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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Invoking the blessings of the Tibetan Buddhist Goddess Tara through chanting her mantra to overcome fear
by Villanueva, Karen Nelson, Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2013, 307; 3606937
Abstract (Summary)

In Tibetan Buddhism, the Goddess Tara represents the feminine nature of the divine. She is a popular Tibetan deity who has been embraced by many Western feminists because she is said to have rejected the belief extolling that one could not become enlightened in a female body. Vowing to always be reborn as a woman until she attained enlightenment as a Buddha, she is reputed to come swiftly and compassionately to our aid when called upon. She may be invoked through prayer, visualization, and mantra, of which there are several specifically ascribed to her many forms of manifestation.

Fear can cause suffering that may be an obstacle to achieving higher realizations that lead to enlightenment. As a meditational deity, Tara is especially efficacious in saving us from our fears. This dissertation explores the experience of contemporary Western people who invoked the blessings of the Goddess Tara through chanting her mantra to overcome a stated fear. Using a participatory research methodological approach, twelve coparticipants met at an urban Buddhist center on six occasions in order to meditate and chant Tara’s mantra together. Over the three months of the study, the coparticipants created small home altars, attempted to chant alone, and journaled about the overall experience.

An examination of their fears (e.g., fear of having children, fear of failure, fear of expressing the self, fear of ending a relationship, fear of sexuality, and a fear of being open, etc.) revealed that many coparticipants exhibited a fear of love or connection to love. During this study, an exploration of their journals revealed that all of the coparticipants experienced a lessening of fear. According to Buddhist beliefs, chanting Tara’s mantra supports the realization of love, like that first experienced with one’s mother, and this, in turn, may develop one’s compassion for all beings. This notion was supported by the experience of several coparticipants who commented on how Tara was manifesting in their lives and who began to recognize her presence. Ultimately, their experience was consistent with Buddhist beliefs in the efficacy of using mantra.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Razak, Arisika
Commitee: Jenett, Dianne E., Ryan, James D.
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Philosophy and Religion with a concentration on Women.s Spirituality
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 75/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Womens studies, Spirituality
Keywords: Chanting, Fear, Goddess, Mantras, Tara, Tibetan Buddhism
Publication Number: 3606937
ISBN: 978-1-303-64273-9
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