Author: Amitabha Chatterjee.
Tara worship following the path of Tantra had been very popular all over India, Tibet and China had been very popular in the middle ages. In the scholarly sense, it began 2000 years ago and it is still going on in a steady flow. I think the Shakti worshipers (appraising God as the source of all power and visualizing God in female form) rose in power and number during the Pala era in India and after fourteenth century, began waning with the fall of Buddhism in India.
Anyway, let’s not talk about history and let’s get down to business. Without beating around the bush, I will come to the point directly. Tara Sadhana and it’s associated Tantra began with the austerities of Sage Vasistha in ancient India. After having succeeded in Vedic mode of spirituality and seeing the zenith of Brahmanic religion, Sage Vasistha wanted to explore the Tantra of mother goddess Tara. It must have already been there, as a weak thread in our culture, issuing from Lord Shiva, the true father of Yoga and Tantra. It is not uncommon among realized sages to explore one path after the other and enjoy the thrills and anguishes of God realization anew. They are not boring people with a scarcity of energy. The Sages are full to the brim with cosmic strength and they are the most unbiased entities. Nath Yogi Ratannath went to Mecca to explore Islam and was renamed Haji-Ratannath; Yogi Lokenath Brahmachari also went to Mecca and stayed there for almost a year with sage Malik Gafur; Ramakrishna Paramhamsa explored God through Tantra, Vedanta-monism, Vaishnavism, Islam and Christianity!
Now then, Vasistha underwent tremendous austerities to appease Tara, but nothing happened! He was upset by the failure and cursed the Tara mantra “Treem”, rendering it impotent. Then he had a divine vision and was directed to go to greater-China (Mahachina) to a realized tantric master named Janardana, to learn the proper practice of Tantra, fit for this path (Vamachara, the left hand path). Vasistha was also given directions for the exact spot, where he should pitch his tent for sadhana, on his return from China. He must sit under the giant, old Bakula tree (Mimusops elengi) and start his Tantra worship of great goddess Tara. The sacred place referred to was Tarapith, near Rampurhat, Birbhum district, West Bengal State, India.
The sage followed the instructions and visited his new Guru. Janardana, the Buddha (perfectly realized), was discovered by Vasistha, engaged in sensual enjoyment, accompanied by wine and women!! Vasistha’s mindset was that of a Vedic sage, accustomed to abstinence, asceticism and disciplines of Yoga meditations. So, he was left aghast, seeing a Tantra master in that state. Janardana dispelled his fears and revealed the hidden flow of spirituality, the all-pervading sky like voidness, that was the soul of his path. The outer lavishness and sense indulgence was only a ruse, which could never disrupt the inner calmness of the Yogi. The one pointed mind should always rest on the infinite nature of Tara.
The outer demeanour of the Vamachari Yogi may well appear worldly and misleading, but his inner quintessence is as calm as the silent sky, his mind engulfing eternity. His meditating mind should not show a single ripple by the sight of sensual objects, neither should he entertain the fear of death and destruction.
Having thanked his Guru in China, Vasistha returned to Tarapith, to walk a new path and start a fresh mode of life. His new seed mantra was now modified to (S-Treem, in place of Treem), the full mantra being, “Hreem Streem Huum Phat“. He met with quick success and realized eternity in the form of Tara. Later a new lineage emerged from him and continued through many thousand years until 150 years back from the present day. In that time-span, the Tara tantric path has branched and subdivided into numerous lineages and schools. This is the esoteric history of Tara worship. The re-emergence of Tara worship in modern Bengal occurred with sage Vama Khepa of Tarapith. Vama was a maha-siddha in the true sense and his long life was punctuated with untold miracles. His yoga sadhana and spiritual magnificence was astounding. And he even followed the ancient lifestyle of a Tantra-master of the left hand path and lived in the cremation ground, most of his life. Some yogi’s opine that sage Vama-Khepa is an incarnation of ancient sage Vasistha, who came back to re-establish Tara worship in it’s eminent pedestal.
In most Hindu Tantras, the seer (Rishi) of Tara mantra is Akshobhya. In some places, like in the case of Ekjata Tara (Tara with one dread-lock), the seer is said to be Astaka, the rhythm being Anustupa and Tara being the Supreme Goddess of all creation, is described as the wife of Shiva. The mantra for this form is also: “Hreem Streem Huum Phat”. reference … …
Rishi syad Astak-aschhandoh Anustup cha devata tatha,
Shambhu Patni Maheshani Chaturvargeshu Yojayeth.
The mantra of Tara in the form of Maha-Neela-Saraswati (Saraswati, being the Vedic goddess of wisdom), ie, the Great Blue Saraswati, is also called Kulluka (a secret term among old tantra practitioners). The said mantra is as follows: Hreem Streem Huum.
In Sanket Chandrodaya Tantra (used to exist 400 years ago), it is given,
Pancha-akshari Ekjata Tara-Bhave Maheshwari,
Tara-Adya tu Bhaved-Devi, Sriman-Neela Saraswati.
