Happy Losar – 2148 the Year of the Metal Ox february 2021
In Tibet, various customs are associated with the New Year holiday as in a New Year’s festival, celebrated on the first day of the lunisolar Tibetan calendar, which corresponds to a date ranging from late January up to late March in the Gregorian calendar. This year it falls on 12 February 2021. The qualities of the Metal Ox Year are perseverance, balance, patience, laboriousness, liability, seriousness, sincerity, modesty, carefulness, parsimony, loyalty and love for traditions.
Losar preparation and celebration
Losar is celebrated for 15 days, with the main celebrations on the first three days.
A month before the New Year a special kind of barley is planted in little flowerpots so that by the time New Year rolls around three-inch-high seedlings can be offered to Buddha. Families then prepare for Losar some days in advance by thoroughly cleaning their homes; decorating with fragrant flowers; painting their walls in flour with auspicious signs such as the sun, moon, or a reversed swastika; and preparing cedar, rhododendron and juniper branches as incense for burning. Debts are settled, quarrels are resolved and new clothes are acquired.
Guthor – the last two days of the year
In English guthor means “banishing the evil spirits festival”.
The day before New Year’s Eve, the kitchen is thoroughly cleaned because it is where the family prepares food and is considered the most important part of a house. Here, special foods are made such as kapse (fried twists) and guthuk (a form of the traditional Tibetan soup, thukpa).
On this night, families and friends gather to eat guthuk and perform the rituals for driving out all negative forces of the old year. Guthuk is made from meat, rice, sweet potatoes, wheat, yak cheese, peas, green peppers, vermicelli, and radishes, and is served with small dumplings akin to fortune cookies that contain hidden ingredients, some in the form of words on paper, all of which symbolise human qualities or the diner’s New Year fortune.
The dumplings are not eaten but discarded after their contents are revealed. When eating guthuk, Tibetan families discuss their luck for the New Year. The atmosphere is bright and very lively.
After eating guthuk (ensuring some is left over), leftover dough is formed into an effigy representing an evil entity called lue. One member of the family carrying a lighted torch goes from room to room demanding that the spirits of the old year dwelling in nooks and corners to leave. Another person follows with a broom and sweeps the rooms, emptying the dust into a container with the leftover guthuk and the lue. In this way, our body, spirit and living spaces are cleansed of the negativities of the old year and the lue is taken outside. As the lue leaves the house, firecrackers are set off after it and the lue is commanded to take away all the obstacles and negativities of the year.
In the Potala palace of Lhasa and other places, a grand sorcerer’s dance is held to keep away evil spirits. Monks and people in all places put on masks and clothes, imitating demons and spirits, singing, dancing, lighting firecrackers and shouting to bid farewell to the outgoing year and welcome the coming New Year.
On the second day of guthor, New Year’s Eve, religious ceremonies are performed, people visit the monastery to worship and donate money and gifts to the monks.
Losar – first day of the new year
The new year begins on the day of a new moon that marks the first day of the first month on the Tibetan calendar. It is called Gyalpo Losar in Tibetan means “King’s New Year”. People dress up in their best clothes, greet each other and go to the monasteries to receive blessings, as the festivities last from the 1st day of the New Year until the 15th day.
Working Bees in January HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE
At one of the working bees in mid-January, we accomplished a lot of grass cutting around Khenpo la’s house and the retreat huts. The recent rains have been most wonderful to fill all the tanks and to water the grass.
Khenpo la lead from the front, many worked hard on an extremely hot day. During the lunch break we all reflected on how much we can achieve when we work together.
Thank you so much to everyone who came and contributed their time and equipment, not just for this working bee but for all of them!!!
Healing & Purification Retreat 2020 HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE
On the anniversary of Sakya Pandita’s passing into Parinirvana 769 years ago, the annual Healing & Purification Retreat at our Kamalashila Retreat Centre, Tilba commenced. We began with everyone making a light offering before Khenpo la bestowed the Vajrasattva transmission and commenced teaching on the Vajrasattva practice. We undertook a walking meditation and reflection looking out over the saddle area to Gulaga Mountain. It was a remarkably cool afternoon at only 14 degrees as we lit the wood heater in the morning to keep warm. Everywhere is very green after heavy rainfalls the past few days with more on the way. To think that this time last year it was so hot, windy, and dry, the fires were continuing to break out across Australia. Little did we know what was ahead of us the next few days right down the NSW South Coast and into Victoria. Twelve months on, we are all now dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 as we strictly follow all the COVID guidelines. Thankfully, we have the Triple Gem to take refuge in. Thankfully, we have access to Great Teachers who remind us of the impermanence of this short and most precious life and of our immense good fortune to have encountered the Dharma along with the freedom to practice it. We are reminded of the urgent need to take advantage of this special opportunity to deepen our practice. We are blessed to do so in such a wonderful environment surrounded by nature and many native animals and birds. What better way to finish up a year like no other than with the purification of the Vajrasattva practice!
The beginning of Day 3: Khenpo la completed the teaching on Vajrasattva practice and then gave transmission and commenced teaching on the Medicine Buddha practice. During the day we recited the Vajrasattva and Medicine Buddha mantras with visualisations along with our morning walking meditation – “a good day” commented Khenpo as he headed home after our final session in the Gompa that evening. This day one year ago we had finished up our retreat early due to the approaching bushfires. Last year, the evening sun was pink, the countryside parched, and the distant skies filled with hazy smoke. This year, no sun to be seen with the sky overcast, a light shower, and the countryside flush with green growth. Impermanence.
On the last day of 2020, Khenpo la gave teachings on the aspirations of the first seven of the eight forms of Medicine Buddha. We undertook our regular walking meditation, practised the visualisations and mantra recitations and Khenpo answered our questions. We enjoyed wonderful meals prepared by Alan and Annie at lunchtime, with Penny and friends in the evening. We then finished 2020 with Vajrasattva and Medicine Buddha practices. We reflected that this day last year we evacuated the centre in the early hours of the morning as the fires closed in.
Day 5: the start of the New Year began in very auspicious circumstances with a double rainbow appearing over both Khenpo la's house and the gompa as the morning sun came up along with a light shower of rain. Khenpo la concluded his teachings on Medicine Buddha and we finished the retreat with Vajrasattva and Medicine Buddha practices before our thanks with khatas were offered to Khenpo from a COVID-safe distance. We joined in for a final lunch prepared by Ani la before we set about cleaning up the centre as we headed back to our normal lives blessed with having had such a wonderful finish to 2019 and start to 2020. We rejoice in our immense good fortune to have encountered the precious Buddhadharma, to have had the opportunity to receive teachings in the incredibly special environment of our Kamalashila centre, to have such a wise, compassionate, and skilled teacher as Khenpo la give us those teachings and to enjoy the company of a warm, kind, and generous sangha. We pray for the long life of Khenpo la and all the great Sakya Masters. We pray that they all enjoy excellent health and that they continue to turn the Wheel of Dharma for the benefit of all sentient beings. Thu je che and Happy New Year!
Thanks also to local sangha for all the wonderful meals and special COVID VIP service in the dining room! Reflections by Jack