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Offerings in a temple
Life is Tibet is dominated by religion. Religion is a daily, if not hourly practice. Tibetans spend much of their time in prayer or doing activities, such as spinning prayer wheels and hanging prayer flags, that earn them merit. Tibetan Buddhists also send their sons to monasteries, participate in pilgrimages, do good deeds and present gifts to lamas to earn merit.

According to the BBC: “Tibetan Buddhist practice features a number of rituals, and spiritual practices such as the use of mantras and yogic techniques. Visual aids to understanding are very common in Tibetan Buddhism — pictures, structures of various sorts and public prayer wheels and flags provide an ever-present reminder of the spiritual domain in the physical world. Tibetan temple ceremonies are often noisy and visually striking, with brass instruments, cymbals and gongs, and musical and impressive chanting by formally dressed monks. It takes place in strikingly designed temples and monasteries.

The Chinese artist Zhang Huan, who visited Tibet in 2005, told the New York Times the trip irrevocably altered his thinking and his art making. “One day in Lhasa, I got up at 4 a.m. and went to the Jokhang Temple, the biggest one in Tibet, and I saw men and women already lining up for miles,” Mr. Zhang said. He said he was amazed by the sight of pilgrims crawling to the site in the middle of traffic, in a seeming clash between modernity and ancient tradition. “I have been to the most famous museums in the world, and I have never seen a sight as striking as this,” he said. [Source: Barbara Pollack, New York Times, September 12, 2013]

Websites and Resources on Tibetan Buddhism: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Tibetan Buddhist archives sacred-texts.com ; Buddha.net list of Tibetan Buddhism sources buddhanet.net ; Tibetan Buddhist Meditation tricycle.org/magazine/tibetan-buddhist-meditation ; Gray, David B. (Apr 2016). "Tantra and the Tantric Traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism". Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. oxfordre.com/religion ; Shambhala.com. larges publisher of Tibetan Buddhist Books shambhala.com ; Tibetan Philosophy, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu/tibetan

Types of Tibetan Buddhist Rituals

According to the BBC: Rituals and simple spiritual practices such as mantras are popular with lay Tibetan Buddhists. They include prostrations, making offerings to statues of Buddhas or bodhisattvas, attending public teachings and ceremonies. Tibetan Buddhism also involves many advanced rituals. These are only possible for those who have reached a sophisticated understanding of spiritual practice. There are also advanced spiritual techniques. These include elaborate visualisations and demanding meditations. It's said that senior Tibetan yoga adepts can achieve much greater control over the body than other human beings, and are able to control their body temperature, heart rate and other normally automatic functions.

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dorje and bell
Common rituals include rubbing holy stones together and performing the traditional blessing of dipping a finger in milk and flicking it towards the sky (more common in Mongolia than Tibet). Buildings are blessed by a lama who circles it twice and casts handfuls of rice in all directions.l Many Tibetans light juniper branches that give off an intensely fragrant smell. As one Tibetan Buddhist explained, "Before you do anything, you have to have the permission of the gods."

During rituals led by a major lama, incense and yak butter lamps are lit, tea is quietly served by servants to the lamas sitting on a stage as the audience sits quietly. Petitioners wait in a line for a word with the lama.

During Himalayan Buddhist exorcism rituals, first, food and offerings are presented to the gods on an altar; then, a lama makes a mandala on the alter with sand; and finally the demons are driven off when the food is thrown on a fire made of yak dung and kindling. Sometimes the demons are simply lured into a dish and the dish is tossed into a fire. In Mustangese exorcism ceremonies, monks symbolically hurl painted arrows from bows, stones from slingshots and bullets from muzzle-loading guns at masked demons. And sometimes a policeman-monk with peacock feathers for a nightstick is on hand to keep order. In the chasing of the demons ritual entire cities are exorcized with three days of dancing.

Tibetan Buddhist Offerings

Tibetan Buddhists leave things like flowers, food, small banknotes and barley grains as offerings. They also drape white and yellow gauze strips around statues, spoon yak butter into lamps, and turn prayer wheels. Swaths of sheep wool are sometimes hung to ensure a good harvest.

The Seven Bowls of Water are found on all altars and are replenished twice a day. The seven bowls represent the Seven Examined Men’the first seven monks in Tibet. Ever day Tibetan lamas make offerings of mounds of rice which represent Mt. Meru. Poor Himalayan sometimes simply leave an offering of water rather flowers and food.

