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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: MANI RIMDU FESTIVAL FROM NEPAL!

Monday, October 24, 2011

MANI RIMDU FESTIVAL FROM NEPAL!






   Mani Rimdu is a 19-day sequence of sacred ceremonies and empowerments, culminating in a 3-day public festival. It's an opportunity for the local Sherpa and Tibetan communities, to gather and celebrate together with the monastic community.
   Mani Rimdu is a re-creation of legendary events; the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet by the great saint, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). Through the dances, symbolic demons are conquered, dispelled, or converted to Dharma Protectors, as positive forces clash with those of chaos. The dances convey Buddhist teachings on many levels - from the simplest to the most profound - for those who do not have the opportunity to study and meditate extensively.
   Mani Rimdu is a re-creation of legendary events; the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet by the great saint Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). Through the dances, symbolic demons are conquered, dispelled, or converted to Dharma Protectors, as positive forces clash with those of chaos. The dances convey Buddhist teaching on many levels from the simplest to the most profound.
   The monks who perform the dances, first take vows at an empowerment ceremony with Trulshig Rinpoche. During the dances they become deities, rather than ordinary people. Because the dances are regarded as sacred, they can only be performed in the context of Mani Rimdu, and not for ordinary entertainment. Trulshig Rinpoche explains, “seeing Mani Rimdu is like receiving a blessing”.





Festival Preparations

Mani Rimdu takes place from the first day of the tenth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, falling between mid-October and mid-November. It lasts until the nineteenth day of the month. From the beginning until the end of the festival, 24 hours Puja (rituals) will be performed by the monks to consecrate the Mandala, the Mani Rilwu (sacred pills), the Tshereel (pills for long life) and the Torma.

The Sand Mandala
   The sand mandala is carefully constructed, grain by grain, from colored sand. It is an intricate and symbolic design that takes many days to complete. Protective dagger deities are placed around the mandala, and the bowl of Mani Rilwu pills (spiritual medicine) is placed above the center.
   The mandala becomes the palace of Garwang Thoze Chenpo, the Lord of the Dance; an emanation of the Buddha of Compassion, and the central deity of Mani Rimdu. The mantra "OM AH HUNG RHI, OM MANI PADME HUMG", is repeated thousands of times by the monks, during weeks of ceremony preceeding the public festival. During their meditation, they visualize compassion flowing in the form of the mantra, into the Mandala and the Mani Rilwu Pills. Compassion then radiates out from the Mandala, blessing all those who attend the Mani Rimdu festival.
    During their meditation, the monks visualize all their compassion flowing in the form of the mantra into the mandala and the rilwu pills. From the mandala, compassion radiates out, blessing all those who come to Chiwong.






The Rilwu Pills   Rinpoche calls this "liberation by eating". The Rilwu are distributed to everyone, after he gives a long life empowerment to the people who come.

The Torma   The torma is made from barley flour and decorated with colored butter. It begins by symbolising the body of the deity, and by the end of the ceremony, symbolises enlightenment itself. It stands in the front of the mandala on its own shrine, at the very heart of the temple.

The Empowerment (Wong)

   The Wong is the opening public ceremony. It's performed on the full moon day, of the tenth month in the Tibetan lunar calendar. His Holiness Trulshig Rinpoche, gives the empowerment on this auspicious occasion; for long life, happiness and prosperity. The sacred Mani Rilwu (sacred pills) and Tshereel (pills for long life), are given to everyone attending.


The Dances (Chham)

   The dances take place on the 2nd day of Mani Rimdu.

Ser-Kyem


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   This offering of spiritual nectar is made in many ceremonies. The six dancers represent Ngag-pa (Tantric magicians). They make offerings of alcohol from silver chalices, and small tormas, to the Lama, Yidam, Khandro, and Shi-Dak (Earth deities).
    A Buddhist practitioner takes ‘refuge’ in the Lama (spiritual guide), Yidam (personal deity) and Khandro (wisdom dakini). A central theme in Tibetan Buddhist practice, is to make offerings to these beings, so that they will help with the virtuous actions that lead to Buddhahood.


 Ghing-Pa

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   The four dancers, Ghing, are servants of Guru Rinpoche, connected with his emanation as Dorje Trollo. They have come from his Pure Land of Sangdok Palri, where they live within his mandala. They herald the imminent arrival of Guru Rinpoche at the Mani Rimdu.
    Two of the Ghing are male, and carry cymbals, while the two females carry drums. The male represents skilful means and the females represent wisdom; these two aspects of the path to enlightenment are at the heart of Vajrayana (Tantric) practice. The union of skilful means or compassion, and wisdom is often depicted, and frequently misunderstood, in Tantric iconography.


 Guru Rinpoche



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   Preceded by a reverent monk holding burning incense, Guru Rinpoche makes his dramatic appearance in the form of Dorje Trollo (the Adamantine Sagging-Belly). Guru Rinpoche has seven other emanations, six of which are peaceful. Dorje Trollo, is one of the wrathful forms he assumes, to defeat the demons in Tibet. He comes from his home on the Copper Mountain riding a flying tiger, together with the Ghing.
    Having paced out his symbolic mandala, Guru Rinpoche is invited to a throne and offerings are made to him, as benefits the ‘Second Buddha’.
    In his right hand he carries a dorje, a symbolic diamond or thunderbolt, representing indestructibility, while in his left hand he brandishes a phurba, a symbolic dagger for slaying demons. Having overcome the demons, Guru Rinpoche converts them to Buddhism, and makes them take solemn vows to protect the teachings and all practitioners.
    The symbolism can be interpreted on many levels; the inner demons of hatred, greed, and ignorance can be overcome by meditation on compassion and wisdom, and transformed into Enlightenment.


