Tibetan Butter Lamps Festival celebrated in London

Tibet Foundation, December 8, 2004

London, UK -- Tibet Foundation hosted a visit by nine monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery on Tuesday 7 December 2004 to light butter lamps and candles, and chant prayers in front of the elaborately carved altar of St James?s Church to commemorate Gaden Nga-choe, the Anniversary of the Great Buddhist Master Tsongkhapa (1357 - 1419). The 14th century scholar established reforms in Tibetan Buddhism and founded the Gelug order. His passing is celebrated with prayers and special light offerings.

St. James's is a vibrant church with an international reputation for its fashionable and eminent congregations, and frequent literary appearances in the works of Evelyn, Defoe and Vanbrugh. The galleried interior and altar, organ case and font were carved by Grinling Gibbons and the candle light flickered off the 17th century master carver's finest works and the Tibetan thangkas that were hung there.

Tsering Passang of Tibet Foundation welcomed the audience of over 130 to celebrate the special evening the Tsog Puja Offerings in observance of this important day in Tibetan Buddhist calendar.

 The visiting monks belong to the Lubum Khantsen (House) of Drepung Gomang Monastery, one of the two main colleges (the other being Loseling) of Drepung Monastic University. Some of the visiting monks fled Tibet to India in 1980s and others in 90s. The great monastery of Drepung (?Bras-spungs dGon-pa) was founded by Jamyang Chojey Tashi Pelden, a direct disciple of Losang Drakpa, Je Tsongkhapa.

Geshe Monlam Gyatso, leader of the tour group, told of the inspiring life of Tsongkhapa who passed away at the age of sixty on this day, the twenty-fifth of the tenth Tibetan month. By seventeen, he was a skilled doctor, and by nineteen, he was already acknowledged as a great scholar. He travelled to the most famous monasteries of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions.

Tsongkhapa studied with more than a hundred teachers, practised extensively and taught thousands of disciples mainly in the central and eastern regions of Tibet. In addition he wrote a great deal. His collected works, comprising eighteen volumes, contain hundred of titles relating to all aspects of Buddhist teachings and clarify some of the most difficult topics of sutrayana and mantrayana teachings. He lived extremely humbly and kept his vows purely.

Geshe Monlam Gyatso explained the altruistic motivation that the offerings were made in, ?To attain enlightenment in order to benefit all my kind mother sentient beings, I will make these extensive offerings on behalf of all sentient beings.? Tsongkhapa is the central figure in the field of positive potential. Tsongkhapa passed away at Ganden in 1419, having attained enlightenment and many people experienced a shower of blessings at this time, including flowers falling from a sky filled with rainbows and birds never seen before. So to this day his ?parinirvana? is celebrated.

At the end of the prayers and the distribution of the Tsog offerings, Tsering Passang paid tribute to the monks for their moving devotions and thanked Revd. Charles Hedley, St James?s Rector of the parish for kindly hosting the event. The festival is a part of Tibet Foundation's ongoing cultural events aimed at raising awareness as well as to enhance the understanding of Tibetan Buddhism and Culture in the West.

Earlier in the day, the monks visited the Tibetan Peace Garden, located in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum to say prayers at the bronze mandala of the Kalachakra.

Tibet Foundation is a UK registered charity (no.292400), founded in 1985, which works towards creating greater awareness of all aspects of Tibetan culture and the needs of the Tibetan people. The patron of the Foundation is His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Further information about the Foundation is available from www.tibet-foundation.org.