The Dhāraṇī “Tārā’s Own Promise”
Degé Kangyur vol. 101 (gzungs ’dus, waM), folios 160.a–160.b.
Translated by Samye Translations
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The Dhāraṇī “Tārā’s Own Promise” is, as the title suggests, framed as a promise made by the goddess Tārā. Tārā, whose name can be translated as “Savior,”1 is revered in diverse Buddhist communities as a deity who quickly responds to the needs of all in the face of worldly and spiritual dangers.
The worship of Tārā in India can be traced back to at least the sixth century, and since that time the goddess has gained increasingly important status in the Buddhist pantheon.2 Tibetan histories recount that worship and practice of the deity Tārā was introduced to Tibet as early as the seventh century via a sandalwood statue brought by the Nepalese princess Bhṛkuṭī as dowry for her marriage to the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.3 While a few texts dedicated to Tārā were translated in the following centuries,4 it is believed that the worship of Tārā did not take firm root in Tibet until the eleventh century, when it was actively promoted by Atīśa.5
The Dhāraṇī “Tārā’s Own Promise” can be divided into two parts: the dhāraṇī and a statement of its benefits. The dhāraṇī itself was not translated into Tibetan but was instead preserved in transliterated Sanskrit. The Tibetan text lacks a colophon, so the Tibetan translators and editors of the dhāraṇī remain unidentified.
This work is cataloged in the Degé Kangyur6 as part of a cycle of eight Kriyātantra (bya rgyud) texts (Toh 724–731) dedicated to the goddess Tārā. The dhāraṇī recorded here is also preserved in Butön Rinchen Drup’s (bu ston rin chen grub, 1290–1364) Dhāraṇī Collection (gzungs bsdus) from his Collected Works (gsung ’bum),7 and is found in a short Sanskrit ritual manual collected in the Sādhanamālā and preserved in Tibetan translation as The Instructions on the Ritual of Blessed Āryatārā from the Essence of Amitābha Tantra (Amitābhagarbhatantre bhagavatyāryatārāyāḥ kalpoddeśaḥ, Toh 3501).8 The colophon to the Tibetan translation states that this dhāraṇī is an extract from The Supreme Vajra Tantra (rdo rje mchog gi brgyud), while the colophon to Toh 3501 and the Sanskrit witness in the Sādhanamālā state that it comes from the Amitābhagarbhatantra.9 There are, however, no extant texts with either of these titles.
In attempting to establish the text of the dhāraṇī presented here, we have consulted the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) Kangyur and Butön’s Dhāraṇī Collection. The texts preserved in the Sādhanamālā edition and in the Tengyur are generally similar to each other, but they differ in a few significant ways from the dhāraṇī found in the present text. Our own rendering, therefore, is based on the best available Kangyur readings but also includes conjectures informed by the Sādhanamālā text and related Sanskrit manuscripts. The English translation of the verses following the dhāraṇī are based on the Tibetan version in the Degé Kangyur collection, in consultation with the variant readings recorded in the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) Kangyur.
tad yathā | oṁ tāre tārāyai hūṁ hūṁ hūṁ samayasthite bhara bhara sarvābharaṇavibhūṣite padme padme10 mahāpadmāsanasthite hasa hasa trailokyavarade sarvadevadānavapūjite smarāhi bhagavati tāre smarāhi bhagavatas11 tathāgatasya purataḥ samayaṃ dhara dhara mahāsattvāvalokite maṇikanakavicitrābharaṇe | oṁ vilokāya (insert name)12 bhagavati13 tāre hrīṁ hrīṁ hrīṁ phaṭ svāhā |14
By merely recalling this dhāraṇī all dangers will be eliminated, all accomplishments will be attained, and all sentient beings will be brought under control. [F.160.b] On the eighth or fifteenth day of the moon, make vast offerings to Noble Tārā and then recite this dhāraṇī until you perceive Tārā directly. Whatever you desire will be given to you, and all boons will be granted. If you are not given these things, I will have committed the five acts with immediate retribution; but otherwise, immeasurable benefits will come.
This was extracted from The Supreme Vajra Tantra.
