TRANSCRIPT – Khatas and the meaning behind it
Dear students and friends,
I would like to share with you a talk I gave some time ago about khatas. Many people who are new to Tibetan Buddhism often wonder about khatas when they see them being used in the Dharma center. What is it for, the significance of using it, what they should do with it etc etc.
These are all perfectly fine questions to ask. In the Dharma, continuously ask questions and continuously learn more. Below, I have provided you with a complete description about khatas, and its significance in both Tibetan culture and Buddhism.
Do watch the video and read the transcript. It is important to understand why we offer khatas. We should always work towards dispelling ignorance because the very reason for us to be in a Dharma centre is to learn and gain knowledge. Leave a comment below after you’ve read and understood, ask questions and discuss it on the blog chat. If you’re interested in learning, tell me what you think, what you have learnt and understood from this teaching.
Transcript for Khatas and the meaning behind it.
Khatas. Respect, faith, devotion, love, care, gratitude, respect, love, devotion, care, gratitude, appreciation, concern, and good wishes are very, very, very hard to put into words, into action, and into expression. They’re non-tangible feelings that animals and humans and even spirits have that need to be expressed, that need to be shared, that need to be given. Very important. Paris, would you like a table? Would it be easier for you? Sure! Please get a table. Andee, would you like a table? How about you, Kandarohi? You guys would like a table? Wan? Susan? Joseph? You sure? Please use it, please use it. That’s what it is for. See things here, things in our…um, things…oh turn it around for her because she will have more space under it. Yes. Things in our organization just doesn’t look pretty, it’s also user friendly too, thank you. That includes the Smuru. Better. You okay, Susan? You okay? Alright. How about you Sharon? Good, good, good. Better? Stick your legs under the table. You can fit. Yes. I saw you typing ohlulululululu. It’s a lot of suffering. I know. Henry, do you need a table? A chair, a drink, a ciggie butt, a cigar, marijuana, a Mary Jane, some E, Coke, here’s the man! Oh, 10 years ago, not any more. He’s given all that up, no I’m just kidding. He doesn’t do any of that. He takes…eh…I don’t know. He takes pictures of Hiroshima and looks at the mushrooms from that. Oh. A little low blow but never mind. I know, I know. It slipped but never mind I couldn’t think of a better representation of mushroom. Okay…err Paris is deeply affected now she can’t write anymore. Oh snap out of it! Cut it out with the drama. You should be an actress.
Okay, khatas. Love, appreciation, care, concern, gratitude, respect, etcetera, our emotions are essential for all of us. Emotions are essential to be expressed and to be told. In fact, just giving food and clothes and shelter and a pat on the head and material items doesn’t make animals or people or even spirits grow to be happy, fun loving, beneficial sprits, animals and people, you know and in fact people become spirits because they don’t get those emotions or they don’t give it. They don’t give it because they don’t get it, they don’t get it because they don’t give it. It’s samsara. Same thing with animals, animals that are filled with that kind of emotions or given that kind of emotions they act very differently with owners and other people than animals who don’t and even on a higher level of human capacity, people who are loved, appreciated, given that and shown that and always taken care of in that way, they are very different individuals.
So, those emotions are intangible, no color, no form, no substance, no taste, no tactile feeling, nothing, but they exist. Why? People who have it are different, and people who give it are very different and hence the most popular Buddha in China and Tibet is the Lord of Compassion, the holder of the white lotus, Avalokiteshvara, Kuan Yin. Why? Because these emotions are represented by this great Bodhisattva though she is so loved in China and in Tibet, he is so loved in Tibet. He is the patron Buddha of Tibet. Why? We all need those appreciation, love and care and thanks and concern. We need that. So therefore, that is not able to be shown, and when we receive teachings from our Guru, you know, “Oh and thank you thank you thank you, you changed my life” and people become enlightened from the teachings and they change and transform. There is no way to show it. People who love their parents so much and they are going away, how do you show it? Just a hug, and then some people that we can’t hug, you know. They’re beyond our rank, beyond our level, beyond our social class. It’s not proper, or maybe, in some societies we can’t hug women. Women can’t hug men so they’re…they’re…it’s very difficult.
