Category: Buddhist holidays
Tibetan Buddhism is the body of religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Buddhism in Tibet, Mongolia, Tuva, Bhutan, Kalmykia, Buryatia and certain regions of the Himalayas, including northern Nepal, and India (particularly in Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Dharamsala, Lahaul and Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim). It is the state religion of Bhutan. It is also practiced in Mongolia and parts of Russia (Kalmykia, Buryatia, and Tuva) and Northeast China. Religious texts and commentaries are contained in the Tibetan Buddhist canon such that Tibetan is a spiritual language of these areas. Tibetan Buddhism preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth century India. Tibetan Buddhism aspires to Buddhahood or rainbow body.
The Tibetan diaspora has spread Tibetan Buddhism to many Western countries, where the tradition has gained popularity. Among its prominent exponents is the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. The number of its adherents is estimated to be between ten and twenty million.
In Tibetan Buddhism, there are four festivals that commemorate events in the Buddha’s life. One of the four festivals is known as Lhabab Duchen, with alternative spellings that include: Lha Bab Duchen, Lha-bab Deuchen, and Lhabab Deuchen, among possible others. The festivals generally change from one year to the next due to the use of a lunisolar calendar in accordance with Tibetan tradition.
This Tibetan Buddhist celebration is meant to commemorate the day Shakyamuni Buddha, The Buddha, descended from heaven and returned to the Earth. According to the story, the Buddha ascended to heaven at the age of 41; after having attained Enlightenment. The heaven in this tale is sometimes referred to as “Trayastimsa Heaven” or “Triyastrimsha Heaven” for the numerous gods that reside in that realm. For simplification, this is part of Buddhist cosmology that has roots in Hinduism. The name “Trayastrimsa” refers to the number 33 but is more actually meant to imply a “large number” as opposed to a specific number of gods.
In this heaven, the Buddha shared his Teachings with the gods and it is said that one of his followers on Earth could see him and reassured others that he was well. After several months, another of the Buddha’s followers is said to have begged for his return. (This can seem like a flaw in a Buddhist tale, depending on how the begging is perceived.) The Buddha agreed and two of the gods constructed three ladders for him: one of sapphire, one of gold and one of crystal.
The Buddha used the ladders to return to the Earth at the summit of a mountain known as Sankashya (aka Sankasya, Sankisa, or Shankashya). This mountain is the spot where all buddhas are believed to go when they descend to the Earth again after time in heaven. In Pali, the name means “heavenly ladder” and the location is believed to be in Basantpur, India near the ruins of a temple that was established by Emperor Ashoka in honor of the Buddha.
The Buddha was said to have descended to Earth on the 22nd day of the 9th month, but this was based on the timing in the traditional Tibetan calendar. According to the legend, seven days after agreeing to return, the Buddha descended from heaven with two of the gods, using the three ladders those gods had built and as the descended, the ladders began to vanish leaving only a small portion which remained within the temple that Emperor Ashoka had built. Over time, the remaining portions of the three ladders disappeared as well, along with most of the temple (over generations). This is a popular destination for tourists and Buddhist pilgrimages.
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