Code: ABP 038
Country: Nepal (west)
Style: Khasha Malla
Dimensions in cm WxHxD: 24.8 x 29.8
Materials: Glue distemper on cotton
Distemper on cloth (restorated).
This Thangka records the worship of the white Tara by King Ripumalla, the Khasiya ruler of Western Nepal and Western Tibet, together with his son Prince Samgramamalla. Depicted is “Vajra-Tara according to Arya Nagarjuna”, a form of Sita-Tara, the “white Tara” (Tib. sGrol dkar) as described in the Sadhanamala (SM96).
1. She is seated in the diamond attitude (vajraparyankasana )on a double lotus painted with red, blue, green and yellow petals. She extends the right hand in the gesture of charity (varada-mudra) and with the raised left hand holds a blue lily (nilotpala). On the proper right, another lily rises from the pedestal and blossoms beside the shoulder. Tara is clad in a cloth tied around her hips by a belt. She has bejewelled ornaments, namely a five-pointed crown, a pair of circular earrings, four necklaces, some of them with attached pendants, the sacred thread (yajnopavita), bracelets on the upper arms and wrists, and anklets. A folded decorated scarf is placed over the legs and the left arm. The Tara is encircled by red aureole against a dark background decorated with floral design, and surmounted by a parasol (chattra) fashioned of a red banner-like cloth with swirling ends. The Tara is flanked by two male donors, representing father and son, kneeling in humble attitude, looking upwards in admiration, and expressing respectful salutation (namaskara-mudra). The identification of the elder one at the proper right of the Tara is revealed by the Sanskrit inscription in Devanagari script at the bottom of the painting: Sri Ripumalla dhisam (?) jayathu.“The illustrious Ripumalla … … victorious”.
2. Ripumalla is a well-known ruler of the Khasiya Malla Empire, which ruled from their capital Semja, located in the Karnali River basin in Western Nepal. Their territory included Gu ge in Western Tibet, part of which they ruled from the 11th century until past the 14th century. In Western Tibet they succeeded the lDe family, which claimed descend from the kings of Lhasa, following the murder of gLang dar ma (838–842). Khasiya rulers with names ending in malla appeared only from about 1250 onwards and have to be distinguished from the Nepal Valley rulers with names also ending with malla.
3. According to Tibetan sources, during the reign of Ripumalla, the Khasiya kingdom extended their territory to the South. The increased contacts with India resulted in an increased influence of Hinduism. During the earlier part of their reign, the Khasiya kings from Kracalla (1223 AD) to Pratapamalla had a greater bias for Buddhism.
4. At the height of their power during the reign of Prthvimalla, the territory ruled over included Guge, Purang and large parts of modern Nepal.
Ripumalla is mentioned in three fragmented inscriptions discovered at Semja. The Asoka pillar at Niglihava in the Nepalese Terai bears the following graffito: Sri Rapumallas (Ripu malla) ciram jayathu 1234. The employed Sakaera corresponds to 1312 AD. A similar graffito was written on the Asoka pillar at Lumbini (District Bhairwah, Terai, Nepal), the birth-place of Siddhartha, the future Buddha Shakyamuni, considered one of the "eight great places"(astamahasthana): Sri Ripumalla ciran jayathu Samgra(ma)malla maharaja-jayah (?). Sambramamalla was son and successor of Ripumalla.
5. Like the Maithili, the Khasya undertook repeated raids of the Kathmandu Valley, several of them recorded between 1287 AD ans 1334 AD. Unlike other invaders , the Khasya plundered the population but general speared the religious institutions. Among the sites visited by the Khasiya for worship was the Bungamati Lokesvara at Lalitpura. Other places of worship included the shrines of Pasupatinath, Svayambhunath, and Matsyendranath.
6. It is not clear, whether the main purpose of the visit of the Kathmandu Valley in 1313 AD by Ripumalla was for plundering or for worship. The few shrines apparently destroyed during this raid were repaired by Jayarudramalla in 1321 AD.
