White Tara and the 21 Taras
Tibetans usually think of Tara as having 21 manifestations, as she does in the common Tibetan Buddhist prayer — In Praise of the 21 Taras. In each form she takes a different color — like Blue Tara and Black Tara — and offers a different energy or virtue to help us on our spiritual paths.
Of these 21 Taras, the two most popular are Green Tara and White Tara. Tara’s name in Tibetan is Dolma, and you can see then that White Tara’s Tibetan name, Dolkar, is a short form of Dolma Karpo, which means White Dolma.
Tibetans pray to White Tara especially for health, healing and longevity. She offers healing to our wounds, whether it is our bodies or our minds that have been hurt.
The White Tara Long Life Initiation (Dolkar Tsewang) is very popular among Tibetans. At the 2011 White Tara Long Life Initiation by Tritul Jampa Kalden Rinpoche at the US Tibet House, this nice explanation of its purpose was offered:
Benefits of and Reasons for Seeking White Tara Initiation
You might have obstacles in your life that could cause your untimely death. If the obstacles are due to your good karma and merit being exhausted, then in order to prolong your life now and to have longevity in future lives, you need to practice powerful ways to collect a lot of merit, such as taking long life initiations, reciting the mantras of long life deities, saving the lives of animals and people, offering medicine to people and taking care of sick people, offering food, clothing and shelter to the poor people.
If the obstacles in your life and untimely death are due to negative karma, the solution is to purify it. You can also make butter lamp (light) offerings to the Triple Gem. Butter lamp offerings help you develop Dharma wisdom and clairvoyance due to their nature of dispelling the darkness around holy objects.
White Tara is extremely powerful. Tara is very close to sentient beings, like a mother to her children. She is very quick to fulfill our wishes and to grant us happiness and a long life, as well as to help us develop wisdom. By taking refuge in Tara and practicing meditation, visualizations, and having faith, you have the power to remove obstacles to your life and to prolong your life.
Tara is closely related to Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara), the Bodhisattva of Compassion. One story of her origin says that she was born from Chenrezig’s compassionate tears.1 People also think of her as the female manifestation of Chenrezig, or his consort.
Though all the manifestations of Tara share the characteristic of compassion through this connection to Chenrezig, it is White Tara who is most closely linked to his essential compassionate nature.
Her pure compassion for our suffering, which is thought to be greater even than a mother’s love for her child, is symbolized in images of White Tara by her white color. Her whiteness also indicates the “undifferentiated truth of the Dharma.”2
In comparison to Green Tara, who is shown seated with one leg on the ground, ready to come to our defense, White Tara is seated in the more meditative diamond lotus position, with both legs folded under her, and her feet facing skyward.3
White Tara has 7 eyes — with an eye in her forehead, and one on each hand and foot — symbolizing her compassionate vigilance to see all the suffering of the world.
Her left hand is in the protective mudra and her right in the wish-granting mudra. In her left hand she usually holds a stem of the Utpala lotus flower with three blossoms. One blossom is represented as a seed, a second as ready to bloom, and the third in full bloom. These represent the Buddhas of the past, future and present.
Often, a small image of Amitabha, a Buddha known for longevity, is portrayed as seated in White Tara’s headdress or slightly above her head.
There are infinite varieties of Tara statues and images in Tibet. (If you wish to experience them for yourself, you can learn how to visit Tibet here.)
There are different ways to pray to White Tara, including the Praises to the 21 Taras prayer and the White Tara Sadhana.
We can also recite White Tara’s mantra, which has a multitude of variations.
White Tara Mantra
First, let’s look at the mantra, then talk about how we can use it.
The White Tara mantra has a number of variations, but a common one in its Sanskrit form is:
OM TARE TUTTARE TURE MAMA AYUH PUNYA JNANA PUSTIME KURU SVAHA.
The Tibetan way to say the mantra is this:
OM TARE TUTTARE TURE MAMA AYUR PUNE GYANA PUNTIN KURU SOHA
What Does the Mantra Mean and How Do You Use It?
The White Tara mantra begins in the same way as the basic Green Tara mantra, with OM TARE TUTTARE TURE. (We leave off the final SOHA).
You can see a deeper explanation on our Green Tara mantra blog post, but one short way to interpret that mantra is “I prostrate to the Liberator, Mother of all Victorious Ones.”
In the White Tara version of the mantra, we add MAMA AYUR PUNE GYANA PUNTIN KURU SOHA.
This is essentially a strong request (even a demand4) for increased longevity, merit and wisdom, where AYUR, PUNE, and GYANA refer to life, merit and wisdom. The White Tara mantra and seed syllables article at the Visible Mantra site, notes that “Mama __X__ puṣṭiṃ kuru means something like ‘make my X increase.'”
In an article on the White Tara mantra on the Wildmind Buddhist Meditation site, they break the mantra down this way:
- mama = mine, means that I would like to possess the following qualities.
- ayur = long life
- punya = merit that comes form living life ethically. [Tibetan: pune]
- jnana = wisdom [Tibetan: gyana]
- pushtim = increase [Tibetan: puntin]
- kuru = do so! do it now!
- svaha = hail, or may blessings be upon [Tibetan: soha]
The mantra is flexible, so if you wish to increase something else, you can just substitute in words for that which you wish to increase, and if you want to pray for your spiritual master’s long life, you can replace the word MAMA (which refers to me or mine) for your master’s name.
