This is the 24th entry from my fieldwork diary. The original date is 29.09.2010.
"The White Tara mantra is for long life.
We need lots of meditation and practice to become free of Samsara. We need a long life for this so we need the White Tara's blessing.
Our lives become shorter every day. When we eat meat or kill an insect, our lives become shorter. We need the White Tara practice to increase the longevity of life. Through this compassion also increases and obstacles are removed.
When you do this practice visualize that you are making an offering to the White Tara. You can offer anything - light, water, flowers etc."
The short version of the White Tara mantra:
AYUR JNANA PUNYE PUSHTIM KURU SVAHA
MAMA means 'mine' and indicates that you'd like to possess these qualities of long life, merit, wisdom, happiness, etc. You can of course choose to wish these qualities for someone else — perhaps for a teacher or for a loved one who is ill.
AYUR is long life (as in Ayurvedic medicine).
PUNYE means the merit that comes from living life ethically, and this merit is said to help one to live long and happily.
JNANA is wisdom.
Punye and Jnana are known as the Two Accumulations. In order to become enlightened we need to accumulate merit (that is, to develop positive qualities through living ethically and meditating) but we also need to develop wisdom through deep reflection. Wisdom cannot arise without a basis of merit, but merit alone is not enough for us to become enlightened, meaning that becoming a nicer person isn’t enough — we have also to look deeply into ourselves and the world around us and to see the impermanent and insubstantial nature of all things.
PUSHTIM means wealth, abundance, or increase.
KURU is a mythical land to the north of the Himalayas, which was said to be a land of long life and happiness. It's also a verb form meaning "do it!" or "make it so!" The "make it so!" refers back to an increase in wisdom, merit, and long life (for the practitioner). We're imploring White Tara for these things so that we can gain enlightenment and help all sentient beings.
SVAHA is an exclamation meaning 'hail' or 'may blessings be upon' and is a common ending to Buddhist mantras. So after making the rather bold request of White Tara above, we end with an equally emphatic salutation.
*Important side note: These diary entries do not reflect every word the teacher said, and there may be some mistakes or misunderstandings, for which I am sorry and accept responsibility. In a few instances, I have interjected my own interpretation or explanation.