Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lhasang, Smoke Offerings, Sur & Fire Rituals


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"Tibetan Smoke Offering……The lha-sang ceremony pre-dates Buddhism in Tibet. Before Buddhism, it was a shamanic ritual for establishing and restoring one's relationship with the spirit-world and a means for cleansing impurity and pollution, both spiritual and physical. When Buddhism arrived in Tibet in the 7th century, it adapted and transformed this popular ritual so that it is now a paradigmatic Tibetan Buddhist ritual that integrates the practical, earth-based, and life-affirming concerns of Tibetans with the wisdom-teachings and compassionate-activities of the Buddha. It is believed that, by performing the lha-sang, one's neurosis may be dispelled, one's life-energies raised, and an appreciation of sacred world can occur."……

"Chapter 17 of Trungpa Rinpoche's extraordinary book, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior. This book is the foundation of the movement known as Shambhala. The seventeenth chapter is entitled "Natural Hierarchy." In it Trungpa Rinpoche talks about three "principles," which in Tibetan are called lha, nyen, and lu. Lha refers to the divine, or to "the highest points on earth." Nyen refers to the human domain, or to "the great shoulders of the mountains," and "includes forests, jungles and plains." Lu refers to "water being[s]," or to "oceans and rivers." Trungpa Rinpoche thinks that these three principles "describe the protocol and the decorum of the earth itself, and they show how human beings can weave themselves into that texture of basic reality."……

SANG: "Smoke offering…….Sang is mainly dedicated to what are referred to as “elemental spirits”– the gods of the mountain, the gods of the sky, the gods of the river, and the gods of all aspects– and “local deities.” Though only seen through expansive and refined sense perceptions, we can experience these classes of beings through observing signs in the natural world including animals, features of the land, and weather patterns…….Sang is generally practiced in the daylight hours (usually before noon) and offered near one’s dwelling or on the top of a mountain. It can be offered anywhere that one wishes to renew and repair the connection with the elemental constituents of the area. ….Traditionally the sangdze or offering substance, consists of a mixture of “the three whites” and “the three sweets” (flour, butter, yogurt, sugar, molasses, and honey) as well as incense, 5 colored cloth, medicine, alcohol, and precious stones or jewels. The main criteria is that whatever is offered into the sang fire contains no onion, garlic, meat, or eggs, "…..

"Higher Realms…..The uppermost realm on the Wheel of Rebirth is that of the devata. There are four highest devas or gods of which two, Indra and Brahma, appear most often in Buddhist scriptures where Indra, ruler of the upper realm, is called Shakra (Pali: Sakka.) In the orthodox Indian view, Brahma is the Intelligence that can be compared to the deity of the western religions, but he does not have that role in Buddhism. Shiva (in Tibetan, Lha Chen) also plays an important role; in fact his god-realm is called Shambhala. ….In the Buddhist view, these gods and goddesses are, for the most part, considered to be highly evolved bodhisattvas……The gods are waited upon by apsaras -- beautiful attendants and messengers, and gandharvas -- heavenly dancers and musicians. (The dakini can be included in both these categories.) ……Indian mythology makes some distinction between rakshasas -- titans or the anti-gods -- and yakshas that are nature spirits, often tricksters. The former seek to usurp the powers of the gods or devas but the word rakshasa is also often translated ogre (Skt. ugra) or demon. "…..

"Three kinds of fire pujas……There are three major different fire-related pujas. One is called SANG, another is called SUR, and another one is JINSEK. Inside of each there are many different kinds…….The major principle of fire pujas is offering. You put the food and whatever ingredients in the fire. As the fire burns it, it is totally consumed and in this way it is offered…….In the Sang you are offering the smoke, while in the Sur you are offering the smell. And in the Jinsek, you are just offering fire itself, flame itself, and burning itself."……

"Incense offering, or Sang-sol, is a ceremony performed by Tibetans from all walks of life to mark important events in their lives...It is not clear whether the Tibetan custom of offering incense originated in India or not, as only two references to such practice can be found in the Indian texts. It is mentioned in the Guhyasamaja Tantra that one should know about the three kinds of fragrance. The other reference is to be found in the story of Bhadri of Magadha, which tells of how she invited the Buddha to her house and made offerings of smoke to him from the roof……According to the writings of various scholars, it seems that incense offering was carried out in Tibet from the very early times when the teacher Tonpa Sherab, founder of the Bon religion, first came from Zhang Zhung (Afghanistan/Tadzhikistan?) to spread his doctrine in Tibet."……transcribed from "ME-LONG, The Newsletter of the council for Religious and Cultural Affairsof H.H. the Dalai Lama", N0.6, April 1990

