By Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche
Making Tsa-Tsas is a very important practice in Tibetan Buddhism. Anyone can make them, monks, nuns, or laypersons of any age, even those with physical or mental disabilities. Making them is a very simple, but also very profound practice. Different molds are used to produce small clay statues of deities, mantras, stupas, and various religious symbols. Specific mantras are recited for each successive step in this process. Some people knead the ashes of deceased loved ones and pets into their Tsa-Tsas. We Buddhists believe that enormous merit is accumulated in the making of even one Tsa-Tsa.
Once an auspicious day for Tsa-Tsa making has been determined, soil or clay is pressed into the molds, then carefully extracted and set aside for drying. After the statues are dry and hard, they are sometimes painted. Then they are consecrated by a Lama. Traditionally, they are then placed inside a Stupa constructed specifically for the purpose.
With the permission of H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche, we announced in the middle of last year that we were going to make Tsa-Tsas at Sakya Monastery. Many people contributed donations for the purchase of supplies. Chuck Pettis kindly contributed a number of molds, Kathleen Ramm ordered additional ones, and our Treasurer, Gillian Teichert, who is a potter, ordered the clay. Over a dozen people showed up on the auspicious day, including three children, and we spent the better part of two days working hard until well over a thousand Tsa-Tsas had been created! A special thanks is owed to those like Syrinda Sharpe, Kirsten Throneberry and her children, Peter Ober, and others who participated from beginning until end.
Once the Tsa-Tsas had been made, it took weeks for our Tsa-Tsas to dry, even in our furnace room! Painting each one individually turned out to be an even greater challenge, since the paint released noxious fumes, so everything had to be done outside. We owe great thanks to Dale Johnson and Kim Abbey, who had the patience to coordinate people and materials under Seattle’s notoriously unpredictable skies. At this point we are very, very close to the finish line, and I want to thank all who have contributed to this long-drawn-out project from the bottom of my heart. When we are finished, I shall dedicate all the accumulated merit to World Peace, the spreading of Buddha-Dharma, the long life of our spiritual leaders, and the rebirth of our deceased loved ones in higher realms.