In Vajrayana, we say that if a teacher claims to have clairvoyant powers, or to perform miracles, or says that he or she has a direct message from the Buddha, or advertises special energies and healing capabilities, or a high level of realization, then there is definitely something wrong. This is not an authentic teacher.
-Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche1
A friend sent us this quote, because it reminded him of Tara. Long-time students of hers know that she has made all of the above claims.2
Below is a sample of other incredible claims Tara has made over the years. The list is short only because it is limited to instances where references were available. Interestingly, the most extreme statements came at the beginning of her career as Domo Geshe Rinpoche. She still discusses her own enlightenment and that of her students to this day, but not as often in public.
1. She is a Guru / Buddha.
In the Buddhist tradition, both of these words refer to a being who has achieved some of the highest levels of enlightenment. One of many examples of her claiming to be a guru is found in the opening of her talk Motivations from April 18, 2002:
I am a guru of the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. And I am an American; no I’m not an American, I’m a Tibetan. I was born in Tibet in 1937 and I am here in an American form in order to teach Americans what it means to be a Buddhist. What it means to be a Buddhist and how to become enlightened – this is all I do. I train beings in how to become enlightened.
In a private communication in late 2001, one of us asked her if she was a bodhisattva, and she said:
I was a bodhisattva, but then I improved on that.
That message was signed the way she signed all her emails at the time – “Guru.”
She said the following during a public talk:
Should a grand Guru come up to you and say, “I think that you have qualities and I want to teach you everything I know. Would you please be my student?” and he places his hand on your head and you fall down. And you say, “This is the most marvelous opportunity that I have ever come across. I must grab it.” Every student that I’ve ever had has thought that way. “This is the most marvelous opportunity and I’m not going to let it pass by.”3
2. She has been enlightened for 35,000 years, and performed enlightened works in Lemuria, Atlantis, Egypt, India, Tibet and now the United States.
Most of her current students have no idea she made such an outrageous claim, because she immediately classified it as “Not for Distribution” – making it unavailable for purchase after the fact. But we were there in person.4 In other talks she said:
I am one of the oldest lineage Rinpoches in Tibetan Buddhism.5
I’m the oldest lineage Rinpoche in the Tibetan annals.6
3. She has been some of the most famous individuals in Buddhist history – Shariputra, King Thönmi Sambhota, Dromtönpa, and Milarepa.
These are indeed considered to be former lives of Kyabje Domo Geshe Rinpoche, but we’re doubtful that Rinpoche mentioned them as many times, or indeed as casually, as Tara has.7
I was thinking about several of my previous lives, particularly a Tibetan called Thonmi Sambhota. I do not have active memories but I know from that lifetime. Thonmi Sambhota was appointed and took the responsibility of developing the written Tibetan language. We had no written language in Tibet …based upon the Sanskrit language I was able to create the Tibetan alphabet. That is how the holy Dharma was recreated.
Also I was thinking about the time of Atisha. His Tibetan student was called Je Dromtoenpa. Je Dromtonepa arose in need of a new transmission of Buddhism from the original country of India to Tibet. In that way, I must love this because even at that time there was a problem. They call what Atisha did the second dissemination of Buddhism into Tibet. I was there at the second dissemination….I am not saying this from the viewpoint of ego, truly.8
4. Almost 100 people have become enlightened with her.
Just over a year after she started teaching as Domo Geshe Rinpoche, she said she already had a student become enlightened.9 Six months later, in two separate talks she claimed multiple students were now enlightened thanks to her guidance.10
Can you believe it? I have students who have already attained the goal. The kind of thing that gurus would have counted on one hand if they were lucky, and I have already done a tremendous amount of work and created newly enlightened beings. I’m not finished yet and my confidence is growing.11
In 2015 during a year-long training which cost over $2,000, she said a high-level lama might have 3 or 4 students who become enlightened. She decided to “check” how many had been or would become enlightened with her. The answer? Around 80.12
5. The transmission she gives to students was previously only available to the highest-level Gurus in Tibet.
A student might naturally conclude there is little chance of finding something similar from another teacher – and as she said above, that one should rush to study with her.
I am shy to talk about it, but I have offered my early students the highest transmission. I have given the kind of transmission that has been the exclusive right of the highest levels of traditional gurus only for each other. 13
You can read the above quote in context. It’s one of the few talks she makes available at no charge on her website.