Tibetan Buddhist Ritual Arts & Practices
Tibetan Buddhist Ritual Arts & Practices
The Gajang Tsawa World Peace Tour’s Mission
Due to the kindness and generosity of the communities the monks visit, the monastery has been able to continue to keep its sacred teachings and traditions alive while living in exile. Established in 1409CE in Tibet the original monastery was completely destroyed during the Chinese invasion in the 1950s and had to be re-established in India. It has taken incredible effort in the face of unthinkable challenges to keep this precious unbroken lineage of teachings with us today.
In order to be of service to the world community, the Gajang Tsawa monks help spread peace, harmony, compassion, and tolerance through cultural exchange, interfaith dialog, and Buddhist teachings. The monks share their sacred ritual arts and practices. This rich Tibetan culture, once hidden and preserved behind the Himalayan mountains, has much to offer the world at large. It is the monk’s mission to not only help preserve this precious culture, but to share it’s ancient wisdom with the people of the United States and throughout the world.
The Sacred Art of the Sand Mandala
Mandala means literally “that which extracts the essence.” There are many different types of mandalas used by Tibetan Buddhists. They can be created in either two or three dimensions. On the tour the monks create two-dimensional sand mandalas. These are the most creative and labor-intensive, requiring incredible amounts of concentration.
According to Tibetan Buddhist history, the purpose, meaning and the techniques involved in the spiritual art of the sand mandala creation were taught by Buddha Sakyamuni in the 6th century B. C. in India. Mandalas are created for rituals of initiation and for meditations; it is also created to purify the environment and its inhabitants to promote harmony in the world. A mandala represents the celestial mansion of a deity embodying the positive qualities that the practitioner wishes to cultivate through the practice. Each mandala is painstakingly assembled in layers of colored sand and can take 1-15 days to complete, depending on the size and amount of detail. Mandala creation is considered to be a form of meditation because it involves focused concentration and visualization of the deity. Simply seeing one of these mandalas is said to leave a powerful positive imprint in one’s mindstream.
Ancient Tibetan multiphonic chanting is a rare and unique experience created by monks singing a chord containing two or three tones simultaneously. The special sound they create is not a simply a song, it is a sacred offering – an offering to the Buddhist deities for the benefit of all sentient beings. The deep, resonate, vibrant chords, representing the essence of the secret tantric teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, fill the room and transform both the environment and the audience with their powerful energy.
The Kangso (ritual of fulfillment) performance combines the rich sounds of Tibetan chanting with their ancient temple instruments to create an offering of melodious sounds. In the monastery the ritual is usually eighteen hours long, on the tour we are able to provide a small sampling of this precious offering.
All of the performances include an introduction as well as a question and answer period. This gives the audience has an opportunity to engage the monks and learn more about Tibetan culture. Our vision on the tour is not simply to perform, but also to interact and engage with the communities we encounter. The monks are accessible so that they might join together in becoming part of a world community.
The sacred ritual dances of Tibetan Buddhism are not simply a performance; they are an ancient, spiritual ritual created to transform negativities and obstacles within our world system into positive, harmonious conditions. The origins of these dances have their roots steeped in the secret path of tantric Buddhism. At the monastery they are part of an elaborate ritual that can last from one day to two weeks. The dances require years of intensive training as well as proper initiations to be performed properly. Throughout the dance every movement and ritual implement utilized have a deep and profound inner and outer meaning. The whole performance is a powerful, transformative experience operating on two levels.
Though these are secret and sacred dances steeped in profound experience that are not intended for the general public, on the tour the monks are able to perform short excerpts of some of the major ritual dances along with Tibetan folk dance to give the audience a taste of their transformative power. The performances include several dances in full costume, narration, and a brief explanation of each dance. The dances are as devices to invoke positive qualities, or to ward off negative influences: Dakini dance, Auspicious Song for World Peace, Thocham dance (a wrathful dance to dispel obstacles, deter inner grasping and to bless the earth), Skeleton dance, Melody to Sever the Ego, Nyapa Nyarok dance (meaning “Fish Man”, used to change the mind to the positive and get rid of stress) and Incense Offering.
Mo Divination or Tibetan Astrology Readings
Consulting the “Mo” is a uniquely Tibetan form of prediction. The word itself means “to check”, and to learn to do this requires long study, meditation and training. Bring your special question and a monk who is adept in accessing this form of divination will consult the oracle.
Astrology readings are based on the Tibetan lunar calendar and can offer guidance for one’s own personal circumstances as well as general auspicious (and inauspicious) days for performing various activities.