Torma are small offereings made of yak butter and tsampa (roasted barely flour) adorned with medallions made of butter. They are often colored. Most are made for the Shoun festival and then kept on display for the rest of the year.

Butter lamps are continuously kept lit in all monasteries and many private homes. Pilgrims often enter monasteries with a tub of butter and a spoon and use them top off the butter lamps.

Votive offerings in Tibetan Buddhism include the Five Altar Offerings (a censer placed between two candlesticks and two vases) and the Seven Regal Symbols (the Wheel of the Law, the White Elephant, the Horse, the Precious Jewel, the Queen, the Minister of Economics and the Army General).

Tibetan Buddhist Customs

Followers of Tibetan Buddhism walk around stupas, temples, sacred mountains or other objects of devotion in a clockwise direction one or an odd number times often while chanting sacred words—usually “Om Mani Padme Hum." Some finger their beads, counting off prayers in auspicious denominations of nine. Some walk around several times, always in odd numbers, and some place offerings or burn juniper at different places.

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Giving a khatang
People who enter a monastery take off their shoes first and sometimes wash their feet. They then enter the building, bow to the altar and sprinkle water, a symbol of life, on the ground. Pilgrims tap their forehead to faded silk scarves hanging inside chapels. Always circumambulate clockwise around temples, stupas and other landmarks of religious significance, thus keeping the religious landmarks to your right.

White scarves (hada, khatang or hadag) are presented to holy images and important people. Exchanging them is a form of greeting. Visitors arriving in Lhasa are sometimes given these scarves by their guides sort of like the way tourists arriving in Hawaii are given leis.

Don't take prayer flags or Mani stones. Don't remove any objects from an altar. Don't take photos during prayers and meditation. As a rule don't take photos without permission and don't use a flash. Don't wear shorts or short skirts or hats in temples or monasteries. The killing of animals, especially dogs, is considered a sin in Tibetan Buddhism. Many cities and villages are filled with stray dogs.

Tibetan Buddhist Prayers

Prayer is a big part of Tibetan daily life. Himalayan people earn merit and honor Buddha and their gods by lighting yak butter lamps and incense burners filled with sandalwood and cypress leaves, tying prayer flags, repeating chants, making mani stones and spinning prayer wheels. Morning prayers at monasteries begin with the lighting of endless rows of yak-butter candles, chants and blasts from long horns. The Tibetan worship gesture, involves clasping the hands in the prayer position and touching the hands to the head, mouth and heart. Pilgrims at sacred sites often do this and then raise their hands to the sky and prostrate themselves on the ground.

Tibetan Buddhists often pray while walking around sacred places. John Power wrote: Many will stop along the path at chortens (stupas),small shrines that generally contain religious artifacts of some sort. Often the Tibetans will make prostrations toward the chortens. This is thought to bring great religious merit and, like the chanting of mantras, helps to focus one's mind on the goal of buddhahood. [Source: John Power, “Bon: A Heterodox System”, From Chapter 16 of “Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism”, Snow Lion Publications, 1995. Powers is an American born Professor of Asian Studies and Buddhism who much of his teaching career at the Australian National University in Canberra.]

One of the truly striking features of this practice is its primary focus: other living beings. It is generally thought that if one performs religious actions solely for one's own benefit, the practices are ineffective and yield little or no merit. Since one is trying to attain buddhahood, and since buddhas are beings whose compassion extends to all living beings, anyone who chants the mantra of the buddha of compassion or pays homage to the Dalai Lama solely for personal gain is thought to be profoundly misguided. Tibetans recognize this, and when asked they will generally indicate that they offer the merit of their religious devotions for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Tibetan Buddhist Mantras and Chants

Tibetan Buddhist chants are also called mantras The most common chant is “om mani padme hum” ("Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus"), which means "I invoke this path to experience the universality, so the jewel-like luminosity of my immortal mind will be unfolded within the depths of the lotus-center of awakened consciousness and I be wafted by ecstacy of breaking through all bonds and horizons." It is the mantra of Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara), the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Common mantras are those for Guru Rinpoche (“”om ah hum vajra guru padma siddhi hung””) and Jampelyang (“”om ahra paza nu dhi dhi”").

