(Originally published on tsemrinpoche.com)
Tsa tsas are 2D images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arhats, saints, great masters, yogis, Mahasiddhas and Dharma protectors. The tsa tsas are usually made of a certain type of clay that has been removed of stones and other impurities. Along with the dirt or clay, the person making it would also recite certain mantras and mix holy water into it.
When possible, the maker of tsa tsas would try to obtain the dirt or clay from a place where a great master has meditated or resided. The dirt can also come from a holy place such as a cave or a ladrang of a High Lama, or an area where a holy being has meditated. For example, dirt can be taken from Milarepa’s cave. It would be very holy because Milarepa’s enlightened energy is infused in the dirt.
Water can be mixed in with clay has been purified and mixed with water from a holy river or lake to make it into clay, which becomes solidified later as a tsa tsa. Along with that, they can also mix in special blessed pills, medicinal pills, a little bit of gold, silver, copper or they can even put in a little bit of precious substances like crushed or powdered lapis lazuli, coral and other precious minerals. In addition to that, they can even mix in holy ashes of enlightened beings, masters and teachers.
The clay can be mixed with special herbs and medicines like Rinchen Rilbus, a type of traditional Tibetan medicine. It can be mixed with powerful Rilbus – blessed Tibetan herbal pills. It can be mixed with leaves of sacred trees like the bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, the tree that the Buddha sat under and meditated to become fully enlightened or the sandalwood tree in Amdo where Je Tsongkhapa was born.
When Je Tsongkhapa was born, some of the placenta blood of his mother fell onto the ground. That very spot where the placenta blood had fallen, a white natural sandalwood had grown and it is still alive today, you can go and see it. Sandalwood is really not indigenous of Tibet so the tree was to mark the place of a holy being. Around holy beings, you will also see sacred trees like bodhi and sandalwood trees. An unusual tree that is not indigenous to the area will grow spontaneously and naturally in places associated with holy beings because these beings bring that kind of energy for the holy items to grow in order to bless people of that area.
Therefore, all these things can be contained in a tsa tsa. The person making it will wake up early in the morning. First, if they are doing White Tara tsa tsas, then they do White Tara’s practice in the morning. If they are doing Dorje Shugden tsa tsas, they do Dorje Shugden’s practice in the morning. If they are doing Shakyamuni tsa tsas, they do Shakyamuni’s practice in the morning. So they will generate themselves as the deity and then they take the clay and mix the holy items into it and then stamp the tsa tsa out using the mould.
After that, the tsa tsas can be further consecrated by bringing them to a teacher, High Lama or a meditation master to bless and to invite the actual ‘Wisdom Beings’ to enter and become one with the tsa tsas. It can also be something that can be given away to people who travel a lot and they can’t carry large statues and thangkas. They can also be placed inside large statues and stupas to consecrate them. So, you can have thousands and thousands tsa tsas inside a large statue or stupa.
Then, the tsa tsas can be used as something that can be placed on the altar or a sacred object that can be carried around in a Ghau box. In Tibet, we have a special tradition of carrying a tsa tsa, a blessed relic of a deity, Buddha or saint. The tsa tsa itself can contain many holy items so the tsa tsa itself becomes something that is very precious and holy. Many Tibetans are nomads and nomads are people who travel where the grass is literally greener. They will uproot their tent and travel to near a river or places where they can graze their animals for a few months at a time.
Therefore, having large statues and thangkas was not always practical for these types of travelling nomadic Tibetans and Mongols. So, people made tsa tsas to carry around in a special box called a Ghau. The Ghau box can also contain hairs or nails of our lama and other High Lamas. It can also contain holy dirt from monasteries and temples where a lot of monks and nuns have walked. So, these Ghaus can contain these holy items and inside the ghau, there is a little window where the face of the deity on the tsa tsa will face out of the window. With the tsa tsa and the holy items inside, the Ghau is sealed. After that, the Ghau is tied with a little thakpa – string, rope or belt, you can sling it around you when you travel.
Traditionally, Tibetans will use tsa tsas in this manner. In general, Tibetans are very poor and they can’t afford statues and beautiful offering items. Therefore, tsa tsas become a very practical and affordable object of refuge that they can put on the altar to make their offerings and worship. So Kechara has created many different types of tsa tsas based on the tradition in Tibet and they are all iconographically correct, detailed and made very well. So, we have them available for the public to invite back home.
So in the picture here, you will see five specific tsa tsas of the five different forms of Dorje Shugden alongside many other different types of tsa tsas. I thought I give this little sharing of how they are made, a little historical background and their usage. As you can see, the tsa tsas are made well and are very beautiful.
Shize (Vairochana Shugden)
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