Ugra-Tara Traykshari cha Maha Neel Saraswati.
Anyasya Vidyanaam Ekjataiva Devata Prakriti-twath.
In comparison to other Vidyas (tantric goddesses), Ekjata exists in natural state.
Another form, the Ugra-Tara (Ugra = Extreme, as she delivers her devotees from extreme danger) or, simply, Neel Saraswati resides in this mantra: Om Hreem Streem Huum Phat.
Certain “symbolic names” for the above seed syllables were used to hide the real mantras from indecorous curious persons (who did not practice Tantra). For example,
Om – Pranava Brahma-bija
Hreem – Maya bija, maya = illusion, also called Bhuvaneshwari seed, also called Devi-Pranava
Streem – Badhu bija, badhu = wife.
Huum – Kurcha Bija
Phat – Astra bija, astra = weapon.
Haum – Prasada bija, prasad = peace, happiness.
Aim – Vaak bija, speech, Saraswati/ Guru seed
There also existed longer mantras of Tara like: In Neela Tantra,
Om Hreem Haam Huum Namas-Tarayai Sakala Dustaraam Taaraya Taaraya Om Om Swaahaa.
The name Tara, or, Taara implies that her job is that of deliverance, “Taarana”.
She bestows poetic genius & great intellect, that’s why, she is the blue Saraswati, goddess of wisdom.
In Veer Tantra, we find, “the one who venerates Shree Neela Saraswati’s mantra, becomes the lord of this world, he acquires deep wisdom and after demise, attains highest bliss through great liberation.”
Vidyaam Neel vandyaam Bhuvana Janapatih sarva-shastra vetta;
Dehante Yogi-mukhyah Parama sukha padam Brahma Nirvanam iti.
In the Left Hand Path of Tara, the mantras and visualization processes include all 3 forms of the goddess.
To purify water, recite: Om Vajrodake Huum Phat Swaahaa. (Swaahaa is pronounced as svāhā)
To sprinkle the sanctified water in the mouth, (before the actual Puja/ ritual worship, you do “Achamana”), you bring into use the names of the 3 forms: recite thus:
say, Om Ugratarayai Namah
say, Om Ekjatayai Namah
say, Om Neel Saraswatyai Namah.
Before engaging into deeper sadhana, one must sanctify the ground and seat/ asana by sprinkling holy water, saying: Om Rakhsha Rakhsha Huum Phat Svaha.
To destroy the troubling malefic forces of the ground and sky around the place of your worship,
Sprinkle paddy seeds & recite: Om Sarvaan Vighnaan-uthsaaraya Huum Phat Swvaha.
Then, invite to your aid, the holy ground and lay your seat, which may be a clean blanket, an asana of woven kush-grass, or, a black deer skin. Recite:
Om Pavitra Vajra Bhoome Huum Phat Svaha
Create your deeper sadhana asana using the methods given in Shree-Krama Tantra/ Matsya-Sukta. Throw some flowers, preferably of red color, on your asana and worship it. Mantra for this:
Om Aah Surekhe Vajra-rekhe Huum Phat Svaha .
Say, “Swasti Swasti” to envoke peace & goodness and then be seated upon the asana, adopting Sukhasana or, Vajrasana/ lotus posture. Sit in a comfortable manner, for the sadhana might require you to remain in it for a long time.
To cleanse your full-body, speech and mind, recite the next mantra for some time:
Om Mani-Dhari Vajrini Maha-pratisare Rakhsha Rakhsha Huum Phat Svaha.
Also, tie up your hair with this mantra. Recite and put a knot at the end of your cloth. This is for protection from evil spirits.
To breath life into the form of your deity, be it a stone idol, a painting, or, a mental image, mentally electrify it with pranic energy from your soul with this mantra:
Aang Hreem Krong Svaha.
Note: It is interesting to note that Lord Dattatreya’s mantra is very similar. It is,
Aum Aam Hreem Krong Dattatreyay Namah.
Dattatreya is the first avadhoot and the Guru of the founder Nath yogi, Matsyendranath. And Dattatreya imparted the Vajra-Panjar Kavach to the latter. Using this mantra-weapon, Yogi Matsyendranath defeated goddess Vajreshwari in battle. That must have been a superhuman feat.
Now then, thus protected from all forces, begin your ritual worship, then repeat your Mool mantra, (Root mantra is the actual Tara mantra given by your Guru). After finishing your work with the rosary, mentally return the cosmic energy thus gained to Kamini devi, who resides in the heart lotus and lift her to the 1000 petalled lotus above your head. In that lotus resides the real Guru of all universes. He is the essence of knowledge and the real liberator, the Guru of all previous masters. He is beyond life or, death.
“Sa purvesham api Guruh kalena anavachhedath” – Yoga Sutra.
Pray to him, see him as one with Tara and let the mantra vanish into him.