The Tantra on the Origin of All Rites of Tārā, Mother of All the Tathāgatas
- Chökyi Sangpo
Degé Kangyur, vol. 94 (rgyud ’bum, tsha), folios 202.a–217.a
Translated by Samye Translations
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
Warning: Readers are reminded that according to Vajrayāna Buddhist tradition there are restrictions and commitments concerning tantra. Practitioners who are not sure if they should read this translation are advised to consult the authorities of their lineage. The responsibility for reading this text or sharing it with others who may or may not fulfill the requirements lies in the hands of readers.
In this scripture of the Action Tantra genre, the Buddha gives instructions to the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī on the rituals and mantras associated with the goddess Tārā. The tantra includes a description of Tārā, a nine-deity maṇḍala and related initiations, and a litany of ritual practices associated with the four activities.
Translated by Samye Translations under the guidance of Phakchok Rinpoche. The translation was produced by Laura Dainty with the assistance of Khenpo Tsöndrü Sangpo. Oriane Lavolé checked the translation against the Tibetan and edited it. Paul Thomas checked all the mantras and their variants. Stefan Mang and Oriane Lavolé wrote the introduction.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The Tantra on the Origin of All Rites of Tārā, Mother of All the Tathāgatas (hereafter The Tārā Tantra), is a tantra of the Action Tantra (Kriyātantra) class that offers a wealth of instructions on the rites associated with the goddess Tārā. Tārā, whose name can be translated as “Savior,” is revered in diverse Buddhist communities for her ability to quickly respond to the needs of supplicants facing worldly and spiritual dangers. The worship of Tārā in India can be traced to at least the sixth century ᴄᴇ, and since at least that time Tārā has become one of the most popular deities in the Buddhist pantheon.1
In the Degé Kangyur, The Tārā Tantra is part of a set of eight action tantras specifically dedicated to the goddess Tārā.2 In his Introduction to the Buddhist Tantric Systems (rgyud sde spyi’i rnam par gzhag pa rgyas par brjod pa), Khedrup Jé (mkhas grub rje, 1385–1438), a close disciple of Tsongkhapa (tsong kha pa, 1357–1419), singles out The Tārā Tantra as the most important Tārā tantra of the genre in Tibet at the time.3
The Tārā Tantra is framed as a dialogue between the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī and the Buddha Śākyamuni that is divided into thirty-five chapters on specific themes and ritual topics. Chapter 1 opens with a description of the location and audience, followed by the invocation of the goddess Tārā and her arrival. Chapter 2 focuses on the initial worship of Tārā, which is followed in chapter 3 by a presentation of the famous Praise to Tārā with Twenty-One Verses of Homage.4 Chapters 4 and 5 describe a maṇḍala of nine Tārās and their respective initiations. Chapter 6 presents a veritable catalog of ritual instructions and a long list of mantras. Chapters 7 to 11 are concerned with the rituals for accomplishing the four activities: pacifying (śānti), increasing (pauṣṭika), enthralling (vaśīkaraṇa), and assaulting (abhicāra). Chapters 12 to 16 establish Tārā as the mother of each of the five buddha families, and chapter 17 describes a fire offering ritual. The following seventeen chapters (18–34) provide brief instructions on making talismanic circles (cakra) for such purposes as protection, enhancement, and the expulsion of enemies. The final chapter (35) provides a versified list of the samayas and vows for these rites.5 Taken together, the topics of The Tārā Tantra serve as a comprehensive collection of rites that take Tārā as their primary deity. As the Tibetologist Stephan Beyer pointed out in his overview of the cult of Tārā, The Tārā Tantra “is the closest thing we have to a complete textbook on the practice of Tara’s [sic] cult.”6
There is, at present, no known Sanskrit witness for The Tārā Tantra, nor is there an extant Chinese translation. It is also not recorded in the Denkarma (ldan dkar ma) or Phangthangma (’phang thang ma ) inventories of translations compiled in ninth-century Tibet. According to its colophon, The Tārā Tantra was translated by the Tibetan translator Chökyi Sangpo (chos kyi bzang po) and the Indian scholar Dharmaśrīmitra. Stephan Beyer argues that the name of this Tibetan translator corresponds to the translator Chel Lotsāwa Chökyi Sangpo (dpyal lo tsā ba chos kyi bzang po, d. 1216), a contemporary of Śākyaśrībhadra (1127–1225) during the latter’s sojourn in Tibet (1204–13).7 The English translation presented here is based on the Tibetan version in the Degé Kangyur, in consultation with the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) and the Stok Palace Kangyur edition. The text has previously been introduced and translated into English by Martin Willson.8
|K||Kangxi (Peking late 17th c.)|
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Namaskaraikaviṃśatistotra. GRETIL edition input by Klaus Wille, based on the edition by Godefroy de Blonay: Matériaux pour servir à l’histoire de la déesse Tāra. Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études 107. Paris: Émile Bouillon, 1895: 58–60.
Namaskaraikaviṃśatistotra. GRETIL edition input by members of the Sanskrit Buddhist Canon Input Project, based on the edition by Janardan Shastri Pandey: Bauddha Stotra Saṁgraha. Varanasi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1994: stotra no. 5.
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de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi yum sgrol ma las sna tshogs ’byung ba zhes bya ba’i rgyud (Sarvatathāgatamātṛtārāviśvakarmabhavanāmatantra). Toh 726, Degé Kangyur vol. 94 (rgyud, tsha), folios 202.a–217.a.
de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi yum sgrol ma las sna tshogs ’byung ba zhes bya ba’i rgyud. 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), 2006–9, vol. 94, pp. 517–54.
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sgrol ma la phyag ’tshal nyi shu rtsa gcig gis bstod pa (Namastāraikaviṃśatistotra) [Praise to Tārā with Twenty-One Verses of Homage]. Toh 438, Degé Kangyur vol. 81 (rgyud, ca), folios 42.b–43.b. English translation in Samye Translations 2020.
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Samye Translations, trans. (2020). Praise to Tārā with Twenty-One Verses of Homage (Namastāraikaviṃśatistotra, Toh 438). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2020.
———(2021). The Dhāraṇī of Tārā (Tārādhāraṇī, Toh 729). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2021.
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