Lama Consultation before Building Construction
Dorji Thimphu (our Bhutanese builder) would like to build a house on his property. He wants to be assured that the construction process will go smoothly and no evil spirits are lurking about that might harm the family after the house is constructed. Dorji lives near the city of Thimphu, so he gathers a handful of dirt from each corner of the building site plus one from the middle and takes these to a senior Lama at the Institute of Astrology which sets on the outskirts of Thimphu.
The Lama takes the dirt samples from Dorji Thimphu and places a sample into the Sazong. He asks Dorji to provide the following information: 1) his name; 2) his age; 3) the year in the Bhutanese calendar that he was born, i.e. year of the pig; 4) if the builder is male or female (in our example, the builder is male). The Lama makes the following statement and places a mark on the Sazong in the dirt for each syllable. For example, “ male/ pig/ Dor/ ji/ Thim/ phu/ wants/ to/ have/ a/ look/ at/ his/ land/ to/ know/ if/ a/ house/ can/ be/ built/ or/ if/ there/ are/ any/ evil/ spirits/. The/ star/ di/ rec/ tion/ for/ to/ day/ of/ the/ fif/ teenth/ day/ of/ the/ month/ and/ time/ at/ sun/ rise/ for/ the/ po/ si/ tion/ of/ the/ land/ which/ falls/ on/ the/ east/”
The translation for the next series of procedures was not clear, so I will describe the actions as they were observed.
The Lama groups the lines into sets of 3 lines and joins them at the bottom. He counts each of the lines (in our example, “63” lines). The Lama rubs out the lines and writes the number “29” in the dirt. He now places a “1” in front of the “2” and a “2” under the “9” representing the 12 months of the year. The Lama spends about 15 minutes going through a series of eight calculations beginning with these beginning numbers based upon an ancient formula and arrives at a final number which will always be between “1” and “6”.
After arriving at this final number, the Lama turns to his set of scriptures that are specifically devoted to construction of buildings and with reference to the specific location. He locates in the scriptures the reference for each of the five numbers calculated for Dorji Thimphu based upon the dirt samples provided from each corner (east, west, north, south) of his building site and the one sample from the middle.
If the scripture reference states that the numbers for each sample are good numbers, then a ceremony is held and the master carpenter can plan to build Dorji Thimphu’s house. If the Lama discovers that any of the numbers are bad, then he will perform a Puja, or ceremony, to drive away the evil spirits represented by those numbers. (Note: at least one of the five numbers must be good for the lama to continue the Pujas. If all numbers are bad, construction cannot take place in that specified building site.)
When all the Pujas are performed, the lama will look at the calendar and select an auspicious day that would be suitable for the master carpenter to begin construction. The builders arrive at the site and the master carpenter decides which direction the house should face and where the windows and doors should be placed, based upon both his building knowledge and awareness of the movement of local spirits. After the foundation is completed, the Lama comes out to the building site to bless the foundation with a ceremony and find an auspicious day for the doors and windows to be installed. When the house is completed, he will return once more to perform a final Puja to drive away any remaining evil spirits that might remain in the area or attempt to come to the house. Finally, a prayer flag is hung on top of the house to keep the evil spirits from coming to the home or returning to the site.