hell realms, ascending gradually through the world of hungry ghosts,

up to the realm of the gods. From there he happened to look down

and saw, aghast, that though he had saved innumerable beings from

hell, countless more were pouring in. This plunged him into the profoundest

grief; for a moment he almost lost faith in that noble vow

he had taken, and his body exploded into a thousand pieces. In his

desperation, he called out to all the buddhas for help, who came to

his aid from all directions of the universe, as one text said, like a soft

blizzard of snowflakes. With their great power the buddhas made

him whole again, and from then on Avalokiteshvara had eleven

heads, and a thousand arms, and on each palm of each hand was an

eye, signifying that union of wisdom and skillful means that is the

mark of true compassion. In this form he was even more resplendent

and empowered than before to help all beings, and his compassion

grew even more intense as again and again he repeated this vow

before the buddhas: "May I not attain final buddhahood before all

sentient beings attain enlightenment."

It is said that in his sorrow at the pain of samsara, two tears fell

from his eyes: through the blessings of the buddhas, they were transformed

into the two Taras. One is Tara in her green form, who is the

active force of compassion, and the other is Tara in her white form,

who is compassion's motherly aspect. The name Tara means "she

who liberates": she who ferries us across the ocean of samsara.

It is written in the Mahayana Sutras that Avalokiteshvara gave his

mantra to the Buddha himself, and Buddha in turn granted him the

special and noble task of helping all beings in the universe toward

buddhahood. At this moment all the gods rained flowers on them,

the earth shook, and the air rang with the sound OM MANI PADME


In the words of the poem:

Avalokiteshvara is like the moon

Whose cool light puts out the burning fires of samsara

In its rays the night-flowering lotus of compassion

Opens wide its petals.

The teachings explain that each of the six syllables of the

mantra—OM MA NI PAD MÉ HUM—has a specific and potent

effect in bringing about transformation at different levels of our being.

The six syllables purify completely the six poisonous negative emotions,

which are the manifestation of ignorance, and which cause us

to act negatively with our body, speech, and mind, so creating samsara

and our suffering in it. Pride, jealousy desire, ignorance, greed,

and anger are transformed, through the mantra, into their true nature,

the wisdoms of the six buddha families that become manifest in the

enlightened mind. 3

So when we recite OM MANI PADME HUM, the six negative

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