The First Female Buddha: Tara and the Tara-mula-kalpa’s Subsequent Revelation


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Grants for Critical Editions and Scholarly Translations


The scripture entitled Tara-mula-kalpa (Tara's Fundamental Ritual Text) documents the emergence of the quintessential female Buddha Tara in seventh-century India. Its contents capture an important Buddhist tantric tradition in mid-formation. In this regard, it presents a singularly unique snapshot of a canonical religious text in a stage of evolution that is seldom, if ever, seen. By examining Tara in the Tara-mula-kalpa with enlightened figures in other early Buddhist Tantras, one learns how Tara was promoted as a female Buddha within the context of primarily male Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This primary source introduces crucial new material for gender studies in religion and Tara's origins, status, and relationships with other Indian goddess traditions, including the ten Hindu Mahavidyas.