Nga-Chhyama



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   The Drum Dance is performed by six Ngag-Pa to celebrate the attainment of Samadhi (meditative concentration).


Mi-Tsering



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   A one-actor comic interlude, Mi-Tsering, (Long Life Man) is the children’s favorite. He is a kind, bumbling, gentle old man. He means well and does his best, but inevitably gets everything wrong. He is, however, convinced that he's an expert and tries to instruct others in some of the temple rituals, such as offering khataks (silk scarves), or doing prostrations. His, is a light-hearted comic act, yet it brings a poignant message of encouragement to ordinary people - that sincerity and good intentions count for as much as expertise. It is Mi-Tsering who heads the procession of monks welcoming Trulshig Rinpoche’s arrival at Chiwong, and who heralds him into the courtyard to preside over the dances. He is an acknowledgement of everyman’s good intentions, however humble.

Rol-Cham
   Entrance of the monks and Mi-Tsering with banners and ceremonial instruments, heralding Trulshig Rinpoche’s arrival.


 Thur-Dhag

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   Thur-Dhag, the Dance of Liberation, is the central act of the sacred dance. The two skeleton figures are the Lords of the Universal Cemetery - reminders of the transient nature of human existence. Two Ngag-pas enter and perform a mystical invocation, luring all demons and negative energies, then trap them into a small dough figure. At the same time, Trulshig Rinpoche performs a wrathful fire puja - calling the demons in, with long strokes of a nine-pronged dorje with black pennant. The demons are trapped, and ceremonially burned on a small pyre, as an offering to the gods, who are then asked to liberate the world. With symbolic strokes of his phurba, Rinpoche, out of compassion even for demons, sends them to the realm of wisdom.
   The demons of hatred, greed, and ignorance are dead. The Lords of the Cemetery carry the corpse to the Gods of the Mandala. The ashes from the pyre are buried under a flagstone in the courtyard.

Kang-Wa
   Rinpoche invokes the Great Protectors asking them to perform the activities of a Buddha. Mahakala is blue, Ekajati has one eye, Mahadeva (Shiva) is red, and Trudo Lhamao (the Cemetery Deity) is brown. During this dance, Ang Babu and his family make offerings to Rinpoche and to the Sangha.

Mi-Nak
   The two black men are servants of, Shalung Genyen Chenpo, the protector deity of Dza-Rong-Phu monastery, who appears next. Shalung Genyen Chenpo, was originally fierce and a murderer, but is later reformed and becomes a protector of the Dharma.

Khandro
   Five Wisdom Dakinis enter and make offerings of tsog, song, and dance to Trulshig Rinpoche. These Wisdom Dakini's are the active part of the Lama, Yidam, and Khandro. There is further ceremony and procession by the monks, as Trulshig Rinpoche leaves the courtyard.






Tok-Den
   This second comic interlude, is a kind of spiritual soap opera. A Tantric yogi and his two hopeless disciples attempt to cope with life, death, love, lust, alcohol, and an assortment of other samsaric problems. At the end of the scene, Tok-Den, demonstrates his spiritual prowess by bending a metal sword against his unprotected skin.

Ngag-Pa
    A monk takes out a Torma as a compassionate offering to the beings, who like leftovers.

Ti-Cham
   The Knife Dance cuts up and destroys any remaining demons.

Lok-Cham
   This is the Finishing Dance, and concludes Mani Rimdu.

The Fire Puja (Jinsak)
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   The Fire Puja is performed in the courtyard the day after the dances. Most of the village people have gone home, and Chiwong has a quiet, almost family atmosphere.
    The Fire Puja is an offering to Agni (the god of fire), and to the Gods of the mandala - to allay all harm in the world. The harm is visualized as dissolving into the grain and butter is burned.
   Afterwards, the sand mandala in the temple is dismantled, and the sand is given as an offering to the serpent gods (Nagas), at the spring below the monastery.

Chhingpa        
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   The next dance depicts the Four Protecting Ghings, defending the Buddhist faith against attack by demons. Shining paper masks hide the faces of the dancers, each a different color and each displaying a constant smile. The dancers' skips are rhythmically accompanied by the beating of cymbals.
   Without breaking step, the dancers charge haltingly at children in the audience. The youngsters recoil in horror, much to the amusement of everyone else in the crowd.
   The next dance depicts the Four Protecting Ghings, defending the Buddhist faith against attack by demons. Shining paper masks hide the faces of the dancers, each a different color and each displaying a constant smile. The dancers skips, are rhythmically accompanied by the beating of cymbals. Without breaking step, the dancers charge haltingly at children in the audience. The youngsters recoil in horror, much to the amusement of everyone else in the crowd.
   The gentle Dance of the Dakini contrasts sharply with what has gone before. Five young priests execute slow motion dance steps, keeping perfect time with the soft tinkle and slow beat of bells and drums held in their hands. The dancers are without masks, and portray female spiritual figures, the partners of Padmasambhava.
   They have come from his pure land of Shangdok Palri where they live within his






mandala. They herald the imminent arrival of Guru Rinpochhe at the Mani Rimdu.
   Two of the Ghing are male, and carry cymbals, while the two females carry drums. The males represent skillful means and the female represent wisdom; these two aspects of the path to enlightenment are at the heart of Vajrayana (Tantric) practice. The union and harmony of Skillful Means (Compassion) and Wisdom, is often depicted (and often misunderstood) in Tantric iconography.

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