John Power wrote: Most carry prayer beads, used to mark the number of times they chant a mantra. The use of mantras is deeply rooted in Tibetan Buddhism. They are short prayers that are thought to subtly alter one's mind and make a connection with a particular buddha, or enlightened being. Tibetan Buddhism has no gods in the Western sense of the term-the deities of Tibetan Buddhism are buddhas, literally "awakened ones," who in past lives were ordinary people, but who have transcended the ordinary through their meditations and realizations. When Tibetans chant a mantra associated with a particular buddha, they are not simply asking for the blessings and aid of the buddha-the final goal of the practice is to become buddhas themselves, since buddhas are sentient beings who have actualized the highest potential that we all possess. [Source: John Power, “Bon: A Heterodox System”, From Chapter 16 of “Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism”, Snow Lion Publications, 1995]

The Tibetans walking around the Dalai Lama's palace often chant the mantra of Avalokitesvara-om mani padme hum-a practice that pays tribute to the Dalai Lama as an incarnation of Avalokitesvara and focuses their minds on the goal of eventually attaining his level of wisdom and compassion, the two qualities that buddhas embody.

Tibetan Buddhist Prostration


Prostration is an important expression of Tibetan devotion. To earn merit Tibetan pilgrims prostrate themselves by lying face-down on the ground and stretching out their arms and legs. In many cases they repeatedly stretch themselves completely on the ground and touch their hands to the foreheads (representing the mind), mouths (speech) and chest (body) each time.

Prostration means to lie face down on the ground as an act adoration and devotion. Devout Tibetan Buddhist raise their hands together high above their heads, take one step forward, lower their hands to the height of their forehead, take another step forward, lower their hands before their chest and take a third step forward. Then they kneel down and stretch themselves out upon the ground. After arising, they repeat this process. While they are performing prostrations, they chant sacred words, usually: Om Mani Padme Hum. Many pilgrims spend several years traveling from other provinces to Tibet performing prostrations each and every step of the way. Even though some people have died while on the road, it is never considered a pity as having traveled toward Tibet in this manner is a lifelong honor. [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org]

Prostrating is practicing one of Buddhism's three Jewels for Tibetan Buddhists. Tibetan pilgrims always perform prostrations before monasteries in Tibet and before sacred images displayed on altars or when they enter and withdraw from a room. Tibetan Buddhists also prostrate before their teachers. Tibetans ideally are expected to prostrate themselves 100,000 times a year, which works out to almost 300 times a day, every day of the year. Not only do they prostrate themselves around temples they also do it on roads, streets and sidewalks. Some pilgrims cover the entire 33-mile route around Mount Kailis or travel from their hometowns to Lhasa, repeatedly prostrating themselves, or crawling on their stomach or walking on their knees. So they so they don't hurt themselves while covering long distances in this way many serious pilgrims wear padded mitts and knee pads.

In the morning Lhasa locals prostrate around the monasteries for half an hour, then go home to change their clothes, wash their hands, and have breakfast before going to work. Inside temples and monasteries worshipers walk along the corridors and prostrate themselves in each of the chambers with a Buddhist statue inside. With hands held high and palms joined, they began to touch their mouth and chest, taking a small step forward after each series of touches, before throwing themselves to their knees and finally prostrating themselves, foreheads tapping the ground. Each prostration is performed while the followers chant a six-word mantra and mark the prostration by moving forward one bead of the string they hold in their palms. [Source: chinaculture.org, Chinadaily.com.cn, Ministry of Culture, P.R.China]

Prostration is regarded as the highest form of admiration to Buddha expressed by Tibetan Buddhist followers. Placing the palms together shows an understanding of the Buddha's decrees and instructions. Touching the forehead, mouth, and chest means that all parts of their bodies have mixed with the Buddha, combining into one. When asked what she thinks abut when prostrating, one worshiper said, "I think of Buddha." Prostration after prostration, prayer after prayer, devout Buddhists worship Buddha every day in this way. For followers who believe in reincarnation, life doesn't really have a beginning or an end, it’s just like a circle, and worship is this called "circling the scripture".

