White Tara is seated across – legged on a lotus and moon seat and holds her hands in the same pose as Green Tara. Her especial attributes are her seven eyes – the “third eye: located on her forehead and the other four on the palms of her hands and soles of her feet. Like those of the eleven – faced Avalokiteshvara, these eyes allow her to look upon beings in every realm of existence with clear – sighted wisdom and heartfelt compassion.
White tar is specifically associated with practices designed to lengthen one’s lifespan and overcome life – threatening hindrances. In one such practice she is referred to as Yeshin Khorlo, the Wish – Granting Wheel , and the practitioner strives to identify him – or herself with this deity and thereby purify all obstacles to longevity;
When I see the signs of untimely death,
May I clearly behold the body of the Wish – Granting
May this destroy the boldness of the Lord of Death
And may I quickly become a deathless knowledge
This method can also be employed on behalf of someone else whose life is in danger, in which case the practitioner identifies with Tara and visualizes the afflicted person in one’s own divine heart, bathed in purifying white light.
Among the Tibetans it is common for a person who is gravelly ill not only to consult a doctor but also to call in someone to recite White Tara’s mantra and perform a related offering ritual (Skt. Puja). In certain sever cases a lama – who himself may be a doctor – will recommend that the afflicted person sponsor a special one – day puja. During that time there are a specified number of mantras to be recited and the patient is also instructed to commission the painting of a White Tara image – or one of the other long –life deities – which must be completed within twenty – four hours. Such an intense on-day practice accumulates a great store of constructive, meritorious energy (Skt. Punya) which, depending on many other factors, can counter- balance and even overcome the destructive and deluded forces at the source of the disease. In this way it is sometimes possible to bring about a cure even when conventional medical treatment has proved ineffective.
The remarkable ability of mere image to such a powerful, beneficial effect is illustrated in the legend that tells how the first painting came to be.15 in ancient India there was a benevolent king and one day one of his subjects, a member of the priestly Brahmin caste, appeared before him grief – stricken. He explained that his young son had died before his time and implored the king to help bring him back to life. The king then went before Yama,, the Lord of Death, and after paying his respects asked for the life of the brahmin’s son. Yama explained, “His death was not of my doing, but the result of the exhaustion of his won karma.” The king insisted, but yama could only reply, “I am sorry; there is nothing I can do.” Suddenly Brahman, the wise and powerful Lord of Creation, appeared and said to the king, “Do not blame yama. Instead, draw a likeness of the brahmin’s son and bring it to me.” When this was done Brahma blessed the painting and the boy immediately came back to life. The king who painted this image has, since that time, been honored as the forerunner of all artists.
From the point of view of the Buddhist teachings, the main purpose for wishing to have a long life is to enable one to progress further along the path to spiritual fulfillment. As the great Tibetan lama Marpa the translator said, if the only thing people are doing with their lives is giving harm to others and creating negative karma for themselves, then it would be better if they died sooner rather than later. The situation for those bringing benefit to themselves and others is, of course, just opposite. Especially in the case of spiritual guides, the longer they remain alive, the more they are bale to lead others along the path to enlightenment. For these reason disciples in the Tibetan tradition often present their lams with a painting of White Tara or one of the other long-life deities, together with a request that these spiritual mentors have an uninterrupted lifespan and continue to turn the wheel of dharma for the sake of all unenlightened beings. In the case of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal guide of the Tibetan people as whole,, the Tibetan government has at times commissioned the state artist to paint one such image every months as one way of creating the necessary conditions of His Holiness’ enlightened presence to remain in this world.