Compassion through the Image of the Mother: A Comparative Examination of the Images and Mantras of Mary and Tara

By Krista Rodin.

Published by The International Journal of Literary Humanities

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A number of scholars and authors have noted a connection between Mary in the Christian tradition and Tara in the Buddhist. Even H.H. the XIV Dalai Lama, after visiting the Grotto in Lourdes wrote, "I feel she (Mary) represents love and compassion. She is like a symbol of love. Within Buddhist iconography, the goddess Tara occupies a similar position” (1996c, 83f). China Galland in her book ”Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna,” writes about her quest for understanding through these two figures. This presentation takes these earlier discussions to a more focused level on the role of compassion within the traditions as embodied by these two virgin mother figures. A comparison of their iconography, as well as the prayers and mantras offered to the female figures, will be highlighted. The discussion on the various representations of Mary, including the Black Madonnas, and Tara in her 21 manifestations as well as her in Hindu forms, will be based how the concept of compassion is embodied by these two maternal yet virginal figures. Through this investigation, it will be demonstrated how compassion is viewed as central to each of the traditions, but that the concept of compassion is interpreted very differently in each of them.

Keywords: Christianity, Buddhism, Goddess, Mary, Tara, Compassion, Comparative Religion, Mantra, Prayer

The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp.39-50. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 560.497KB).

Dr. Krista Rodin

Professor of Humanities, Department of Comparative Cultural Studies, College of Arts and Letters, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

Dr. Rodin is a professor of humanities and music at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. She teaches "Humanities in Western Traditions", "Art and the Sacred", "Critical Judgments in the Humanities", and "Asian Culture and Values". Her research is in mantrayama, Himalayan wisdom traditions, and Austrian and Italian opera. Before returning to teaching, she was the associate vice president and campus executive office for NAU - Yuma. Prior to that, she was at the University of Connecticut as the vice provost for outreach and the dean of the College of Continuing Studies. Earlier in her career, she was a member of the ensemble as an operatic stage director at both the Landestheater Salzburg and Staedtische Buehnen Augsburg, and a freelance opera director throughout the German speaking world. Her Ph.D. is from the University of Salzburg in Austria with undergraduate and graduate work at Wayne State University in Detroit.