Lhasang: Smoke Offering to the Gods

In the lhasang ("smoke offering to the gods") ritual juniper branches are burned to create thick and fragrant smoke. This is believed to increase the strength in the supplicator of the four nag rtsis elements, derived from Chinese astrology: "vital force", lus "body", dbang thang "field of power", and klung rta, "river horse". Often the ritual is called the risang lungta, the "fumigation offering and (the throwing into the wind or planting) of the rlung ta high in the mountains." The ritual is traditionally "primarily a secular ritual" and "requires no presence of any special officiant whether public or private." The layperson entreats a mountain deity to "increase his fortune like the galloping of a horse and expand his prosperity like the boiling over of milk. [Source: Timothy Clark, Radiant Heart Studio]

To perform ihasang, people gather outdoors around a fire, or indoors around a brazier of glowing charcoal. Directing verses to spirts and positive energies, they offer juniper and other substances, while circumambulating the fire and chanting “Ki Ki, So So Ashe Lha Gye Lo Tak Seng Khung Druk Di Yar Kye!.” [Source: shambhalatimes.org]

According to Sakyong Jampal Trinley Dradül: “When we do a lhasang to bring down the magic energy of enlightenment and drala, the smoke of the lhasang is said to purify those obstacles that are actually on us. It gets into our pores and allows us to have a fresh start. A lhasang is considered to be very important, because it immediately raises our windhorse. It connects us with the dralas, the enlightened beings. It is said that how we lead our life affects our personal drala. We can weaken our personal drala, or we can increase our personal drala, purely by how we lead our life.” [Ibid]

Weisang: Sacred Smoke

Weisang is a Tibetan household’s custom of burning offerings to make cloudy smoke and is viewed as a kind of praying or smoke offering. “Wei” means simmer in Chinese. 'Sang' is a Tibetan 'ritual fireworks'. Material for Weisang includes pine, juniper and cypress branches and leaves of herbs such as Artemisia argyi and heath. It is said that the fragrance of the the smoke produced by burning pine, juniper and cypress, not only cleanses unlucky and dirty things it also aromatizes the palace of mountain god who is pleased after smelling the aroma. [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org ]

Weisang is an ancient and widespread Tibetan custom. According to the traditional Weisang ritual: first cypress and juniper branches and herbs piled up and lit. In the fire and smoke roasted barley flour or grain is placed along with a few drops of holy water. Weisang is done on many occasions, such as to celebrate a bumper harvest, ward off attacks by enemies, defeat an opposing team, bring peace and prosperity, attract good luck to a weddings or funerals, ensure safety on a road trip, and ward off illnesses. As an everyday act of worship, Tibetans commonly burn some cedar or juniper branches with herbs outside temples and monasteries and in front of the gates at their homes to eliminate the evil and purify the air.

According to the legend, Weisang came from the ancient tribal custom of welcoming brave fighters returning in triumph. In order to clean off the dirt and dust—and perhaps traces of fighting and death—people burned herbs and a pile of cypress and juniper branches, which were dipped in water, then waved on the fighters. Over time this custom was adopted as a kind of sacrifice to the gods, a prayer for peace and victory, and means of communicating with gods.

After a woman has given birth, people burn yak dung in front of gate to inform they are not supposed to enter and to get rid of the polluting atmosphere produced by procreation. Then people pile up a scree pile. If a boy is born, people pile up more chalk scree. If a girl is born, people use other kind of scree and light Wei-Song nearby. At New Year’s time Tibetans burn mulberry branches to keep evil from entering the house.

Tibetan Buddhist Meditation

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Dalai Lama meditating

Meditation is the act of relaxing and clearing the mind through balancing mental, physical, and emotional states, getting rid of all thoughts about the past and present and focusing on the present. This is done by shutting out the outside world and focusing within often with the aid of sounds, words, images and/or breath.

Meditation is very important in Buddhism. It is thought of as a mental exercise that helps one tap into the infinite force of the universe, explore the true nature of existence, gain insights into true reality, see the insufficiency and unreality of sensory experience, and develop correct thoughts and actions. Meditation is usually taught by a meditation master and the methods vary from sect to sect and person to person. Some methods of meditation are based on discourses in the Pali language.

The Dalai Lama said, "The very purpose of meditation is to disciple the mind and reduce afflictive emotions." For centuries Buddhists and Hindus have used meditation as a tool to focus their energy inward to explore the mental state of joy, get rid of negative emotions and develop wisdom, compassion and improve well being on a individual and societal level.

Some nuns meditate while pouring seeds into a plate, brushing them off and collecting them and then repeating the process over and over again. One yogi old National Geographic, “You have to go through the boredom of repitition until an energy arises of itself” and “then you will find yourself entirely free of wanting anything.”

Some Bhutanese monks have reportedly mastered a form of meditation known as "lunggom" — meaning "walking on air" — which allows the monks to project themselves and travel around the countryside without leaving the monastery. One monk told a National Geographic writer who asked him demonstrate, "Unfortunately, it takes much time to learn the theoretical aspects of lunggom before one can put it into practice so I'm afraid that we will just have to walk normally."