Because in Tibetan society, touchy-touchy is a no-no, kissy-kissy is a no-no. A public display of affection is not frowned upon but not [kasawhatthe] encouraged and in extreme cases sometimes you see two sisters, you know…you know give a hug and say goodbye or auntie to a nephew or something like that, but there is not a lot of physical touch, there is not a lot of physical expression and touching our Gurus or anything like that is a very, very big no-no. His Holiness has broken the whole taboo by hugging every singe person that meets him, you know, every person that meets him, you know, anything he hugs is beautiful and it’s allowed a lot of Tibetan Lamas to do that like Lama Yeshe was a very big huggy, huggy-huggy person.
In any case, what it is, it’s love. So in Tibetan society, how to express all that was through a khata. A pure, white, beautiful, clean cloth that has no specific measurements, width, and length, but that can be as ornate as made of pure silk and shiny with the 8 auspicious signs woven into it and very long, maybe 2-3 feet tall, I’m sorry, long, long, can be a 1 feet, 1 1/2 feet in length and folded over, or it can be just a simple piece of cloth that’s 1½ to 2 feet long, maybe ½ feet in width. I’m just giving approximations here and nothing imprinted and it can be made of rough cotton, but a khata wasn’t dependent on the person you give it to and the person giving it, can express respect. When we’re going away some place, and we want to say goodbye to our parents who love us, and the mother is crying, and the father is packing our things because he cares, offering a khata to our mother and father is thank you for your blessings and your deep gratitude. Your deep gratitude to your parents, and to say that may I see you soon, and I love you and you offer the khata to them in deep respect, and when the khata is put back on to your neck, it is to signify that their love, in the case of parents. In the case of Lamas when it is put back on your neck, it is blessing.
So sometimes when we go away, when we go to our altars, and we make a beautiful khata offering to our Yidam, the beautiful green goddess Tara. Tara, I’m going to be away from your statue a little while, from your image here on my altar, but you’re always with me, please follow me and you offer a khata to Tara to say goodbye, I’ll see you soon. Respect and blessings, and also when you go to your protector chapels to invoke upon the protective energies of your Dharma protector, that whatever you want to do, whatever you want to fulfill may be fulfilled, effortlessly, with no obstacles or less obstacles, so when you offer that khata, it costs you some money and that money is translated into a white piece of cloth, whatever its material to mean your devotion, your faith, your confidence and your making a direct affinity to this protective deity or to the Lama, or to the Yidam, and you offer a khata and when you offer gifts to people which I wanted the laptop here on my throne because I wanted to avoid that one, yes. You’ll have to open a shop called Pink Dharma. “Oh what’s that?” “All Dharma items in pink lah! What else?” Isn’t that fun? God. It’s the first time we see a pink Tsongkhapa. Tsongkhapa will be like “Oh god. All right, if it benefits people, why not?” Isn’t that horrible? And she can get away with it because she is um, obnoxious and fun. Okay. So um, Sharon will be like “Oh, we don’t go into that store, it’s not proper. We go into Dzambala Mystical Treasures where they sell correct colored Tsongkhapas, gold. Let’s go, Susan, now.” Susan: “But…but…but, we have to support our friend, she’s a co-writer.” “Let’s go, now.” Huh! Yes. We know who wears the pants. Alright.
Now, uh, so, a khata is an expression of this emotion we have towards the person we offering it to, or the being. In the case of our Lama devotion and blessings. In the case of our Yidams, to solicit attainments…attainments…to solicit attainments. In the case of our Dharma protectors, to solicit, to ask for protective energy. In the case of our parents, gratitude, respect, love, in the case of friends, deep friendship, in the case of buildings, if you, if there’s a new building we offer a khata to the building, we tie it at the door, whatever. What is the meaning? Is that my good wishes and my prayers, may this building bring great success and love and happiness, good luck. I…I totally agree with what you are doing. So when you…when you give a gift, it’s not just simply “Here”. You give it with a khata to show respect to the other person that it is an honor and it is a great pleasure for me to offer you something. So when you offer it with a khata, when you offer it with a khata and you give a gift to someone, it’s great respect. So in Tibetan tradition, just to give a gift like that “Ehh” is very disrespectful and to just give one hand is very disrespectful and especially if you’re giving a representation, this is something new, a representative of a Lama, a changtso, whenever you give the gift, an item or the letter to a person from the Lama, you always give it with a khata to the person, why? It signifies the blessing of the Lama, even the Lama hasn’t touched it because you represent the Lama. Always give everything with a khata to people and a khata is held like this, nothing wrong, but if you need to pick a side the opening is towards the person so the closed part is towards you, and how you store a khata is not the way Seng Piow stores his shirts, let me show you how. This is how — Seng Piow, can you see this? Good. This is how Seng Piow stores his shirts, his clothes, his pants, his notes, his life. That’s not how we store a khata, how we store a khata is traditionally, it’s a way of social interaction and the feeling of closeness, to be close to someone, to say that “I like you.” Folding khatas is a social interaction.