So for example, we might pray for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama thus:
OM TARE TUTTARE TURE TENZIN GYATSO AYUR PUNE GYANA PUNTIN KURU SOHA
We can’t think of a better way to use the prayer!
YOU DON’T HAVE TO SUFFER SO DANG MUCH
I’m Yolanda and in addition to helping Tibet travelers, I am a life coach for sensitive, spiritually-minded women.
I spent decades waking up every morning to gnarly stress and self-hate:
You’re a big fat pig, and Why did you SAY that yesterday?, and Gawd, you’re such a giant loser. You need to do BETTER, and be MORE.
I knew life was too short to live so anxious and jacked up, but I didn’t know how to stop.
Today, I usually wake up in gratitude and a wholesome self-confidence.
And I coach sensitive women on simple self-care habits so they can talk to themselves with affection, throw out their stressful to-do lists, and learn practical baby steps to thriving.
Download my 10 favorite self-care tips, and get my weekly love notes especially tailored for sensitive, spiritually-minded women like us.
Want to be ready to travel to Tibet?
Sign up to get instant access to our FREE Tibet Travel Planning Guide that shows you exactly how to:
- Get your visa and Tibet permits
- Avoid altitude sickness
- Choose a reliable, Tibetan-owned agent
- And much more…so you can feel peace of mind about your trip, and have a great, safe journey!
Along with instant access to your free, comprehensive online guide for planning your Tibet travel, you will also get our weekly newsletter, with tips, tools and strategies for simple, safe and meaningful Tibet travel.
- Wikipedia: Tara(Buddhism)
- Vortexcd.tripod.com: The White Tara
- Authors’ note: We would love to know more about what this position signifies. We would welcome any comments from any of you who may have insight about this.
- White Tara mantra and seed syllables – Visible Mantra
Thank you so much for these beautiful reminders.
Thank you for this posting. I very appreciate it. I’m lucky to see this posting about White Tara. KD
Lobsang and Yolanda says
It’s our pleasure, thank you Katy!
Shalini Nagar says
I suffer from epilepsy.
Lately it is bothering me more and more .
What to add to this mantra for healing?
Shalini Nagar: I do not know the answer to your question. But I have practiced tonglen for you and hope it helps to reduce the frequency of the epilepsy. Perhaps others who read these words can do the same practice for you.
This is medicine Buddha’s mantra
“tayatha om bekandze bekandze maha bekandze radza samudgate soha.”
Hello, which tara mantra is chanted to achieve success plz help me with this
James Gans says
Namaste. The late Thomas Ashley-Farrand wrote a book on Shakti Mantras. Many of the mantras he listed I actually could not find anywhere else. One of which that I have been interested in is Om Tara Tuttare Ture Sarva Akalamrityu-bhyu Raksham Kuru Swaha. Do you know if he created this Tara mantra or is it actually a traditional White Tara mantra?
Lobsang and Yolanda says
Hi James, Sorry, we don’t know the answer to that. Wish we could help you more!
Is the credit for where the images come from spelled correctly? Isnt dharma spelled with the R before the M?
Thank you for your kind presentation on the mantra.
Thank you very much for this wonderful and comprehensive article about White Tara and her blessings.
If possible, can you please expain the offerings which often appear in front of Tara in Thangkas? Such as conch, fruit, flute, and so on. Are there objects which must always be placed in Tara thangkas?
Thank you Claire, We don’t know exactly, but these are common offerings for many different deities in tangkhas. For example, we have these on our Green Tara and Avalokitshvara tangkhas, too. We have a long list of things to check out, and we will add this to it, to see what exactly are the meanings. Our best to you!
OM TARE TUTTARE TURE MAMA AYUR GYANA PUNEY PUSTHIN KURU SOHA.
Can please Check this white Tara mantra is correct or not bcz Some you Tuber Use this Mantra so very confused..
Millions of thnx in advance.
Sunapati Thangka School says
Wow! The thangka of the White Tara is very beautiful.
Thank you for sharing such nice blessing.
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Yowangdu Ayur Pune Gyana Puntin Kuru Soha
really appreciate yowangdu
Thanks so much, Bob! We so appreciate the kind feedback.
Thank you for this information. As a young Tibetan, I see how lucky I am to born as a Tibetan buddhist. Thank you Wangdu-la and Yolanda-la!
Douglas Westbury says
Thank you for explaining this mantra to me !
You are so welcome, Douglas 🙂
Thank you for this enlightening use of the White Tara mantra. Her energy was especially helpful when we lost a young member of our family. The dripping elixir falling on our grief was an important visualization. The image I used of her has an especially kind face, as well. I learned a chant of the mantra which is very helpful. Your teaching on using the names of those I wish to receive long life such as my teacher and my mother is very helpful. I would love to be part of a group gathered for the Tara’s blessings, using images of her, playing quiet music, surrounded by white fabrics, washing our faces, healing anointments, and other liturgical movements and rituals and of course several 108 repetitions of the mantra in chant. I think that would be so helpful. Perhaps that will happen one day. Metta. Joe
Thank you Joe. We’re happy that the post was useful to you. Our best to you.
I saw the White Tara on my wall. when I waved my hand across it, she quickly disappeared. Does this have meaning?
Hi Pati, Sorry, we don’t know. All the best to you.
Lama Lena says
Yes! Having seen a spontaneous image if the archetype is a signe that the practice of this mantra and/or sadhana will be of benifit for you!
rigzin gyamtso says
kyab su che!!