Finally the monks arrived, 11 of them. I did not take any notes during the ceremony which lasted over three hours, and I didn't watch all of it, either. I was one of the only people who watched much of it, but the 11 monks filled the Buddhist Room, so usually I could only watch from outside, through a dirty window. I was not allowed to stay in the room at certain parts of the ceremony. But since Karsang Danzen was in charge, I was able to take photos (from the vantage points I had).
|Karsang Danzen starts to mix the tsampa|
|The vantage point for the kids was always through the window, but only the kids and I were really watching|
First let me explain what I learned later-- this 21st Day Celebration was for us! The family left behind, not so much for Apa Lorae. The ceremony was for Tsela Nampson, for the people who remain to have a long life and do well -- to dispel the bad luck of a death in the family. At the time I didn't know that.
After a chant (quick) and a snack the monks washed their hands (soap, hot water) and started making 1,000 figures out of tsampa. The different monks had to make different types of figures, but the majority were altars (for Tsela Nampson?), most of the 1,000 being small altars, but bigger altars also, as well as one very large stupa (also confusingly referred to as a stupa on a mountain?)(at the time I didn't identify these as altars, and K didn't know what they were, either). The barley flour was mixed with water and melted butter, and the cookie-dough textured result was shaped by the monks. 5 different things were made--
~The big stupa
~small balls of tsampa (a little bigger than deer poop)
Everything except the balls were painted with melted butter.Then butter in cold clear water was formed and shaped and affixed to the small and large altars, as well as the stupa (extremely precisely to the stupa, nicely to the larger altars and just slapped onto the small altars). Karsang Danzen told me some monks just practice how to sculpt butter and tsampa. The ornate and specific placement of butter, especially on the big stupa, done by one monk with another assisting, took the same time as four monks making all of the small altars. Everything was placed on a table with the stupa in the center, with butter lamps, cups of water, cups of barley, and lit incense. Then the monks circled it, chanting (another set of 1,000), sat chanting, bowed, circled more, and so on.
|These big altars were what Karsang Danzen made|
At the end of the day everyone went outside for a ceremony called 'tee.' This cleanses everything that's been done on that day. The people bow to the monks three times, who wash with juniper purified water (it was white, maybe with milk in it?), then offer the water to the people to drink from their palms and wipe across the crowns of their heads. After the 'tee' everyone went back inside.
Then the monks destroyed the altars, except for the stupa. The destruction is after the tsampa has been offered to Tsela Nampson to eat, so the sculptures have already served their purpose. The tsampa can then be given to animals or just kept somewhere. A few days later I noticed a large basin of it in the corner, but K wouldn't let me feed any to the sheep (who love it).
When their work was done the monks had a grand momo and boiled meat feast before they left. The leftover momo and meat became dinner for everyone else, who slowly cleaned up, waiting for each lamp to go out, throwing out the wick, polishing it, and packing it away to be returned to whoever had lent it. Each monk costs about 2,000 RMB for the ceremony, in cash, according to Karjam.