LhaBabDuchen & Buddhist Ritual – By Pema Khandro
Today is the celebration of “Lhabab Duchen.” It is not just a tradition in Tibetan Buddhism, it is celebrated by Buddhists everywhere. The name “Lhabab Duchen,” literally means the great occasion of divine descent. ལྷ་བབས་དུས་ཆེན། Lha: divine; Babs: descend, like rain falling; Duchen: the great occasion, or great time. The celebration of this day may include mantra practice, lighting butter lamps and perform positive actions of generosity and service. According to Buddhist tradition, is one of the days of the year where the effects of one’s actions are considered to be multiplied, so part of the observance of this day is to do extra spiritual practice or good deeds.
It is a good day to do the Shakyamuni Buddha sadhana or Rain of Blessings practice. Otherwise, lighting butter lamps is an accessible practice if you are not trained in Vajrayana meditations. To light a butter lamp or a candle is the most simple and accessible Buddhist ritual and Buddhists all over the world light butter lamps for Lhabab Duchen and other special occasions. This is a practice that is easy to adopt at home.
If you don’t have a shrine, it is a easy to make one. Usually, this includes having an image of the Buddha or statue of the Buddha with a candle lit below it, or many candles lit below it. Aesthetically – this is a visual reminder of the sublime mindset of enlightened intent. It also offers a direct action to manifest and express that intention in one’s life. It also serves as a reminder of wisdom and compassion. Symbolically, lighting candles is ritual action in its simplest form.
Whether we are religious or not, ritual is a way of setting in motion particular experiences. And whether we know it or not, ritual is a part of all our lives. We usually are unconscious about the thousands of rituals we perform every day, such as cleansing rituals like showering and brushing our teeth, watching the news, making meals. These rituals solidify and confirm particular ways of being.
In the case of Vajrayana Buddhism, cultivating particular daily rituals are deliberate ways to become aware of the effects of our actions. Daily rituals are used to make a connection with innate wisdom and compassion and in a sense to rehearse our more awakened qualities. Buddhism also contains many other kinds of rituals, some more elaborate, some quite simple. In the Dzogchen traditions the emphasis is on more simple rituals, in Vajrayana ritual practices can include many days of liturgies, building mandalas, making prayers, observing Lamas doing ritual dances and more.
In Buddhism all these rituals create an opportunity to cultivate particular experiences using the power of symbols, the senses and the memories and insights. Buddhists also believe that rituals have great power due the traditions behind them, they carry with them a history and a matrix of meanings that direct our minds, emotions and actions in a tangible and visceral way.
Click here to read Pema Khandro’s Article on Lha Bab Duchen.