Tibetan Lifestyle

Travelers to Tibet have lots of questions about the lifestyle, people, religion, and culture that they encounter. What are the colourful flags for? Are there any common festivals? What makes Tibetan Buddhism unique? What are the ingredients in yak butter tea? Whatever your questions – whether you are preparing for your first trip to Tibet, or just want to know more about this remarkable culture – you’ll find answers to many of your questions here.

There is a beginning to this section of our site below with many more articles to come in the future.


Prostration

prostration in front of a monastery

 In Tibet, prostration (ཕྱག་འཚལ་བ།) is a common religious practice. Tibetan people perform prostration in their home shrine in the early morning or when they enter monasteries, nunneries, holy mountains and stupas. What is Prostration? Prostration is performed by dropping the body forward and stretching it full length on the floor, with arms outstretched. Then bring the hands together and place …

Caterpillar Fungus (Yartsa Gunbu)

Caterpillar Fungus (Yartsa Gunbu)

Caterpillar fungus are known as yartsa gunbu  (དབྱར་རྩྭ་དགུན་འབུ།) in Tibet—yartsa means summer grass, gunbu means winter worm. In Chinese it’s called “chongcao” or “dong chong xia cao” which also translates to “summer grass winter worm.” It’s a rare herb found in Tibet and other Himalayan regions and only grows above an altitude of 4000 meters. The fungus is highly valued for …

Sky Burial

Sky burial in Seda

In Tibet, there are different ways to bury bodies after death, including water burial, cremation, burial in the ground, and sky burial, which is the most common practice. Sky burial sites are found all over Tibet. What is  Sky Burial? Sky burial (དུར་ཁྲོད།) is also called “bird burial,” because the body is offered to vultures. The most famous places for …

Khata

Khata

It is a Tibetan custom to offer a khata (ཁ་བཏགས།) or greeting scarf to friends, relatives or guests as a way of indicating your honorable intentions, and wishes of happiness. When given as a farewell gesture it symbolizes a safe journey. When given to arriving guests it symbolizes welcome. Why Do Tibetans Have the Custom of Offering Khata? Because there …

Tsampa (Barley)

Tsampa /Barley

Tsampa ( Barley) (རྩམ་པ། ) is one of the main cuisines in Tibet. Tibetan crops must be able to grow in the high altitudes of Tibet. The most important crop in Tibet is barley.  Flour milled from roasted barley, called Tsampa, has been the staple of Tibetan food for centuries. This cereal is an integral part of Tibetan people’s life. Most …

Mani Stones

Mani stone

Mani stones  (མ་ཎི་རྡོ་འབུམ།)are stone plates or rocks that are carved with the Tibetan Buddhism six-word mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. But nowadays people not only carve the six words, but also carve other texts from Buddhism. The Meaning of Om Mani Padme Hum The first word, Om, symbolizes the practitioner’s impure body, speech, and mind; it also symbolizes the pure …

Tibetan Antelope (Chiru)

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The Tibetan antelope (གཙོད།) (Pantholops hodgsonii), traditionally known as the Chiru, is a rare and remarkable creature. While denominated as an antelope, the Chiru is in face more closely related to a wold goat.  Description The Tibetan antelope possesses the softest and warmest wool in the world, incomparably delicate and matchlessly dense. Their fur is comprised of long guard hairs …

Kora (Circumambulation)

Kora

Introduction: Kora (བསྐོར་བ།) is a form of pilgrimage and meditation that is shared by both Tibetan Buddhist and Bon traditions. The foundation of Kora is that, because of the trials of the pilgrimage, religious merit will be generated and obtained. Bodhicitta, or “an enlightened mind”, will result from purifying negative karma through the taxation of the body. Definitions: Kora – A …

The Lammergeier

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The Lammergeier The lammergeier (བྱ་རྒོད། ) is the largest of the old world vultures and traditionally revered as the sacred bird of Tibet. The Lammergeier (which is German for ‘lamb vulture’) is also referred to as the Ossifrage (Latin for ‘bone-breaker’) and the Bearded Vulture. Corpses are offered up to these vultures through a Sky Burial in the belief that …

Momos (Tibetan Dumplings)

Momos (Tibetan Dumplings)

