The Tarapith Temple in West Bengal Goddess Tara, one of the Dash-Mahavidyashas, and has an interesting legend associated with it:

Another oral legend about the temple states that sage Vashishtha practised austerities to Tara, but was unsuccessful, so on the advice of a divine voice, he went to meet the Buddha – an avatar of Vishnu according to some schools of Hinduism – in Tibet. The Buddha instructed Vasishtha to worship Tara through the practices of vamachara. During this time, Buddha had a vision of Tarapith as an ideal location for enshrining the image of Tara in a temple there. Buddha advised Vasishtha to go to Tarapith, the abode of Tara. At Tarapith, Vasishtha did penance by reciting Tara mantra 300,000 times. Tara was pleased with Vasishtha’s penance and appeared before him.

My question is - Which scriptures (if any) talk about Brahmarishi Vasishth praying to Goddess Tara?

1 Answer 1


Quoting from Arthur Avalon's book Shakti and Shakta's chapter 8, named Cinachara:

Most important however in the alleged Buddhist connection is the story of Vashishtha to be found in the Tantras. He is said to have gone to Mahacina (Tibet), which, according to popular belief, is half way to Heaven. Mahadeva is said to be visible at the bottom of the Manasarova Lake near Kailasa. Some of the Texts bearing on it have been collected in the Appendix to the edition of the Tara Tantra which has been published by the Varendra Anusandhana Samiti. The Tara Tantra opens (l. 2) with the following question of Devi Tara or Mahanila-Sarasvati: "Thou didst speak of the two Kula-bhairavas, Buddha and Vashishtha. Tell me by what Mantra they became Siddha'. The same Tantra (IV. 10) defines a Bhairava as follows: "He who purifies these five (i.e., Pañcatattva) and after offering the same (to the Devata) partakes thereof is a Bhairava." Buddha then is said to be a Kula-bhairava. It is to be noted that Buddhist Tantriks who practice this ritual are accounted Kaulas. Shiva replied, "Janardana (Vishnu) is the excellent Deva in the form of Buddha (Buddharupi)." It is said in the Samayacara Tantra that Tara and Kalika, in their different forms, as also Matangi, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, and Dhumavati belong to the northern Amnaya. The sixth Chapter of the Sammohana Tantra mentions a number of Scriptures of the Bauddha class, together with others of the Shakta, Shaiva, Vaishnava, Saura and Ganapatya classes.

Vashishtha is spoken of in the XVII Chapter of the Rudrayamala and the 1st Patala of the Brahmayamala. The following is the account in the former Tantrik Scripture:

Vashishtha, the self-controlled, the son of Brahma, practiced for ages severe austerities in a lonely spot. For six thousand years he did Sadhana, but still the Daughter of the Mountains did not appear to him. Becoming angry he went to his father and told him his method of practice. He then said, "Give me another Mantra, Oh Lord! since this Vidya (Mantra) does not grant me Siddhi (success); otherwise in your presence I shall utter a terrible curse."

Dissuading him Brahma said, "Oh son, who art learned in the Yoga path, do not do so. Do thou worship Her again with wholehearted feeling, when She will appear and grant you boons. She is the Supreme Shakti. She saves from all dangers. She is lustrous like ten million suns. She is dark blue (Nila). She is cool like ten million moons. She is like ten million lightning-flashes. She is the spouse of Kala (Kalakamini). She is the beginning of all. In Her there is neither Dharma nor Adharma. She is in the form of all. She is attached to pure Cinacara (Shuddhacinacararata). She is the initiator (Pravarttika) of Shakticakra. Her greatness is infinitely boundless. She helps in the crossing of the ocean of the Samsara. She is Buddheshvari (possibly Buddhishvari, Lord of Buddhi). She is Buddhi (intelligence) itself (Buddhirupa). She is in the form of the Atharva branch of the Vedas (Atharvavedashakhini). Numerous Shastric references connect the Tantra Shastra with the Atharvaveda. (See in this connection my citation from Shaktisangama Tantra in Principles of Tantra.) She protects the beings of the worlds. Her action is spread throughout the moving and motionless. Worship Her, my son. Be of good cheer. Why so eager to curse? Thou art the jewel of kindness. Oh, son, worship Her constantly with thy mind (Cetas). Being entirely engrossed in Her, thou of a surety shalt gain sight of Her."

Having heard these words of his Guru and having bowed to him again and again the pure one (Vashishtha), versed in the meaning of Vedanta, betook himself to the shore of the ocean. For full a thousand years he did Japa of Her Mantra. Still he received no message (Adesha). Thereupon the Muni Vashishtha grew angry, and being perturbed of mind prepared to curse the Mahavidya (Devi). Having sipped water (Acamana) he uttered a great and terrible curse. Thereupon kuleshvari (Lady of the Kaulas) Mahavidya appeared before the Muni.

