Recently I embarked on a journey of learning about one of Arya Tara, famous for being the only female Buddha / a renowned boddhisatva. What Arya Tara stands for isn’t necessarily religious rather than what I hope many of us strive to be: a good and helpful human being. Whether it’s through different religions, spirituality or simply just that we work to be a good human being, many of the teachings can be applied to all of us. We can emulate and embody the Divine. That Divine isn’t even another being, it’s the pure essence that lives within each and every one us. In other words, we already have the capacity to be the best possible version of ourselves. So long as we focus and continuously work to be the best we can be, we can and will reach our goal. So what can we focus on to aid our development?
1. Loving Kindness
Developing loving kindness for those around you and even those you don’t know so well, will help you unearth the best version of yourself. Think about how you feel when you are low and how relieved you feel when someone lends you a helping hand. Now return the favour to others, even if there is no favour to return. Be that friendly, helping hand. It might feel like you’re going out of your way at first but it is seriously rewarding when you receive that grateful smile and the thanks from the person you had helped. And even if you don’t receive a thank you afterwards, still lend a hand where you can. You can be a pillar in society and help to set the example of how to forge a good environment and caring communities.
2. Be compassionate
I used to wonder what the difference was between loving-kindness and compassion. The big difference is instead of noticing someone needs help and helping them, you put yourself in their shoes. You begin to feel their pain and sorrow, their suffering. This may sound sadistic, but truly understanding that others suffer just as you do breaks down boundaries between yourself and others. You begin to realise that we are all one and the same and we’re in it together. You realise that bringing harmony to others also brings harmony to yourself and vice versa. We are not so different or separate as we may think.
3. Be inclusive
In Buddhism, it is believed you live many lives until you reach Enlightenment. What was special about Arya Tara was that she vowed to continuously be reborn until she helped to liberate every single being in this world, even though she herself had already reached liberation. Imagine that! No matter any individual’s circumstance, she vowed she would help everyone. We can learn from this example. Building on compassion, it is important for us to realise how we really can make a difference to others. We shouldn’t immediately filter people out from our care just because we don’t completely see eye to eye or don’t find much in common. Of course we will always have people around us who we feel a deeper connection with, but we should aim to make the effort with everyone we encounter. The benefits of inclusion are often seen as only to benefit the ‘outsider’. In someone else’s view, you may well be the outsider and I’m sure you wouldn’t like to be in that role. Welcome everyone as a friend. It doesn’t just benefit the receiver of your kindness, it benefits you too. Being inclusive helps you to grow as you learn from people from all walks of life and with very different views to you. In some cases that you might find tricky, you may develop more patience and tolerance along the way!
4. Don’t be afraid to break the mould
One of the things that made Arya Tara stand out was her vow to also only be reborn as a woman. All the rest of the incarnations of Buddha are male. Historically in Buddhist teachings, it was believed only men could achieve Enlightenment. Arya Tara put a stake in the ground and wanted to be an example to the world that women could achieve liberation and Enlightenment too. Whilst many see her as the first feminist, in fact she was gender-neutral, believing that everyone, regardless of gender, stood on equal ground. In some depictions, she is deemed gender-neutral, neither male nor female. Bringing this example back into our lives, we should also look to where we can bring about equality and a care for all beings. People often tell me how they’d like to donate to charity or help a good cause, but haven’t got round to it. Others want to make a difference but feel they are only one person and can’t make much of a difference alone. We must remember, individuals make up a group. Individuals make up a crowd, a society, a country, the world. If each of us break the mould and stand firmly to do what is right, we can and will make a difference.
5. Remember that you are Divine
Rather than this statement being made to build the Ego, the sentiment is more about innately building your belief that goodness lies at the heart of you. You can go to courses, read books, spend time on retreats, but ultimately only through practise and taking kind actions can you be the best version of yourself.