Yesterday morning I spent about four hours at the Gaden Khachoe Shing monastery again; this time I was in for a totally different experience. Recently the Tibetan new year (or Losar) had passed, and I had seen on the calendar that the day was labeled a “Tsog Day,” but I must admit that I didn’t know the significance of it — but I did half-expect things to be more ritualistic in tone. Some Google-research offered me some intel, but there are some things that one must just experience it to really learn anything useful.
When I arrived, I found a smoke offering taking place, which is intended to help one purify oneself and surroundings of various evils. The shrine room was decorated (more so than the previous occasion, which is to say it was quite ornate to begin with) and decked with fruit and flowers, offerings to the Buddha. The monks had also prepared khapsays, a sort of cookie traditionally eaten on occasions such as Losar. The volume of khapsays could have nearly filled my van, so I hope they enjoyed making them, otherwise I can only imagine the process having been quite tedious!
I was, admittedly, somewhat ill prepared, having nothing with me to offer, but I don’t feel like anyone held that against me — everyone seems to understand that I’m new to the Tibetan tradition. After chanting and offerings were taken, we all sat with the monks and enjoyed tea and rice, which was prepared with raisins and some sort of green vegetation that I couldn’t readily identify. It was really good, actually, and I may have to ask how it was prepared and see whether it is something my family would enjoy. While we ate, we had the opportunity to talk and mingle a bit. At some point in the day new prayer flags were going to be hung above the monastery, but after being out so long I decided it would be best to return home to Michelle and see what kind of trouble my family was getting into.
I’m really glad that my new friends there are so forgiving of my ignorance as it pertains to the Tibetan traditions and practices. In fact, I think a few of them have come to appreciate the fact that I continue to visit even though my main focus has been in the Theravada tradition. The people there are very nice and accepting, and I’ve found my chats with them to be quite uplifting. I’ve even come to find that I’m not the only person there that has a family life in which a sort of spiritual schism has occurred, which lends me some additional confidence that my wife and I won’t later find fault [real or imagined] with each other as a result of my life changes.
I’m keeping an open mind to the very interesting and amazing new practices and ideas to which I am being exposed, sorting them out slowly as I go along, while being mindful of the most important elements and keeping them with me as consistently as I can. There is certainly a bit of mysticism to the Tibetan traditions, but that doesn’t necessarily imply wrongness or rightness, only newness to me. I am finding that this openness to and appreciation of the different traditions in Buddhism is aiding me in my understanding of the various different traditions employed even in Christianity. Ultimately, it is really awesome to not feel like I am right and everyone else is wrong for a change. Instead, I have thrashed that thinking and adopted the idea that it is possible for us all to be right simultaneously, at least from a certain point of view.
Take a moment and contemplate your own openness to different spiritual ideas today when you have a moment. Maybe they aren’t all that different, except in their expression. Be well, my friends.