A similar account appears in the Brahma Yamala, with some variants.

A similar account is given in the Brahmayamala. There are some variants however. Thus while in the Rudrayamala, Vashishtha is said to have resorted to the shore of the ocean, in the Brahmayamala he goes to Kamakhya, the great Tantrik Pitha and shrine of the Devi. (The prevalence of Her worship amongst the Mongolian Assamese is noteworthy.) It may be here added that this Yamala states that, except at time of worship, wine should not be taken nor should the Shakti be unclothed. By violation of these provisions life, it says, is shortened, and man goes to Hell.

According to the account of the Brahmayamala, Vashishtha complaining of his ill-success was told to go to the Blue Mountains (Nilacala) and worship parameshvari near Kamakhya (Karma in Assam). He was told that Vishnu in the form of Buddha (Buddharupi) alone knew this worship according to Cinacara. Devi said, "without Cinacara you cannot please Me. Go to Vishnu who is Udbodharupi (illumined) and worship Me according to the Acara taught by Him." Vashishtha then went to Vishnu in the country Mahacina, which is by the side of the Himalaya (Himavatparshve), a country inhabited by great Sadhakas and thousands of beautiful and youthful women whose hearts were gladdened with wine, and whose minds were blissful with enjoyment (Vilasa). They were adorned with clothes which inspired love (Shringaravesha) and the movement of their hips made tinkle their girdles of little bells. Free of both fear and prudish shame they enchanted the world. They surround Ishvara and are devoted to the worship of Devi. Vashishtha wondered greatly when he saw Him in the form of Buddha (Buddharupi) with eyes drooping from wine. "What" he said, "is Vishnu doing in His Buddha form? This map (Acara) is opposed to Veda (Vedavadaviruddha). I do not approve of it (Asammato mama)." Whilst so thinking, he heard a voice coming from the ether saying, "Oh thou who art devoted to good acts, think not like this. This Acara is of excellent result in the Sadhana of Tarini. She is not pleased with anything which is the contrary of this. If thou dost wish to gain Her grace speedily, then worship Her according to Cinacara." Hearing this voice, Vashishtha's hairs stood on end and he fell to the ground. Being filled with exceeding joy he prayed to Vishnu in the form of Buddha (Buddharupa). Buddha, who had taken wine, seeing him was greatly pleased and said, "Why have you come here?" Vashishtha bowing to Buddha told him of his worship of Tarini. Buddha who is Hari and full of knowledge (Tattvajñana) spoke to him of the five Makaras (M: that is, the five commencing with the letter M are Madya, or wine and so forth) which are in Cinacara (Majnanam Cinacaradikaranam) saying that this should not be disclosed (a common injunction as regards this ritual and renders it from the opponents' standpoint suspect). "By practicing it thou shalt not again sink into the ocean of being. It is full of knowledge of the Essence (Tattvajñana) and gives immediate liberation (Mukti)." He then goes on to explain a principal feature of this cult, namely, its freedom from the ritual rules of the ordinary worship above which the Sadhaka has risen. It is mental worship. In it bathing, purification, Japa, and ceremonial worship is by the mind only. (No outward acts are necessary; the bathing and so forth is in the mind and not in actual water, as is the case in lower and less advanced worship.) There are no rules as to auspicious and inauspicious times, or as to what should be done by day and by night. Nothing is pure or impure (there is no ritual defect of impurity) nor prohibition against the taking of food. Devi should be worshipped even though the worshipper has had his food, and even though the place be unclean. Woman who is Her image should be worshipped (Pujanam striya) and never should any injury be done to her (Stridvesho naiva kartavyah).

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    So the story does appear somewhere. Thanks for sharing this but would it be possible to get direct references from the texts mentioned in this book? Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 7:34
  • 3
    I myself trying to buy Rudra Yamalam for months now, but unable to do so. These Tantra books are quite hard to get even in Bengal. Brahma Yamalam is not available as a book in my place. I am not sure if it will be available online like say the Smritis, Puranas are. So, this is the best i could do. @Dr.VineetAggarwal
    – Rickross
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 7:36
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    Hmm I guess I'll wait for a bit in case anyone has access to these scriptures but thank you for the answer! Please do update in case you manage to get the Rudra Yamalam yourself! Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 7:39
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    Rudrayamala can be viewed online here, archive.org/details/RudraYamalaUttaraTantra Also another hardcopy version can be ordered at, exoticindiaart.com/m/book/details/… Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 13:57
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    Cinachara does not refer to Chinese customs. Also note that Mahachina refers to Tibet not China, which is the most mysterious place associated with Yoga, Tantra. Chinachara Tantra is a Hindu scripture included in the 64 Rathakranta Tantras. They were practiced either in Assam (Brahmaputra river is associated) region or in the Tibet region. @Surya
    – Rickross
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 8:28

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