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Telo Tulku Rinpoche, About Buddhist Holidays

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Terbish, Baasanjav 


Telo Tulku: After achieving enlightenment, the Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma and gave his first teaching about four noble truths. This holiday is celebrated on the fourth day of the sixth month, according to the lunar calendar. This is one of the holidays. Another holiday is the day when the Buddha returned to earth from the Raya Tushita to preach.Kalmyk holidays are all related to the religion of Buddhism. We always ask the believers to do positive deeds, to refrain from negative actions such as drinking alcohol. When people hear the word holiday, the first thing that comes to their mind is ‘Let’s celebrate by drinking!’ I always explain to people that this is not a secular holiday, but a spiritual one. Therefore, we must engage in religious or spiritual acts, visit temples, make prostrations, make offerings, recite prayers and scriptures. There are many positive deeds that can be done. So, we encourage this. We have succeeded in decreasing alcoholism in Kalmykia if we compare today to how things were 10 to 15 years ago. We won’t be able to eliminate alcoholism completely, but we will succeed in making religious holidays in which the majority of the population will abstain from drinking.Baasanjav: Is it OK to use vodka as deezh (libation to gods and ancestors)?TT: No. I do not recommend this. There are many other things that can be offered, such as juice and food. B: You mentioned two holidays, ‘Turning the Dharma Wheel’ and the day when Buddha returned to earth. Have these holidays been celebrated traditionally in Kalmykia?TT: Of course, before the deportation and the revolution, all Buddhist holidays were observed. Among them Zul, Tsagan Sar and Ur Sar were the most popular holidays. These are national holidays. B: Are the two that you have mentioned (i.e. The turning of the wheel of Dharma and the return of Buddha to earth) considered to be national holidays?TT: No, they are not, but they are recognised as such.People say that Zul candles should be made from potatoes or dough. Why should candles be made from potatoes or dough? There is nowhere in the scriptures saying that you have to make the candles from potatoes or dough. In the past, since ordinary people did not have metal containers to make butter candles, they used potatoes as an alternative. They also used dough as an alternative, which almost became a part of the tradition of celebrating Zul. People say to me ‘We have to use potatoes or dough to make candles’. I ask them ‘Why are you making them from potatoes? Explain this to me’, to which they reply ‘Oh, because we do so, it is our tradition’.We do not have to do things simply because it is a ‘tradition’. There always must be explanations for what we do. If it is simply because of a ‘tradition’, I cannot accept that. In my investigation, my research and my personal analytical observation, it (i.e. making candles from potatoes or dough during Zul celebration) was done in the past because there were no other alternatives. Therefore, people used potatoes and dough. Today some people say that we have to make offerings with things that look like a sheep. I do not have a proper answer to this. Why? Because I have not come across any Buddhist scriptures that say we have to offer a sacrificial sheep during holidays or that offerings should look like this or that in form.



Holidays, Buddhism, Zul, candles, Tsagan Sar, Ur Sar, offerings

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