It is Shambhala Day--the Tibetan New Year--and the Shambhalans were holding their 'Lhasang' purification ceremony in the parking lot. It's 33 degrees with a 21 mph North wind, and the rain is mixed with snow...UGH!
From their website:
SHAMBHALA DAY marks the beginning of the New Year, and represents one of the most important traditions of Shambhala Buddhism.
Based on the traditional Tibetan New Year's celebration of Losar, the day is calculated astrologically according to the Tibetan lunar calendar, and changes every year to coincide with the annual lunar cycles.
Shambhala Day is a time for us to express the wealth and richness of our spiritual and cultural heritage through feasting, conviviality, elegance and pomp.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, who will be coming off his year long retreat will address the worldwide Shambhala community on Shambhala Day through an onlinehook-up, which includes centres and groups from six continents and over thirty countries around the world.
The day typically begins at sunrise with a Kyudo demonstration, referred to as the "First Shot" to signify the beginning of the New Year.
A morning Lhasang (purification ceremony) is conducted, followed by breakfast, and The Exilir or Life Sadhana.
The Sakyong's address will begin promptly at noon, and will address the communities responses to the Letter of the Morning Sun. Lunch will be served afterwards.
In case you're wondering...
Lhasang is a smoke offering and purification practice from burning juniper and is traditional in Tibet.
In Shambhala, we offer lhasangs for the Shambhala Day and on other special occasions.
Sometimes a lhasang marks the beginning of a large practice program such as seminary.
A lhasang may also be used to recognize the sacredness of an object before it is offered to a practitioner, for example before students receive a terma text.
With a home practice, small bricks of charcoal are lit and dried juniper is added.
A lhasang chant can be said additionally.
For large programs, usually a fire is prepared in a firepit and entire branches of juniper are added atop the fire.
Dipping the branches in a little water before adding them will increase the smoke.
A longer lhasang chant may be performed, and additional offering substances like a torma and alcohol may be purified (such as using the Vajrasattva mantra) and then offered in the fire at specific points during the long lhasang chant.
After 15 minutes, everyone began to head back inside.
Oh, one last thing...instead of hiding out in the parking lot, I wonder why these ceremonies are not held in their generous, and much more welcoming, front yard--right at the corner of Sheridan Road and Sherwin Avenue?
It would certainly be more inspiring than a parking lot, which is next to another parking lot!