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Mar 05
Sakyong and Family, Video, Audio, Photos
Tibetan New Year in Orissa, India

Losar, the Tibetan new year, was celebrated by the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo in Orissa, India with members of the Shambhala Community and Ripa lineage. These photos and a description of the festivities have been offered by Walker Blaine on the Rinchen Terdzo blog and used here with permission.

On the First Day of Losar, February 25th 2009, Walker Blaine wrote:

Walking through the settlement in the dark, everybody was saying delightedly, ‘Tashi Deleg,’ the traditional New Year’s greeting. At the Ladrang, vigorous chanting, drumming, horns and cymbals could be heard from the window of His Eminence’s shrine room above the garden. Below, about a hundred lay Tibetans and westerners were being served sweet tea, butter tea and New Year’s chang, Tibetan beer, in this case made from rice. The Sakyong Wangmo and her sisters Semo Sonam and Semo Pede were moving through the well-dressed crowd, greeting everyone with a smile and making them feel at home. Everyone was readying khatas to present to the lamas upstairs who’d been performing a Gesar long life practice practice since 2 AM; some Tibetans came with trays of fruit and kabdze. A steady line of people filed up the stairs into the shrine room and them out another door and down another set of stairs at the far end of the garden.

Inside the narrow small shrine room the walls were rumbling with the voices of about 20 lamas headed by Namkha Drimed Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche whose thrones squeezed in on either side of the shrine at the far end of the room. Below them a row of lamas ran along either wall and there was just enough space for two people to squeeze past each other on the carpet in between. The middle of the room was filled with a narrow double line of people trying to get to or from His Eminence and the Sakyong while offering khatas to the lamas along the way. The lamas, who sat on low cushions, had their practice tables and all but their texts buried under a long, unbroken, fluffy white cloud of khatas about six or eight inches high. The Sakyong gave a big smile as he placed a khata over my neck. He looked very happy, as did His Eminence, to be practicing first thing in the New Year.
Back down in the garden it was time for a few more sips of chang or sweet chai. By then the sun was really up, and our eyes were really open to the day. While people were dressed according to the request by the Tibetan government to have a subdued New Year, the ladies looked quite elegant in their dresses and simple chubas while the gentlemen were handsome and dignified in suit jackets and ties. We learned that if this had been an ordinary new year, we’d have heard explosions of demon-chasing fireworks in the morning, and for the next few days along with parties and dance music throughout the settlement.

Soon after a relaxed and cheerful breakfast most everyone, lay and monastic, was in the shade of the monastery porch contemplating the intense heat and white light sunshine. The monks soon rushed to the courtyard to make two long columns with a wide space between them for His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche to walk past on the way to the stairs up to the shrine room. All the monks held white khatas that gleamed in the sunlight, a pretty contrast to the red of their robes. Atop the steps, Thonnga, who runs the canteen (and who’s wife had a baby less than a week ago) and a few other village laymen, set up a traditional painted stand holding raw and ground roasted barley to be tossed into the air before entering the monastery.

Tibetan New Year’s, monastery-style, is a pretty straightforward situation. Everyone made offerings of khatas and money to various shrines and the main lamas before sitting back down again for ceremonial tea and big bags of treats including kabdze, fruit and candy the the young monks appeared to dig into quickly. After formally offering our tea with a tea chant, the monastics and those of use who could read Tibetan sang through a variety of aspirations for the new year, more positive seeds being planted to start things well. At the end of about an hour of a half of practice, both Namkha Drimed Rinpoche
and Jigme Rinpoche offered short talks to the monastics

Afterwards, the Shambhala sangha was joined by the Ripa sangha in the lobby of the guesthouse transformed into a small assembly hall for a short practice lead by President Reoch before we listened to the recorded Shambhala Day addresses from the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo. This, interestingly enough, started at about midnight Halifax time. Then, after a long chatty luncheon most everyone wandered to their rooms for a long nap.

