Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Star water and Rishis

This year, Thursday, February 7th, 2008 marks Losar, Tibetan New Year. Traditionally, Tibetan families wash and clean on losar with star water very, very early in the morning before beginning the new year with auspicious prayers and long life practices. and a day of festive celebrations, complete with singing, dancing and feasting.

Star water is made by taking pure water and leaving it outside in an open container so it can become imbued with starlight.

Star water also has medical uses which are described in the chapter on compresses from the sequel tantra .

Star water is used for pain caused by spreading and disturbed heat conditions, in which one splashes the fever patient with the water, or alternately pours it on their belly. Another use of star water is for contagious fevers, disturbed fevers, scattered fevers and old fevers, one sprinkles star water on the patient.

In Tibet, when the star Canopus is visible in the southern sky during the eighth lunar month for seven days, all rivers are considered blessed water that will restore virility, health, vitality, strength and so on. Everyone in Tibet bathes in the rivers and streams during this time.

This custom of the Tibetans comes from an interesting legend which concerns Canopus [skar ma ri shi], identified with the rishi Agasthya, who figures in both Hindu and Buddhist sources. Agasthya is best known in Hindu mythology for having swallowed the ocean. He is also connected with rain-making.

In the version of the legend we are concerned with, at a time when an epidemic had spread over the whole land, Agasthya went to the top of a tree, and the rain which fell upon him entered into the rivers and pacified the epidemic everywhere.

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