Tibetan New Year 2145 Earth Dog Year.
བོད་རྒྱལ་ལོ་ ༢༡༤༥ རབ་གནས་ས་ཁྱི་ལོའོ་གནམ་ལོ་གསར་ཚེས་ལ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས་ཞུ།
This year, the first day of the first month of Tibetan calendar coincides with Gregorian calendar on February 16, 2018. It is the year 2145 and ruled by Earth Dog, characterizes as a year of action. The Tibetans called the New Year Losar (lo=year, sar=new). It is celebrated as both religious and secular holiday. New Year is the time of opportunity for change, renew and fresh start.
Symbolically, the end of the old year is considered as a time to reflect, examine and review our present and past views and actions. The New Year gifts us with a golden opportunity to caste away any negative deeds and habits. We have a chance to become better person with more altruistic, caring, loving and compassionate attitude in both our thoughts and actions. These changes are not simply for our loved ones, or us, but also for all sentient beings, including those who have done us harm. Based on this philosophical tradition that has passed down for centuries, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery’s Losar’s rituals, ceremonies and prayer services will be performed and offered to all.
At Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, student monks began their month holiday on the fifteenth day of the twelfth month of Tibetan calendar (January 31) in preparation for Losar. Several senior monks have begun to make torma (tor=to give without attachment, ma= completely present). These sculpted ritual offerings are hand molded from barley flour and butter and colored with dyes. They are made in meditative contemplation, following specific and exact instructions. Each torma is made to symbolize a deity, a mandala, an offering, or even a weapon. They will be presented and offered to Lord Buddha, deities, Bodhisattawas and past teachers in both the main temple and the Tantric Monastic College Temple.
On the twenty-fifth of the twelfth month (10th February ), the monastery’s monks will perform Tordup khangso puja prayer service in the Tantric Monastic College Temple for 5 days in order to consecrate torma. Powerful prayers will be recited to deities including Palden Lhamo, and Dharma King accompanied by their families and companions. Torma is made specifically for each of these deities and to be presented to them. This ritual is synonymous with clearing and fertilizing the ground for new planting. With the offerings, the deities are invited to come in our midst. With their presence, we thank them for their loving-kindness and ever-caring protections. We also request for their continuing protections with the promise that we will eradicate and not repeat our past negative thoughts and actions.
On the afternoon of the fourth and fifth day of …, two monks who will perform the Cham dance, a meditative dance, are selected to take part in a ritualistic prayer and ceremony. They will assume the personification of the deities who will appear on Gu-Gtor, the 29th day of the 12nd month of Tibetan calendar (February 14). It is the official day when Losar actually begins.
Gu-Gtor (Gu=nine, Gtor=casting away) is a sacred day. At Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, Gu-Gtor begins before the sun rises with special puja or prayer service in the main temple. This is followed by Cham dance, a meditative dance in front of the Tantric Monastic College Temple ground. Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is renowned for this meditative practice. Although it is viewed by the public as a spectacular display of dance movements and brilliant costumes, it is a meditative guide, a time in which we can be aided by the deities to cleanse and purify our negative deeds and events during the past year. The musical tune of the cymbal played by.. , the chanting master is a guide, represented not only the assembling of the deities, but also assists the audience to concentrate and meditate together with the deities in prayer. In the process, the audience is one with deities, accepting and grateful for their assistance, while at the same time; promise to be better global citizens. Toward the end of the dance, an effigy representing all negative deeds, thoughts and events during the past year will be burnt. With a cleansing and renewed self, we are ready for the approaching New Year. The evening celebration, nyi-shu-gu begins. It is the time for family to share a special soup called thukpa bhatuk or in short guthuk.
Bhathuk or noodle is shaped like a little curved shell resembling the Italian gnocchi. Nine (gu) ingredients are used to make the soup: mushrooms, celery, radish, peas, tomato, onion, ginger, garlic and spinach or cabbage. The traditional soup might include meat (mutton, beef or yak) and dried yak cheese. The special treat of the soup is little round dough balls with hidden messages. The hidden object’s names include wool, sun, moon, glass, coal, an unraveled thread and prickly ball are written in small pieces of papers and folded inside the dough balls. Each diner will receive one to open, revealing the prediction of the coming new year.
New Year’s Eve is the day for continuing cleaning and preparation of special foods as parts of offerings or feasts shared by families and friends. Tashi Lhunpo monastery monks will clean the temple ground, buildings and rooms. The main temple’s altar, chapels of Tara, Palden Lamo, Monastic College temple, Administrative office and individual quarters will be adorned with butter lamps, khata, flowers, juices and trays of fresh fruits, biscuits, candies, and a New Year treat called khapsay (kha-ze = kha=mouth, ze= eat). This treat comes in different shapes. The biggest one resembling a light, fried, almost transparent golden and hollow folded pastry shell. It is called bhungue amcho. The monastery’s main kitchen staffs have made these in advance. They will be stacked high on the altars with some given as gifts to monastery’s sponsors. Mukdung, made from four long braided strands of dough that are deep-fried as well as crispy circles of bulug and tiny keptage are also among trays of offerings. The latters will be grabbed by monks and guests at the end of the New Year morning puja. Last but not least, a torso-chemar bo, a blessing offering box will be placed on a special table in the main altar of the main temple. The torso-chemar bo is a carved cedar box divided in the center and adorned with a torma. On the right side of the box is filled with chemar or roasted barley flour mixed with sugar and butter. The left side is filled with roasted barley grains. Some of the monks will have their own torso-chemar bo in their living quarters. After the New Year’s morning puja, monks will descend on the altar to place khata on the main throne of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness the Panchen La. They will offer one to the abbot and then take pitches of the chemar, throwing some into the air, waving their hands three times for good luck.
There will be no or little sleep on New Year’s Eve as the festivity continues with individual fire works outside the clearings of the temple. By 2.00 am on New Year’s Day, the official ceremony of Tse-Tor or long life prayer to benefit all sentient beings will be consecrated at the monastery’s main temple. At the same time, a sacred ceremony welcoming the presence of Palden Lama with the sunrise will take place on the rooftop of the main temple.
It is a joyful occasion. It is a new beginning. As boundless global citizens and other sentient beings are experiencing hardship, let us remember His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teaching by dedicating our precious life for the benefits of all sentient beings. Let us be motivated with concentration, diligence and patience to practice and cultivate love and compassion with the highest altruistic ideal.
With a wish to free all beings
I shall always go for refuge
to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
until I reach full enlightenment.
Enthused by wisdom and compassion,
today in the Buddha’s presence
I generate the Mind for Full Awakening
for the benefit of all sentient beings.
As long as space endures,
as long as sentient being remain,
until then, may I too remain
and dispel the miseries of the world.
We, at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous year of Earth Dog.