So we will have another person, Andee can I have your help? Hold the end of the khata like this, allright? That person hold the end, and it’s a joyous occasion, stretch it out, you stretch it like that and usually see Tibetans smiling when they fold khatas, it’s a happy occasion, it’s a beautiful occasion, it’s a social interaction saying this is my friend, you know, a mother and daughter, father and son, father and daughter, you know like 2 students getting ready for a teaching, or after a blessing, you know it’s wow, it’s a happy occasion because khatas represent happy emotions you know, if you are angry at somebody you wouldn’t give a khata, well you’ll probably strangle them but you wouldn’t give them a khata, you wouldn’t write nasty notes on them “I hate Tsem Rinpoche because he didn’t show me love”, you know, on a khata and throw it at him, you wouldn’t do that.
A khata is a happy so it’s always happy occasions, it’s a celebration, it’s during festivals, it’s during teachings, it’s for pujas, it’s initiations, it’s gifts, it’s birthdays, it’s anniversaries, it’s, it’s…and then the only time a khata is used that is on a sad occasion when someone died and that’s to show your last respect to that person and the family. The khatas are emotions. They are emotions in cloth. What are khatas? Emotions in cloth. So when we fold it, one person will hold it and this person will take it, flip it in and then hold it like that and fold. No, you keep like that. Keep it tight, and then you come closer as they get folding and as they fold it you come closer and just fold it like that. So it becomes like a fan, alright? See you have a fan effect now and then, when you just get to the end, not all the way to the end, fold it over completely and that’s how you hold it and that’s how you store the khata so it doesn’t become wrinkly and ulgy and look funny because you know you don’t want to give one of your khatas that look like Seng Piow’s shirts to your Guru, you know it’s like all wrinkled and [khata offering gesture] and then easy to store, doesn’t get wrinkled, because Tibetans will keep it in their chuba and take it out and offer it and immediately.
You know, here the catchword is never leave home without your AMEX card, American Express, in Tibet, never leave home without a khata. Oh yes, it’s really like that. They say [Tibetan phrase] “No Khata? Ohh!” Why? Because you’re always gonna meet a high Lama, you’re always gonna go to temple, you’re always gonna get a Yidam, you’re always gonna see some Buddha, you’re gonna see someone and it’s like no khata, and to go out there and no khata, its like [gasp] you know, it’s become a cultural thing, and I think it’s beautiful because emotions on cloth, and so when you offer it to your Guru, what you do is you make 3 prostrations first, and you usually keep your khata in a clean place in a clean area. You don’t just stick it in a corner you know, throw it there, wipe your nose with it. You do not wipe your nose and perspiration and body parts with your khata and then wash it and then use it. You do not. Okay, it is not an underwear, it is not a gymwear, it is emotion love wear, okay?
