The Tathāgatagarbhatārā Tantra
Verily, I take refuge in the Buddha, for imageless is the Tathagata—who cannot be seen by mortal eyes…
Verily, I take refuge in the Buddhadharma, for unutterable is its Holy Doctrine—it cannot be heard by mortal ears…
Verily, I take refuge in the Sacred Sangha, for its Holy Community bears an immutable character—unstained by skandhic body or mind.
Part One: Generation
One: The Descent of Adi-Buddha Samantabhadra
Thus have I heard as it was revealed…
From the timeless and imageless abode of the Akanishtha Mind-realm, the Immaculate Adi-Buddha Samantabhadra descended upon the samadhic-reverie of Acintapa the Mahasiddha,who was dwelling in humble hermitage on the White Island of Śvetadvīpa.
Imbued with Recollective fervor, the Mahasiddha’s Manomakayic-Spirit became enraptured with the Transcendent-descent as it entered fully into the ever-expanding plane of Sambhogakāya. The hermitage was thus transformed into a boundless assembly of Tathāgatas from the ten directions, fully attuned with incorruptible body, speech and mind and seated upon lion-thrones of astounding stature. There were also vast numbers of Maha-Bodhisattvas gathered, like millions of infinitesimal dust motes, from all the corners of multitudinous universes. Beings bearing mystical-attributes also assembled—Nāgas and Garudas and Yakshinis, accompanied by limitless materializing devas—all eagerly arriving from diverse quarters to savor the impending teaching of the Blessed Sugata. Seated prominently in the sundry assemblage were legions of hermit-contemplatives, fellow siddhas of the Mahasiddha, exhibiting divergent physiques revealing dissimilar genetic traits from a wide matrix of sentient realms and dimensions; their fundamental intention here was to fully discern from the Blessed One the Secret Place of the Holy Matrix.
The Guardian of the Secrets, the fierce Bodhisattva-Yaksha protector of the Buddhadharma—Vajarpanī—made his fierce appearance known to the assembly. They all trembled as Vajrapanī, encircled in flame and bearing aloft his Mighty-Vajra, solemnly addressed the Sugata:
“Proclaim, O’ Blessed One,
the Vast Collection of the Vajra Essence,
the Secret of all Tathāgatas,
the Holy Union,
born of the Secret
You have set-forth great Compassion on all living beings
by bestowing upon them
the awakened acquisition of their own Nature
Reveal now that mystery
the sole vehicle of liberation
the Secret of the Holy Matrix”
With that the perfect unwavering Mindground, the Unobstructed Adamantine Adi Buddha imbued with Natural Clarity, the full composite of all Tathagatas, took form as Vajradhara Buddha.
The former Singular, Motionless and Immutable Source, took great joy in witnessing Itself in the Sambhogakayic guise as the great Holder of the Diamond. From the tip of his Vajra, he scooped up the entire assembly and gently placed them in one of the pores on his luminous skin. His Ghanta resounded throughout the entire Samsaric realms, the six Develoka heavenly realms, the sixteen Rupalokas of all fine material realms, and the four Arupalokas formless realms as well; thus all planes existant within the universes oscillated in reverberation upon hearing his Hallowed Ghanta ringing the message loud and clear that the Supreme and incontrovertible Tathagata was about to impart his inviolable Buddhadharma.
Tathāgatagarbhatārā: verily, let it be known that this is Arya Tārā as the Tathāgatagarbha, the Buddhaic Light Womb of all Buddhas.
Generation: Traditionally in Tantra the Generation Stage is when the Yogin/Yogini begins the process of generating oneself in the form of the sacred deity through what is described as a “process of dissolution”, i.e., dissolving one’s own skandhic composites into the Sacred Appearance of the deity. In the Tathāgatagarbhatārā Tantra what occurs is that the Sacred-Shrine of the Garbha (Arya Tārā’s Buddhaic Womb) mystically takes shape wherein the Yogin/Yogini dissolves into the garbha-child and goes through the ten-stages (bhumis) of Bodhisattvic development. It is also during this stage that the Yogin/Yogini develops devotion for Arya Tārā—the Holy Matrix.
Verily, I take refuge: the solemn invocations before the verses of the Tantra.
Within Tantra there are five marvelous aspects that need to be met in order for it to be an authentic text: its marvelous time, (timeless), its marvelous place (the transformed hermitage on Śvetadvīpa [see below]), its marvelous teacher (Vajradhara Buddha), its marvelous retinue (Maha-Bodhisattvas, Mystical Beings, ect) and its marvelous teaching (Arya Tārā as Sacred Garbha, ect). The Tathāgatagarbhatārā Tantra also includes within its retinue hermit-contemplatives, like Acintapa the Mahasiddha (one of the great 84 Maha-Siddhas).
Adi-Buddha Samantabhadra: the Supreme Primordial/Imageless Unborn Father.
Akanishtha Mind-realm: the heaven of Samantabhadra; the Highest-Mind Realm within the Buddhaic Cosmology.
White Island of Śvetadvīpa: the mythical abode of the blessed.
Imbued with Recollective fervor, the Mahasiddhas’ Manomakayic-Spirit became enraptured with the Transcendent-descent as it entered fully into the ever-expanding plane of Sambhogakāya: the Manomayakaya, or “Mind-Spirit-Projected Body” was fully covered during our studies of the Lankavatara Sutra and the Lankavatarian Book of the Dead; in this instance the Manomakayic-Spirit/Body becomes part of the Sambhokayic (Enjoyment Realm) landscape/mindscape wherein the action of the Sutra unfolds.
fellow siddhas of the Mahasiddha, exhibiting divergent physiques revealing dissimilar genetic traits from a wide matrix of sentient realms and dimensions: not all Mind Adepts (Yogi’s) are human; in the vast Buddhist cosmological continuum, there are many diverse creatures who faithfully adhere to the Buddhadharma.
Vajarpanī: the classic Dharma-Protector of the Vajrayana; he’s to be the one—like Subhūti and Ānanda in the sutras—who poses questions to the Tathagata, as well as fulfilling his role as Dharma-Protector.
Vajradhara Buddha: the formal-Sambhokayic manifestation of Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, who formally offers the sacred-teaching to the assembly.
Vajra and Ghanta: sacred ritual instruments of the Vajrayana. The Vajra, also known as the Sacred Thunderbolt, is “a metal sceptre, golden in color; it has an oval hub in the middle, with a central prong or axis running through it.” (The Vajra and Bell, Vessantara, pg. 7). The Vajra is also known as the Sacred Weapon, highlighted in the last post in a verse from The Litany of the Great Compassionate One. The Ghanta or Bell is “also usually made of bronze. Its handle consists of a half-vajra, below which is a female face wearing a five-pointed crown.” (ibid, pg.7) As we shall learn later on in the Tathāgatagarbhatārā Tantra, these Sacred instruments will play a pivotal role in Ritual Use, in particular in the Divine Liturgy of Vajrasattva wherein the Primordial Phallus (Upaya) Vajra is symbolically inserted by the Vajraic Priest into the Primordial Vagina (Prajñā) Lotus whilst simultaneously the Ghanta is rung signifying the supreme-moment of consecration.