This text, Toh 1002, and all those contained in this same volume (gzungs, waM), are listed as being located in volume 101 of the Degé Kangyur by the Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC). However, several other Kangyur databases—including the eKangyur that supplies the digital input version displayed by the 84000 Reading Room—list this work as being located in volume 102. This discrepancy is partly due to the fact that the two volumes of the gzungs ’dus section are an added supplement not mentioned in the original catalog, and also hinges on the fact that the compilers of the Tōhoku catalog placed another text—which forms a whole, very large volume—the Vimalaprabhānāmakālacakratantraṭīkā (dus ’khor ’grel bshad dri med ’od, Toh 845), before the volume 100 of the Degé Kangyur, numbering it as vol. 100, although it is almost certainly intended to come right at the end of the Degé Kangyur texts as volume 102; indeed its final fifth chapter is often carried over and wrapped in the same volume as the Kangyur dkar chags (catalog). Please note this discrepancy when using the eKangyur viewer in this translation.
sgrol ma rang gis dam bcas pa’i gzungs (*Tārāsvapratijñānāmadhāraṇī). Toh 730, Degé Kangyur vol. 94 (rgyud, tsha), folios 222.a–222.b.
sgrol ma rang gis dam bcas pa’i gzungs (*Tārāsvapratijñānāmadhāraṇī). Toh 1002, Degé Kangyur vol. 101 (gzungs, waM), folios 160.a–160.b.
sgrol ma rang gis dam bcas pa’i gzungs. bka’ ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Kangyur], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 108 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 2006–2009, vol. 94, pp. 594–96.
’od dpag med kyi snying po’i rgyud las bcom ldan ’das ma ’phags ma sgrol ma’i rtog pa gsung pa (Amitābhagarbhatantre bhagavatyāryatārāyāḥ kalpoddeśa) [The Instructions on the Ritual of Blessed Āryatārā from the Essence of Amitābha]. Toh 3501, Degé Tengyur vol. 77 (rgyud, mu), folio 153.a.
spyan ras gzigs yum gi gzungs (Avalokiteśvaramātādhāraṇī). Toh 725, Degé Kangyur vol. 94 (rgyud, tsha), folios 200.b–202.a; Toh 909, Degé Kangyur vol. 100 (gzungs, e), folios 240.a–241.b. English translation in Samye Translations (2021).
pho brang stod thang ldan dkar gyi chos kyi ’gyur ro cog gi dkar chag [Denkarma]. Toh 4364, Degé Tengyur vol. 206 (sna tshogs, jo), folios 294.b–310.a.
lha mo sgrol ma’i mtshan brgya rtsa brgyad pa (Tāradevīnāmāṣṭaśataka). Toh 728, Degé Kangyur vol. 94 (rgyud, tsha), folios 219.a–222.a.
Bhattacharyya, Benoytosh, ed. The Sādhanamālā Vol I. Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1925.
Butön Rinchen Drup (bu ston rin chen grub). “sgrol ma ’jigs pa brgyad skyob kyi sngags.” In gsung ’bum rin chen grub [Collected Works], vol. 16 (ma), folio 218.b. Lhasa: zhol par khang, 2000.
Beyer, Stephan. The Cult of Tārā: Magic and Ritual in Tibet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.
Herrmann-Pfandt, Adelheid. Die lHan kar ma: ein früher Katalog der ins Tibetische übersetzten buddhistischen Texte. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2008.
Landesman, Susan. “Goddess Tārā: Silence and Secrecy on the Path to Enlightenment.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 24, no. 1 (Spring 2008): 44–59.
Samye Translations, trans. The Dhāraṇī “The Mother of Avalokiteśvara” (Avalokiteśvaramātādhāraṇī, Toh 725, 909). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2021.
Obermiller, Eugéne, trans. and ed. History of Buddhism (Chos ḥbyung) by Bu-ston. Vol. 2, The History of Buddhism in India and Tibet. Materialien zur Kunde des Buddhismus 19. Heidelberg: O. Harrassowitz, 1932.
Samye Translations, trans. The Hundred and Eight Names of the Goddess Tārā (Toh 728). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2022.
Sonam Gyaltsen. The Clear Mirror: A Traditional Account of Tibet’s Golden Age. Translated by Taylor McComas. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1996.
Stevens, Rachael. “Red Tārā: Lineages of Literature and Practice.” PhD diss., Oxford University, 2010.
- a ti sha
- khro gnyer can
- lha ma yin
five acts with immediate retribution
- mtshams med pa lnga
- srong btsan sgam po
- sgrol ma