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     Tibetan Customs

 White Kata Scarves

Presenting Kata Scarves is a common practice among the Tibetan people to express their best wishes on many  occasions such as wedding ceremonies, festivals, visiting elders, and entertaining guests. The white Kata, a long narrow scarf made of silk, embodies friendship, purity, goodwill, good fortune, harmony and love. 

Proposing a Toast and Tea

Proposing a toast and having tea is a common custom when guests visit a Tibetan family.  The host will propose a toast, usually barley wine. As the guest, you should sip three times and then drink up. Also, to entertain guests with tea is a daily etiquette in a Tibetan household. The guest need not drink the tea until the host presents it to you.

"La"

Adding the word "la" after a person's name in Tibetan is a way of showing respect. "La" can also be said on it's own as a polite way of acknowledging that you've heard someone.

Sky Burials

After a person dies, sky burials are a very common way of paying final respects in Tibet. However, there are many prohibitions surrounding this ceremony and foreigners are legally not allowed to attend. Visitors should respect this custom and keep away from such activities.

Tibetan Buddhism

Buddhism was introduced to Tibet from mainland China and India in the seventh century and remains the primary religion in Tibet. Prior to that, it was the Bön religion which was the original, native religion in Tibet. Tibetan Buddhism consists of four major sects, the Ge-lug-pa Sect, the Nying-ma-pa Sect, the Sakya-pa Sect, and the Ka-gyu-pa Sect. Every monastery in Tibet subscribes to the beliefs of one of these four sects.

Pilgrimages

The motivations for pilgrimages among the Tibetan people are many, but for the ordinary Tibetan it amounts to a means of accumulating merit or good luck. The lay practitioner might go on a pilgrimage in hopes of winning a better rebirth, to cure an illness, to end a spate of bad luck or simply because of a vow to take a pilgrimage if a bodhisattva granted a wish.

In Tibet there are countless sacred destinations, ranging from lakes and mountains to monasteries and caves that once served as meditation retreats. Specific pilgrimages are often prescribed for specific ills; certain mountains for example expiate certain sins. A circumambulation (known as a "Kora") of Mt. Kailash offers the possibility of liberation from the wheel of life, while a Kora of Lake Manasarovar can result in spontaneous Buddha hood.


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