7. According to some opinions Ripumalla visited in 1313 AD the Kathmandu Valley solely as a pilgrim.
8. The Gopalavamsali records, that on February 22nd, 1313 " Ripumalla entered Nepal. He took a cereminial bath at the Bunga shrine of Matsyendranath, to wich he made some presents. He propitiated the Lord of Deo Patan (i.e. Pasupatinatha) and offered puja at Svayambhunatha. After eighteen days he departed".
9. Ripumalla is also mentioned in the colophon of a manuscript of the Abhisamayalankara dated Vikrama Samvat 1370 = 1313 AD
11. It might have beenn the rise of Ripumalla, which prompted Adityamalla to become a monk at the Sa skya monastery in Southern Tibet berore ascending later the throne of the Khasiya Malla Empire at Semja.
12. The exact dates of the Khasiya Malla rulers are not known. But according to the available dated inscriptions, the reign of Ripumalla is at least documented for the years 1312-1314 AD.
TheDkar-chag shel-dkar me-long compiled in 1647 AD by Ngag dbang Blo bzang rgya mtsho, the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682) contains some interesting information with regard to donations made in the honour of the famous Jo bo Rin po che image of the Jo khang/gTsug lag khang at Lhassa.
13. One of the donnor was Ripumalla who is credited with the construction of the gilded roof protecting the chapel of Jo bo Rin po che. His son Pratapamalla. together with the minister Srikirti, donated a golden ceiling to the constructed above Jo bo Rin po che .
14. The identity of the prince portrayed on the proper left side of the white Tara facing Ripumalla is not known. It could represent Samgramamalla, successor of the Ripumalla mentioned in the graffito written on the Asoka pillar at Lumbini in the Nepalese Terai. Thereis also a possibility, that the second donor represents Pratapamalla, son of Ripumalla, who together with his fater is mentioned among the patrons of Jo bo Rin po che. Another interesting aspect of the Dkar-chag shel-dkar me-longis the fact, that Ripumalla is described as a direct descendant of the lineage of the great "king of the doctrine" (dharmaraja)(Tib. Chos rgyal), namely srong btsan gsam po 8r. 518-641, 646-649), Khri srong Ide brtsan (r. 755-797) and Ral pa can (r. 815-838). Although this was certainly not the case, it reflects the sentiment of the Tibetans towards Ripumalla.
A number of Buddhist statues cast in silver or in gilt copper are known, some of them inscribed, which can be attributed to the Khasiya Malla Kingdom.
15. Among them is a small gilt copper statue of Nairatmya (Tib. bDag med ma) of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with a Devanagariinscription: Sri Ripumalla sciram jayatu.
This thangka or phauba represents the only known painting which can be attributed to the Khasiya Malla rulers of western Nepal. The painting style reveals strong similarities with work originating from the Kathmandu Valley, a characteristic which applies also to the metal statues. There is clear evidence, that Newar artist of the Kathmandu Valley had worked for the Khasiya patrons. This painting obviously records an actualpuja of an image of the white Tara. It might well date from circa 1312 AD, when Ripumalla, together with his son Samgramamalla, was on pilgrimage and had visited, among other places, Lumbini in the Nepalese Terai, as indicated by the graffito written on the Asoka pillar.
Genealogy of the Khasiya Malla rulers according to the Dullu inscription 17
Sanscrit names & known dates Tibetan names
Nagaraja Tib. Nagadeva
Capa Tib. (?)
Capilla Tib.bTsan p'yug Ide
Krasicalla Tib. bKra shis Ide
Kradhicalla Tib. Grags btsan Ide
Krakalla (1223 AD) Tib. Grags pa Ide
Asokamalla (1251-1274 AD) Tib. A so ga, A so Ide
Jitarimalla (1288 AD, 1299 AD?) Tib. 'Dsin dar smal, 'Ji dar smal
Anadamalla Tib. A nan, A nan ta smal
Ripumalla (1312, 1313, 1314 AD) Tib. Reu, Riu smal, Ril po mal
Samgramamalla Tib. Sam gha smal
Adityamalla, son of Anandamalla Tib. A jid smal
Kalyanamalla Tib. Ka lan smal
Pratapamalla, son of Ripumalla Tib. Par t'ab smal, Pra ti ma la
Punyamalla(1338, 1351, 1357, 1358, 1376 AD) Tib. Pra ti rmal
Tara or Arya Tara, also known as Jetsun Dolma in Tibetan, is a female Buddha typically associated with Buddhist tantra practice as preserved in Tibetan Buddhism. She is the "mother of liberation” and represents the virtues of success in work and achievements. Tara is a tantric deity whose practice is used by practitioners of the Tibetan branch of Vajrayana Buddhism to develop certain inner qualities and understand outer, inner and secret teachings about compassion and emptiness. Tara is not found in the Japanese branch of Vajrayana Buddhism, Shingon.
