Tibetan Etiquettes

 

Ella's picture
Wed, 02/20/2013 - 11:21 -- Ella

Meeting and Greeting

Although this custom is fading, it is still regularly used. When encountering a friend or an acquaintance, a Tibetan removes his hat and bows while holding his hat in front of his chest. However, if the person he meets is an official, a senior, or a highly respected person, a Tibetan person lowers his hat as much as possible when he bows. The other person should show exactly the same courtesy in return.

Being a Polite Host or Guest
Whether talking or walking, the host should always let the guest be first. People must sit cross-legged as it is very rude to place your legs so that the sole of your shoes or feet point towards other people.

The hostess or one of the family's children will pour a bowl of yak butter tea for the guest. The guest must wait quietly until the host carries and presents the bowl of tea with both hands and the guest takes the tea from the host in the same manner. Then, he can enjoy the tea and conversation. As a polite guest, one does not empty his bowl as a never empty bowl signifies lasting abundance. The host will add more tea to your bowl to ensure that it is never empty.

During festivals, a guest will be offered chang (a special Tibetan drink). Before drinking, the guest first lightly dips his third finger in the bowl, and upon withdrawing his finger from the bowl, snaps the liquid on the finger into the air. This should be done three times as a symbol of making a sacrifice to the sky, the earth and one's ancestors. Afterwards, the guest sips only once from the bowl, and then allows the host to fill it. This is also done three times, and the fourth time the guest drinks, he must empty the bowl. After this process is completed, the guest can drink as much as he likes. In fact, he must drink a lot or the host will think that he is not pleased with the treat or that he is very unfriendly. There is a saying that underlines the importance of this ritual: 'One bowl only will make good friends enemies.'

Presenting Khatag
Presenting Khtag - a white, loosely woven scarf, is very popular in Tibet. People present Khatag when they visit parents, worship the Buddha, see somebody off, welcome someone home, and so on. Generally, the presenter holds the Khatag with both arms stretched out evenly before him, and makes a little bow. The receiver accepts it with both hands held in front of himself (but not overly stretched out) and immediately puts it on around his neck and wears it, because putting it down immediately is very rude. However, when presenting Khatag to seniors, the two arms should be raised up above the head. When presenting a Khatag to people of the same age or younger, the presenter can tie the Khatag directly to their necks. It is interesting that some Tibetans even take a Khatag with them when they go out in case that they meet friends or relatives; and some Tibetans even seal Khatag in letters so that they can send their very best wishes. This custom is derived from the ancient practice of adorning deities with clothing and has evolved into a greeting of respect and caring.

Courtesy
Tibetans are exceedingly courteous and have rules governing their relationships. For example, polite language is widely used in Tibet. Tibetans use it when they are addressing seniors, people with higher social status or people of the same age and same status. If they call someone, they will add 'la' after the name to show their respect. Some Tibetans still believe that photos can steal their soul and whether or not you agree, taking pictures of people without their permission can be intrusive.

Tibetan practice what is known as 'Sky Burials' are very private ceremonies where the family and close loved ones of the deceased pay their last respects. This practice is not familiar to most of us and is very unique. Even so, it is considered highly offensive to intrude upon a family at this time, including taking pictures.

Buddhist Etiquette
When Tibetans worship the Living Buddha, stupa s and pagodas, they prostrate. Devoutly, they raise their hands together high above their heads, take one step forward, lower their hands to the height of their forehead, take another step forward, lower their hands before their chest and take a third step forward. Then they kneel down and stretch themselves out upon the ground. After arising, they repeat this process. While they are performing prostration, they chant sacred words, usually: Om Mani Padme Hum. Many pilgrims spend several years traveling from other provinces to Tibet performing prostrations each and every step of the way. Even though some people have died while on the road, it is never considered a pity as having traveled toward Tibet in this manner is a lifelong honor.

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