Four weeks ago, I took what I thought was a routine heart stress test — only to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance halfway through my test. A few days later, I would see Tara standing beside my hospital bed.
I wasn’t even going to do the stress test — but my family doctor insisted. I thought I had nothing more than heartburn. When I refused to go to emergency, he arranged for a rush stress test with a local cardiologist instead (He wouldn’t take no for an answer, thankfully — and somehow, I got an appointment with the specialist in 2 days!).
By Lee Kane, Editor
Halfway through the stress test, the cardiologist called an ambulance and insisted I go immediately to the hospital. I was to leave my car and keys behind. I ended up being rushed in for a quadruple bypass — a significant open heart surgery.
What has this got to do with Tara?
You must be thinking, what has this got to do with Tara? I have a special devotion to Tara, and often I think she looks after me — despite my streak of stubbornness. I had I not planned on going to the doctor — I have too much work to do! — but somehow, the flow of karma compelled me to go against my will. I could certainly put down the incidents that followed my ambulance ride, and the ambulance ride itself, to the kindness of my doctors, paramedics, nurses and healthcare providers (to whom I am eternally grateful.)
Yet, I have no doubt Tara helped me at every stage — as did my root guru Venerable Zasep Rinpoche who arranged Tara pujas and mantras when he found out about my ordeal. I’m not referring to miracles, necessarily. Tara’s compassion and activity manifest in the kindness of doctors, paramedics, volunteers, Buddhist teachers, and others. In my case, she manifested slightly more tangibly — although I’m sure many reading this will assume it was nothing more than anesthesia-induced dreams. (Even if it was, it in no way diminishes my faith that Tara helped me!)
Tara appears by my hospital bed
What did I see, specifically? While in the hospital, after my surgery, I woke in severe pain to see Green Tara beside my hospital bed. She was reaching out and touching me, reassuring me. I couldn’t breathe.
The image of Tara did fade, dissolving into another form, and I realized it was one of my kind nurses, Cindy. She had her trolly, with a portable light (it was 3 in morning, so she was trying not to wake other patients.) Perhaps it was the portable light and my groggy state and pain that induced a vision of Tara — but I think it was more than that. It was my own mind, connecting with Tara’s activity.
The nurse realized I was struggling, and she called for the doctor. Apparently, my lung had collapsed post-surgery, and they rushed to insert a painful drainage tube through my right side. (I can tell you, that hurt!)
Whether Cindy was motivated by Tara’s compassion and love or not, there is no doubt that Cindy, and the other nurses at Newmarket’s hospital are Bodhisattvas — in my mind, manifestations of Tara’s compassion and activity. I saw countless examples of their kindness and life-saving efforts during my 3 weeks in that hospital. Waking to see Tara by my bed was, perhaps, my own mind, informing me that Tara was there for me.
21 Praises to Tara:
Rewind to the ambulance
Although that was only time I saw Tara, the entire ordeal I was blessed by the compassionate activity of Tara, starting with the paramedics in the ambulance. No kidding — they did it all: reassuring me, testing me, talking to me non-stop — amazing compassion and kindness.
I was a little frightened you could say, suddenly being strapped onto a gurney, then into an ambulance — when all I thought I needed was some Pepto Bismol. They hooked me up to EKG, gave me nitroglycerine, and also put precautionary shock pads on me — in case the worst happened.
Of course, I was chanting Tara’s mantra — Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha — constantly in my mind and softly aloud. I had no idea I had a serious heart issue, let alone the need for open heart surgery. I had been planning to be back at my editorial desk that very afternoon.
Hours instead of days to surgery — was Tara helping me?
The ambulance ride was rough, but the two wonderful paramedics never stopped talking to me. One of them — another living Tara — after reading the EKG, phoned the hospital ahead and asked to speak to the Cardiology department. The other paramedic drove at full speed, since it was a 45-minute trip, and it was already rush hour. I was treated to a view of us whizzing past cars on the highway (out the back doors of the ambulance.) The paramedic on the phone spent fifteen minutes convincing them (rather forcefully, I have to admit) to admit me directly to cardiology, without delay.
You hear stories about how overworked the heroes of our healthcare system is — no doubt absolutely true — but these heroes still found a way to bypass emergency, getting me straight into Cardiology Critical Care. From there, within twenty minutes, I was trundled down for a non-invasive catheter procedure to see if stints would work. Stints weren’t an option, so within another couple hours I was told by a surgeon I needed open heart surgery and a quadruple bypass. Shortly after, I had my surgery — still in shock that I wasn’t just suffering from heartburn!
The whole thing was scary, of course — but I was amazed at how fast I was being treated. The ambulance ride, the catheter procedure, then almost right away to surgery! You hear about massive wait times at hospitals, but I somehow bypassed that experience. (Of course, it’s true, heart emergencies tend to be triaged ahead of less urgent cases.)
That alone, made me feel like Tara was with me.
Tara practices in a hospital bed
During the time I spent on my back in the hospital bed — unable to sleep and enduring constant pain — I found strength and healing in my Tara practice.
