Tibetan New Year
Losar Tashi Delek གནམ་ལོ་གསར་དུ་བཞད་པའི་རྟེན་འབྱུང་དགའ་སྟོན་ལ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས་ཞུ། Happy New Year
Losar or New Year is one of the most important days for Tibetans. Celebrated both as a religious and secular holiday, Losar is central to the heart and mine of all Tibetans. It is a day filled with symbolic meanings with the main emphasis being the time to cast away negative emotions and actions, and instead, replacing it with love and compassion for all sentient beings.
PreparationAt Tashi Lhunpo monastery, planning and preparation for Losar begins at least a month in advance. As the week before Losar or New Year day approaches, every minute detail and touches will have been in placed for the start of the celebration.This year, Losar will begin the Tibetan year 2144. It coincides with Gregorian calendar, which falls on the 27th day of February 2017. It will be the year of Fire Bird, ushering away the Fire Monkey.
For the monks and Sangha members, celebratory and religious activities begin on the 29th of December of Tibetan calendar (25th. of February of Gregorian calendar). On this particular day called Gu-Gtor, meaning number 29, it is an auspicious day for casting away while at the same time purifying our negative emotion and evil deeds. The ritual will start at the main temple where the resident monks will recite prayers before sun rises. At 10.30 am, Cham dance will be performed in the courtyard in front of the original or old temple.
Cham DanceTashi Lhunpo monastery is world-renowned for its performance of Cham dance, the centuries old religious ritual. Passed from one generation of monks to another, Cham dance is a tantric, mystical and meditative dance. Its core significance represents the activity of the mind that is beyond the normal conceptual thinking. It is a powerful presentation in which weeks before, the participatory monks meditate to visualize, invoke and transform themselves into the protective deities. Each and every movement they will make, while repeating sacred mantras, draw in the evil presence in the crowd as well as the world in which they would destroy and replace with love and compassion.
The final and symbolic ritual will end in mid-afternoon with the dance master cutting open an effigy, made as a torma(gtor=casting, breaking up, scatter, ma=nurturing, love and kindness), which represents the human body. With this act, he will symbolically release the evil presence within the effigy while at the same time drawing it into his own body. In doing so, he will take in all the sufferings of sentient beings and eradicate it with the power of love and compassion. This final and symbolic gesture will gift us all with peace and a path to liberation. The torma will then be destroyed in a fire set ablaze in the nearby monastery ground, selected and consecrated by the monks particularly for this purpose.
Losar – New Year DayNew Year’s Eve will be a day and night for prayers and religious invocations. The monastery and especially, the temple will go through a final cleanup with special attention and care given to the altars where offerings will be arranged and consecrated. Immediately after midnighton New Year’s Eve, firework will be set off to cast away evil beings and welcome the New Year. From 2 am to sun rises, the ceremony of Tse-Tor or long life prayer to benefit all sentient beings will be celebrated at the main temple. The altars will be festooned with offerings including khata (white blessing scarves), sweets, fruits, and flowers. Among them is a special New Year sweets called khapsey. Made with a combination of flour, sugar and butter, this delicacy is formed and fried into various shapes. Stacks of large oblong khapsey will be dramatically displayed. There will also be trays of long braided mukdung, crispy circles of bulug and little shapes of khapsey, all of which would be available later for resident monks to feast on.
During the ceremony, puja with special breakfast offering will be presented to the monks and sangha members alike. They will include New Year treats such as nuum-tag-bak-lep or fried bread, droma dresil or sweetened rice cooked with dried fruits and nuts, yogurt, fruits, and po cha or butter tea. For the monks, New Year money offering will be presented as well. The ceremonial prayer will end with the monks and sangha members making their offerings to the deities by placing khata, sweets, and money, adding to the ever-flowing stacks of other offerings on the altars. Then, the time of joy, fun and feasting on delicious foods at Tashi Lhunpo monastery will begin.
Before the monks begin their five days holiday, they will first visit their teachers and elder monks-in-residence to wish them happy New Year. At the teachers’ and elder monks’ residence, a dorso-chemar bo will be offered to the visitors. This is an oblong and beautifully carved wooden box divided in the middle. Chemar or roasted barley flour mixed with sugar and butter filled the right side of the box, while the roasted barley grains filled the left side. The visitors will offer New Year wishes and blessings to the host monk, while taking a pinch of the chemar, throw it into the air with three waves of their hands before partaking a tiny nibble for good luck. For the next three days, special foods and treats will be offered to the monks at the main dining room. The younger monks will stage their own much-anticipated New Year celebration in the school building. Tashi Lhunpo monastery will be blanketed in happiness, joy, love and compassion for all.
We wish you Losar Tashi Delek - གནམ་ལོ་གསར་ཚེས་ལ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས་ཞུ།