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Ceremonial Objects Of The Buddhist Faith, Page 2

Crystal Rosary (shel gyi Îphreng ba)  

  This rosary (mala, Îphreng ba) consists of 108 crystal beads. Rosaries are very important religious objects for all Tibetan Buddhists, whether lay or clergy. They are most commonly used for calculating the number of mantras one has accumulated over a period of time. The mala or rosary may be used to compute the number of mantras one recites in a formal session of meditation, or informally as one engages in other daily activities. Malas made from crystal or seeds are said to be appropriate for practices that focus on serene Buddhas and deities, and crystal malas are also used by lamas to perform divinations. Bone malas are most appropriate for meditation on fierce deities.

Offering Mandala  

In ceremonial use the mandala offering plate is piled with rice or other cereal grains mixed with beads, semi-precious stones, coins, etc., using three successively smaller rings to create a small round stepped tower upon which a wheel ornament, symbolizing Buddhist doctrine, is placed. This model is a ritual representation of the entire universe as it is described in Buddhist cosmological texts. The practitioner first meditates upon the 'empty' (shunya, stong pa) nature of all phenomena and then imagines that from within this state he or she is creating the cosmos from the ground up by carefully placing mounds of rice in the cardinal and intermediate directions to represent its important features: the mountain at the center of the world, the various continents, goddesses, auspicious symbols, the sun and moon, etc. Once the practitioner has completed the ritual construction of the world in this way, he or she then presents the model to an object of devotion, whether a teacher, image, or visualized Buddha, thereby attaining the merit required to achieve a happy rebirth (bde Îgro) and ultimately nirvana or enlightenment.

Offering Bowls (ting)  

The seven offering bowls (ting), often referred to as the 'seven magnificences' (bdun mtshar), together with illumination in the form of a butter lamp or candle (or an electric light today), represent the eight traditional Tibetan offerings. These derive from the Indian custom, still practiced today, of offering eight hospitalities to a guest at one's home: water for drinking, water for washing one's feet, flowers, incense, illumination, scented unguent, fruit, and music. Alternatively, water can be offered in all seven bowls. The bowls are filled with cool, clear, clean water (yön chap) every morning and are emptied each evening. Offering bowls range in quality according to one's means and may be exquisitely crafted from precious metals and jewels.

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