Tag Archives: Buddhism

Tibetan Ornamentation- Khampa

Tibetan Ornamentation- Khampa

 

01-Pic by Antoine Taveneaux -800px-People_of_Tibet13-By Antoine Taveneaux - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommo

Pic by Antoine Taveneaux -800px-People_of_Tibet13-By Antoine Taveneaux – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommo

The summer months have come to a close all too quickly and it is now September. And with that, on this Labor Day Holiday, Ontario’s biggest city Toronto buzzed with a beehive of activity satiating the senses of sight, hearing and taste via umpteen exciting festivals. 

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This last hurrah compelled us all to live it up, as though our lives depended on it.  For soon the humdrum of daily life will be back upon us. Back to work, back to school, the end of nice, easygoing time and weather. All will be replaced by cold icy temperatures, shorter daylight hours, and the flu season. Then comes the dreaded snow…Uggg, winter is coming! (Pardon the private joke from this fan of the HBO series’ Game of Thrones).

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And if you believe the Farmer’s Almanac, this winter will be a particularly harsh one!   But I digress, in between the haste of cramming in as much summertime fun; there is also the hustle and bustle of shopping. And with winter attire acquired; why not splurge on something frivolous?

04-Antoine Taveneaux - own work-People of Tiebet (in Nagqu Horse festival)

Antoine Taveneaux – own work-People of Tiebet (in Nagqu Horse festival)

 Recently my interests veered towards unique jewelry, the indigenous sort. Tibetan jewelry presented itself as a new area to be explored. I visited several vendors that offered some unique, antique and rare geometric designs encompassing pieces of turquoise and amber. There was one particular necklace that drew my attention; however, when I put it up against my neck, I felt a strange sensation. The feeling of a pair of hands choking me became more pronounced when the clasp was fastened.  I couldn’t get  it  off me fast enough and, paying no heed to the special deal the vender offered for enticement, I hastily but politely exited the premises.  As my steps took me to safe distance, now don’t laugh, I felt as though I’d dodged something unholy. I’m not averse to acquiring antique pieces and sometimes they can be quite interesting as I am a History buff. Still, my subsequent move was to pay a visit to another Tibetan vendor that I was sure sold new jewelry pieces. No pre-owned stuff after that scare. I selected a few pieces that appealed to my taste and were moderately priced. 

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Sometime later, I came across some interesting pictures on the internet about Tibetan Khampa Posted on Flickr by Better World 2010.  The men and women were covered in plentiful huge chunks of amber, coral and turquoise jewelry.  This was intriguing to say the least. Why be burdened with such weight?

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Better World2010-01

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Then I came across some even more fascinating info about legendary Khampa people living in eastern Tibet who never fall ill and live a long time. As seen in these pictures, they are usually tall, well built and fearless. The Khampa men often stood out in a crowd, same as the women; all decked out with gold and silver, amber and red coral accessories, with their long plaited hair and tanned faces. I read somewhere that their bright unrestrained laughter resonated in the air when in festivals they moved in clusters like the moving hills.  I wish I was there to see it in person.

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Intrigued, I prodded further: The indigenous group was said to reside on the mysterious snowy plateau and furthermore, they were believed to be the offspring of the god of war and the goddess of beauty. With such lineage, the women were sure to be beautiful and the men always, stoic and valiant. Clearly, surviving the hostile elements of nature has only strengthened their life-force.

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There was even a mysterious legend about this indigenous group: It was believed that once, a long time ago in the Medicine King City, there lived the Medicine King. Impressed by the Khampa’s fearless and gallant nature, he often dispensed free medical treatment. Furthermore, he passed on to Khampa all that he knew, including all the herbal medicine and disease treatment methods. Since then, the Khampa had never fallen ill.  More interestingly, all the panaceas (universal remedies, cure-alls, magic potions) came from the Medicine King City.

As great as this belief is, the disbeliever may attribute Khampa people’s lasting good health to their inherent good habits, the sensible and diligent care they have in the prevention of all diseases.

Meanwhile the whole Tibetan regions, its indigenous customs, ceremonial ornamentation, Khampa, are all a marvel to explore.  Here is some more which I would like to share:

Did you know that different regions of Tibet have their own unique customs, dialect, and styles of ornamentation? The styles of ceremonial costumes worn by the rich families are as distinct and therefore easily recognisable in determining the region.

