The Hundred and Eight Names of the Goddess Tārā
Degé Kangyur vol. 94 (rgyud ’bum, tsha), folios 219.a–222.a
Translated by Samye Translations
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
In this sūtra, the goddess Tārā recites a dhāraṇī before an assembly of gods, asuras, and spirits of various types, which brings them peace and stills their speech. The assembled beings then sing praise for Tārā in the form of one hundred and eight epithets of the goddess. Tārā gives a pithy teaching on the importance of seeking liberation and on the right attitude needed for this endeavor. Finally, the goddess gives encouragement and extols the power of the dhāraṇī.
This sūtra opens with an homage to the goddess Tārā, to whom the text is dedicated. Tārā immediately pronounces a dhāraṇī in front of an audience of gods, asuras, and spirits of various types. Awed by Tārā’s presence, they all praise her powers. In the central portion of the sūtra, the assembled beings offer homage and praise to Tārā in the form of a list of epithets of the goddess. At the end of this recitation, Tārā responds with some words of encouragement and gives a brief teaching on the path to liberation as well as on the importance of applying unwavering effort to cross over the ocean of cyclic existence. The text concludes with Tārā extolling the power of the dhāraṇī she previously pronounced, detailing its salvific effects, and praising those who uphold it. At the end of the sūtra, the audience is filled with joy, and we are told that their speech has been completely stilled.
The sūtra can be divided into three sections. The first section centers on the dhāraṇī. After a brief introduction, Tārā recites the dhāraṇī, “which had never been seen or heard before,” and we are told of its effect on the audience. The second section, which is the longest and constitutes the core of the text, is composed of the list of epithets of the goddess Tārā. These epithets are given in the form of thirty-five four-line verses, and it is not obvious how to count exactly 108 names in them. This list of names is quite different from the most well-known list of Tārā’s names found in One Hundred and Eight Names of the Noble Lady Tārā (Toh 727; rje btsun ma ’phags ma sgrol ma’i mtshan brgya rtsa brgyad pa). There is very little overlap in the epithets, but many of them echo similar themes related to Tārā’s forms, qualities, attributes, and activities. The third and final section takes the form of a pithy teaching given by Tārā to her audience.
Since this sūtra lacks a colophon, it offers no contextual information besides the original Sanskrit title. In particular, it is not known when or by whom it was translated into Tibetan. The Sanskrit text does not appear to be extant, and there do not appear to be any Indian or Tibetan authors who commented on it. The text was translated into Chinese by Fa Tian in the late tenth century under the title 聖多羅菩薩一百八名陀羅尼經 (Sheng duoluo pusa yibai ba ming tuoluoni jing, Taishō 1105). This sūtra has not been previously translated into any European language, and it has only been mentioned in passing in scholarly works on Tārā,1 which makes it a relatively unexplored text.
This English translation is based on the Tibetan version in the Degé Kangyur. The Comparative Edition (dpe sdur ma) Kangyur, the Stok Palace Kangyur, and the Phukdrak Kangyur were consulted for variant readings.
oṁ trailokyavijaya | acittajaya | aniracijataya | sujaya | vijaya | mahājaya | vijaya2 | jaya jaya | he he | smara smara | vara vara varada | mahādevi | vilasa | vilasa | vilasa | vaja amotakari vijayadevi | hī hī | kiṇi kiṇi3 vilambase | smara smara | mahāprajñā anipata | vajramahākāruṇika4 | bhagini hruṃ hruṃ | sphuṭa sphuṭa | sphoṭa sphoṭa | āveśaya āveśaya | dhuna dhuna | vidhuna vidhuna | kampa kampa | kampaya | surabhigandha | atisita | mukhe haladavala | saṃgarājana | vimavigi | vināśaya vināśaya | he bhagavati | santrāsaya5 vighanān | parivalāya asmākaṃ asmākaṃ | mādani mādani | saṃbodhaya | saṃmohaya | hara hara | hiri hiri | huru huru | vitakara | varaja | haṃ haṃ | trotāya | haṃ haṃ | santratāya | santroya | manta manta | marda marda | cara cara | saṃcara saṃcara | vega vega vegavati | namo namo namaḥ svāhā |6
This completes the dhāraṇī named “Supreme Tārā, the Hundred and Eight Names of the Goddess Tārā.”