"… Buddhism as 8 types of impure manifestation of consciousness, they are:
hla [or lha] ……devas
ging………. attendants, musicians and dancers
sadag …… genii, titans or guardians of 'upper' realms
Maras:……creators of obstacles,
Klesha…… who embodies passion,
Yama……. who is death,
Skandha …….who is war,
Rahula Ganapati….. the ''Godly Son," who is adversity or obstacle
tsen ……. earth-spirits
nyen……. rakshasa elementals, demons
mamo……. ogres
lu ……nagas

SUR OFFERING……"A sur offering is a Tibetan Buddhist practice in which a mixture of flour, sweets and dairy products, sometimes with additional valuable or aromatic substances, is consecrated and placed in a fire or burned as incense. The resulting fragrant smoke is offered to the objects of refuge and shared with all sentient beings."……..….Sur_ means burnt offering: “An offering made by burning food on coals. It is offered to the buddhas, the protectors, all beings in general and in particular to wandering spirits and those towards whom we have karmic debts.” Words of My Perfect Teacher, p. 405.

"Drala or Dralha?…………Drala is actually a transliteration for two different Tibetan terms. Therefore it stands for two slightly different kinds of deity. One is spelled sgra bla, and the other is spelled in Tibetan, dgra lha. The first one with the element, sgra refers to a kind of energy; it is a vibrational entity. The second (dgra-) word ends in the syllable lha, and it is a kind of god……..Drala spelt sGra bla begins with the syllable sgra which means sound, and continues with la that here means "a type of individual energy that is endowed with protective functions" (Norbu 1995.) For example, seng- ge'i sgra means the lion's roar. It is also possible to write and hence, refer to sgra'i lha since sGra means a sound or cry, but using lha here instead of la conveys the meaning of a sound deity……..The Tibetan term lHa standing alone means god or deity -- usually it refers to one of the devata, a being of the highest realm in the context of The Wheel of Existence. [The syllable LHA found in transliterated Tibetan is pronounced HA.]"…..

"…. ‘Fine substances’ means that we should offer the first portion or the very best parts of the things we consume ourselves, not the things we would never touch because they have turned bad or rotten, or are too bitter, or are just the final dregs. That would not do at all. The buddhas do not have any dualistic concepts of good and bad, or clean and dirty, but everything must be clean and hygienic, as in the saying, “Since it is to gather the accumulations, it should be clean and then made even cleaner.” The crucial point is that the offering substances should be extremely clean and then made pure."……

"The burning of incense or poe is a very popular facet of Himalayan Buddhist culture. With its origin in Indian Buddhist rituals of offering smell (gandhapuja) and the ancient Bon smoke-offering (sang), the use of incense has a long history and deep cultural and religious significance."…..

"Proto-Indo-Iranians worshiped many gods including several ‘nature gods’ such as Asman, the Lord of sky (Aseman in modern Persian), Zam, the earth goddess (Zamin in modern Persian) and the sun and the moon, Hvar and Mah (khorshid & Mah in modern Persian). There were two gods of the Wind, Vata and Vayu, the wind that blows and the wind that brought the rain-clouds. Vata the rain-bringer was associated with ‘Harahvati Aredvi Sura’, the Sanskrit Sarasvati meaning ‘Possessing waters’. She personified a mythical river, held to pour down from a great sea called in Avesta, Vourukasha, meaning ‘of many bays’ and all rivers flow out of this sea. Tishtrya, meaning ‘the God of the Dog Star’ protected the clouds that brought rain. Every year he goes to the shores of Vourukasha in the shape of a splendid white stallion and fights the Demon of Dearth, Apaosha in shape of a black stallion. Then he rushes into the sea and the waves through encounter with Tishtrya produced water in abundance. Vata snatches the waters up into the clouds and scatters it all over the ‘the haft kashvar’ (seven countries). Zoroastrians had a major celebration for Tishtrya around 13th of Farvardin the time Iranians celebrate as Seezdeh be-dar, and till 19th century there were horse races on this day. This very likely was a reminiscent of ancient festivals re-enacting the myth of the battle of the stallions. Iranians still make offerings to the water on the 13th of Farvardin by throwing their ‘Sabzeh’ (green growth, a plant offering) into the waters."……

"In Tibetan culture which is not entirely monolithic or homogenous, but varies according to the region and the religious view of a family or a population, there are numerous lha of many different kinds. …..Phug-lha are Tibetan domestic deities that protect all family members and their goods. Accordin gto Namkhai Norbu (1995, 251) they govern the cha and yang of the home and defend them against damage. " They may be disturbed if a tantric Buddhist or Bon practitioner comes into the kitchen, as their protective deities usually belong to the class of rGyal po or bTsan, which can easily conflict with the Phug lha. Then it is necessary to perform a bSang rite to restore harmony." …..

