Cosmic Mandala

Miscellaneous Tibetan Astronomical Folklore and Tradition

Cosmic Mandala

 

In ancient Tibet, farmers and nomads passed down their knowledge of the motions of the heavens through oral traditions, as there was no written language. Proper planting times and weather predictions were done by noting the position of the moon relative to Scorpio and the Pleiades. Nomads in northern Tibet still hold the belief that rkang sten bu, “the Stable Star of the North”, will protect lost animals overnight and allow for their easy location in the morning . Students might find interesting a comparison of the importance of the North Star in the Chinese and Tibetan cultures in addition to the classic lesson on the “Follow the Drinking Gourd” folksong and the Underground Railroad.

Astronomical objects such as the sun, moon, and stars are used metaphorically in numerous Buddhist texts, such as the illusion of a moon's reflection in water. Folktales suitable for children also parallel these references. For example, in "The Monkeys and the Moon," the reflection of the moon seen in a well plays a central role in the tale . In "A Beautiful Shining Star," a magician takes a boy on a journey into the sky to see dragons and pick a star from the sky. The connection between dragons and "falling stars" (meteors) is common in many cultures.

 

References:

Astro Department (1995) Tibetan Astronomy and Astrology - a Brief Introduction. Dharamsala, India: Tibetan Medical and Astro Institute.

Tibetan-English Folktales

Tibetan-English Folktale Reader

Tibetan Folk Tales