DasaMahaVidyas - III
Tara is not only an important Hindu Goddess; she is also one of the most important Buddhist Goddesses. The Bodhisattva Tara is the consort of the great Buddha Avalokiteshvara, the Lord who looks down with compassion on all living beings.

The term Tara means the deliverer or savior, from the Sanskrit root tri, meaning "to take across," as to take across a river, the ocean, a mountain, or any difficult situation. The Goddess Tara is called upon in emergencies or at crossroads where we require guidance as to which way to turn. Tara is the saving knowledge. She is the Savior. The idea of the Goddess as saving wisdom is as old as the Vedas, and is a common idea in many spiritual traditions.Tara is the feminine form of Om or Om personified as a Goddess. Tara is the unmanifest sound that exists in the ether of consciousness, through which we can go beyond the entire manifestation. Tara is Om that has the appearance of the ether and which pervades the ether as its underlying vibratory support, but also transcends it. Om is the unmanifest field behind creation, which is the destroyer as well as the creator of the universe.

Tara is the purifying force of the vital breaths. Sound that manifests in the ether is the same as the Prana (life-force) that manifests in the ether. Breath is the primal sound of life, and the sound of the breath is the original, spontaneous and unuttered mantra (So' ham). Both mind and Prana, as word and vibration, have their root in sound. Hence the use of sound or mantra both purifies and energizes the mind.

Tara is the radiance of knowledge that arises from the differentiation of meanings through sound. Different sounds serve as vehicles whereby different ideas or meanings flash forth. Om is the underlying light that illumines these different sounds and allows meaning to flow through them. All meanings exist to reintegrate us into the ocean of meaning that is pure consciousness itself.

Tara, like Kali,is deep blue in color. She has matted hair, wears a garland of human heads, and has eight serpents for her ornaments. She is dancing on a corpse, has four arms and carries in her four hands a sword or head chopper, a scissors, a severed head and a lotus.

Origin
The oral tradition gives an origin to the goddess Tara. The legend begins with the churning of the ocean between the Devas and Asuras. Lord Shiva drank the poison (Halahala) that was created from the churning of the ocean (in the process turning his throat blue and earning him the epithet Nilakantha), thus saving the world from destruction, but fell unconscious under its powerful effect. Tara Ma appeared and took Shiva on her lap. She suckled him, the milk from her breasts counteracting the poison, and he recovered. This story is reminiscent of the one in which Shiva stops the rampaging Kali by becoming an infant. Seeing the child, Kali's maternal instinct comes to the fore, and she becomes quiet and nurses the infant Shiva. In both cases, Shiva assumes the position of an infant vis--vis the Goddess.

The similarities in appearances between Kali and Tara are striking and unmistakable. They both are described as standing upon a supine Shiva in inert or corpse like form. However, while Kali is described as black, Tara is described as blue. Both wear minimal clothing; however Tara wears a tiger skin skirt, while Kali wears only a girdle of severed human arms. Both wear a necklace of severed human heads and the previously mentioned girdle of arms. Both have a lolling tongue, and blood oozes from their mouths. Their appearances are so strikingly similar that it is easy to mistake one for the other. Indeed, they are often said to be manifestations of each other; for example, in their thousand-name hymns they share many epithets as well as having each other's names. Tara, for example, is called Kalika, Ugra-kali, Mahakali, and Bhadra-kali. Tara is said to be more approachable to the devotee (Bhakta) or Tantrika because of her maternal instincts; however a large population of Bengali Hindus approach Kali herself as "Ma" or "mother".


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