Tara is actually the generic name for a set of Buddhas or bodhisattvas of similar aspect. These may more properly be understood as different aspects of the same quality, as bodhisattvas are often considered metaphoric for Buddhist virtues.
The most widely known forms of Tara are:
* Green Tara, known as the Buddha of enlightened activity
* White Tara, also known for compassion, long life, healing and serenity; also known as The Wish-fulfilling Wheel, or Cintachakra
* Red Tara, of fierce aspect associated with magnetizing all good things
* Black Tara, associated with power
* Yellow Tara, associated with wealth and prosperity
* Blue Tara, associated with transmutation of anger
* Cittamani Tara, a form of Tara widely practiced at the level of Highest Yoga Tantra in the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism, portrayed as green and often conflated with Green Tara
* Khadiravani Tara (Tara of the teak forest), who appeared to Nagarjuna in the Khadiravani forest of South India and who is sometimes referred to as the "22nd Tara."
There is also recognition in some schools of Buddhism of twenty-one Taras. A practice text entitled "In Praise of the 21 Taras", is recited during the morning in all four sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
The main Tara mantra is oṃtare tuttare ture svaha(pronounced by Tibetans and Buddhists who follow the Tibetan traditions as oṃtare tu tare ture soha).
Emergence of Tara as a Buddhist deity
Within Tibetan Buddhism Tara is regarded as a Boddhisattva of compassion and action. She is the female aspect of Avalokitesvara (Chenrezig) and in some origin stories she comes from his tears:
Then at last Avalokiteshvara arrived at the summit of Marpori, the “Red Hill”, in Lhasa. Gazing out, he perceived that the lake on Otang, the “Plain of Milk”, resembled the Hell of Ceaseless Torment. Myriads of being were undergoing the agonies of boiling, burning, hunger, thirst, yet they never perished, but let forth hideous cries of anguish all the while. When Avalokiteshvara saw this, tears sprang to his eyes. A teardrop from his right eye fell to the plain and became the reverend Bhrikuti, who declared: “Son of your race! As you are striving for the sake of sentient beings in the Land of Snows, intercede in their suffering, and I shall be your companion in this endeavour!” Bhrikuti was then reabsorbed into Avalokiteshvara's right eye and was reborn in a later life as the Nepalese princess Tritsun. A teardrop from his left eye fell upon the plain and became the reverend Tara. She also declared, “Son of your race! As you are striving for the sake of sentient beings in the Land of Snows, intercede in their suffering, and I shall be your companion in this endeavour!” Tara was also reabsorbed into Avalokiteshvara's left eye and was reborn in a later life as the Chinese princess Kongjo (Princess Wencheng)."
Tara: From Hinduism to Buddhism
Tara is also known as a saviouress, as a heavenly deity who hears the cries of beings experiencing misery in samsara.
The Tara figure originated not in Buddhism but in Hinduism, where she, Tara, was one of a number of Mother Goddess figures, alongside Sarasvati, Lakshmi, Parvati, and Shakti. In the 6th century C.E., during the era of the Pala Empire, Tara was adopted into the Buddhist pantheon as an important bodhisattva figure just a few centuries after the Prajnaparamita Sutra had been introduced into what was becoming the Mahayana Buddhism of India. It would seem that the feminine principle makes its first appearance in Buddhism as the "Mother of Perfected Wisdom" and then later Tara comes to be seen as an expression of the compassion of perfected wisdom. However, sometimes Tara is also known as "the Mother of the Buddhas", which usually refers to the enlightened wisdom of the Buddhas, so in approaching Buddhist deities, one learns not to impose totally strict boundaries about what one deity covers, as opposed to another deity.