Momos ( ཤ་མོག) are seen as one of the most quintessential Tibetan foods, and travellers love to enjoy them. Often described as “Tibetan dumplings”, most see momos as a basic home cooked meal and it is often a family affair to prepare them. Whether you like to dip, dunk, bite, or swallow them whole, your trip to Tibet wouldn’t be complete …

Yaks

Yaks

The yak (འབྲོང་། ) is considered the backbone of Tibetan nomad life, with this animal being important to the economic and personal wellbeing of the family. From the products crafted from yaks, the nomad family is able to clothe, shelter, and feed their family, so it is little wonder that some say their yaks are treated with similar importance as …

Windhorse

Windhorses Prayer Flags Tibet

The Windhorse ( དར་ལྕོག) is a symbol of basic goodness that is thought to possess powerful energy. This energy carries colossal power in the lives of all beings who come into contact with the wind of goodness. Windhorse, a legendary Tibetan creature, is considered to carry prayers from the earth to the heavenly gods using its strength and wind speed. …

Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism Prayer Wheel Tibet

Tibetan Buddhism (བོད་བརྒྱུད་ནང་བསྟན། ) is the major religion of Tibetans around the world. It covers the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism along with Tantric and Shamanic rituals, and is in some part influenced by Bon, the ancient, indigenous religion of Tibet. Apart from the traditions of koras, prayer flags, mantras, and sutras, Tibetan Buddhism is also known for the presence of …

Saka Dawa

Saka Dawa Tibet

Saka Dawa (also known as Saga Dawa) (ས་ག་ཟླ་བ།) represents the holiest and most sacred days in Tibetan Buddhism. Falling on the fourth month of the Tibetan Calendar, the religious festivities of Saka Dawa peak on the 15th Lunar Day when there is a full moon. This day is associated with three major events in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha – …

Nyingma Sect

Nyingma Sect Tibet - small

The Nyingma sect (རྙིང་མ་པ། ) of Tibetan Buddhism is the oldest amongst the four schools and the second largest after Gelugpa sect. Nyingma in Tibetan means “ancient” and has roots going back to the 8th century when the indigenous Bon religion was strongly adhered to by Tibetans. The Nyingma sect is also known as the Red Hat sect because its …

Losar (Tibetan New Year)

Losar Religious Festival Tibet

The Tibetan New Year (བོད་ཀྱི་ལོ་གསར། ) is referred to as Losar. The Tibetan Calendar is based on the lunar calendar and consists of twelve (or thirteen) months. Losar starts on the first day of the first month of the Tibetan Calendar when the new moon is sighted. Oftentimes, Losar and the Chinese New Year begin on the same date, but …

Gelugpa Sect

Gelugpa sect Tibet

The Gelugpa Sect  (དགེ་ལུགས་པ།)of Tibetan Buddhism, despite being the youngest, is the largest and most important school of thought. Having emerged in the 15th Century through the reforming efforts of Tsongkhapa, adherance to the Gelugpa sect is considered to be purest form of Tibetan Buddhism. The sect achieved its peak in the 17th Century with huge support from Mongols and …

Chorten (Stupa)

A row of chortens

Chorten or Stupa (མཆོད་རྟེན་དཀར་པོ།) is an important religious monument in Buddhism, symbolizing Buddha’s presence. It also holds precious Buddhist relics and sometimes even preserved bodies of renowned lamas. Tibetans believe that performing Koras of the monument is an act of high merit. Structure of Chorten The shape of the Stupa represents Buddha with a crown who is seated in a …

Bön (Tibet’s Ancient Religion)

Prayer wheels in Bon religion

Bön (བོན་པོ། )is the indigenous religion of the Tibetans of the ancient Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. As a shamanistic religion, it is characterized by mystic rituals, spells, sacrifices, and spirit manipulation. This religion involves much emphasis on meditative practice. It was the major religion of the people of Tibet before Buddhism found its way in the 7th century and has significant influence …

Yak Butter Tea

A cup of yak butter tea.

Probably the most quintessential Tibetan food. Visitors to Tibet either love it or hate it. One thing must be known about Yak Butter Tea (འོ་ཇ། ), however: If you’ve been to 10 different places in Tibet, you have likely had 10 different varieties. Some varieties use slightly rancid butter to make the tea (not by culinary selection, but by lack …