Losar Day Two
February 26th 2009
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.
I would like to call people’s attention to two websites. The first is the regularly updated audio-visual page for the Shambhala community. As of yesterday, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s recorded Shambhala Day address, his words for the New Year, along with those of the Sakyong Wangmo Dechen Choying Sangmo, have been posted. The Sakyong’s address starts with a description of the Rinchen Terdzo and includes some discussion of the relationship between contemplative practice and the anxiety we face in the world at this time of crisis. There are other treats on this website including the movie from the Rinchen Terdzo if you have not seen it, and the year end film of major happenings in Shambhala.
The second website is the Shambhala Times. The webmagazine for the Shambhala community has just been launched, and it’s paper counterpart, The Dot, has come to its final issue. Holly Gayley, one of the editors of the Shambhala Times, and Cameron Wenaus, the web architect, have been so helpful to me in writing this blog. They provided a lot of advice and technical knowhow along with designing and hosting the blogsite. Please drop into the Shambhala Times for a visit now and again.