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White Tara (Skt. Sita Tara: Tib. Drol-dkar) is the long-life aspect of the female deity Tara, the most popular Buddhist goddess of mercy and compassion. In her longevity aspect White Tara is also known as Saptalocana Tara, or 'seven-eyed' Tara. And as an important yidam or meditational deity in her own right she is know as 'Wish-fulfilling Wheel White Tara' (Skt. Chinta-chakra Sita Tara), which is the form in which she appears here. As one of the three principal Buddhist longevity deities White Tara also frequently appears in a trinity with red Amitayus and white Ushnishavijaya, and her meditational practices are mainly employed to confer long-life, alleviate illnesses, and to remove the obstacles that are indicative of an untimely death. Thangkas of White Tara or the 'Trinity of Long-Life Deities' are frequently commissioned for such purposes, or to auger an auspicious rebirth for a deceased relative or friend.
White Tara sits with her legs crossed in vajra-posture upon a white moon disc and an immaculate white lotus with a hundred or a thousand petals. She is graceful, beautiful and as youthful as a sixteen-year-old, with full breasts, a narrow waist, and a sweetly smiling face. Her complexion is radiant and white like a full autumnal moon, and behind her back her aura manifests as the white disc of a full autumnal moon encircled within an arc or rainbow light.
Her divine form is adorned with seven bow-shaped eyes, with the three eyes of her face representing the perfection of her body, speech and mind, and the four eyes in her palms and soles representing the 'four immeasurables' of her boundless compassion, loving kindness, sympathetic joy, and perfect equanimity. With lowered right hand at the level of her knee she makes the boon-granting varada-mudra of supreme generosity. And with her left hand she makes the abhaya-mudra of protection or granting refuge, while she holds the stem of an immaculate blue utpala or 'night-lotus' in front of her heart. The main blossom of this lotus, with its small blue seed-pod and pink bud appearing on stems above, represent the Buddhas of the three times – present, past and future.
Tara wears the five divine silk garments of a sambhogakaya goddess, and the eight gold and jeweled ornaments of: earrings; a belt; bracelets, armlets and anklets; and short, medium and long necklaces. Half of her long sapphire-black hair is bound up into a topknot, while the other half hangs freely about her back and shoulders. Her golden tiara is adorned with five divine flowers and jewels, and on the crown of her head sits the small image of red Amitabha Buddha, the 'Lord of the Padma or Lotus Family' to which White Tara belongs.
A canopy of delicate flowers and leaves encircles the lower arcs of Tara's luminous full-moon aura, with banks of drifting cumulous clouds crowning the mountain peaks and upper sky of this composition. Her lotus-seat arises from the waters of a lotus lake, with dew drops adorning the leaves of its main stem, and two open blue lotuses appearing in the foreground. Jewel offerings appear in the two lower corners, with elephant tusks, red coral, and a mounted wish-granting gem in the left corner.
© text by Robert Beer