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Headpiece’s elaborately studded with coral resemble a crown. Coral studded gold armlets, or Copal beads (‘sherpa coral’) may be used by both men and women in the place of coral, covering the length of their forearms and fingers in gold bracelets and rings.

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 The beautiful costumes of the Khampas are considered to be the main store of the family’s wealth and announce the social status of the wearers. They are handed down from generation to generation.

Till recently most Tibetan families were nomadic and had to move every few months because of the snowy seasons in the Himalayas so, being unable to store wealth in the form of estates or houses or land or in a bank,  Khampas developed this practical and portable means of transporting and storing their wealth.  These rich nomadic ornaments are set in colorful, chunky and bold designs.

Tibetan culture is very specific in determining the type of stone or ornaments that are to be used: these are usually amber, turquoise, coral and jade, because the stones are believed to hold spiritual power. There is also a firm belief that the stones provide good luck and protection from disease. Dyed red coral is the most sought after stone, but interestingly enough, Tibet is quite far away from any oceans and therefore coral must be acquired through trade. Archeological finds also revealed that the beliefs of spiritual protection being provided by coral, amber and turquoise probably originated from the ancient shamanic Bon religion, as the designs of pieces predates the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet.

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Now these stones are always set in pure gold or silver that is naturally found in Tibet. Tibetans also consider these precious metals sacred and that they hold spiritual power of their own, therefore, mixing gold or silver will be a sacrilege. As a result, some costumes are worth somewhere between $10,000 all the way up to many millions of US dollars, depending on the quality of stones and antiquity of the ornaments. The costumes can weigh up to 44lb, much of that weight derived from the gold and silver amulet pieces attached in front, behind and on the head. These costumes are worn on annual festival days such as at the Litang Horse Festival.

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Better World2010-02 (1)

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These ornaments have the utmost sentimental value and significance, because they are the physical remnants of generations of their ancestor’s hard work or success. This belief has also been traced by the archeological finds all the way back to the 1st century AD.

 Testament to this truth is unearthed ornaments that are found to be essentially the same in design and materials as those today.

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The End

 

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Thoughtful Reflections

Thoughtful Reflections

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Be independent and cling to nothing.

I-Hsuan

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The prior moment of thinking, in which there is attachment to things, is that of affliction. The next moment of thinking, in which there is separation from things, is that of Perfect Wisdom.

The Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch

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You know these things as thoughts, but your thoughts are not your experiences, they are the echo and after-effect of your experiences: as when your room trembles after a carriage goes past. I however am sitting in the carriage, and often I am the carriage itself.

Friedrich Nietzsche

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If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.

Albert Camus

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Self is the only prison that can ever bind the soul.

Henry Van Dyke

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Our entire life, with our fine moral code and our precious freedom, consists ultimately in accepting ourselves as we are.

Jean Anouilh

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Mistakes are the portals of discovery.

James Joyce

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The End.

State of Inner Tranquility

State of Inner Tranquility

 

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A Buddhist text describes the state of inner peace as such: “Tranquility of mind comes from having successfully transcended greed, hatred and ignorance.”

The state of inner peace can therefore be achieved by bringing all deluded impulses or inner poisons under control.

 

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The greatest achievement is selflessness. The greatest worth is self-mastery. The greatest quality is seeking to serve others. The greatest precept is continual awareness. The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything. The greatest action is not conforming to the world’s ways. The greatest magic is transmuting the passions. The greatest generosity is non attachment. The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind. The greatest patience is humility. The greatest effort is not concerned with results. The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go. The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.

Buddha

 

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Here’s a Breathing Meditation, one of several ways to achieve peace of mind:

When you start to meditate, you may want to focus the mind by using some kind of external object of concentration. It need not be a physical object—the most common meditation ‘object’ is the breath—but it should be something simple and still. If moving, then it should be something repetitive, like the breath.

 

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A good practice is to count to 21 breaths in and out, and then rest your mind by letting your attention wander for a bit. Then, gently bring your attention back to your breath, counting to 21 again. Rest again, and then repeat this cycle for the duration of your meditation session. You will develop quickly if you focus on counting your breaths in this way.

 

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After a while, once you are accustomed to concentrating, you can stop using an external object of focus. Instead, you can then start to focus on mind itself. At this point, you can also focus on the passing moments of mind. Before starting this more advanced practice, you should first go through the concentration training of shamatha. Later, once your concentration is stable, then you can begin to meditate on mind itself.

