White Tara is often referred to as the Mother of all the Buddhas. She represents the motherly aspect of compassion. Her white color indicates purity, but also indicates that she is Truth, complete and undifferentiated.
She has seven eyes: the two usual eyes, plus an eye in the center of her forehead and eyes in each of her hands and feet. These indicate that she sees all suffering and all cries for help in the human world using both ordinary and psychic or extraordinary means of perception. They thus symbolize the vigilance of her compassion.
White Tara has a lovely, young face. Her ornaments are covered in jewels.
Her silk robes and scarves are painted in an exceptionally lively manner.
Her tight fitting garments are embossed with large, rich floral designs.
These filmy garments; bright gauzy silks fluttering from the shoulders and a
series of many hued silken skirts- leave the slender torso and smoothly
rounded breasts uncovered in the manner of ancient India. The whole effect
is so ravishing that she might well arouse the very passion she is
frequently invoked to calm, were it not that she inspires the kind of
exalted reverence a palace guard might be expected to feel for a young and
lovely princess entrusted to his care.
With her right hand she makes the boon granting gesture and her left hand,
holding the stem of a lotus flower between her thumb and fourth finger, is
in the protection position.
The elaborate lotus flower, held in the left hand is called Utpala. It
contains three blooms: the first, with seeds, symbolizes the past Buddha
Kashyapa; the second in full flower, symbolizes the present Buddha
Shakyamuni; and the third, ready to bloom, symbolizes the future Buddhas
Maitreya. This signifies that White Tara is the essence of all the three
Buddhas of the past, the present and the future.
She sits with both legs raised and crossed in the vajra (diamond) position
and regally displays both grace and calm.
Her incomparable beauty have inspired her worshippers to address her thus:
"Radiant as the eternal snows in all their glory, homage to the
Youthful One with full breasts, One face and two arms. And is filled with
White Tara is an emanation of Tara who is connected with longevity. She is
also the special goddess who helps her devotees overcome obstacles,
particularly impediments to the practice of religion.
Indeed in the vast expanse of Buddhist art the image of the White Tara with
her feminine charm and sophisticated imagery represents a superior
conception unparalleled in any other art tradition. Open to diverse
interpretations both on the sensual and spiritual planes, the White Tara has
inspired generations of devotee artists to achieve creative heights while
adhering to the strict iconographical cannons laid down in the ancient
texts, and in the process acquiring both spiritual merit and the boon of the
This description by Nitin Kumar, Executive Editor, Exotic India.
Beer, Robert. The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs. Boston:
Shambhala Publications, 1999.
Fisher, Robert E. Art of Tibet. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997.
Getty, Alice. The Gods of Northern Buddhism. New Delhi: Munshiram
Lipton, Barbara, and Ragnubs, Nima Dorjee. Treasures of Tibetan Art:
Collection of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1996.
Pal, Pratapaditya. Art of Tibet. Los Angeles: The Los Angeles County Museum
of Art, 1990.
Rhie, Marylin M. & Thurman, Robert A.F. Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred
Art of Tibet. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996.
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