So what happens is this, is that if we’re going to see a Lama, we keep a khata inside in our bag or whatever or a clean place, we make 3 prostrations and then when we’re just near the Lama, we open it up and we hold it with 2 hands and we offer it. When we offer to our Lama, the Lama will put it back on our head. The person that is higher rank or higher in whatever, spiritual rank or worldly rank such as parents, the khata is put back on our head. We never put the khata back on our Guru’s head, because it means I’m blessing you. To put it back on your head means it’s a blessing, okay? So to your parents, to your Guru, to authority, to ministers, you offer it to them, they will put it back on your head. To people who are equal rank or lower rank, you will put the khata to their hand. So let’s say that uh, Zahir is the same as me in the monastery right, I would not put this over his head. If he’s a younger Rinpoche, I will put it over his head. If he’s my age, I’ll put it to his hand to show respect that I am not above you. So you’ll see how Rinpoche’s humility are with other Rinpoches, they will never put over the head, unless it’s your student, they will give it directly to the hand and hold it, and there are Rinpoches who fight to put it on my neck, some Rinpoches will take it and put it on their own neck and the other Rinpoche say “No no no” because it means that “I am higher than you” and the other one is humbling himself. In Tibetan society you always see like one Rinpoche is trying to give it equally, this second Rinpoche will try to put on his head to show humility, it’s a practice of humility because in Tibet, humility, not showing off and not bragging, and no face is a virtue. Wanting face is very, very bad virtue because it’s an extension of the delusional mind, it increase it and um, humility and wanting to advertise who you are and talking about how good you are is very, very bad because it is against Buddhist principles, why is it? Those kind of actions increase your hatred, desire and anger, and ego and pride if it is used wrongly. So in Tibet it is frowned upon, humility is very great, and in most Buddhist countries that are infiltrated with Buddhism that is the key word, humility.
So if it’s offered to the protective deities, of course you offer it up not on the neck, you offer it in front of them or on to their feet or onto their hands, to your Yidams, all the more so. To Lama Tsongkhapa, if you have a statue, we offer it between his hands or on his lap, never on his neck, never. How can you bless Lama Tsongkhapa? “Hi Shakyamuni, you want a blessing?” [loops khata] I don’t think so, you know. “Hi Shakyamuni, I love you so let me wrap this khata around you?” No, on their here. Why? It’s to show respect. It’s very, very simple and they should be kept, if a high Lama or during special occasions, whatever, a Lama has given you a khata, it’s considered blessed. People can even fold it and keep it somewhere in their house on their altar or something to be used inside their statues or even protective over their doors and some even tie it around their animal which we don’t need here in Tibet, it’s protection. And sometimes when protectors go into trance, they’ll take a khata and do a special knot, they do a special knotting on it, right, and do a mantra, and seal it, and give it to you. It becomes very powerful protection, that you will keep over your house, over your new business, on your altar or something, it’s considered very powerful protection.
The khatas are a universal way of sharing love, acceptance, respect, care, concern and all the positive emotions, so it’s emotion on a cloth so we should keep it very, very well and uh, we may not be Tibetans, but we also have emotions, so can use khatas to show it, okay? And offering khatas is virtuous, very, very virtuous because of what it represents and it has the 8 auspicious signs so when you offer it up you offer the 8 auspicious signs, which we will talk about it in a little while. Questions on khatas? Yes Joanne. Okay. There is not a big difference in the colors, white is the usual pervasive color used in khatas in Tibet. In Mongolia it’s blue, but you also have yellow, red and orange and different colors. Why? For certain rituals, you need to represent the 5 different elements, earth, air, water, fire and what is it? Earth, air, water, fire, metal. They represent the 5 different elements, then you have the 5 different colors, alright. So sometimes khatas are used for specific rituals and sometimes it’s just nice to offer a yellow khata. Yellow khata can represent growth and increase to a wealth deity, you know. A red khata is very nice to offer to a protective deity. Why? Red means fierce and wrath, and isn’t it fabulous. Imagine if you have a 4 foot Vajrayogini statue in your house and she is beautiful, she’s fabulous and she is dressed up and she is looking at you and it’s dark and you and your lover sitting there, staring at her and there’s a butterlamp in front of her and then you offer her a red khata onto her hand and ask Vajrayogini to bestow you higher attainments. Isn’t that fabulous? Oh yes
Can you imagine the big Vajrayogini…what a reason to work, I mean we work so hard and we make so much money, do we want the results of that to have another Fendi, Gucci tired bag or striped socks or you know, another tired car, you know, just another food, a restaurant. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the money we made ended up in something useful for us and our loved ones, a beautiful image of a Buddha, a large, a big one. That’s why even when Buddha images are very expensive, for Tibetans, how poor or rich they are, they don’t blink an eye. They will never go [gasp!] Never. Why?
