Tara Practice and Prayers While Flying

Tara Practice and Prayers While Flying

Date of Advice:
October 2017
Date Posted:
December 2018

On a recent journey, a flight attendant had asked Rinpoche for a prayer. Rinpoche recommended Tara practice and explained a visualization and prayers for the safety and happiness of others.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche painting Tara, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1976. Photo: Peter Iseli.

My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling jewel,
It made me so happy that you asked for some practice or some prayer. I just wanted to mention about this practice of Tara.

Tara is the holy name of this Buddha, the Omniscient One, who has great compassion for you and for every sentient being, and perfect power to reveal and to guide the numberless sentient beings, including you, with all the different methods, whatever fits each sentient being. Tara is the Buddha in a female enlightened aspect. Her name is Tara the Liberator, or Mother Liberator. She is the manifestation of all the numberless buddhas’ holy actions in this female enlightened aspect. She is called mother because all the buddhas are born from her.

The ultimate meaning of Tara is guru. All the buddhas come from the guru. All the buddhas’ actions manifested into her, to guide the sentient beings from the hell realms, hungry ghost realms and animal realms, from the human realm, the sura and asura realms, from all those oceans of suffering, from the whole entire samsaric suffering.

Tara even guides us from lower nirvana, the blissful state of peace. She guides us to total freedom from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and its causes, delusion and karma. She even guides us from lower nirvana, the blissful state of peace that is only for ourselves. She guides us to the peerless happiness, the total cessation of all the obscurations and completion of all the realizations—buddhahood. When we achieve this, what happens is we have infinite qualities, omniscience, infinite compassion for every sentient being and perfect power, so we can free the numberless living beings from all the sufferings and bring them to the peerless happiness, buddhahood.

It would be very good if you could do this meditation on Tara. If you can, do the Tara Guru Yoga and when you have time or if you like, you can recite the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras.

First I want to tell you what I do on the airplane, usually when I get on the plane. I haven’t been doing this for my whole life—not since I started traveling—but I have been doing this for quite a number of years, maybe for ten or fifteen years. I’m not sure exactly how many years ago I started doing this.

When the airplane has turbulence, I do tonglen, taking all the sentient beings’ sufferings and the causes, and then giving all the happiness and merit to all other sentient beings. That is the best thing, the ultimate good heart, bodhicitta.

Then I visualize the twenty-one Taras around the airplane, outside the plane. There are twenty-one different aspects of Tara, and the simple aspect has one face and two arms, according to Lama Atisha.

Lama Atisha was invited to Tibet to make Buddhism pure and he did great works to benefit sentient beings by writing the teaching Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. The Buddha has 84,000 teachings, and these are condensed into the Lesser Vehicle teachings and the Great Vehicle teachings. Then that is further divided into the Mahayana sutra and the Great Vehicle teachings, the Mahayana tantra. All these teachings are condensed into a few pages in the teaching of the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. This teaching simplified and clarified all wrong conceptions and misconceptions that had happened in Tibet during that time, such as if you practice sutra then you can’t practice tantra, and if you practice tantra then you can’t practice sutra, and so forth. So, this teaching eliminated all the confusion and illuminated again the pure Buddhism that spread in Tibet.

I visualize the twenty-one Taras around the airplane guarding the people in the airplane.

Then I pray not only that the plane is safe and when it lands all the people arrive safely, not only that, but I also make the prayer that for as long as the plane exists and carries people anywhere, for all the people that get on the plane to be safe and to never be harmed, for there never to be danger to the people. I used to pray like that as much as possible, but now I have added more prayers, such as:

May all the people who come on the plane, now and for as long as the plane exists, never be reborn in the lower realms.

This means to never be reborn in the hell realms, hungry ghost and animal realms. The animal realm includes all the different kinds of fish—the largest, like the whales in the oceans and the small animals, like snails, worms, those living in the ground, the tiny flies in the grass and in the trees and bushes, also the birds, so like that. I pray that when the people die they will never be reborn in the lower realms, because that means they will experience unbelievable suffering.

Then I pray:

May all their wishes succeed, according to the holy Dharma and may nothing become negative karma, the cause of suffering in the lower realms. May they all generate the most precious, ultimate good heart, bodhicitta, the precious thought of buddhahood—the total cessation of obscurations and completion of realizations. May all their actions of body, speech and mind become only the cause of peace and happiness—the total cessation of obscurations and completion of realizations, buddhahood. May they actualize bodhicitta, the ultimate good heart, and in that way may all their actions of body, speech and mind only become the cause of happiness.

