is often associated with success and achievement. In essence, she is symbolic of the life’s work of a committed and pious Buddhist. While Tara does appear in other modes of Buddhism, she is much more active in Tibetan Buddhism where she takes on the added dimension of a meditation deity. Through meditating on the concept of the Goddess Tara, one would hope to gain wisdom and insight into the human condition and how to evolve as a more fully realized being. (This contributed to the image of her as a savior) Since humans are complex creatures, the concept of the Goddess Tara divides into many different personifications.

Yes, there is also a duality present with the symbolism of the Goddess Tara. Specifically, there is both a Green Tara and a White Tara. Actually, there are other forms (and colors) in which the Goddess Tara embodies. Commonly, it is these two variants of the goddess which are considered the most impactful to worshippers. This is due to what each color modality represents.

Specifically, the White Tara is a symbol of compassion and calmness. Sometimes the symbolism of this goddess comes in the form of what is called a Wish Fulfilling Wheel. The Green Tara is a more active symbol as it represents the driven process of achieving enlightenment. Of course, you cannot have enlightenment without compassion or a state of calmness. So, you could consider both of these modes of the Goddess to be different sides of the same coin. This is a form of duality and universalism found in different concepts and practices of Buddhist theory, practice, and study. You will have parts of a whole that eventually fuse together to help create the eventually enlightened being. Green, in Tibetan Buddhism, is considered the color that contains all other colors so this notion of universal fusion is logical.

There is also further duality present in the drawings of the Green Tara and the White Tara. The White Tara is commonly presented as an older, motherly figure while the Green Tara is commonly presented as a very young woman. Some have said that this represents the mother-daughter dynamic of the same goddess. The mother imagery can also be called more divine than the daughter imagery which is considered more earthen and centered on dealing directly with – and saving – humans. Again, this is a replication of savior symbolism.

However, you could also look towards these two forms of the Goddess Tara to also be considered another form of the Yin and the Yang. That is, you cannot have a daughter without a mother so you cannot have the Green Tara without the White Tara. This would infer that there is a duality among the two of them that is infused into those that pray mantras to these goddesses. (Or singular Goddess if you prefer to look at them from the universalist perspective) This is certainly a positive thing since embodying the various components of the Green Tara and the White Tara greatly aids in the development of an understanding of the principles behind their symbolism. Namely, that they will always be present in some form and can hopefully guide those seeking enlightenment to their desired outcome.

Author's Bio: 

Sylvia Smelcer is the owner of e-commerce websites, including sites selling Green Tara thangkas, and sites selling Tara statues.