To create a Buddha image and to keep it and dedicate it for our son, our daughter, our husband, our wife, our lover, our friend, our parents is very holy. That’s why in our stores, for many people I allow part payment. Why? I’m not into making money, I am into making merits for them. By having a holy Buddha image, there is so much benefit and we’ll talk about that. So much benefit that it is incredible. That’s why having a holy image that costs nothing, and Tibetans are usually find opportunities to sponsor statues, find opportunities to sponsor tsatsas, find opportunity to give statues away, and they don’t let you know because they collect the merits and all the blessings that you just take and say “Ooh I got a free gift!” Yeah, you may have saved 2-300 dollars or 50 dollars or whatever, you think you’ve saved, but to sponsor statues the benefits are limitless. That’s why you see Lamas, big Lamas, uh little street dogs like me and people and rich and poor women whatever, they will always find an opportunity to sponsor a statue, a stupa or a book to give away, they will die and clamor and scream for it. They will donate to monasteries. They will donate to temple. They will donate to their friends and you know “Oh, it’s your birthday? Here’s a statue!” “Oh it’s your anniversary? Here’s a statue!” “Oh you mean you have a cold? Here’ a statue!” “Oh you’re unhappy? Here’s a statue!” “Oh you mean today you bought your new car! Here’s a statue!” But what has that got to do with it? They don’t care. They look for the opportunity because they know the benefit for the receiver and the giver.
Just imagine a large… and that should be the goal for us, to have a fabulous, beautiful altar that we come home to, literally, on a superficial basis come home to after a long day of work, come home to, here [patting heart]. Come home to a fabulous, can you imagine, a fabulous beautiful, glorious statue of Vajrayogini, 3 feet 4 feet, oh god, with pearls and jewelry and shiny and just fabulously, fabulously gorgeous and deliciously fabulous that you make offerings and you pray to. That is a sum up of your hard work, the sum of your hard work, oh yes, that’s why I encourage it, and I even get very expensive statues, I’ll tell you why in Nepal as I said, we make next to nothing, I don’t care, sometimes the stores don’t survive. Sometimes we are in the red. Last year, Kechara Paradise was in the red for 25 thousand ringgit, in the red, no profit at all, but in the red. We finally recover from that, slowly, and then everybody is like why? It doesn’t matter, because the outlets is to spread Dharma. And so therefore, I encourage, I get more statues, interesting statues, nice statues and I let people do part payment, why? Because I want them to have holy, powerful images and they may not have realize immediately the effect, but they will in time because people are smart, and people will know and I will explain and teach and we can read. Very, very powerful, and especially if its our particular Yidam, like if it is Manjushri or Cherenzig or Vajrayogini or Lama Tsongkhapa, it is very important to have, very important, very important.
This is not something I talk about now, this is what I have been doing since I was a nobody you know, I still am a nobody but a bigger nobody last time and I didn’t have any money to buy anything. So after this I would like everybody to get a khata and go to my house quickly and to see my Vajrayogini. My Vajrayogini statue there was given to me by a Malaysian in Bodhgaya under the body tree and it costs 1300 rupees, that’s 120 ringgits, and that 13 years ago for me…not even unimaginable, it wouldn’t even enter my mind I can get that because 1300 rupees to me 13 years ago in India is a huge fortune. I can live on that amount for 2 months as a monk. When I got that I was like “Oh my god!” it was a gift, I just screamed. So I have that, it’s from Delhi, its not the best craftsmanship, no it’s not, then I met Tashi in Delhi to make a long story short, you know we met up by accident in a Dharma center and we became friends and she sponsored the gold for the face, and the jewelry which was another three, four thousand rupees and we were like Augh!!” it’s a fortune and I went to the artist everyday and I harassed him to death. I harassed him, I sat there and I pushed him, I bitched nonstop until he got it the way that I want and the face is the original, painted then I took it down to Ganden and took a while to get money to get mantras in and took a while to get it consecrated but it’s been consecrated by the highest Lamas, mantras has been put in, and then when I became recognized as a Lama then people come make offerings to me, somebody died, somebody’s sick, somebody needs prayer, somebody needs luck, they always give me money, this money I don’t use and I collect it and I always buy some jewelry, I always buy some gold and I offer it onto her.