lha mo sgrol ma’i mtshan brgya rtsa brgyad pa (Tārādevīnāmāṣṭaśataka). Toh 728, Degé Kangyur vol. 94 (rgyud, tsha), folios 219.a–222.a. Folio numbers in brackets refer to this edition.
lha mo sgrol ma’i mtshan brgya rtsa brgyad pa. 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. 582–91.
lha mo sgrol ma’i mtshan brgya rtsa brgyad pa. Stok Palace (stog pho brang) Kangyur vol. 107 (rgyud, ma), folios 122.a–126.a
rje btsun ma ’phags ma sgrol ma’i mtshan brgya rtsa brgyad pa. Toh 727, Degé Kangyur vol. 94 (rgyud, tsha), folios 217.a–219.a
Beyer, Stephan. The Cult of Tārā: Magic and Ritual in Tibet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.
Blonay, Godefroy de. Materiaux pour servir à l’histoire de la déesse buddhique Tārā. Paris, 1895.
Willson, Martin. In Praise of Tara: Songs to the Saviouress. Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 1996.
- lha ma yin
One of the six classes of sentient beings. The asuras are dominated by envy, ambition, and hostility, and they are incessantly embroiled in disputes with the gods. They are frequently portrayed in Brahmanical and Buddhist mythology as having a disruptive effect on cosmological and social harmony.
- spyan ras gzigs
Bodhisattva of compassion. One of the eight main bodhisattvas, the heart sons of the Buddha.
- gi’u wang
A yellowish, fragrant substance obtained from the solidified bile of elephants and cattle.
- ’byung po
A specific class of nonhuman supernatural beings, or a term for spirits in general.
- tshangs pa
A major deity in the Brahmanical pantheon presiding over a divine world where other beings consider him the creator. He is also considered to be the “Lord of the Sahā world” (our universe).
- tsam pa ka
A type of flower, often identified as Magnolia champaca.
- zla ba
The moon personified as a deity.
The term dhāraṇī has the sense of something that “holds” or “retains,” and as such can refer to the special capacity of practitioners to memorize and recall detailed teachings. It can also refer to a verbal expression of the teachings—an incantation, spell, or mnemonic formula that distills and “holds” essential points of the Dharma and is used by practitioners to attain mundane and supramundane goals. The same term is also used to denote texts that contain such formulae.
- mngon shes
Supernatural powers of perception gained through spiritual practice. Their number and type can vary, but they are traditionally given as a set of five: (1) miraculous abilities, (2) clairvoyance, (3) clairaudience, (4) knowledge of others’ minds, and (5) recollection of past lives.
- dri za
A class of generally benevolent nonhuman beings who inhabit the sky and are most renowned as celestial musicians.
- gang ga ma
The Brahmanical goddess identified with the Ganges River.
- ha la ha la
A mythical poison, blue in color, created from the churning of the ocean by the devas and asuras.
- ’dzam bu’i chu bo
A divine river whose gold is believed to be especially fine.
- ka la ping ka
In Buddhist literature refers to a mythical bird with the head of a human and the body of a bird. The kalaviṅka’s call is said to be far more beautiful than that of all other birds—so compelling that it can be heard even before the bird has hatched. The call of the kalaviṅka is also used as an analogy to describe the voice of the Buddha.
- dod pa’i lha
The god of love and desire in the Brahmanical pantheon. In Buddhist literature, he is often associated with Māra.
- mi’am ci
A class of nonhuman beings who are half human, half animal. Typically, their upper bodies are animal, and their lower bodies human. The term literally means “Is that human?” Kinnaras are celebrated for their celestial voices.
