Saturday, 1 September 2012

The sByin-sreg - homa Fire Ceremony

Although we've been focussing on our Drala Jong blog of late, it is good to return here to the Sky Weaving site, and what better occasion that to mark our first ever apprentice event at our home in Monmouthshire.  The sun shone in Wales this weekend and the flames licked upwards, as our inaugural retreat was concluded with a Jin-sreg (Tib. sByin-sreg / Skt. homa).  The Jin-sreg is a fire ceremony whose roots are over three millenia old and which were certainly establish at the time of the Rig Veda and used to venerate the Vedic god of fire, Agni.

Within the Aro gTér Tradition the Jin-sreg most commonly occurs either as a method of consigning namkha to the elements (as here), or as part of an ordination ceremony for those joining the gö-kar-chang-lo'i-dé.  Namkhas were completed by all the apprentices including visitors from Lama Rig'dzin's sangha, and our vajra sister Naljorma Tsul'dzin (seen here, appearing to be immolated as the flames are enticed upwards by the offering of ghee).

Everyone managed to complete a weave during the weekend, which was excellent as none of the participants had practised namkha before.  With intermittant rain it wasn't certain we'd be able to have the fire ceremony, and for a while the sky weavings were all displayed on the patio.  If you've practised a great deal of namkha, especially if you tend to see them arise and dissolve as single weavings, it can be easy to forget how different they can appear even using only relatively simple combinations of increasing and decreasing elements.

One thing they all have in common of course is that they all end up in the same place - in the flames.  Jean-Michel battled the water element in the form of damp wood and intermittant downpours to build a fire over the hearth (Tib. sByin sreg me thba / Skt. homakunda).  For a while we had to place an umbrella over the site to keep the worst of the rain off.  His patient building and tending of the first spark was rewarded when the whole tower caught and was consumed.

The ground had first been prepared with a simple dKhyil 'khor (Skt. mandala).  In the style of the Aro gTér Ogyen Rig-nga this is circular, and in the wider mahayoga cycles there are different hearths for each of the four Buddha Karmas - Lé-kyi (Tib. las bzhi / Skt. chaturkriya) - circular for pacification (Tib. zhi ba) square for enrichment (Tib. rgyas pa), bow-shaped for 'influence' (Tib. dbang) and triangular for the wrathful activity of destruction (Tib. drag po).  In the Aro gTér the term magnetising is used instead of influence.

Once the fire has started, the sky weavings are added by their creators.  The stepped structure of the fire made it possible to insert the namkha vertically, and the flames licked up from their base, rapidly consuming them all. Jean-Michel, master of the hearth, is here placing the latest weave into the flames.
Whilst the weavings are added mantra is sung, and once they are all on the offering (in this case of ghee) is made as the mantra cycles through each of the elemental Buddha families.
Beer writes that the ceremony is traditional for the end of a long Vajrayana retreat, to 'purfiy any faults or transgressions that may have arisen during the course of the retreat'.  Fortunately for this first apprentice retreat there were no faults (save perhaps the rain - and that resulting in rainbows in the sky) but nonetheless Drowang said that he had enjoyed the ceremony so much that all our retreats should end on one.

It appears we have established our first sangha tradition.


  1. Wonderful to see the practices taking place in suburban gardens. They are interwoven with our everyday life and our ordinary homes become special places of inspiration.

  2. We have such great neighbours too. Rather than wondering and the weirdness happening the other side of the fence, one asked (after the ceremony) if it would be okay for him to start to mow his lawn. . . he'd not wanted to cause any noise whilst we were practising. Lovely folk.

  3. Great stuff!
    Really happy to see you in Lama regalia.
    Where did you get the fire spoons?

  4. The ladle (Tib. bLug gzar / Skt. shruva) and pouring funnel (Tib. dGang gzar / Skt. patri) come from Boudha, courtesy of the efforts of Naljorma Tsul'dzin (who attended the retreat) and Naljorma Thrinlé (who is the Queen of Conjuring amongst the Brits, when it comes to things arising from pilgrimages). I'll probably write a bit more about them later, but the funnel itself contains a dKyil 'khor, so one is pouring an offering from one dKyil 'khor (the funnel) to another (the fire). I have not spoken to Ngak'chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen about this, but the symbolism here seems to echo the interplay of the inner and outer ying, the inner and outer spaces of being, which allows our practice intention to become manifest in the world - the communication that enables our weaving to have its desired effect.

  5. A wonderful interaction of the dKyil 'khor of Lamas, apprentices, ritual and teaching - How lovely, thank you

  6. Heya¡­my very first comment on your site. ,I have been reading your blog for a while and thought I would completely pop in and drop a friendly note. . It is great stuff indeed. I also wanted to there a way to subscribe to your site via email?

    Homa - Vedic Folks

    1. @ agathiyan - Hello there, thank you for the friendly note. Yes, you can subscribe by clicking 'Join This Site' at the top right hand side of the Blog. It sends you the Blog content in e-mail form. If and when videos are posted e.g. embedded YouTube material, that does not seem to come through cleanly in the e-mail for everyone, but the text and static images all make it just fine.