Fortunately, most practices, at this point, I have memorized. During my time, I silently whispered her mantra (so as not to disturb my roommate) and the 21 praises to Tara, and my daily Sadhana. I also did the Song of Longing for Tara daily (see below). Immersing myself in Her practice brought me strength, healing and reassurance.
Song of Longing for Tara recited by Jason Espada, with the 21 Taras praise:
What I practiced in the hospital: Song of Longing for Tara
Aside from Tara’s mantras and her 21 praises, I recited the Song of Longing for Tara from memory while in the hospital:
A Song of Longing for Tara, the Infallible, by Lama Lobsang Tenpey Gyaltsen
From my heart I bow to Divine Mother Tara, essence of love and compassion, the most precious objects of refuge gathered into one. From now until I reach enlightenment, hook me with your great love and kindness to liberate me.
By the witness of the Three Jewels, not just from my mouth but from the depths of my innermost heart and bones, I pray to you morning and evening. Show your blissful face to me, Loving One. Grant me the nectar of your speech.
Great gurus and small gurus cheat us with their made-up teachings, selling Dharma, teaching without comprehension, not observing who is qualified and who is not, being concerned about their own happiness and the eight worldly concerns. Since I can no longer trust friends of this degenerate age, you are my principal guru. Inspire me, Divine Mother, essence of love. Arouse the great power of your compassion and think of me.
I take refuge in you, Tara; like you, no Buddha could ever deceive me. But understanding the odd character of these times, most Buddhas have gone into the bliss of nirvana. Even though they have great compassion, we have no connection. Since for me there are no other deities, you are my principal deity. Bestow realizations upon me, Divine Mother, essence of love, arouse the great power of your compassion and think of me.
Most Dharma protectors do not show their powers. Tired of those who invoke them, they do not act. Other protectors, lacking insight but proud of their power, may be friendly for a while but will later do me harm. Since I cannot rely on other protectors, you are my principal protector. With divine action, Wisdom Mother, essence of love, arouse the great power of your compassion and think of me.
To ordinary view the names of objects are the same as their meaning. Like this, they produce afflictions and bind us to samsara. When it is time to die, unless I understand the true nature, could a wish-fulfilling gem enable me to carry even a sesame seed with me? Since I do not trust in illusions, you are my real richness. Please grant my desires, Divine Mother, essence of love. Arouse the great power of your compassion and think of me.
I cannot rely on non-virtuous friends for even a day. They pretend to be close to me and all the while they have in mind the opposite. They are friends when they wish it and enemies when they don’t. Since I cannot trust in this kind of friend, you are my best friend. Be close to me, Divine Mother, essence of love. Arouse the great power of your compassion and think of me.
You are my guru, my yidam, my protector, my refuge, my food, my clothes, my possessions, and my friend. Since your divine quality is everything to me, let me spontaneously achieve all that I wish.
Although I am overwhelmed by my habitual, uncontrolled mind, please cut off these self-centered thoughts so I will be able to give my body and my life millions of times without difficulty to each sentient being. Inspire me to be able to develop this kind of compassion to benefit all.
Empower me to cut the root of samsara, self-grasping, and to understand the pure doctrine, the most difficult Middle Way, free from the errors of extremes.
Inspire me to practice as a bodhisattva, turning away from what is worldly, dedicating all my virtues to teaching living beings, never for even one instant thinking of just my own happiness. Let me wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all. Empower me to actualize as much as possible the most subtle vows and to keep them without a careless mind, thus becoming the most perfect bodhisattva.
Outwardly, let me be simple in my practice, while inwardly, actualize the depth of the diamond vehicle with the strong wish to practice the two stages. Inspire me to attain enlightenment quickly for the benefit of all.
Divine Wisdom Mother Tara, you know everything about my life- my ups and downs, my good and bad. Think lovingly of me, my only mother.
I give myself and all who trust in me to you, Divine Wisdom Mother Tara. Being completely open to you, let us be born in the highest pure land. Set me there quickly with no births in between.
May the hook of your compassion and your skillful means transform my mind into Dharma and transform the minds of all beings, whoever they are. They have all been my mother, the mother of one unable to follow the Conqueror’s teachings.
By reciting this prayer three times a day and by remembering the Divine Wisdom Mother Tara, may I and all beings who are connected to me reach whatever pure land we wish.
May the Three Jewels and especially the Divine Wisdom Mother, whose essence is compassion, hold me dear until I reach enlightenment.
May I quickly conquer the four negative forces.
If, as long as you live, you recite this prayer three times every day, not just from the mouth (in words only) but strongly linked with your mind, you will have close connection and will see Tara’s face. No hindrances will be experienced and all wishes will be fulfilled. You will have a close relationship with all Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and they will hold you dear. If you recite the ‘Homage to the Twenty-one Taras’ and this prayer, you will attain the Divine Liberating Mother.
This prayer to Venerable Tara, in heart words making his own requests and also non-deceptive to others, was composed by the Buddhist monk Lobsang Tenpey Gyaltsen, in his nineteenth year, the Water Mouse year (1852), on the third day of the miracle month (second month of the lunar calendar) at Bengar Namgyal Ling. It is sure to have great benefit.
