The Talking Tara of Paro

I don’t know how many times I must have been to Drukgyel Dzong. Countless, I am sure.

Now there is this very unassuming house below the Dzong, pasted on the cliff, and right at the base. An old man could be seen sitting outside this house with a prayer wheel and a rosary, and sometimes he would invite the people to visit the house. He used to say that it was a Drolma Lhakhang (Tara Temple).

I was never impressed by it and I used to give it a pass. Once I even told the man that I was in a hurry and joked that I had no time for his Tara.

Recently, a friend of mine was told by a visiting Tibetan Rimpoche that there is a very sacred Drolma Sung-joen (literally meaning “Tara that spoke”) in Paro – and that too a wish-granting Tara. My friend, a devout practioner, looked for the holy statue high and low, and finally asked our our root lama, Khandro Dorje Phagmo, who directed her to that house.

Story goes that this Tara statue was kept in this house for safekeeping from a temple, which was undergoing some major repairs. When the works were done and the statue was to be taken back and reinstated, the statue is believed to have spoken – saying that it did not intend to leave. The Tara statue thus remained in that farmhouse ever since.

According to our lama, the statue is of White Tara – which is considered to be the epitome of maternal compassion and healing. Many thus refer to her as Ama Jetsun Drolma (Mother Tara). The caretaker says that this Tara also confers wealth and prosperity. And that many merchants in Thimphu and Paro have been secretly worshipping her.

I visited this Talking Tara a few days back. The house has now been upgraded to a nice and cozy temple. Maybe the merchant-devotees sponsored the works. The main altar holds this magnificent Talking Tara. A very beautiful clay image – more beautiful than the one I saw in Singye Dzong. She is flanked by 21 Taras – the different manifestations.

There are also two large statues of Chukchi-Zay (The Eleven Faces Thousand Arms Avalokiteshvara) and tens of other smaller statues of Vajrayana deities and divinities. The altar itself is very beautiful.

It is privately-owned and a young woman is the caretaker, who is seen cleaning and washing the offering bowls, butter lamps and milk cups. “This Drolma is believed to love cow milk,” my friend whispers to me. There is silence and peace. We sat and chanted our prayers. I felt as if I was transported into another realm.

To the right of the main altar, there is a separate chamber of the wrathful Dharma protector, Mahakala (Yeshey Gonpo), where you can get your divinations done by rolling the dice. You must hit 14 for the Mahakala, and 10 for Tara, and 11 for the local king-spirit (Gyelpo). I decided to roll the dice to see if Mother Tara was upset that I walked past her temple all my life.

I took the dice in my right hand, put them on my forehead, closed my eyes, made my mantra, and apologised for ignoring the temple for so long, and promised to visit regularly hereafter. “I didn’t know you were here. My apologies.”

I also wished for something (I cannot disclose it here. It is not Australia visa 😁). Looks like Tara not only accepted my apology but also granted my wish. I threw the perfect number.

I left after making an offering with a request to make prayers for my younger daughter and grandson who have Tara as their birth deity.

Background – The legends of Tara

Tara, which means “star” in Sanskrit, is undisputedly the most popular female divinity in Vajrayana Buddhism. Among my female friends, she is the deity.

There are many legends and myths and stories of the origins of Tara. My favorite is the one that goes something like: Avalokiteshvara, the buddha of compassion, was looking down on the human world and saw the endless and immense sufferings despite his efforts to deliver the salvation. Saddened to the core, two tear drops feel from his two eyes. One tear drop turn to White Tara (Drol-kar) – the Peaceful One, and the other Green Tara (Drol-jang) – the Semi-wrathful.

Other legends tell the story of a devout Buddhist princess that lived aeons ago and who became a Bodhisattva and vowed to be reborn as a female deity and continue to help others. Another myth tells about a bodhisattva-princess who rescues tens of millions lives from suffering for which her name means drolma (One Who Saves).

To get there

Drukgyel Dzong is 15 km from Paro town. After you reach the Dzong parking, leave your car there. The temple is just 50 meters away on the right side of the hill. You can see it from the parking.

Prayer to Mother Tara 

There are few prayers to invoke Mother Tara.

This is my favourite and it is a Prayer to Tara to seek help from the Eight Great Fears. It was composed by my Buddhist master Atiśa Dipankara when he found himself in a sea storm. It is believed that the deity Tara appeared to him and saved him and the ship from sinking.

ཨོཾ། འཇིགས་པ་བརྒྱད་སྐྱོབ་མ་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ་ལོ། །

om, jikpa gyékyob ma la chaktsal lo

Oṃ! Homage to you, lady who protects us from the eight fears!

བཀྲ་ཤིས་དཔལ་འབར་མ་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ་ལོ། །

tashi palbar ma la chaktsal lo

Homage to you, lady who blazes with the splendour of auspiciousness!

ངན་སོང་སྒོ་འགེགས་མ་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ་ལོ། །

ngensong go-gek ma la chaktsal lo

Homage to you, lady who closes the door to lower rebirth!

མཐོ་རིས་ལམ་འདྲེན་མ་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ་ལོ། །

tori lamdren ma la chaktsal lo

Homage to you, lady who leads us on the path to higher realms!

རྟག་ཏུ་ཁྱེད་ཀྱིས་སྡོང་གྲོགས་མཛད། །

taktu khyé kyi dongdrok dzé

You are the one who holds us always in your care—our guide, support and friend;

ད་དུང་ཐུགས་རྗེས་བསྐྱབ་ཏུ་གསོལ། །

dadung tukjé kyab tu sol

So protect us still, we pray, with all of your vast compassion!

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