Now let’s go to the relative level. How did Tara come to be? In the beginning, you all know, she accepted being a female, and this was the very early period, a time when the female form in itself was treated as lower. However, Tara, even with all these conditions of society at that time, still chose to remain in female form.
All the other enlightened beings chose to be reborn as males, so much so that even prayers were directed at obtaining a male birth. You will even see such a prayer in Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacharyavatara. I was told that the translators did not translate that part, but in the traditional version it is there. May all human beings be reborn as males: it does say that in there somewhere. I was told that in the English translations they deleted or changed that. Maybe all the translators who translated the Bodhicaryavatara agreed to soften the translation.
Anyway, under those difficult conditions, all other female bodhisattvas were dropping out like flies and trying to become male. That was the moment when Tara generated that great mind to be a female throughout her manifested lives. That doesn’t mean that she has not manifested as a male somewhere here and there, but her principle function has been maintained in female form.
She did not make this commitment today when the feminist movement is popular. She did not switch her flag. Her flag was bound at that time, long eons ago during the very early period of the Buddha named Drum Beat. Tara was a woman named Pu mo Yeshe Dawa. Yeshe is wisdom; and dawa means moon, so the name means Wisdom Moon or Moon Wisdom. She was the benefactor of Buddha Drum Beat, feeding and providing shelter for him and his retinue. She was just an ordinary, kind, compassionate person like us who wanted to be helpful and serve people, who looked for ways and means to help people through her own development.
She continued doing that for a hundred thousand years, and, because of all these virtues, in the end she was ready to generate bodhimind. At that point, because of that traditional culture, disciples of Buddha Drum Beat urged her to change her physical body into a male body. They said to her, “By this virtue, pray to become a male and join Buddhism, and you will become a fully enlightened Buddha.”
Tara replied, “Thank you, but no thank you. I have contemplated and generated my motivation, and have done all the difficult work in female form. There are already so many male buddhas but not a single female one available. Therefore I would like to remain as a female until samsara becomes empty, and I will work as a female until full enlightenment.” That is how she generated bodhimind.
She also developed a great samadhi or concentrated power called ‘Patience.’ If you look into the Five Paths, the second Path, the Path of Action, has four categories, Heat, Peak, Patience and Best Dharma. When she developed the bodhimind, she was also able to develop the Patience level of the Path of Action. To remind you, the Five Paths in Buddhism are Path of Accumulation, Path of Action, Seeing, Meditation and No More Learning. If you have this background, you need it here. Some new people may have heard only general teachings that do not talk about the Five Paths. It doesn’t matter if you get lost here and there. Don’t worry about it; there are U-turns available. You can make a U turn round and come back. Michigan has a funny way of turning, you know.
Anyway, because of that samadhi level, Tara was able to manifest every morning in hundreds and thousands of different places. Until she was able to help one hundred thousand sentient beings in the morning, she would not eat her food; that’s written here! The same happened in the evening. She must have been eating only two meals a day, not three. In the morning, she would not eat until she had helped a hundred thousand people, and, in the evening, she would not eat until she helped another hundred thousand people. From that time on, her name, Wisdom Moon, was changed to Tara, which means Liberator.
Later, in another eon, when Buddha Amoghasiddhi was the official Buddha, Tara came before him and made additional commitments to liberate people from all fears, which are traditionally listed as either eight or sixteen fears. Tara specialized in protecting people from all these different fears. Then she stayed in the samadhi called ‘Power controlling evils’ and meditated on that alone for ninety-five eons. Every day she helped one hundred thousand sentient beings and every night she also conquered thousands of evils.
This is why Tara has so many titles.
~ Gelek Rimpoche, 2013 Green Tara Teachings, Garrison, NY