21 Praises to Tara
Chanted musically by Hrishikesh Sonar
Mantra of Tara
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha
Introductory praise to the mantra
Homage to Tara the Swift and Courageous,
You drive away all our fears with TUTTARE,
Saviouress fulfilling all aims with TURE,
With syllables SVAHA, we offer homage.
1. Heroic Red Tara
Homage to You, the Swift One, the Heroine,
Your gaze is as quick as flashes of lightning
Who arose from the majestic carolla
From the Lotus face of the Lord of Three Worlds.
2. Moonlight White Tara
Homage to You with a face that resembles
The gathering of one hundred autumn full moons
And who with the brightness of stars by the thousands
Shines in a vast perfect light of resplendence.
3. Golden Color Tara
Homage to You divine golden-blue Goddess
Whose hands are adorned by water-born lotus.
Embody Six Perfections: Giving, Patience
Ethics, Concentration, Vigor, and Wisdom
4. Golden Tara of Crown Victorious
Homage to You who crowns Buddha’s ushnishas,
Whose victorious actions have no limit.
Who has attained ev’ry transcendent wisdom,
On whom the Bodhisattvas themselves rely.
5. Tara Proclaiming the Sound of HUM
Homage to You who with HUM and TUTTARA,
Fill all worlds of desire, direction, space.
Who with your feet press down on the Seven Worlds;
You subdue all beings under your power.
6. Tara Victorious Over the Three Levels of World
Homage to You praised by Indra and Agni,
Brahma, Vayu, Ishvara and all the gods
All the spirits, zombies, and the smell-eaters,
Even the Yakshas give praise in Your presence.
7. Tara Who Crushes Adversaries
Homage to You who with the TRAY and PEY sounds,
Crush every magical wheel, evil forces,
Right leg extended and left bent, you trample,
You burn them completely in Your whirling fire.
8. Tara Who Gives Supreme Spiritual Power
Homage to You, TURE, the Boundless Fierce One,
Who totally destroys leaders of maras.
Whose lotus-like face forms furious wrinkles,
You annihilate foes without exception.
9. Tara of the Khadira Fragrant Forest
Homage to You whose fingers held at Your chest,
Displaying the mudra of the Three Jewels;
Beautiful swirling light in your precious hands
Dharma wheels connect every direction.
10. Tara Who Dispels All Suffering
Homage to You, the majestic and joyful
With brilliant garlands of light around your crown
With the great clangor of laughter TUTTARA
Over power all the worlds and the maras.
11. Tara Who Summons All Beings and Dispels Misfortune
Homage to You, endowed with the great power,
To draw assembly of worldly guardians.
The One who with the HUM of wrathful wrinkles
You rescue completely from all poverty.
12. Tara Who Grants Prosperity and Brings About Aupsiciousness
Homage to You, who is crowned with crescent moon,
And whose ornaments so brilliantly sparkle.
Amitabha in front of your ushnisha,
Eternally radiating beams of light.
13. Tara the Complete Rinpener
Homage to You, who dwell in garlands of flames
Engulfed in fire like the end of the aeon.
Right leg outstretched and left bent with blissful joy
Who with your power destroy all enemies.
14. Wrathful, Shaking and Frowning Tara
Homage to You, striking the ground with your hand
And crushing the earth with your majestic foot.
With wrathful, wrinkled face and the sound of HUM
You fully subdue seven levels of worlds.
15. Tara the Great Peaceful One Who Provides Virtues
Homage to You, happy, virtuous and peaceful,
Who acts from eternal bliss of Nirvana.
And who with the pure sounds of OM and SVAHA,
Eliminates the most unwholesome Karmas!
16. Tara Destroyer of All Attachment
Homage to You, who turns the Wheel of Dharma
For truly devoted, who love the teachings
Crushing enemies — all types of obstacles
with the Hum and the ten syllable mantra.
17. Tara Accomplisher of Joy and Bliss
Homage to You with feet stamping and Ture
Whose essence is the sacred syllable Hum.
You cause Mount Meru, Mandhara and Vindhya
Making all three worlds to tremble and shake!
18. Victorious Tara Who Increases Realizations
Homage to You, holding the moon in Your hand
Like a celestial ocean of nectar.
Sound of the PEY and the twice uttered TARA
You completely dispel every poison.
19. Tara, Extinguisher of All Suffering
Homage to You on whom the devas rely
And also the lords of all the Gandharvas.
Your armor of joy, a radiant brightness,
You eliminate arguments and nightmares.
20. Tara, Source of All Powerful Attainments
Homage to You, whose two eyes are shining bright,
Brilliant with light like the sun and the full moon.
Saying HARA twice and TUTTARE again
You clear and eliminate epidemics.
21. Tara of the Perfection of Wisdom and Compassion
Homage to You whose pure Body, Speech and Mind
Are perfect with the strength and power of peace.
Suppressing Maras, Dons, Zombies and Yakshas
With the most exalted syllable TURE.