Tantric Meditation

John Power wrote: Tantric meditation, which is considered by Tibetans to be the most effective means for attaining buddhahood. In this system, one tries to transform one's mind through meditation and through surrounding oneself with symbols that resonate with one's religious goals, that draw the mind toward thoughts of compassion, wisdom, altruism, ethical behavior, patience, etc. The people doing religious activity are making religious merit that is expected to pay dividends in the future, but on a deeper level they are trying to reorient their minds in the direction of greater and more spontaneous compassion, since ultimately thev hope to attain the sai-ne level as Avalokitesvara. As they catch glimpses of the residence of Avalokitesvara's human manifestation, they aspire to become like him, and the mani walls, chodens, and rock faces called with his mantra all serve to draw their attention to the task at hand, which is not just to ask some powerful deity for help, but to become deities themselves and work for the betterment of others.[Source: John Power, “Bon: A Heterodox System”, From Chapter 16 of “Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism”, Snow Lion Publications, 1995]

Symbols are an important aspect of tantric meditation. Symbols operated in the minds of Tibetans as they pray and meditate. When the object of prayers and mediation are the Dalai Lama, they perceive him as the embodiment of their own highest aspirations, a person who through individual effort, compassionate activity, and diligent meditation has transcended the world, but who still continues to emanate physical manifestations for the benefit of others. The compassion of Avalokitegvara is completely unstained by any ordinary emotions; he has no need for praise, does not seek the approval of others, and his actions are completely untouched by thoughts of personal gain. Rather, he embodies the highest and purest level of compassion, a compassion that is said to be inconceivable to ordinary beings.

The development of such pure compassion in the ordinary world of ignorance, desire, and hatred is said to be as rare as a lotus growing up from the bottom of a swamp and opening its petals to reveal a perfect jewel in the middle. This indicates the multi-faceted nature of the symbolism of the mantra that Tibetans chant as they circumambulate the residence of the Dalai Lama. As they walk, they try to keep this symbolism in mind, because it is thought that the more one familiarizes oneself with something, the more natural it becomes, and one comes more and more to think and act accordingly.

Tantric Sex in Tibet

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Tantric sex

Tibetan Buddhism incorporates Tantric rites which include strange forms of "sexual piety." During certain ceremonies monks reportedly hug statues of gargoyle-like demons and mother-father spirits known as yabyum and then ejaculate on them. Erotic sculptures in Tibetan monasteries show women having sex with oxen. The Tantric art in some caves and temples is considered to be too explicit by the Chinese government to be put on public display.

Sex is regarded by Tantrics as a method to reach enlightenment. When practiced by a skilled monk it can induce a state of “inner bliss that is free of desire.” To achieve this monks are supposed of spend 24 years studying in a monastery first.

Judy Kuriansky is an American Tantric sex teacher and the promoter of the philosophy of “enlightenment through better sex.” In her classes on how to achieve multiple total-body orgasms, she teaches her students to do a variety of tasks — including breathing through one nostril, crawling on the floor and dancing with colored veils — all with their clothes on. Some participants describe incredible experiences. Others get headaches.

There have been some allegations that senior Tibetan monks have sexually abused young boys. On this issue a spokesman for the Dalai Lama told National Geographic, “There may have been some instances, but it was never widespread.”

Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Caves

Some Tibetan monks and nuns live in caves, some of them set into 500-foot-high cliffs. They often stay there with butter lamps, religious relics and dried juniper branches for protection. It is not unusual for monks and nuns to spend several years in solitary retreat. One monk told National Geographic, "Four months ago I came here. There are other monks and nuns around us in solitary mediation. I will soon mediate for three years, three months, and three days."

Describing a meditation cave, Jere Van Dyk wrote in National Geographic, "We saw statues of Buddha and pictures of the Dalai Lama. A man chanted softly. He wore a thick maroon coat and had close cut hair." The people who meditate generally eat very little. Some ascetics subsist on something called Essence Extraction, a spoonful of finely ground rock boiled in water, consumed twice a day.

One monk who meditated in a cave through much of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, emerged in the late 1990s when he reached the level of spiritual growth he had been seeking. Chinese became fascinated with his story and appeared in droves to listen to his lectures.

Tibetan Buddhist Temple Customs

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Butter lamps
Temples are places where people pray, meditate participate in religious ceremonies, make offerings, light butter lamps, incense and candles, offer food to monks, meditate alone or in groups, chant mantras, listen to monks chant mantras, or attend lectures or discussions led by respected teachers. Individuals may also seek counseling from monks on nuns on personal matters. Buddhists are not required to visit temples.

