Celebrations in Mongolia-Tsagaan Sar

Celebrations in Mongolia-Tsagaan Sar

Celebrations in Mongolia-Tsagaan Sar

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Celebrations in Mongolia-Tsagaan Sar

On February 8. Mongolia will celebrate Tsagaan Sar, the first day of the new year according to the Buddhist Lunar calendar. The 'Year of the Boar' finished on January 7 and with this the cycle of 12 years according the lunar calendar.

Now a new cycle, starting with the mouse, begins. The animals of the 12 years are always combined with elements and colors, and the coming year is an Earth Mouse, or Yellow Mouse Year, commonly called, 'The Year of the Mouse." in Western terms.

It's a traditional saying in Mongolia that "Fortunate people will see the Year of the Mouse". A mouse year is considered productive and it means much construction for monasteries and temples. It is said that many main Mahayana texts have been written and many texts translated from Tibetan into Mongolian in Mouse years.

The day before Tsagaan Sar is time to clean and prepare for the approaching New Year; be it in the family or in the monasteries. From the Buddhist point of view it's a time to purify negative karma accumulated in the past. Early in the morning of the New Year it's tradition for some people to climb on lop of a mountain to see the first sunrise of the New Year.

Tsagaan Sar has been celebrated in Mongolia for many centuries and started at the time of Chinghis Khaan. Only later, the celebration became a Buddhist Festival too. In the past it always showed a deep combination of Mongolian customs and Buddhism.

Tsagaan Sar is also a family festival lasting several days. Traditionally, besides cleaning, the festival should start with feasting on the night of the new moon. Then, everybody dresses up nicely in traditional clothes. In the morning after the New Moon, people visit first the eldest person of the family and their parents. It is a good opportunity to renew family ties and to introduce new members to others.

When people meet, the younger greets the elders in a special way. in an armhold embrace (zolgokh). symbolizing veneration and support. This gesture is combined with the exchange of the traditional blue scarf (khadag) folded in a special way with the folded edge facing the elder person, symbolizing trust.

Gifts are exchanged and normally given and received with both hands, or with the right hand supported at the elbow by the left. Every family has some offering prepared for people visiting. Nobody leaves without, having received something to eat and to drink, having taken something from the offering and having received a gift-it's tradition that one shouldn't give only one gift, so people give two or three gifts.

Besides visiting family members and friends, many Mongolians go to the monasteries to
pray, make offer¬ings and receive blessings from a holy place.
For any Buddhist, it is advisable to concentrate as much as possible on improving the mind during the first 15 days after Tsagaan Sar.

There are specific practices recommended. Some people take the eight Mahayana Precepts every day, abstaining from any non virtuous action, including eating meat, drinking alcohol, singing or dancing or eating after noon and more than once the day.

In Tibet the New Year is called Losar. Depending on the calculation of the astrologers it's on the same date as the Mongolian New Year, or at a different date. This year Losar will be celebrated a day earlier than Tsagaan Sar.

In the Tibetan tradition, Losar is celebrated for 15 days, with the main celebrations on the first three days. It was the Great Teacher Lama Tsong Khapa who started in 1409 the Great Prayer Festivals (called Monlam). beginning from the first new moon until the fulfmoon of the lunar New Year.

The main purpose of the Great Prayer Festival is to pray for long life of all the holy Gurus of all traditions, for the survival and spreading of the Dharma in the minds of all sentient beings, and for world peace. The prayers, offered with strong faith and devotion, help to overcome obstacles to peace and generate conducive conditions for everyone to live in harmony.

That time of the year was chosen because Lama Tsong Khapa firmly believed in the life story of the founder. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha as told in the Indian Buddhist Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish called "Overcoming the Six Teachers:'

"Buddha was challenged by six rival teachers to a contest of miraculous performances. For many years, Buddha evaded their challenges, letting people believe that he was afraid of their magical powers, losing his royal patrons, and causing doubts and worries to grow among the people.

Finally, in the city of Shravasti, Buddha accepted the challenge and stood before a huge assembly of people from the entire central north Indian area. He proceeded to perform miracle after miracle during the first fortnight of the lunar New Year.

The rival teachers were eclipsed almost immediately, as Buddha produced spectacular manifestations. He threw down a toothpick and grew a giant wish granting gem tree. He rinsed his mouth with scented water, and celestial lakes with divine ducks and jewel lotuses appeared. He concentrated and emitted rays of light, and hosts of Buddhas, bodhisattvas and gods filled the skies.

Teachings of liberation and awakening, reverberating in every language known to man, illumined the minds of all assembled. He even manifested a vision of himself multiplying infinitely, his compassionate energy becoming clearly present to everyone's awareness. "

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