Regarding happiness, this means the happiness of this life and the happiness of future lives and it also means until sentient beings actualize the four noble truths, which is the basic teaching of Buddhism. Then especially ultimate happiness, the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness that ceases the seed of delusion and karma, which is the cause of suffering. In this way they are free from the oceans of samsaric suffering and the result. This means they have total freedom from the whole entire suffering of samsara forever.

I’m not sure how long this will take or when this will happen. It could take a billion eons or even a zillion, trillion eons, so many eons; it could be any time, numberless eons.

I make the prayer that they have happiness in all those future lives, and not only that, but ultimate happiness, the cessation of true suffering and the true cause of suffering, delusion and karma. This means happiness forever, the blissful state of happiness, the peerless happiness—the cessation of gross and subtle obscurations and the completion of all the realizations; no hallucination at all. That is the peerless happiness, buddhahood.

The word “enlightenment” has been used for so long, but people don’t really understand the meaning of enlightenment. Probably it is used in a common way. But when it’s used for buddhahood, then it means the total cessation of obscurations and the completion of realizations. That becomes the cause of happiness for other sentient beings; this means all the happiness up to peerless happiness. Therefore, it’s urgent to pray to generate bodhicitta.

This is how I try to pray on the airplane. I also add more and more prayers for other people.

It would be very good for you to pray like this also, since in your job you are always traveling on an airplane.

If you totally rely on Tara, that would be very good; that’s what you need. When there are problems, recite the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras if you can, then it is very powerful, very good. Or you can do the abbreviated short praise to Tara. 

Start the practice with taking refuge and generating bodhicitta.

   I take refuge until l I am enlightened
   In the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Supreme Assembly.
   By my merits of listening to the Dharma,
   May I become a buddha to benefi t transmigratory beings. (3x)

The motivation here is to take refuge and rely on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. This is not only for yourself to be free from samsara but for all beings to be free from the oceans of samsaric sufferings. For that you go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Next, generate a bodhicitta motivation. Think:

May I achieve buddhahood—the total cessation of obscurations and completion of realizations—in order to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering, and not only that, to bring them to ultimate happiness, buddhahood.

Then recite the abbreviated twenty-one Taras prayer or the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras.

Abbreviated Praise

This abbreviation in a single verse of the praises to the twenty-one Taras was received directly from Arya Tara by the great teacher, Jowo Atisha, for the swift collection of merit.

   OM To Bhagavati, Goddess Tara, I prostrate.
   I prostrate to the liberator, heroic TARE.
   With TUTTARA, you dispel all fear.
   With TURE, you fulfill all aims.
   To you with the syllables SVA HA, I completely bow.

Tara’s Mantra

You can recite the mantra twenty-one times, or half a mala or one mala or more. That would be very good. When you recite the Tara mantra or praises, you can look at a picture of Tara.

Think that Tara sends loving kindness and compassion to you, like sunbeams, totally purifying you. Think that any sickness, spirit harm, negative karma and defilements collected from beginningless rebirths are totally purified, gone. First mainly think of purifying yourself, and then halfway through the mantra recitation mainly think of purifying the sentient beings. That is very good, also for your family members.

At the end, dedicate:

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me and the three times’ merits collected by numberless sentient beings and numberless buddhas, may the ultimate good heart, bodhicitta, be generated within me and within the hearts of all sentient beings. That means the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras and asuras. In those whose mind bodhicitta has been generated, may it be increase more and more.

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me and the three times’ merits collected by numberless sentient beings and numberless buddhas; due to all these merits, which exist in mere name, may the I, which exists in mere name, achieve Tara’s buddhahood, the peerless happiness, which exists in mere name, and lead all the sentient beings, who exist in mere name, to Tara’s buddhahood, which exists in mere name, by myself alone, who exists in mere name.

If you wish, you can do the following prayer for the world:

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me and the three times’ merits collected by numberless sentient beings and numberless buddhas, may all the wars happening now and in the future, all the sicknesses, cancers, spirit harms, famines, all the dangers caused by attachment, anger and ignorance, that which comes from sentient beings’ mind, may all this be stopped immediately.

May all the dangers of fire, water, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, also be pacified immediately and all the global problems, like the ice melting down and the oceans increasing and washing away the cities, may this be stopped and may perfect peace and happiness spread in the hearts of all the sentient beings.

Pray for the world by generating loving kindness and compassion.

If there is anything that you really wish to ask, you can send me an email with the question.

Please have a meaningful life with these prayers, so that your life may be most beneficial for every sentient being, every day. That’s the happiest life.

Thank you very much. I was very happy to see you on this journey. If you want to recite the mantra more, you will need a mala or rosary. I can send you a mala, so if you want one, let me know your postal address.

With much love and prayers ...