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Tibetan incense from Kumbum Monastery
Tibetan incense from Kumbum Monastery

Tibetan incense from Kumbum Monastery

Regular price $17.44 $17.44 Sale

  • This incense uses a recipe hundreds of years old used by monks at the Kumbum Monastery in Tibet.
  • Alexandra David-Néel, the famous Belgian-French explorer who spent more than two years studying and translating Tibetan books at the monastery, said of it:

    [T]he configuration of the surrounding mountain ranges arrested the passage of the clouds, and forced them to turn around the rocky summit which supported the gompa forming a sea of white mist, with its waves beating silently against the cells of the monks, wreathing the wooded slopes and creating a thousand fanciful landscapes as they rolled by. Terrible hailstorms would often break over the monastery, due, said the country folk, to the malignity of the demons who sought to disturb the peace of the saintly monks.

    We were taken first to the great kitchen where priests were brewing Tibetan tea in great copper cauldrons ten feet in diameter, beautifully chased with the Buddhist symbols. The stoves were the usual mud affairs and the fuel nothing but straw, which younger lamas continually fed to the fire."

    Origins: The Tree of Great Merit

    Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, was born in nearby Tsongkha in 1357. According to one tradition, Tsongkhapa's father took the afterbirth and buried it where the monastery is now and soon a sandalwood tree grew on the spot. Another version has it that the tree grew up where drops of blood from Tsongkhapa's umbilical cord had fallen on the ground. In any case this tree became known as the "Tree of Great Merit." The leaves and the bark of this tree were reputed to bear impressions of the Buddha's face and various mystic syllables and its blossoms were said to give off a peculiarly pleasing scent.

    The four-storied golden-roofed temple built around the tree where Tsongkhapa is said to have been born is called "Golden Tree" (Wylie: gser sdong, metaphorically "wish-fulfilling tree") and is considered the holiest place at Kumbum.

    On the porch of the Golden Temple, pilgrims prostrate themselves one hundred times and the boards are worn into grooves where their feet and hands touch. . . . We were taken into one great temple capable of seating twenty-five hundred priests. The great pillars were covered with brilliantly woven rugs, skins of animals, and the bright "pulo" cloth of the Tibetans. It was a mass of brilliant, garish colors and to my mind would have been wonderful in a more subdued light."