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Because casting tsa tsas is a hands-on practice that involves working with materials, it is very strongly recommended that you first learn from someone who is experienced in the casting practice. In addition, because it is a Dharma practice with prayers and mantras, you should also be taught that aspect by someone qualified to pass on the lineage. Like any practice, the more qualified the person teaching, the more profound will be his or her understanding of the practice, and therefore the more the student will benefit.

However, if you don't have someone with tsa tsa casting experience available to teach you, it is possible to practice on your own with the appropriate instructions. These are provided below, and the Tsa Tsa Studio is happy to answer any specific questions students might have as they proceed in the practice.

One of the most common questions that arises when undertaking a tsa tsa committment or practice is what to do with large quantities of tsa tsas once they are made. For more on this, please see Placement of tsa tsas.)  
 
 
 

Materials

The materials used to cast tsa tsas vary greatly, from the most basic mixture of plaster and water, to hydrostone (or hydrocal) and water, to the system used by the Tsa Tsa Studio -- the Forton MG casting system, which uses high-quality reinforced gypsum, fiber, a binding agent in place of water, and other materials.

Used by professionals for casting a variety of objects such as architectural features, the Forton MG system is the best possible material to use in terms of quality and durability, but it is expensive, the materials are hard to find, and the process is fairly complicated. The benefits are that one can cast in pigments and metals, the detail is excellent, the material dries more slowly so one has more time to brush (and therefore remove possible bubbles), and the objects can be placed outdoors and will last for many years.

However, most people who do tsa tsa practice at home or in a retreat situation, especially if they have a large committment, use hydrostone or hydrocal (different brand names for basically the same material). These materials are inexpensive but of better quality than ordinary plaster, are mixed with water, easy to use, and are readily available at arts supply or sculpture stores. Pigments can also be added to these materials to create color.

For these reasons, the instructions below are intended for making tsa tsas with either hydrostone, hydrocal, or a similar product that mixes with water.

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Preparation

What you will need:

  • dry material (hydrostone, hydrocal, or plaster)
  • water
  • spatula
  • spoon (for mixing dry materials)
  • whisk, fork, or spoon (for mixing water into the dry materials)
  • brush with pointed tip and firm bristles
  • blessed rice (you can request a lama to bless a bag of uncooked rice) or small strips of paper with mantras written on them

Prepare molds (at least 5 images must be cast each session):

Clean and dry molds thoroughly. Make sure there are no foreign objects in the mold.

Prepare materials:

Determine approximately how much dry material you will be using to make whatever image you are casting. The amounts vary according to the size and number of the image, and you will need to use trial and error to find the correct amounts.

Pour out your dry materials as you recite the mantra:

"Om Namo Samenta Buddananam Om Vajra Ayuke Soha"

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Prayers

Now recite the following prayers and mantras. Recite all prayers and mantras 3 times (unless otherwise indicated) or until firm and sincere in your mind in preparation for the actual casting process:

Prostration and motivation:

"Namo Guru, I prostrate to the gurus who are the glorified saviors of sentient beings, the lords of omniscience and compassion, the refuge object of the transmigratory beings, and the step towards liberation, and who have completely conquered all opposing conditions. Please grant the sublime and general realizations to me and all other transmigratory beings. In order to accumulate the causes of enlightenment, I am going to do this tsa tsa practice."

Take refuge and generate Bodhicitta:

"I go for refuge until I'm enlightened
To the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha,
Through whatever merits I create,
May I quickly attain enlightenment
For the benefit of all beings everywhere."

Generate yourself as the deity (if you have this tantric practice). Others should visualize Shakyamuni Buddha, Medicine Buddha, Tara or Chenrezig (or the deity whose image you are making) at the crown of their head or at their heart and repeat the mantra associated with that deity. Take your time and recite the mantra for several minutes (or complete one round on your mala). Visualize white light coming from the deity and blessing your body, speech and mind.