They all can be seen as expressions of the play of the energies of manifested form dancing out of vast emptiness. Be that as it may, Tara began to be associated with the motherly qualities of compassion and mercy. Undoubtedly for the common folk who were Buddhists in India of that time, Tara was a more approachable deity. It is one thing to stare into the eyes of a deity who represents wisdom as void. It is perhaps easier to worship a goddess whose eyes look out with infinite compassion and who has a sweet smile.
Tara then became very popular as an object of worship and was becoming an object of Tantric worship and practice by the 7th century C.E. With the movement and cross-pollination of Indian Buddhism into Tibet, the worship and practices of Tara became incorporated into Tibetan Buddhism. Independent of whether she is classified as a deity, a Buddha or a bodhisattva, Tara remains very popular in Tibet and Mongolia. And as Ms. Getty notes, one other reason for her popularity was that Tara became to be known as a Buddhist deity who could be appealed to directly by lay folk without the necessity or intervention of a lama or monk. Thus, as Tara was accepted into the ranks of Buddhist bodhisattvas, she became popular to both common folks as one to appeal to in daily life, and for monastics, as an entry way into understanding compassion and mercy as part of one's evolving path within Buddhism. (See also Guan Yin, the female aspect of Avalokitesvara in Chinese Buddhism.)
Origin as a Buddhist bodhisattva
Tara has many stories told which explain her origin as a bodhisattva. One in particular has a lot of resonance for women interested in Buddhism and quite likely for those delving into early 21st century feminism.
In this tale there is a young princess who lives in a different world system, millions of years in the past. Her name is Yeshe Dawa, which means "Moon of Primordial Awareness". For quite a number of aeons she makes offerings to the Buddha of that world system "Tonyo Drupa". She receives special instruction from him concerning bodhicitta — the heart-mind of a bodhisattva. After doing this, some monks approach her and suggest that because of her level of attainment she should next pray to be reborn as a male to progress further. At this point she lets the monks know in no uncertain terms that from the point of view of Enlightenment it is only "weak minded worldlings" who see gender as a barrier to attaining enlightenment. She sadly notes there have been few who wish to work for the welfare of beings in a female form though. Therefore, she resolves to always be reborn as a female bodhisattva, until samsara is no more. She then stays in a palace in a state of meditation for some ten million years, and the power of this practice releases tens of millions of beings from suffering. As a result of this Tonyo Drupa tells her she will henceforth manifest supreme bodhi as the Goddess Tara in many world systems to come.
With this story in mind it is interesting to juxtapose this with a quotation from H.H the Dalai Lama about Tara, spoken at a conference on Compassionate Action in Newport Beach, CA in 1989:"There is a true feminist movement in Buddhism that relates to the goddess Tara. Following her cultivation of bodhicitta, the bodhisattva's motivation, she looked upon the situation of those striving towards full awakening and she felt that there were too few people who attained Buddhahood as women. So she vowed: "I have developed bodhicitta as a woman. For all my lifetimes along the path I vow to be born as a woman, and in my final lifetime when I attain Buddhahood, then, too, I will be a woman."
Tara then, embodies certain ideals which make her attractive to women practitioners, and her emergence as a Bodhisattva can be seen as a part of Mahayana Buddhism's reaching out to women, and becoming more inclusive even in 6th century C.E. India.
Tara as a Saviouress
Tara also embodies many of the qualities of feminine principle. She is known as the Mother of Mercy and Compassion. She is the source, the female aspect of the universe, which gives birth to warmth, compassion and relief from bad karma as experienced by ordinary beings in cyclic existence. She engenders, nourishes, smiles at the vitality of creation, and has sympathy for all beings as a mother does for her children.
As Green Tara she offers succor and protection from all the unfortunate circumstances one can encounter within the samsaric world.