Over the years, even now in Malaysia, a lot of people give me so many gifts. I don’t deserve it, but I get it and instead of just voraciously take, lapping up gifts, using it and swimming in the gifts, what I do is I offer something back for the people. What I do is I offer, always from the angpau I take a percentage out and I collect it, and I keep it in front of the altar and I pray for the people and I transform that into jewelry or whatever and offer it up to Vajrayogini. For every single person who has done anything for me, always so my offerings never stop, so my offering on Vajrayogini has become quite expensive, extensive, and this statue you take a look afterwards, it’s not the best craftsmanship, it’s not fabulous but it’s the best Vajrayogini statue on this planet, because it’s filled with love, devotion and it’s created from so many people who just offer so much to me, and I had nothing to offer them except Vajrayogini. I want you guys to take a look after this, take a quick, quick look, don’t try to sneak to my kitchen and steal my chocolate cake, don’t try to kidnap my dog, don’t try to sneak upstairs and take a look at what kind of underwears I wear, alright, oh Irene is not here. Uh, I want you to go take a look, why? It’ll become holy and precious.
So for me, statues is not a passion. It’s not an art. It is something that is extremely beneficial for others. It’s when I have statues all over big ones. Blah…blah…blah everywhere and I give it away like that. Why? It has so much benefit. I will talk about that another time. So khatas, imagine a beautiful, red khata, in a beautiful, red Vajrayogini in your house, glorious and beautiful with a sexy, gorgeous female body, I mean aren’t women beautiful? Just beautiful beautiful Vajrayogini. Of course, order through KMT, KP and DMT, order anywhere else and I’ll chop your fingers off. Opps. And then uh, beautifully decorated, not all at once, slowly with time you add to it because our budgets are constrained, constrained, and then during your birthday or something special offer a beautiful red khata. Wow. And just imagine the butterlamp flickering in front of her face in the dark, we do her mantra and her prayers and her meditation, what else is there? You go back home, because Vajrayogini is in here, you’re going back home. Isn’t that fabulous? Or just think a beautiful Lama Tsongkhapa smiling, matte, gold, with a yellow hat, smiling at you in acceptance, with blessings and compassion and skill, teaching you the Dharma, looking at you and then it’s dark, and there’s a butterlamp with incense billowing. You offer a beautiful white or yellow khata up to him for your mother, for your lover, for someone’s birthday and celebrate, just think about that.
All of you should take a tour of Ruby’s house and see her Tsongkhapa. She has a big 5 feet Tsongkhapa which costs her a bomb and took her a while to pay it off, but she managed. A big, fat Tsongkhapa. She moved from a big fat house to a teeny little apartment and she fit that Tsongkhapa in I tell you, she stuffed him, she was putting him through the door like “Go in, go in, go in!” Oh yes. You must go to her house and you must pay homage to the fabulous Tsongkhapa. She aint the only one, there’s a lot of Malaysians and Singaporeans as well getting big statues, why? They know the benefit. When they first join they’re like “I want a little one, no space.” Their house is so huge and their little “Oh oh” and after they know me for one or two years, trust me their statues grow. Yes. They’re like algae in the rain.
Okay, so that’s what khatas are for, and that’s how they’re used in general and in short and they have a lot of meaning. Any questions on that? You have any panadol? Anybody has any panadol? Yeah. Questions on khata? You do? Ok. Good. I’ve been having a fever and stuff for a few days but it’s okay, I’ll be alright. Questions on khatas? Paris, don’t shock us like this, it’s disgusting when you don’t have a question, there’s something wrong, you have a fever? Bird flu? No? okay.
Oh this, your pill helped. Thank you very much, I feel better now. I love pills. Drugs, prescriptions drugs, diet pills, sleeping pills, just pass it over, you know, whatever, just give me pills. I’ll tell you another day how I wanted to die from an overdose but the pose, the place, the look, I have it all planned, it’s very Marilyn Monroe but never mind, we’ll talk about that another time. You can ask Andee, he knows about it, he’ll tell you in 10,000 words or less, I promise you. Oh god, Sharon’s evil! She’s like “Yes, I know!”
Transcribed by Joey Wong
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