Mala Magazine
Issue #10 March 2017

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Losar Tashi Delek!  Welcome the Year of the Fire-Bird

Elaborate butter sculptures, or tormas adorn altars during Losar. Traditionally, Lhasa’s Barkhor Street is filled with people come to admire the hundreds of artistic butter sculptures, ranging from just a few centimeters in size to several stories high. Buddhism teaches the importance of gathering merit as well as wisdom.  Wisdom is developed gradually through study and contemplation. Merit is achieved through generosity, kindness, and virtuous actions of body, speech and mind.  Giving is a remedy to grasping and attachment.  In the word torma in Tibetan, tor literally means to scatter or toss out a small number of things or pieces. The suffix ma represents love.  So you could say that the word torma means to offer something to someone with love. The torma is traditionally tossed outside after being used in a ritual, becoming food for insects and wild animals.

"I feel like I've met you before".... "If we are to make sense of reincarnation, if we are to make sense of a soul assuming another body, then some kind of independent agent that is independent of the empirical facts of the individual must be posited. ...Buddhist traditions on the whole have rejected the temptation to posit a "self," an atman, or a soul that is independent of our body and mind. Among Buddhist schools there is consensus on the point that "self" or "I" must be understood in terms of the aggregation of body and mind. But as to what, exactly, we are referring when we say "I" or "self," there has been divergence of opinion even among Buddhist thinkers. Many Buddhist schools maintain that in the final analysis we must identify the "self" with the consciousness of the person. Through analysis, we can show how our body is a kind of contingent fact and that what continues across time is really a being's consciousness."
- commentary by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Architecture in Tibet typically displays influences from its eastern and southern neighbors though primarily Tibetan structural organization accommodates the arid, high-altitude environment.  Ganzi is known for its beautiful wooden houses built in a range of styles and lavishly decorated with wooden ornamentation.  Although various materials are used in the well-built houses, it is the skillful carpentry  and luminous painting that is most striking. The most desirable building sites are on elevated land facing south. Flat roofs are used in most parts of the central and western Tibetan plateau where rainfall is slight; however in the eastern Tibetan plateau where summer rains are heavier, sloping roofs, covered either in slate, shingles, or (increasingly) ceramic tile, are popular in some regions. In prosperous agricultural areas, private homes may have up to three stories. In herding areas where houses may be used only part of the year, they usually have only one story.  Some herding families live in tents for part of the year, although these nomadic families are rapidly disappearing due to government requirements for them to establish permanent housing.  Walls that are constructed of stone or rammed earth may be up to a meter thick at the base. In large structures such as temples and manor homes, walls slope inward to create an illusion of greater height. Windows are usually small because the walls are so heavy that large openings would make the structure weak and unstable.

Tibetan herbal medicine uses a large number of medicinal substances, about a third of which, not surprisingly,  are high altitude plants (especially those that grow in dry sandy or rocky areas). The classical Tibetan Materia Medica was developed in the 19th Century, and remains the primary source of pre-scientific herb information. Rhodiola and hippophae are examples of herbs frequently included in traditional Tibetan formulas, especially for treatment of lung diseases. They have been developed into health products apart from the Tibetan tradition, with rhodiola promoted as an adaptogenic agent, and hippophae as a nutritious beverage, a treatment for circulatory disorders, and as a skin protectant and healer.  

In general, Tibetan remedies emphasize the use of spicy (acrid), aromatic, and warming herbs and is heavily influenced by Ayurvedic system. This system relies heavily on spicy herbs for stimulating the digestive system functions. Thus, among the commonly used Tibetan herbs are those derived mainly from the Ayurvedic system, such as peppers, cumins, cardamom, clove, ginger, and other hot spices, complemented by the local aromatics such as saussurea and musk. Also, the Tibetan system emphasizes astringent herbs, possibly representing an attempt to conserve body fluids and alleviate any inflammation of the mucous membranes. The "king" herb of Tibetan medicine is the chebulic myrobalan (Terminalia chebula), which is an astringent herb, but is said to possess all the tastes (different parts of the fruit have different tastes), properties, and effects. Despite this emphasis on herbs with properties that are generally needed for the Tibetan climate, cooling and bitter herbs are often required to treat the disease manifestation, as inflammatory processes finally result if the pathogenic influences are not conquered or expelled.

His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, 1995 - Tibet House US conference, Union Theological Seminary

Did you know...

Archaeological data suggests archaic humans may have passed through Tibet at the time India was first inhabited, half a million years ago.  Modern humans first inhabited the Tibetan Plateau at least twenty-one thousand years ago. There is a "partial genetic continuity between the Paleolithic inhabitants and the contemporary Tibetan populations".

March 10   Tibetan Independence Day
March 12  full moon
March 14  Fire-Wind is an auspicious day. The encounter of fire and wind brings strength. Strength brings all good omens.
March 17  An auspicious day to hang prayer flags
March 23  Cutting your hair today will increase your comfort and wealth

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