As White Tara she expresses maternal compassion and offers healing to beings who are hurt or wounded, either physically or psychically.
As Red Tara she teaches Discriminating Awareness about created phenomena, and how to turn raw desire into compassion and love.
As Blue Tara (Ekajati) she becomes a protector in the Nyingma lineage, who expresses a ferocious, wrathful, female energy whose invocation destroys all Dharmic obstacles and engenders good luck and swift spiritual awakening.
In all within Tibetan Buddhism she has 21 major forms, each tied to a certain colour and energy. And each offers some feminine attribute, of ultimate benefit to the spiritual aspirant who asks for her assistance.
Another quality of feminine principle which she shares with the dakinis is playfulness. As John Blofeld expands upon in Bodhisattva of Compassion, Tara is frequently depicted as a young sixteen-year-old girlish woman. She often manifests in the lives of dharma practitioners when they take themselves, or spiritual path too seriously. There are Tibetan tales in which she laughs at self-righteousness or plays pranks on those who lack reverence for the feminine. In Magic Dance: The Display of the Self-Nature of the Five Wisdom Dakinis, Thinley Norbu explores this as "Playmind". Applied to Tara one could say that her playful mind can relieve ordinary minds which become rigidly serious or tightly gripped by dualistic distinctions. She takes delight in an open mind and a receptive heart then. For in this openness and receptivity her blessings can naturally unfold and her energies can quicken the aspirants spiritual development.
These qualities of feminine principle then, found an expression in Indian Mahayana Buddhism and the emerging Vajrayana of Tibet, as the many forms of Tara, as dakinis, as Prajnaparamita, and as many other local and specialized feminine divinities. As the worship of Tara developed, various prayers, chants and mantras became associated with her. These came out of a felt devotional need, and from her inspiration causing spiritual masters to compose and set down sadhanas, or tantric meditation practices. Two ways of approach to her began to emerge. In one common folk and lay practitioners would simply directly appeal to her to ease some of the travails of worldly life. In the second, she became a Tantric deity whose practice would be used by monks or tantric yogis in order to develop her qualities in themselves, ultimately leading through her to the source of her qualities, which are Enlightenment, Enlightened Compassion, and Enlightened Mind.
Tara as a Tantric deity
Tara as a focus for tantric deity yoga can be traced back to the time period of Padmasambhava. There is a Red Tara practice which was given by Padmasambhava to Yeshe Tsogyal. He asked that she hide it as a treasure. It was not until this century, that a great Nyingma lama, Apong Terton rediscovered it. This lama was reborn as His Holiness Sakya Trizin, present head of the Sakyapa sect. A monk who had known Apong Terton succeeded in retransmitting it to H.H. Sakya Trizin, and the same monk also gave it to Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, who released it to his western students.
Martin Willson in In Praise of Taratraces many different lineages of Tara Tantras, that is Tara scriptures used as Tantric sadhanas. For example, a Tara sadhana was revealed to Tilopa, (988-1069 C.E.) the human father of the Karma Kagyu. Atisa, the great translator and founder of the Kadampa school of Tibetan Buddhism, was a devotee of Tara. He composed a praise to her, and three Tara Sadhanas. Martin Willson's work also contains charts which show origins of her tantras in various lineages, but suffice to say that Tara as a tantric practice quickly spread from around the 7th century C.E. onwards, and remains an important part of Vajrayana Buddhism to this day.
The practices themselves usually present Tara as a tutelary deity (thug dam, yidam) which the practitioners sees as being a latent aspect of one's mind, or a manifestation in a visible form of a quality stemming from Buddha Jnana. As John Blofeld puts it in his The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet:“The function of the Yidam is one of the profound mysteries of the Vajrayana... Especially during the first years of practice the Yidam is of immense importance. Yidam is the Tibetan rendering of the Sanskrit word "Istadeva" – the in-dwelling deity; but, where the Hindus take the Istadeva for an actual deity who has been invited to dwell in the devotee's heart, the Yidams of Tantric Buddhism are in fact the emanations of the adepts own mind. Or are they?