Always walk clockwise around Buddhist monuments, keeping the religious landmarks to your right. The Buddhist practice of circling stupas and religion sites is believed to have been derived from cults that circled solar temples.

People are supposed to take off their shoes before entering a temple. Some cultures require visitors to take their shoes off when entering the temple grounds. Others only require that they be removed when entering a shrine or pagoda. Some people wash their feet before entering a temple. Shoes get the temple dirty and desecrate it. This custom may be rooted in the belief, particularly common in Southeast Asia, that the head is the highest and most virtuous part of the body and the feet are the lowest, dirtiest and most despicable part.

People should have their arms and legs covered when they enter a temple. It is generally okay to wear pants. Wearing improper attire — such as men with no shirts or women in short skirts — in a religious shrine is considered disrespectful. Hats should also be removed. In places with lots of tourists, short pants are tolerated. Don’t take photos during prayers and meditation. When taking a picture of a Buddhist monk, ask their permission first. As a rule don’t take photos without permission and don’t use a flash.

See Customs

Tibetan Buddhist Household Shrines

The most important part of a Tibetan house is arguably the prayer room. Pankraj Mishra wrote in The New Yorker, “The Tibetans love color and baroque decoration was on full display on the paneled chests painted with floral designs, and thick frescoed columns the thangkas, representing scenes from the Buddha’s life, sashes hanging from the ceiling, the pile of Tibetan scripture bound in bright-yellow silk, and the row of silver lamps before an extravagantly gilded shrine...On one relatively bare wall was poster, the mandatary picture of" the Chinese leader. "It was even bigger than the thangka.” Inside one of the paneled chests was a picture of the Dalai Lama.

Most homes in Ladakh have a small chapel on the roof or in a shed-like temple near the home or a shrine or altar kept in an honored place in the home. Inside the chapel there may be some religious texts, a golden Buddha statue or a shrouded statue of Yamanataka, a god that is so horrible that no one should look at his image, especially women. Some shrines are decorated with pictures of lamas. Yak butter lamps are lit and offerings are made to Buddha and Yamanataka to ward off evil spirit. Car accidents and illnesses often blamed on houses that are not properly protected against these spirits.

How Realistic are the Tantric Buddhist Rituals in the Taiwan horror film “Incantation”

The Taiwanese horror film ‘Incantation’ was a big sensation in 2022. Directed by Kevin Ko, the horror movie following the experiences of a woman cursed by a Tantric-Tibetan-Buddhist incantation. After its premiere in March, 2022 it became the highest grossing Taiwanese horror film of all time, and Taiwan’s highest grossing film of 2022. The central character is Ronan who is curse after breaking a religious taboo while ghost-hunting in Yunnan province. Ronan and her two friends visit a remote village practicing an extreme form of Buddhism and get caught up in cult that worship Dahei Mother Buddha. While searching for ghosts in forbidden parts of the village, Ronan’s two companions face disturbing deaths. When Ronan returns similar strange, nasty things occur involving her daughter. [Source:Emma Burleigh, SupChina, July 27, 2022]

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Ritual objects
“Incantation” opens with “Based on a True Story,” but how true is it. Emma Burleigh wrote in in Sup China. Most have guessed its inspiration comes from an ominous incident that took place in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. In 2005, a family there claimed to be possessed by demons, performing disturbing ritual acts and killing their two daughters. But what the movie really wants you to think is that it’s the curse at the film’s center that is real. Citing a modified form of Tantric Buddhism and Brahmic script, the movie explains how the religion traveled from Southeast Asia to Yunnan province.

The curse and religion in “Incantation” revolve around the worship of Dàhēi Fúm. This is a fictitious deity that isn’t present in any religious mythology. Instead, its inspiration likely comes from Tantric Buddhist figures Dàhēitiān and Dàhēin. In ancient Brahmanism, a version of Dahei exists as “Kali.”There was a real-life case where a cult worshipper of Kali subjected herself to blood sacrifice. In 2016, a woman cut off her tongue in worship of Kali in the hope that the goddess would fulfill her wishes. We see similar sacrifices in Incantation, where a young girl cuts off her ear to appease Dahei.

Image Sources: Purdue University, Beifan.com, Mongabay.com, Kalachakranet.org, Tibet Government in Exile, Save Tibet

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2022

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