Tenzin carefully picks his way along the steep zigzag footpath toward his destination, a cluster of stone houses two hours away across the valley. Tenzin belongs to the Muya 木雅 Tibetan tribe, one of the unreached peoples of Sichuan’s Ethnic Corridor. He is also a lama of the indigenous Bön religion that involves animist-shamanist rituals infused with Tibetan Buddhist elements. Today Tenzin will preside over the annual “Shining the Buddha Festival.”
On Tenzin’s arrival at the village, he takes a bag full of the utensils to be used in the festival and ritually passes it through the smoke of a juniper fire to purify the contents. Then, he uses a juniper twig to sprinkle water from a bowl in order to purify the air from evil spirits. Next, Tenzin produces a flat-sided stone from his bag. Chanting sutras (Buddhist scriptures), he puts marks on it before very deliberately hurling it outside the village boundary, taking with it all the curses and misfortune of the villagers through the previous year.
With growing excitement two large Thangkas, cloth Buddha paintings, are unfurled. The climax of the festival has arrived: blood sacrifice. Each family brings an offering: a rooster or, from the more wealthy, a goat. Tenzin takes these one-by-one and slaughters them before the Buddha paintings until the ground beneath is soaked with blood.
Though Muya Tibetans are following the tenets of their religion, their “Shining the Buddha Festival” does indeed contain pointers toward Old Testament rituals of purification, the “scapegoat,” and blood sacrifice in worship of the God of the Bible. If only they could be shown this, and then learn that all these Old Testament practices have now been wonderfully superseded by the once-for-all sacrifice of the Lamb of God. But who will go and tell them?
Will you pray for Tibetan Buddhist peoples?
- That evangelists will go to the Muya Tibetans and explain God’s Word to them in a way they can understand.
- That many Muya will by faith trust only in the sacrificial work of Christ Jesus.
- That thriving churches will be established among the Muya Tibetans.