A birthday party, Buddhist-style


Laden with white scarves and ostrich-feathered gold plated dorjes, Tibetan Buddhists of the Sakya faith met with friends and family in a small gathering on Sunday, September 10 in St. Paul to wish a happy birthday to His Holiness Sakya Trizin.

The event was presented by Sakya Thupten Dargye Ling (Minnesota Sakya Center) and was hosted by the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota, which was amply decorated for the day. Large drapes depicting Tibetan landscapes hung from the community room walls alongside bright thangka paintings, wall hangings, and obligatory photo shrines for both H.H. Dalai Lama and H.H. Sakya Trizin. The floor was lined with intricately designed, carpeted mats in long, monastery-style rows for participants to rest upon during meditation and mantras.

The two-day birthday celebration began on Saturday, September 9 with a Blue Flower meditation that focused on attaining calm and a teaching on “Engaging in the Conduct of Bodhisattvas,” led by Venerable Lama Kalsang Gyaltsen and Venerable Lama Dorje Gyaltsen from the Walden, New York, Sakya Center. Also known as the “Bodhisattvas Way of Life,” this teaching touched on calming the mind, personal conduct, loving kindness and overcoming obstacles.

On Sunday, the Lamas performed an incense ritual along with the recitation of Sixteen Arhats and Long Life Prayers, including the Seven Fold Prayer and the Thirty-Seven Heap Mandala. During this time, people were welcome to make offerings to H.H. Dalai Lama and H.H. Sakya Trizin. Following the chants, everyone was offered drasil (sweet rice with nuts) and tea, and joined together to sing Happy Birthday in English to His Holiness. Lama Dorje, Lama Kalsang and TAFM Director Tsewang Ngodup then took turns explaining the history of the Sakya faith and a short biography of H.H. Sakya Trizin.

H.H. Sakya Trizin was born in 1945 in Tibet and rose to the throne of Sakya at the age of 7. He was trained in Sutra and Tantra and is now recognized as a Tantra master. He currently resides in Mussoorie, India, but travels frequently to give teachings and initiations.

The Sakya lineage is one of four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the others being Nyingma, Kagyu and Gelug. Although there is only one Buddhist text for all four schools, each one has a different emphasis. Some focus on intellectual study and some prioritize meditation. Others look at the balance between both, which is the case of Sakya, meaning “white earth.” The first Sakya monastery was built in Darjeeling shortly after 1959 with others popping up elsewhere in India, including the monastery in Dehra Dun, where the current leader lives.

The day continued with a lunch of chow mein, meat and vegetable stir fry, thingmo and cake provided by Tibetan Sakya families, and a video presentation of a past birthday celebration for H.H. Sakya Trizin in India. After lunch and a fair amount of socializing, the guest lamas led the group in 21 Tara Praises. The tara is a manifestation of all the Buddha’s holy activities in the form of a female deity, most commonly represented as a green or white tara. The Green Tara embodies activity of the mind and multiple accomplishments while the White Tara represents purity and compassion.

With representatives from the Tibetan Youth Congress, the Tibetan Women’s Association, the MN Sakya Center and, of course, the TAFM, the H.H. Sakya Trizin birthday celebration was considered an important event in the Minnesota Tibetan community. Although the crowd was small, spirits were high and everyone, Tibetan or not, was welcomed with open arms to celebrate and learn more about the Sakya faith.

The MN Sakya Center in located at 3441 Bryant Ave. S. in Minneapolis, and serves the spiritual needs of the Tibetan Buddhist community there. The center holds weekly Green Tara pujas, study group sessions on the Bodhisattvas Way of Life and Blue Flower Meditation. Guest Lamas from around the world come frequently to give teachings. Each summer, the MN Sakya Center organizes a week-long dharma camp for children where kids can use arts and crafts, theater and games to learn more about Buddhist philosophy. Visit their website at www.mnsakyacenter.org for more information or contact Silvia at 763-553-0187 or mnsakyacenter@msn.com.