The final part of a Shambhala Day in Orissa was a dinner party for the foreign guests in the garden of the Ripa Ladrang hosted by the Ripa family. Several small tables were placed on the little lawn amidst the wide leafed tropical plants. In typical Tibetan hospitality, guests were unceasingly plied with chang, fruit juice and water while a great banquet of momos, tandori chicken, various local vegetable dishes, broth, extra-hot hot sauce, and a dessert of rice pudding was served to one and all. There were three head tables, one for His Eminence, the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo, along with their guests President Reoch, Noedup Rongae and Heinz Buhofer. To their right sat Jigme Rinpoche and a new group of Russian guest,s and to their left sat Lhuntrul Rinpoche, Tulku Kunkyab Rinpoche and Khandro Chime Drolkar and some others.

The night was delightful and low key. There was no singing and no dancing but toward the end of the evening, after His Eminence had retired, there was a round of toasts from various members of the community. This was started by Kristine McCutcheon who had been instructed by the Richard Reoch to speak for five minutes straight. This broke the ice. Tulku Kunkhyab gave a very sweet toast in English. We’d have say that the broad voiced and cheerful Nepalese gardener at the Ripa Lhadrang gave the most memorable toast of all. He animatedly described what it has been like for him to encounter the great variety of ants and other insects and obstacles here in Orissa as he experiences the blessings of the guru watches spread to people in the community. In the end, everyone was tucked in bed by midnight, happy and content to have started the new year in good form and good company.

On the Second Day of Losar, February 26th 2009, Walker Blaine wrote:

The New Year, Losar, is one of the most favorite times of year in the Tibetan community. During dinner tonight, friends described what it was like here at Losar two years ago and it sounded wonderful, fantastic. Each of the five camps in the settlement put on several performances of singing and dancing. All of this was done in an atmosphere of what sounded like continuous chang drinking. The chang I’ve had here tastes a lot like apple cider (or barley cider agreed a couple of Europeans). But Losar chang drinking isn’t ordinary drinking. In most New Year celebrations, chang is served while traditional offerings are sung by the servers. Chang is seen as a long-life elixir. And—here’s a twist—if one drinks before the song is over, one is obliged to finish the cup and accept another. This was very challenging for westerners at the wedding of the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo a few years ago.

Contemplating this these festivities I must admit I am sad not to see a traditional Losar celebration even though I know it is good that we are all pausing in order to think about Tibet. Very few communities in the world could abandon a major part of any holiday en masse like this. May the sufferings in Tibet and other places of strife and struggle be swiftly pacified with benefit for all beings.
Tonight, a dinner was held under the stars on the little lawn outside the guesthouse. We were gathered to honor the core staff. Jigme Rinpoche, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Lhuntrul Rinpoche and Tulku Kunkhyab Rinpoche sat at two head tables while the rest of us were seated at little tables fanned out on the grass. As it was a mixed affair, monastics and lay people, there was no chang. Instead we had lots of soda and lots of momos, Tibetan dumplings.

At the end of the meal, Jigme Rinpoche, our host for the evening, stood up and told us about the enormous amount of work it has taken to support the event. He had the various senior officials stand up by one by one to receive recognition. Among the monastic core helpers were the khenpos (very learned philosophical teachers), one treasured lama who holds the almost extinct Taksham lineage of secret practice instructions, the chant leaders, and gekos (monastic disciplinarians). The lay support staff included the monastery manager, the finance officer, the bursar, the nurse, and the town trip driver who seemed to get a lot of applause along with the guesthouse manager.

So much has come together to create environment for the empowerments. Both Jigme Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche have said time and again, it is rare and difficult for something like the Rinchen Terdzo to happen. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche once said that one of his greatest achievements in the west was the three-month long seminaries he conducted. In the modern world, even in Asia, it is increasingly difficult to have gatherings like these. Such things happen through a combination of the aspirations and blessings of the teachers and the merit of the students.

On the Third Day of Losar, February 27th 2009, Walker Blaine wrote:

Today was the third day of Losar. Many of the western students spent the day at the family residence of Kaling, the Sakyong Wangmo’s close friend and kusung. The western students performed the long lhasang ceremony omplete with drum and cymbals while Kaling’s extended family stood in a circle with us. The occasion was the cleansing and purification of a new house on the family plot. After we walked through every room chanting the warriors cry and wafting juniper smoke, we retired to the front porch of the still-under-construction house for a curry lunch and lots of chang.

View other Losar photos here and read more about Losar in Orissa here.

Or visit the homepage of the Rinchen Terdzo blog. Thanks to Walker Blaine for his tremendous efforts to keep the mandala informed about the Rinchen Terdzo.

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