Food at the Rinchen Terdzo

December 26th 2008

What follows is a short study of food at the Rinchen Terdzo. Yes, that’s today’s secular studies topic because it is the holidays. This study won’t be definitive because the cultural venues for the Rinchen Terdzo are broadening to outside the borders of Tibet. However, I am fairly certain that two things have remained constant: momos or Tibetan dumplings, and salted butter tea. We had the famous salted butter tea a couple of times at the start of the event, and since then we’ve had sweet tea with a bit of chai spice floating in the bottom of the cup now and then.

Another item that is always part of the Rinchen Terzo is torma—roasted ground barley flour mixed with butter and sugar to make a type of cake. This turns up now and again rolled into little balls that are distributed as part of the long life ceremonies. Other things we eat in the shrine room include the yellow sweet tea rolls that look like unsplit hamburger buns, and during the feast at the end of the day, cookies and a drop of blessed liquor that’s been mixed with a lot of orange soda.

Outside the shrine room culinary possibilities open up a tiny bit. There are rumors of chicken momos (and beer, generally off limits during the Rinchen Terdzo) at a small restaurant in settlement camp number three. Meat is not part of the monastery menu (free for the guests here), at the guesthouse or at the little shop behind the monastery run by a cheerful and energetic Tibetan man named Thonga and his family. The shop is like a restaurant and has momos and eggrolls (a thin bread wrapped around a fried egg and some vegetables with a special sauce, quite tasty and filling) along with more Indian fare, rice dhal and so forth. Thonga also sells candy, pens, paper, and soda to a steady stream of monks along with the Tibetans and Westerners here at the event. Occasionally a child (western or robed) is spotted wandering around with neon pink cotton candy.

At the guesthouse we enjoy Indian food with a lot of fresh vegetables, the occasional eggroll and momo, along with different kinds of eggs for breakfast. His Eminence said that the westerners should get a lot of fresh vegetables. These, with the exception of brocolli from Berampur, are organically grown at the settlement. We get a lot of okra which I am growing fond of, along with chapattis, the occasional ting-mo (steamed bread dumpling), and a great many styles of dhal with white rice. One vegetable I’ve not met before is the deep green kati which when sliced in half-moons looks like the back of a stegosaurus. The name means bitter which it certainly is. It’s easiest to get to know when well fried with something that turns it bright red.

I found another sangha member here, Siobhan Pathe, who’s come from Hamburg. I had not met her before, and she seemed suspiciously Shambhalian. There is a distinct flavor to Shambhala culture and community which is easy to spot in mixed sangha gatherings.

Today we nearly finished most of the remaining abhishekas related to Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye’s terma about the Seven Line Supplication. These last abhishekas didn’t fit into the neat groups we had in the preceding days and were more eclectic. Several of them emphasized the union of Padmasambhava with specific groups of gurus (48, 50 or 108) or specific teachers like Shakya Shri or one of the root teachers for the Taksham Lineage, coincidentally the main lineage for the Ripa famil. Also we had the empowerments for the four additional forms of wrathful Padmasambhava.

The teachings with Lungpo Rinpoche in the event went into the famous eight freedoms and ten favorable circumstances or conditions. These point out one’s good fortune in being able to study the dharma by highlighting both what we need (a teacher, interest in the teacher, etc.) and circumstances that we don’t have but would have prevented study and practice (severe handicaps and so on.) Tomorrow his cousin Lungpo Kunkyab Rinpoche will talk about karma, the cause and effect relationship behind our actions. The Sakyong will teach the day after on ground, path and fruition.

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