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Telo Tulku Rinpoche, Purification Rituals

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Terbish, Baasanjav 


Telo Tulku: Due to misunderstanding, people sacrifice animals. This is not what Buddhism is about. This is totally against Buddhist principles when people say that during gal tyalgn (fire rituals) they need to kill a sheep as an offering. I think in Mongolia people do similar rituals as well. Buddha taught non-violence, the sacredness of life, and prohibited killing any living being. When we say that by killing a sacrificial sheep we carry out purification, this is a complete contradiction to and misunderstanding of Buddhism. Sacrificing animals is a shamanistic tradition, not Buddhist tradition at all. In Kalmykia people sacrifice sheep less than they do in Mongolia. The number of sacrificial animals has declined in Kalmykia, because of our continuous explanations and criticising people who are doing these rituals. The situation is improving and people are starting to understand. Baasanjav: Is it OK to substitute a real sheep with a statue of a sheep, for example? That is what some people do in Kalmykia. TT: I think that would be good enough.B: Do you think this mind-set is acceptable, given there is still this intention to sacrifice an animal?TT: We need to erase this intention. We have to get rid of it. We need to change this mind-set. There is nowhere in the Buddhist canons, scriptures or texts that says ‘you must sacrifice certain life for this ritual or for that prayer’. B: There are rituals called gazr usn tyaklgn. It is different from gal tyalgn…TT: Gazr tyaklgn is a ritual of the purification of land. For example, when you build a stupa you must purify the land, the earth. And that is when it is performed. Gazr tyalgn is more about offering incenses (Jupiter), flower, milk, honey, sugar, and various other substances. In some cases, people include pieces of meat in their offerings. B: Is it OK to include meat or fat?TT: People use fat. I don’t like it, because of what it symbolises. B: Is it OK to put butter?TT: Yes… You know about this offering of a sheep. For us, nomads, the sheep has been the most important animal for our survival. When you make offerings you give something that you value most in your life. And the sheep is something that we value as nomads. Therefore, we have this attitude ‘I am going to make this offering with a sheep’. That is how it all began. But in reality, this truly contradicts the principles of Buddhism and the teachings of Buddha when one takes the life of an animal and offers it as a sacrifice.B: Some people in Kalmykia call these rituals ‘clan rituals’. The idea is that it is family members who participate in these rituals and they are performed for the wellbeing of clans and not outsiders. TT: There are no such things as clan rituals. I do not believe in clan rituals. These are generic rituals. B: Should be for all people?TT: Yes. It is for all people.



rituals, purification, gal tyalgn, gazr tyaklgn, offering, sheep, Buddhist tradition

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