To some extent they seem to belong to that order of phenomena which in Jungian terms are called archetypes and are therefore the common property of the entire human race. Even among Tantric Buddhists, there may be a division of opinion as to how far the Yidams are the creations of individual minds. What is quite certain is that they are not independently existing gods and goddesses; and yet, paradoxically, there are many occasions when they must be so regarded.”
Sadhanas of Tara
Sadhanas in which Tara is the yidam (meditational deity) can be extensive or quite brief. Most all of them include some introductory praises or homages to invoke her presence and prayers of taking refuge. Then her mantra is recited, followed by a visualization of her, perhaps more mantra, then the visualization is dissolved, followed by a dedication of the merit from doing the practice. Additionally, there may be extra prayers of aspirations, and a long-life prayer for the Lama who originated the practice. Many of the Tara sadhanas are seen as beginning practices within the world of Vajrayana Buddhism, however what is taking place during the visualization of the deity actually invokes some of the most sublime teachings of all Buddhism.
In this case during the creation phase of Tara as a yidam, she is seen as having as much reality as any other phenomena apprehended through the mind. By reciting her mantra and visualizing her form in front, or on the head of the adept, one is opening to her energies of compassion and wisdom. After a period of time the practitioner shares in some of these qualities, becomes imbued with her being and all it represents. At the same time all of this is seen as coming out of Emptiness and having a translucent quality like a rainbow. Then many times there is a visualization of oneself as Tara. One simultaneously becomes inseparable from all her good qualities while at the same time realizing the emptiness of the visualization of oneself as the yidam and also the emptiness of one's ordinary self.
This occurs in the completion stage of the practice. One dissolves the created deity form and at the same time also realizes how much of what we call the "self" is a creation of the mind and has no long term substantial inherent existence. This part of the practice then is preparing the practitioner to be able to confront the dissolution of one's self at death and ultimately be able to approach through various stages of meditation upon emptiness, the realization of Ultimate Truth as a vast display of Emptiness and Luminosity. At the same time the recitation of the mantra has been invoking Tara's energy through its Sanskrit seed syllables and this purifies and activates certain psychic centers of the body (chakras). This also untangles knots of psychic energy which have hindered the practitioner from developing a Vajra body, which is necessary to be able to progress to more advanced practices and deeper stages of realization.
Therefore even in a simple Tara sadhana a plethora of outer, inner, and secret events is taking place and there are now many works such as Deity Yoga, compiled by the present Dalai Lama, which explores all the ramifications of working with a yidam in Tantric practices.
The end results of doing such Tara practices are many. For one thing it reduces the forces of delusion in the forms of negative karma, sickness, afflictions of kleshas, and other obstacles and obscurations. The mantra helps generate Bodhicitta within the heart of the practitioner and purifies the psychic channels (nadis) within the body allowing a more natural expression of generosity and compassion to flow from the heart center. Through experiencing Tara's perfected form, one acknowledges one's own perfected form, that is one's intrinsic Buddha nature, which is usually covered over by obscurations and clinging to dualistic phenomena as being inherently real and permanent.
The practice then weans one away from a coarse understanding of Reality, allowing one to get in touch with inner qualities similar to those of a bodhisattva, and prepares one's inner self to embrace finer spiritual energies, which can lead to more subtle and profound realizations of the Emptiness of phenomena and self.
As Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, in his Introduction to the Red Tārā Sadhana, notes of his lineage: "Tara is the flawless expression of the inseparability of emptiness, awareness and compassion. Just as you use a mirror to see your face, Tara meditation is a means of seeing the true face of your mind, devoid of any trace of delusion".
Terma teachings related to Tara
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo discovered Phagme Nyingthig (Tib. spelling: 'chi med 'phags ma'i snying thig, Innermost Essence teachings of the Immortal Bodhisattva [Arya Tara]).
Earlier in the 19th century, according to a biography, Nyala Pema Dündul received a Hidden Treasure Tara Teaching and Nyingthig (Tib. nying thig) from his uncle Kunsang Dudjom (Tib. kun bzang bdud 'joms). It is not clear from the source whether the terma teaching and the nyingthig teachings refer to the same text or to two different texts.
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