Tsa-Tsas are a form of traditional Buddhist art that are used as offerings at shrines. Like many Tibetan sacred objects, tsa-tsas are iconographic forms representing various meditational deities. The creation of holy objects such as tsa-tsas is said to result in great merit for the practitioner.
The Tsa-Tsa Retreat started off as a simple idea — learn how to make tsa-tsas under the direction of Lama Karma Chopal, a master of Tibetan arts. But when we started talking to Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche about what kind of molds to use, things quickly got more interesting.
Rinpoche decided that the topic is so important that he wants to personally teach on the benefits, value and significance of tsa-tsas. This exceptional opportunity will take place on Friday night and Saturday morning. Then we leave the shrine room to make tsa-tsas under the direction of Lama Karma Chopal, a master of Tibetan arts.
Traditionally in Tibet, tsa-tsas were made of clay, left to harden, and placed on altars, shrines or in other holy places. Today, modern silicone molds and material are used to make large quantities of tsa-tsas that are painted and often used to fill stupas, an architectural rendering of enlightened mind. Making tsa-tsas is a spiritual practice that eliminates obstacles, purifies negativities, and creates merit.
Rinpoche is so enthused about the teaching that he has lent his collection of traditional metal tsa-tsa molds for use in the retreat. Rinpoche also gave us tsa-tsas from his shrine, so that students can see what different examples look like.
As for finding modern molds, Rinpoche instructed us to ask Marianne Marstrand, who oversaw the effort to make tsa-tsas for the 42-foot high Tashi Gomang Stupa near Crestone, Colorado. “She’s made hundreds of thousands of tsa-tsas!” Rinpoche marveled.
This was a wonderful suggestion, as Marianne put me in touch with people who put me in touch with people who put me in touch with people who have tsa-tsa molds they are willing to loan KTD. Two molds are on the way from Hawaii, where they were used to make stupa-shaped tsa-tsas to fill the stupa in Kauai Peace Park. This is fortunate, as not many people know how to make tsa-tsa molds, and they are about $500 to buy. So thank you, Andrew Fitts!
Marianne will also be joining us on Saturday to help make tsa-tsas (there is definitely a learning curve). On Saturday night we will watch the 2006 film “Eye of the Land,” about the creation of the Crestone stupa, dedicated to His Holiness the 16th Karmapa. Marianne, who is featured in the film, will be on hand answer questions.
Between Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, Lama Karma Chopal and Marianne Marstrand, we have an exceptional weekend planned. Every program at KTD has its own flavor, but this somehow feels even more special. And everyone will be able to take a tsa-tsa home.
— Anitra Brown
To register for this special program, call 845-679-5906 extension 3, or click here.