Green Tara Helps Empower Women
A brief introduction to the possibilities
How can we grow to become a wise woman, who sees beyond the world of suffering and ignorance, and at the same time embraces suffering with compassion? How can we be empowered as women in this time of climate change? What contribution can we make to the urgent need to alter the way we live?
Green Tara, the Tibetan goddess, is a powerful role model for me, for how to be a wise woman. No role model from my own Western culture had half so much to offer. The way I learnt to meditate on Green Tara is a deep and complex living method, which enables us to embody the wise compassionate presence of this goddess. As a woman, it was empowering to explore in my body what it could feel like to be a female figure of awakened wisdom.
Wisdom is a state of being. It’s more than having wise thoughts. Tara shows me how to rest in primordial wisdom, quite beyond any individual prowess I could muster. From there, we have a very different perspective on the world. Our approach to daily life matters changes deeply.
In Tibetan Buddhism, this primordial wisdom state has many names, that attempt to give us a sense of an experience that can never be described in words. The most commonly known name is emptiness, or void. Another is clear light of mind. As we work with this mystery, and these names, our sense of what it might feel like to experience it deepens and changes.
Another common name is Natural mind, the natural state; this name indicates that this wisdom is our natural way of being. Many of us feel closest to this primordial ground when we’re out in nature. When we relax into states of well-being which feel deeply significant, we’re getting closer.
Calling it the natural state indicates that we’re all part of nature. Nature is what arises out of the primordial ground. Green Tara is sometimes known as Tara of the Forest. She can help us experience ourselves as part of Mother Nature.
One name used quite frequently is Great Mother. It’s usually explained as not really to do with the feminine; it’s the base state out of which all phenomena arise, in that sense like a mother. In my experience, it suggested a mother-like presence.
Working with the word ‘emptiness’ had given me the sense of a neutral, impersonal space. It could be relaxing and beautiful; however somehow my woman’s body wasn’t part of it. I was still subtly separate.
When I used the name Great Mother, I found it shifted my sense of the great void out of neutral, to a warm gentle presence, like a subtle primordial state of love. At last my woman’s body began to feel no longer separate from vast primordial awareness. I felt empowered as a woman, that I could be part of the power of the Great Mother.
At first, we’re still tossed on the sea of conflicting emotions. We see them as our own personal suffering, and take upon ourselves the burden of improving self-esteem and skills of living.
Tara protects against fears and conflicting emotions, with her compassion. She can help us with the tossings and turnings of emotional distress, and re-mother us. She also has 20 sisters to help with this enormous job.
All the while she helps us with emotional distresses, she reminds us that our suffering is also emptiness, impermanent arisings out of the Great Mother. She keeps in sight the understanding that we can see beyond incessantly sorting out the turmoil and recreating a new self, that our natural state is to be in union with all that there is.
I clearly remember the day I realised my fears and inadequacy were not all mine. They were the result of my woman’s conditioning in this patriarchal culture. The way I was seen by others, what came towards me from outside, and the way I saw myself: the oppression I internalized.
The sensation was like when I’d been carrying a huge backpack, and it slid off my back. I felt as light as air. When we let slide off all the ways that we thought we had to be, to be a woman, what do we become?
Natural Self arising in Great Mother
Tara is a wonderful model for this. She can help us build healthy ego or self, while again always reminding us that our natural self arises anew each moment out of the vastness of Great Mother Primordial Wisdom. We’re not a separate ego that we have to defend and protect, and build into something functional, and we’re not fixed and permanent. We can never find a form to build that will stay as it is. There’s always room for growth. Living in that is wisdom.
This is the same ultimately for both men and women. However, in our society women are not encouraged to build a strong ego. It’s a special experience for women when we realise that when we rise out of the void as a magnificent beautiful wise woman, it’s a big ego, and a transcendent one. Our ego is not ours alone. It arises out of the primordial wisdom of the Great Mother. This is how we become empowered, as women who have the power to act wisely and compassionately in the world.
In Tibetan work, we practice ‘divine pride’: we practice to have confidence and pride in ourselves as this kind of ego. It’s not your ordinary pride; it’s pride in sharing the power the Great Mother.
Our empowerment is a gift to the world
Our women’s empowerment is not ours alone. It’s a gift to all nature and to building a future sustainable world. We desperately need to feel part of Mother Nature, to do something about climate change, and restore Nature and our world. Nature is called mother; women are thus associated with nature. We have a special role to play in protecting her. The more we feel part of her, the more we can draw on her power, to help her and our communities.