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Astrology, Art and Rimé – the Rigpa Calendar’s 40th edition

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Astrology, Art and Rimé – the Rigpa Calendar’s 40th edition

Gill (Rigpa)

This coming year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Rigpa Tibetan Calendar. First published in 1979 and based on the ancient tradition of Tibetan astrology, the calendar has evolved with the developments in art, design technology and printing, but has never lost sight of its core purpose—to honour the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, to celebrate and share unique Tibetan Buddhist art, and above all to serve as an indispensable guide for every practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism.

There are several different versions of the Tibetan lunar calendar. The Rigpa Tibetan calendar follows the Phugpa tradition calendar which is produced by Men Tsee Khang - The Tibetan Medical and Astro-science Institute in Dharamsala.

Tibetan Astrology and Daily Life

The complexity and depth of the Tibetan astrological tradition is impossible to convey in this short post. It is inextricably bound to Tibetan Buddhism, and can have immense relevance to the daily rhythms of our lives.

“In the skar rtsis system of Tibetan astrology, derived from Indian astrology, the relative locations of planets, constellations and other celestial bodies are considered to provide important indicators of the daily ryhthms of our lives. … The Tibetan Calendar provides explanations of these computations and their associations in terms of the "auspiciousness" of a certain activity on a certain day. By observing these energy patterns over time, one can develop an awareness of important patterns which influence our mental relationship to our daily activities.” (from: Rigpa Calendar Supplement, 2005, ZAM)

According to the Tibetan lunar calendar, each day of the week (Monday - Sunday) and each day of the lunar month (1st, 2nd, 3rd...) is either favourable, neutral or unfavourable for specific kinds of activities. For example, the 9th day is an excellent day for long journeys, marriage, blessings, teachings and wangs, and all major undertakings. It is good for building and ceremonies. Fridays are favourable for teaching, rituals for overcoming obstacles, offerings to deities, building temples and stupas, but unfavourable for negotiations, burial and disposal of the dead and phowa.

Such information can guide us in a very practical way to determine the best days to undertake particularly important activities in our lives (or even just simple ones like cutting our hair.)

Acknowledging the Four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism

Acknowledging the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism—Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug—each year the opening pages of the calendar display photos of the current and previous heads of each school, and the back pages hold a meticulously researched list of the main anniversaries of each tradition. With this information in our pocket, as practitioners, we can revere and pray to masters of all traditions, reminding ourselves of their accomplishments and realisation.

Moreover, the calendar highlights special Buddhist practice days such as sojong, Buddha days, Tara days, Guru Rinpoche and Dakini Days and duchens and main western holidays.

Celebrating Tibetan Buddhist Art

Rigpa's sacred art team has developed digital techniques both to restore and repair existing thangkas, and to create new thangkas, all done under the attentive guidance of experts such as Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche. Many of these thangkas are displayed in the Rigpa calendar each year. In the calendar’s earlier years, illustrations were line drawings, mostly redrawn from woodblock prints or pechas, and sometimes specially drawn by Tibetan artists. Since the advent of affordable colour printing, the calendar displays full-colour reproductions of thangkas or details of them, as well as colour photos of contemporary masters.

Some elements of the calendar, such as the lungta on the cover and the 8 Auspicious Symbols on the back cover, have remained unchanged since the calendar was first published.

Rigpa Tibetan Calendar 2019-2020 - Earth Pig 2146

Each year, the Rigpa Calendar features a theme. In the past, this has included the lineages of the teachings in India and Tibet, 16 arhats, the 84 Mahasiddhas and the tradition of the Dalai Lamas. For the coming year, Earth Pig 2146, the calendar will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the passing into parinirvana of Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje—master of Dzogpachenpo, and authority on the teachings of Longchenpa, considered by his disciples as Longchenpa in the flesh. The calendar will highlight the unbroken line of teachers who have passed these teachings on, from master to student over the centuries. Nyoshul Khenpo is close to the hearts of all Rigpa students, as his teachings have been conveyed to us by many teachers including Sogyal Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche, Khenpo Namdrol and others.

The Rigpa Tibetan Calendar 2019-2020 - Earth Pig 2146 is available from ZAM.