Shamar Rinpoche

 

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Upon rising, when you are most rested, before you get out of bed, quietly tune in to the mind. Listen to what your mind is telling you. Is your mind filled with the dream you had just before waking? What is the feeling tone of your thoughts? Are you geared up for the day with a list of things to do?

 

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Whatever is on your mind, begin your day with an intention to be mindful, to pay attention to one thing at a time, one task at a time. Take a few deep breaths and remember that no matter what you are doing, no matter where you are, you can breathe and quiet your mind for a moment.

 

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Each time you do this, you are training your mind to be still, and with practice, those still moments make a big difference.

Saddhamala

 

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Peace

Hungry Ghosts

Hungry Ghosts

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In Ontario we have a rather short summer season, three months tops. In August, being the final month of summer, many will try to stack up as much fun and memorable events, evenings being no exception, before returning to the winter grind. They are completely oblivious or unaware of the serious significance and the dangers this month holds. That’s right; it is the “Hungry Ghost” period, known to most everyone with Oriental heritage.

Cultures from Europe to China all have traditional days of the dead or ghost days, many thousands of years old that were part of the tribal folk religions before the advent of Christianity in Europe and Buddhism in Asia. (Typically however, belief in “Hungry Ghosts” is now also part of Chinese Buddhism and Taoism.)

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Historical records reveal that in Great Britain, Halloween had originated from the traditional holiday of Celts who believed that the last day of October was “the day of the dead” or “the ghost day” when ghosts crossed over the boundary between the living and the dead. The Chinese belief is similar. In many ways, this festival is reminiscent of Halloween or the Night of the Dead in Western countries.

The “Hungry Ghost” period (that falls in July or August in our Western calendar) and the resulting festival are celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. (Halloween comes just a tad later, depending on the growing season, and the harvest times.) Similarly, the Chinese believe that on the days of the Hungry Ghost Month, and especially on the night of the full moon, there is more of a bridge between the dead and the living and that the gates of hell are opened wide releasing all the hungry ghosts into the living realm. 

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This is where it gets particularly interesting, for it is believed that the soul contains elements of both yin and yang. The yin is the kui, or demon part, and the yang is the shen, or spirit part. When death occurs, the kui should return to earth, and the shen to the grave or family shrine. The shen, or ancestral spirit is believed to watch over its descendants, and if properly worshiped, bring the living descendants a good fortune.  If a ghost is neglected however, it will become a kui. Now the hungry ghosts can arise from the deceased that had had a violent end. Some of the unhappy circumstance or evil deeds that had lead them to being reborn or to becoming a hungry ghost are killing, theft, sexual misconduct, gluttony and greed.

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There are some stipulations or precautions for dealing or honoring the dead and same time warding off the possible wrath, attacks or pranks of these discontented, deprived entities that have now been temporarily allowed to roam free in the living world.

 Typically, the Hungry Ghost bent on mischief and harm can be appeased through tribute, such as the burning of “hell money (a valid currency in the underworld)”, or other forms of joss paper such as paper houses, cars and televisions. Meanwhile, it is best to keep in mind many of the superstitions and taboos surrounding the Hungry Ghost Festival. For instance, at night during this time it would be best to remain indoors or visit only well lit areas to avoid danger of being possessed by evil spirits. After all they are capable of assuming many forms, including snakes, moths, birds, foxes, wolves, and tigers. Some can even use the guise of a beautiful man or woman to seduce and possess.

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Typically, there has been many such stories in existence; one such refers to a ghost who takes the form of a pretty girl and seduces a young man until a priest intervenes and sends the spirit back to hell. It is believed that possession can cause illness and/or mental disorders. Swimming is to be avoided as spirits may also cause drowning.  

Families also pay tribute to other unknown wandering ghosts to avoid spiritual attacks and misfortune.  Red painted paper lanterns are placed everywhere including business and residential areas and, because many believe it is important to appease the ghosts; this culminates in a very lively phase with many temple, street and market ceremonies being performed.

