New Year’s Celebration!

It had taken us a week to rebuild the cairn and successfully restore peace in our village. Large groups of builders and villagers helped to rebuild the cairn, whereas I took part in three rituals to successfully complete the cairn restoration. I have followed strict procedures for ritual preparation, which includes offerings to deities, prayer symbols, and recitation of sutras. For offerings, sometimes we had to go door to door looking for food and other ingredients for the ceremonies. Our villagers are so generous who gave butter, rice, cakes and other foods which needed to be offered to the deities. By such contributions, our villagers have attained many merit points and assisted us to successfully do the rituals.

I am glad we were able to restore peace with our local deities before our New Year’s celebrations (Losar) because it is one of the most important festivals of Tibet. I am excited to celebrate our New Years to regenerate the year with more positivity. The major festivities of Losar celebrations take place in Lhasa because it is the capital of Tibet[1]. Major events and activities take place in large temples and sacred sites at Lhasa, where vast number of people around the world goes to take part in it. Since, large number of tourists travel to these sites it creates religious benefits, increase economic conditions, and social opportunities. Many monks and nuns or even lay people make connection with foreigners to increase their opportunity to upgrade their knowledge for brighter future. The economic raise helps local sites to improve their temple conditions and help needy ones. Many locals take part in the activities and preparation in order to gain merit points and blessings[2]. In Tibet, New Year is not a celebration of a new year, but it has more to do with religious connotations. It is connected to the Buddha’s birth and death, and by celebrating such event we guarantee to generate renewal and promise of better future[3].

New Year’s festivals run for fifteen days. This year it will take place on February 19, which leaves us only four days to prepare for the event. It is my first New Year as a nun to prepare for it. I remember, last year I was with my family, I took part in dance and skits which was a lot of fun. But back then, I was not aware of all the symbolism and religious meanings behind our work. This is why, from this year’s celebration I will have more opportunity to learn about the religious meanings. From our senior nuns I got to learn that during such festivity, both religious and non religious activities take place. Religious activities connect with Buddha’s birth, death and enlightenment; whereas, non-religious activities connects with Tibetan military force because they fought for Tibet’s repression.

Out of many events, *Monlam is the most important ritual to celebrate in New Year. This ritual will take place in our village that will run for two weeks. It takes place in first lunar month, where all the monks and lamas gather together to perform the ritual to benefit sentient beings[4]. During this ceremony, laypeople can make donations and other services to attain moral advantages. Through these contributions they will also gain merit points*[5]. Along with other nuns we can help the villagers to make butter sculptures for the offerings. Although, this ritual takes place in Lhasa, by the help of our neighbouring villages and funds we will be hosting our own ritual celebrations. Novice nuns and monks are expected to clean area by sacred place by the hills and purified by mantras. Some of the monks are going to make pilgrimages to sacred sites of Lhasa for prayers, but others are going to stay behind to celebrate New Years. In four days I have to learn to recite the prayers and mantras for this ritual. We will also be making scroll paintings to print the sutras which are to enlighten beings.

I am also excited to see the parade that will take place during these fifteen days of celebration. This parade will take place in the morning, where some lay people dress in more colourful clothing. They also carry deity figures and ritual objects to display around the village; some will also dress in armour, and ethnic clothing to represent Tibetan military[6]. There will also be dance ritual (Cham) taking place in fourteenth day of the lunar month. Before this dance, a mandala needs to be prepared which we (the nuns) will be making to contribute for dance. This mandala will represent deities and monastery foundations within it[7]. The dancers will wear linen turban and shells around their feet to dance along with drums. This dances correlates with rhythmic mantras[8]. All these events are to reduce the negativity and demonic creatures to renew positive karma and “degenerate age we are living in”[9].

a small group of farmers of our village are also preparing for theatrical performance to pay respect to God of soil. These farmers pay this respect to secure crops and food storage for our village[10]. I am intrigued to see how this performance will play out because I have seen them making their colourful costumes. I respect our farmers for their hard work and effort. I wish to also take part in their ritual to pay tribute to God of soil for blessing us with food. Some of the land owners will also prepare offerings for their farmers who helped them over the years to make their financial needs. There will also be throwing small party at night for them to enjoy[11]. It is a great time of the year to appreciate their hard work and say thank you to our local deities who help us to get our needs.

Aside from dance and parade, there are also wrestling and horse races. I am not sure if our village will host such activities, but I have come to learn that in Lhasa lamas, ministries, and monks selects fighters and racers for these events[12]. There are also ritual songs sung by men and women to talk about various deities and various worlds. These songs refer to good wishes and creation stories[13]. I really wished we (the nuns) had enough money to make the pilgrimage to Lhasa to witness such eventful time of the year. I would of also been beneficial to see the great Dalai lama because I have heard he makes the visit to Lhasa temple for New Year. One of our senior nuns actually was blessed to witness such momentum last year when she made her pilgrimage to Lhasa. It takes about 1 day of walking from our village to get to the sacred site of Tibet. She told us (the novice nuns) how Dalai Lama entered the temple and all the monks around various parts of the world came to take part in the New Year’s ritual. They presented a mandala in front of him and bowed down to receive his blessings. He came to salute the Buddha statute and recited Mahayana sutras[14]. He is also wise to meet lay people who made offerings to him by giving him gold, silvers, pearls, precious stones and other valuable materials. Our senior nun gave him all her gold she had and she told us that he blessed her by putting his hand over her offering[15].

There is also another reason why some people have chosen to stay in village instead of making too much non-religious activities. Our village this year only wanted to focus on religious and customary rituals in the temples because of ill news of our country. Couple of weeks ago, we have received a news from our government, announced by *Dr. Lobsang, that people are sacrificing around Tibet putting themselves on fire for the repression of Tibet. It was sad to know how by years many people are giving up their lives for our country. It will be our utmost duty to perform sacred ritual to restore peace. Our elders of the village decided to more focus in prayer and mantras and our identity. I would like to pray for those who sacrificed themselves and hope they end up in good karmic realm. Also I would like to pray for soldiers who are fighting for our Tibetan’s security*.

The New Year is an opportunity for us to seek for refuge to our Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Because it connects with Buddha’s birth, death and enlightenment, we are to seek for refuge from past year. It is to seek for renewal and resolution to rely on the three Jewels[16]. It is to confess our misdeeds and it is a chance for us to rectify our negativity to get rid of evils and negative karma to generate purification and positivity[17].


Footnotes:

[1] Religious Festivals and Holy days, 191

[2] Ibid.

[3] Stein, Excerption Yearly Festivals, 212.

[4] Religious Festivals and Holy days, 191.

[5] Ibid, 192.

[6] Religous Festivals and Holy Days, 192.

[7] Ibid, 198.

[8] Stein, Excerpt on Yearly Festivals, 214.

[9] Religious Festivals and Holy Days, 193.

[10] Stein, Excerpt on Yearly Festival, 219.

[11] Ibid, 213.

[12] Ibid, 215.

[13] Ibid, 218.

[14] Ibid, 215.

[15] Ibid

[16] Religion Festivals and Holy Days, 200.

[17] Ibid, 201.