- Susan Lorraine
Who or what is Green Tara?
by Susan Lorraine
Green Tara is a personification of compassionate energy and an important source of inspiration and protection within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. She is swift in her response to suffering and can be called upon much like Christians might call on a patron saint. And yet, not quite like that.
Tibetan spirituality (and Buddhism in general) is embedded in a cultural understanding of identity as being fluid and interdependent. Any sense of a fixed, solid, separate “self” is seen as an illusory overlay—a convenience at best and ultimately a source of suffering because it is out of alignment with reality. Similarly, deities and demons are also not solid or independently existing.
Within this worldview, Green Tara is both a historical person–a woman who achieved enlightenment and vowed to remain available as a compassionate force that relieves suffering—and a reflection of our own innate, here-and-now nature.
In the practice of Green Tara, we imagine (visualize) her as a way of invoking and cultivating compassionate energy that is not bound by a habitual sense of self. The practice (sadhana) includes sound (bell and drum), gesture (hand mudras), and words (praises and aspirations), which, through repetition, invoke a sensory, resonant environment infused with her/our enlightened energy. When we do the practice together, we participate in a shared world of compassionate intent that responds to suffering and radiates to wherever it is needed.
This May, we are fortunate to be introduced to the Green Tara practice by someone committed to maintaining the integrity of its transmission from Tibet to the West. The tendency to graft cultural and spiritual traditions, whether Asian or Indigenous, onto a Western worldview is a colonial pattern, a kind of appropriation. In this case, the practice is a gift intentionally offered, passed on from Tibetan teacher to Western student, and then entrusted to us with the blessings of the lineage.