The Dhāraṇī “Tārā’s Own Promise”
Degé Kangyur vol. 94 (rgyud, tsha), folios 222.a–222.b.
Translated by Lhasey Lotsawa Translations and Publications
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
Translated by Lhasey Lotsawa Translations and Publications under the guidance of Phakchok Rinpoche. The translation and introduction were produced by Stefan Mang and reviewed and edited by Ryan Conlon.
The translation was completed 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. 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.
Note that there is a discrepancy among various databases for cataloging the Toh 1002 version of this text within vol. 101 or 102 of the Degé Kangyur. See Toh 1002, note 6, for details.
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 Lhasey Lotsawa Translations and Publications (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.
Lhasey Lotsawa Translations and Publications, 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.
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
The Indian master Atīśa Dīpaṅkaraśrījñāna (982–1054) is renowned in the history of Tibetan Buddhism for coming to Tibet and revitalizing Buddhism there during the early eleventh century.
- khro gnyer can
According to Tibetan historical sources, the Nepalese princess who married the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. She is believed to have arrived in Tibet in either 632 or 634.
- lha ma yin
As a subclass of asuras, dānavas are a class of nonhuman beings antagonistic to the devas (gods) and a consistently disruptive force in Indic mythology.
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.
Five acts with immediate retribution
- mtshams med pa lnga
Acts for which one will be reborn in hell immediately after death, without any intervening stages; they are (1) killing one’s master or father, (2) killing one’s mother, (3) killing an arhat, (4) maliciously drawing blood from a buddha, and (5) causing a schism in the saṅgha.
- srong btsan sgam po
617–650; a famous king from Tibet’s Imperial Period.
- sgrol ma
A goddess whose name can be translated as “Savior.” She is known for giving protection and is variously presented in Buddhist literature as a great bodhisattva or a fully awakened buddha.