Tārā Who Protects from the Eight Dangers
Degé Kangyur, vol. 94 (rgyud, tsha), folios 222.b–224.b.
Translated by Samye Translations
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
In this sūtra, the goddess Tārā warns the gods of the desire realm about the miseries of saṃsāra and offers a pithy Dharma teaching to free them from harm. Tārā begins by vividly portraying the various kinds of suffering endured by beings in each of the six realms of saṃsāra and then points out the futility of reciting mantras without maintaining pure conduct. She goes on to encourage the listeners to engage in virtue, which puts an end to saṃsāra, and she bestows on them a dhāraṇī that will help them to achieve this goal, a praise of her qualities, and a request for her divine protection that they should recite. Finally, she enjoins the audience to read and practice the teaching and share it with others.
Translated by Samye Translations under the guidance of Phakchok Rinpoche. The translation and introduction were produced by Stefan Mang and Peter Woods, and edited by Oriane Lavolé.
This translation has been completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
While the Buddha is dwelling on top of Mount Meru, along with the goddess Tārā and an assembly of gods, Tārā warns the divine gathering about the various kinds of suffering endured by beings in each of the six realms of saṃsāra. She explains that the fate of each being is the result of past negative actions and that virtuous conduct is the only way to avoid suffering in the future. Tārā describes the path to liberation using a series of evocative metaphors and also offers a sacred dhāraṇī as a means to help others achieve liberation from saṃsāra. She also outlines for recitation a praise of her myriad qualities, in particular of her ability to protect beings from the eight dangers. Finally, she encourages the audience to read, practice, and share this teaching widely.
The sūtra can be divided into three sections: (1) a concise teaching given by Tārā on the suffering of saṃsāra and the virtuous practices that will eradicate such suffering and lead to fortunate states; (2) a dhāraṇī that practitioners can employ as a method for advancing toward liberation;1 and (3) a praise to be recited to Tārā. In this third section, Tārā is praised as an awakened protectress2 and requested to keep those who petition her safe from the eight dangers. These dangers are identified in this text as lions, elephants, fire, snakes, robbers, waters, infectious diseases, and demons. These final verses, in which Tārā’s ability to protect beings from the eight dangers is described, are thus what lend the text its title.3
There is to our knowledge no extant Sanskrit version of this sūtra, nor is there a Chinese version recorded in the Taishō Buddhist Canon. It is also not found in the Denkarma (ldan dkar ma) or Phangthangma (’phang thang ma) Tibetan imperial translation inventories. The translation has no colophon, so we do not know who the translators were, nor do we have knowledge of any other circumstances surrounding the translation into Tibetan.4
The text has previously been introduced and translated into English by Martin Willson.5 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 Lhasa Kangyur edition.
oṁ tāre tuttāre ture sarvaduṣṭān praduṣṭān mama kṛte jambhaya stambhaya mohaya bandhaya hūṁ hūṁ hūṁ phaṭ phaṭ phaṭ svāhā |10
“Sons and daughters of noble family should write down this teaching, read it, recite it, understand it, contemplate it correctly, and explain it extensively to others.” [F.224.b]
At her words, the whole assembly rejoiced and offered praise.
’phags ma sgrol ma ’jigs pa brgyad las skyob pa’i mdo (*Āryatārāṣṭaghoratāraṇīsūtra). Toh 731, Degé Kangyur vol. 94 (rgyud, tsha), folios 222.b–224.b.
’phags ma sgrol ma ’jigs pa brgyad las skyob pa’i mdo (*Āryatārāṣṭaghoratāraṇīsūtra). Toh 731, Lhasa Kangyur vol. 90 (rgyud, na), folios 473.b–476.a.
’phags ma sgrol ma ’jigs pa brgyad las skyob pa’i mdo. 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. 597–602.
sgrol ma’i gzungs [The Dhāraṇī of Tārā]. Toh 729, Degé Kangyur vol. 94 (rgyud, tsha), folio 222.a. English translation in Samye Translations (2021).
sgrol ma’i gzungs [The Dhāraṇī of Tārā]. Toh 1001, Degé Kangyur vol. 102 (gzungs, waM), folio 160.a. English translation in Samye Translations (2021).
dam pa’i chos pad ma dkar po zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Saddharmapuṇḍarīkanāmamahāyānasūtra). Toh 113, Degé Kangyur vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1.b–180.b. English translation in (2018).
Bhattacharyya, Benoytosh, ed. Sādhanamālā: Vol I. Baroda: Central Library, 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.
Samye Translations, trans. The Dhāraṇī of Tārā. 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2021.
Roberts, Peter Alan, trans. The White Lotus of the Good Dharma Sutra. 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2018.
Shaw, Miranda. Buddhist Goddesses of India. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006.
Shin, Jae-Eun. “Transformation of the Goddess Tārā with Special Reference to Iconographical Features.” Indo Koko Kenkyu: Studies in South Asian Art and Archaeology 31 (2010): 17–31.
Willson, Martin. In Praise of Tara: Songs to the Saviouress. Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 1996.
- n+ya gro d+ha
A fast-growing fig tree that can quickly become a large tree. It features prominently in Indian stories and myths.
- sha za
A class of flesh-eating and shape-shifting demons.
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.
- ’jigs pa brgyad
- ’jigs pa brgyad
Listed in Tārā Who Protects from the Eight Dangers as lions, elephants, fire, snakes, robbers, waters, infectious diseases, and demons. A more common enumeration gives “imprisonment” rather than “infectious diseases.”
- 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 and so compelling that it could 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.
- dpag tshad
A measure of distance. The exact value varies in different sources, though typically it is between 6 and 14 km.
- ha lo
A flower belonging to the lcam pa family, a type of malva flower used in Tibetan medicine.
- ri rab
In Buddhist cosmology, the great mountain at the center of the universe.
- pha rol tu phyin pa
The trainings of the bodhisattva path. Most commonly listed as six: generosity, moral conduct, patience, diligence, concentration, and insight. Sometimes, such as in this text, an additional four are added: method, aspiration, strength, and wisdom.
- yi dwags
A class of beings who, in the Buddhist tradition, are particularly known to suffer from hunger and thirst and the inability to acquire sustenance.
Realm of gods atop Mount Meru
- ri rab kyi steng lha’i gnas
Likely refers to the Heaven of the Thirty-Three (Trāyastriṃśa, sum cu rtsa gsum), the second heaven of the desire realm situated on the summit of Mount Meru and presided over by thirty-three gods, of whom Śakra is the chief.
- sgrol ma
A goddess (lit. “Savior”) known for giving protection. She is variously presented in Buddhist literature as a great bodhisattva or a fully awakened buddha.
- ug chos
Incarvillea compacta maxim, an herb with pink trumpet-shaped flowers used in Tibetan medicine.
- rig sngags
A sacred utterance or spell made for the purpose of attaining either worldly or transcendent benefits.
- gshin rje
The lord of death who judges the dead and rules over the hells.