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 During the festival shops are usually closed to leave the streets open for the ghosts. In the middle of each street stands an altar of incense with fresh fruit and sacrifices displayed on it. Behind the altar, monks will sing songs that it is believed only the ghosts can understand. This rite is called shi ge’r, meaning “singing ghost songs”. After an offering has been burnt for the spirits, stepping on or near the burnt area must be avoided, as it is considered an “opening” to the spirit world and touching it may cause the person to be possessed. Do we really need to say this: one must also avoid sampling any of the food placed on the offering table, as doing this can result in “mysterious” illness.

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The main ceremonies at the temples, organized by resident monks, typically begin at dusk.  Usually a big feast is held for the ghosts on the 15th day of the 7th month, where people bring samples of food and place them on the offering table to both please the ghosts and ward off bad luck. Supposedly the ghosts won’t do something terrible to the living or curse them after eating their sacrifices and while holding their money.

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Any person attending a show at indoor entertainment venues will notice the first row of chairs is left empty. These seats are reserved for the spirits, and it is considered bad form to sit in them. The shows are always put on at night and at high volumes, so that the sound attracts and pleases the ghosts.

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Additionally, during an evening incense is burnt in front of the doors of many homes for incense stands for prosperity and the more incense is burnt; the greater will be one’s prosperity. Subsequently, at the end of fifteen days the Taoist monks chant to facilitate the ghosts’ departure and to send them back to whence they came from.  The ghosts are thought to hate the sound of chant, and so scream and wail all the way back to the realm of the dead.

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In the evening, people float lanterns on water and set them outside their houses in order to ensure that all the hungry ghosts find their way back to underworld. The ghosts are believed to follow the floating river lanterns away. These lanterns are made by setting a lotus flower-shaped lantern on a piece of board.  When the lanterns all go out, it is a sign that the Hungry ghosts have by then found their way back to the nether region.

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It is interesting to note that some people presume that the gates of heaven are also opened during this month, and they worship their ancestors from heaven too.

And finally, during The Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival here’s a summary of “not to do” list:

-Do not venture outside during the darkened hours.

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– If this is unavoidable, then walk by a wall or something else that is visible at your side view.

– Avoid standing or loitering under a tree in the middle of the night.

– Bad manners aside, restrain from spitting in the street or at a tree.

-Do not stare at the candlelight or lit fire.

– Avoid stepping on or kicking the offerings or the joss sticks left alongside of the road.

– Cover up your forehead at night; always pin or put up your hair as high as possible. Wearing any kind of a hat is a good idea.

– Do not play or loiter at the playground in the middle of the night, particularly the swings.

– Resist staring at an “apparition” if you happen to see one; swiftly look or walk away with calm composure.

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– Do not be disrespectful or utter funny jokes or comments on any display altar or offering items along the street

– Resist the urge to look underneath the altar table during a prayer session

– Do not shift your gaze from left to right or right to left repeatedly when you sense something akin to an apparition; instead, look straight ahead and advance toward your destination calmly.

– Should you detect an unexplained, pleasant or sweet smell ahead or around you, restrain from sniffing it.

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– It’s best to avoid using any Dark or Black color manicure at this particular time.

– Do not sit on the first few Front Rows of any performed entertainment.

– Do not wait around at any Bus Stop after Mid-Night especially when it has already passed the bus service operating hours

– You mustn’t whistle alone at night; if you detect someone singing when you know you are alone, do not accompany him or her.

– Do not open your umbrella at night, especially red color umbrellas

– It’s not advisable to wear red color costume with high heels and walk alone at night

– Resist any urge to pick up any unique items found on the street or road

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– No swimming in the pool or lake in the middle of the night; something maybe waiting to pull your legs under

– Mustn’t hang your clothes out in the middle of the night

– Do not give answer or respond when someone calls you, especially from behind

– Do not turn around or turn your head when someone unexpected pats on your shoulders in the middle of the deserted street

– Avoid combing your hair in front of the mirror in the middle of the night

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– Do not be rowdy; best not to shout or scream in the middle of the night.  Remain as quiet as possible, particularly if you should feel a sudden, unexplained coldness or temperature drop.

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– Mustn’t’ be emotional and cry in the middle of the night

– Resist being a curious person or hero if you hear some “strange” sound or noise, especially a soft crying tone.

– Do not leave any fresh or bleeding wounds out in an open air; always cover the injury/ lesion with proper bandage materials.

– And finally, never respond to a dare or take up the challenge to enter cemetery area or abandoned houses.

The End