- lto ’phye chen po
Literally “large serpent.” A subterranean, semidivine being that takes the form of a large serpent, sometimes with a human torso and head.
A class of beings related to the demon Māra or a term for the demon Māra himself. Māra and the māras are portrayed as the primary adversaries and tempters of people who vow to take up the religious life. They can be understood as a class of demonic beings responsible for perpetuating the illusion that keeps beings bound to the world and worldly attachments and the mental states those beings elicit.
- sred med bu mo
Female form of Nārāyaṇa, which is another name for Viṣṇu.
- bdud rtsi
The divine nectar that prevents death, often used as a metaphor for the Dharma.
- nim pa
- skye dgu’i dbang phyug
The Vedic deity associated with the creation of humanity and the human world.
- srin po
A class of nonhuman beings that are often, but certainly not always, considered harmful and demonic in the Buddhist tradition.
- ’og pag
- dbang phyug
Major deity in the classical Indian religious traditions. He is sometimes portrayed as one part of the divine triad that also includes Brahmā and Viṣṇu.
- sgrol ma
Lit. “Savior.” Though often described as a goddess known for giving protection, she is variously presented in Buddhist literature as a great bodhisattva or a fully awakened buddha.
- sa bcu
The ten levels of a bodhisattva’s development into a fully awakened buddha.
- shes pa bcu
The ten knowledges, as given in the Abhidharmakośa, are (1) worldly knowledge, (2) the knowledge of phenomena (dharma), (3) inferential knowledge, (4) knowledge of suffering, (5) knowledge of the origin of suffering, (6) knowledge of the cessation of suffering, (7) knowledge of the path, (8) knowledge of others’ minds, (9) knowledge of exhaustion, and (10) knowledge of non-arising.
- pha rol tu phyin pa bcu
A set of practices to be mastered by those on the bodhisattva path: (1) generosity, (2) discipline, (3) patience, (4) diligence, (5) meditative concentration, (6) wisdom, (7) skillful means, (8) strength, (9) aspirations, and (10) knowledge.
- stobs bcu
A set of powers or qualities specifically possessed by a tathāgata: (1) the knowledge of what is possible and not possible; (2) the knowledge of the ripening of karma; (3) the knowledge of the variety of aspirations; (4) the knowledge of the variety of natures; (5) the knowledge of the different levels of capabilities; (6) the knowledge of the destinations of all paths; (7) the knowledge of various states of meditation (dhyāna, liberation, samādhi, samāpatti, and so on); (8) the knowledge of remembering previous lives; (9) the knowledge of deaths and rebirths; and (10) the knowledge of the cessation of defilements.
A type of blue flower often identified as a lotus or water lily.
- chu lha
Vedic deity of the waters (and sometimes the sky) who is also regarded as a protector of cosmic order.
- rgyal sras
A synonym for bodhisattvas.
- rig sngags ’chang
A class of semidivine being that is famous for wielding (dhara) spells (vidyā). Loosely understood as “sorcerers,” these magical beings are frequently petitioned through dhāraṇī and Kriyātantra ritual to grant magical powers to the supplicant. The later Buddhist tradition, playing on the dual valences of vidyā as “spell” and “knowledge,” began to apply this term to realized figures in the Buddhist pantheon. The term is often applied to practitioners of Buddhist ritual magic.
- rig sngags
A sacred utterance or spell made for the purpose of attaining either worldly or transcendent benefits.
- log ’dren
A class of nonhuman beings that deceive, harm, or otherwise obstruct humans, especially practitioners. Their name literally means “those who lead astray.”
- gnod sbyin
A class of nonhuman beings that haunt or protect natural places and cities. They can be malevolent or benevolent, and they are known for bestowing wealth and worldly boons, or, alternatively, for creating obstacles and causing harm. They are often represented as the attendants of the god of wealth.
- gshin rje
The Lord of Death who judges the dead and rules over the hells.