Preparations for the puja itself started early in the morning with numerous tasks to be completed. Amidst a series of mini chod-like prayers, the ritual altar and all its accompaniments needed to be set up. One of the first tasks was the preparation of the ‘Sang’. Into a large bowl went over 20 Ingredients including myrrh, butter, and dried spices to be later burned during the ceremony. The purpose of this practice; an offering to the deities and a purification through the use of the smoke not dissimilar to the smudging practices used in the west.
A series of symbolic palm-sized weapons were then purified and blessed in preparation for the ‘battle’ against the negative energies.
Pachen and his yogi assistant Tashi, then began the ritual which saw them both enter the underworld and sacrifice their etheric bodies to the spirits in exchange for peace. Their heart essences transferred to selected Khandos (spiritual wives) for safe keeping and to act as a homing beacon if things go awry. Pachen had selected six khandos from the nomad tribe in representation of the six wives of his channelled deity Nyenchen Tanghla. Tashi had but one khando ma; the honour of which fell on my shoulders. Becoming a spiritual wife/heart essence holder/spiritual homing beacon for a night? Tick! Bucket list complete!
After the prayers were complete, Pachen then proceeded to enter into a trance where he channelled his deity in order to complete the ceremony. Tibetan shamanic trances in general are not for the faint-hearted, a shamanic trance performed by an oracle of the Dalai Lama himself; off the charts! Intense doesn’t even begin to describe this event.
The session begins innocuously enough with Pachen donning his ceremonial robes and crown as he chants a melodious prayer. The moment of possession becomes evident with the stiffening of his body and visible shudders make its way down from his head. His body rockets off his seat as if struck by volts of electricity and the jovial Pachen of earlier is replaced by the wrathful aspect of Nyenchen Tanghla. A short ‘Cham’ dance to indicate the start of the session and we’re off. A series of prayers and offerings are completed and Nyenchen Tanghla dispenses his wisdom to the gathered crowd. The event then culminates in what I can only describe as a pagan-esque dance around the bonfire by the entire tribe. The smell of the smoke, the rising clouds of dust as we danced around the fire and the illumination of the full moon tipping the scales into surrealism as I thought my puny little mind was going to explode.
…It’s been about a year since I witnessed this event and the memory is still burned into my being. It is difficult to find the words to express the magnitude of emotions and levels of energy I experienced in this extremely rare ceremony. The symbiotic connection that Pachen and Tashi have with the land and all its elements serves as a reminder that humans are not separate. We are all varying expressions of the same source.
What these two individuals have also taught me on a personal level, is that living a life of personal freedom is possible, and that ‘crazy’ is not such a bad thing.