"The Proto-Indo-European Hearth……"Let us pray with a good fire." (Rig Veda (1.26.9))…….The importance of fire in Indo-European (IE) religion is ensured by the IE languages, through such cognates as the Hittite hashsha, "hearth, fireplace," Latin ara, "altar," and Sanskrit asa, "ashes" (Polome, 1982, p. 392). An altar, to the IEs, was a fire, and a fire might be used as an altar. The IEs did not see a fire as a single thing, however, distinguishing several types……The Vedic ritualists prescribe three fires. The primary one is the garha-patya, the "fire of the master of the house." This is a round fire, lit from the household fire (which must itself have been lit with friction). It is the representa-tive on the ritual ground of the family of the one for whom the sacrifice is offered. During the ritual his wife stands close to it……To its east is the ahavaniya, the "fire of offering." This fire is the connection between the gods and the earth, representing the presence of Agni, god of fire and priest of the gods. The vedi, a cushion of sacred grass for the gods to sit on, is next to it. This fire is square…….The third fire is the dakshinagni, the "southern fire." Made on the southern edge of the sacrificial area, its purpose is to guard against evil spirits (identified with the dead) which might come from this direction, in Vedic cosmology the most dangerous. It is fan-shaped."…..

"…..from the cemetery of Tulkar, in South Todzhikistan. These Iranian people buried their males with rectangular hearths and their females with round hearths (Mallory, p. 53)……It is clear that IEs made a distinction between a domestic fire (even when it was the hearth of an empire) and one used in public rituals. The former was connected with the domestic cult, and received offerings to family deities and ancestors. Although the family priest (the *pater) might be male, the fire tender was female. And the fire was round. The public fire was presided over by men. It received offerings to the public deities, the gods of the people as a whole, and was square."…..

"… Zarathustra’s clear opposition to cruel forms of sacrifice has led some to believe that he forbade animal sacrifice altogether; but, like haoma, the weight of tradition is testimony that it was not proscribed. From the prophet to the present (Boyce, 1975b, p. 111) the victim is to be treated with solicitude and his/her suffering minimized. Because all ‘ahuric’ animals ultimately derive from the primordial bovine, slaughtering and eating them is regarded as a necessity of material existence only to be eliminated at the Frašegird, when humans will no longer have a need to eat. It should be noted that Zoroastrianism does not witness any sort of mystical unity achieved with the deity through the sacrifice….."……

"Pre-Zoroastrian religion of the ancient ancestors centered on natural/nature cults mostly belonging to the Stone Age, such as the cults of water and fire. Many elements of these ancient cults have survived in Zoroastrian and Indian Vedic literature. Elements such as water and fire were personified. Water itself became a goddess the ‘Apas’ (modern Persian Aab) with specific prayers and libations made to her. The elders of each household regularly made offerings (from the plant and animal world) to the nearest pool or spring and there were communal ceremonies involving the priestly rites. Fire, named Atar (modern Persian Azar / Atash) was also worshipped with offerings consisting of clean dry fuel, incense and animal fat if available……The offerings to fire and water formed the basis of the daily priestly act of worship called by the Iranians ‘yasna’ (from the verbal root yaz- sacrifice, worship)"……

"Pagan Iranians prayed three times per day, sunrise, noon and sunset and the daylight hours were divided into two periods. The morning one was under the protection of Mithra while Apam Napat protected the afternoon. Fravashis (Fereshteh in modern Persian), the spirits of the dead protected the nighttime. Several of these concepts remained and were adopted by the Zoroastrians. Many are still present in Zoroastrian (and even Islamic) literature though changes were introduced and the new cosmology introduced by Zoroaster differed from the ancient one in a number of ways."……

Gamkrelidze, Thomas V., and Ivanov, Vjaceslav V. Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-Language and a Proto-Culture. tr. Johanna Nichols. New York: Mouton de Gruyer, 1995.

Mallory, J. P. In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989.


John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….December 2013


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