Purify the amount of prepared materials in emptiness with the mantra:

"Om Svabhava Shuddah Sarva Dharma Svabhava Shuddo Hum"

Your wisdom then manifests in the five syllables (imagine the syllables come from your heart and rest in space in front of you ):

"Om Hum Tram Hri Ah"

Imagine that the syllables transform into mountains of jewels. Then bless the material by reciting:

"Om Ah Hum"

While your body is clarified as the mind-bound deity, with your speech recite the mantra of dependent arising:

"Om Ye Dharma Hetu Prabhava Hetun Teschan Tathagato Hey Vadat Teshan Ca Yo Nirodha Evam Vadi Maha Shramanah Ye Soha"

And then:

"Om Ah Hum"

At least five tsa tsas are cast in any session and offered as follows, one for each of the following prayers. If you cast more than five, dedicate the remaining tsa tsas for any other virtuous wish (e.g. A friend who is ill or has died, world peace, etc.):

  1. Think: I am making this tsa tsa for the triple gem:

    Recite: "May the teachings of the Buddha spread and be developed. May the holy Dharma last a long time. May the Sangha achieve the holy Dharma and may the highest enlightenment be accomplished."

  2. Think: I am making this tsa tsa for my direct and indirect holy gurus to have long lives, for their holy actions to be developed and wishes to be fulfilled:

    Recite: "May the lives and holy actions of the direct and indirect holy gurus be developed and the experiences of realizations in their holy minds be increased. May the field of objects to be subdued be increased."

  3. Think: I am making this tsa tsa for my parents (past, present and future), to all sentient beings who have been my mother and father, to those who are now my mother and father and to all who will be my mother and father in the future:

    Recite: "May all the wishes of fathers and mothers, the transmigratory beings of the six realms, be accomplished. May all the sufferings of each individual be completely purified and may they achieve the state of omniscience."

  4. Think: I am making this tsa tsa for sentient beings who have died and not yet taken another body:

    Recite: "Due to the good karma of making offerings to the Sangha and of making statues of the holy bodies of Aryan beings, may the hallucinated minds of all intermediate state beings be eliminated completely. May they achieve the three kayas of enlightenment."

  5. Think: I am making this tsa tsa for myself and other sentient beings:

    Recite: "May I and all sentient beings accumulate merit and purify the two obscurations. May we pacify all disease and suffering and increase life, merit, wealth, and reputation. May I have whatever control I wish over the three realms, human beings, possessions, and food. I am requesting to dispel the bad conditions of enemies, interferers, obstacles and untimely death."

Recite the Seven-Limbed Prayer (one time):

"I prostrate devotedly with body, speech and mind. I make every offering, both actual and mentally transformed. I confess all my downfalls heaped up since beginningless time. I rejoice in all the merits of ordinary and noble beings. I request the Buddhas to please turn the wheel of profound and vast doctrine! Please remain until samsara ends. I dedicate my own and others' virtues to the great enlightenment."

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The Casting Process

At this point in the practice, when you recite the following mantras you should recite them continously (not just three times, unless otherwise noted) for the length of time that you are performing that particular step.

Mix the dry ingredients with a spoon until there are no lumps as you recite:

"Om Bendo Bawaye Soha"

Slowly add water to the dry material (NOT the other way around) and mix vigorously as you recite:

"Om Ahrandze Berandze Soha"

The material should be smooth and of a creamy consistency, with no lumps. Now pour enough of the mixture into the mold to cover the surface as you recite:

"Om Dharmadhatu Garbe Soha"

Brush the mixture into the molds to remove any air bubbles and to spread the mixture evenly over the surface as you recite:

"Om Vajra Mungara Akuyata Hung"

And:

"Om Ye Dharma Hetu Prabhava Hetun Techan Tathagato Hey Vadat Techan Cayo Nirodha Evam Vadi Maha Shramanah Ye Soha"

Pour more mixture into the mold to fill it completely and even out the surface as you recite:

"Om Dharmadhatu Garbe Soha"

Now place the previously blessed grain of rice (or mantras written on strips of paper) into the mixture, cover thoroughly, and recite 3 times:

"Om Ah Hum"

When the tsa tsas are completely dry (usually less than an hour), turn the mold upside down and remove them from the mold. Break off any extra pieces around the edges. If possible, sand the edges and back so that they are smooth, especially if you going to give the tsa tsas to others.

As you demold and remove the extra material, recite:

"Om Bayute Soha"

When painting the tsa tsa, polishing, buffing, sanding or sealing, recite:

"Om Vajra Ahrandze Beranze Soha"

After finishing this, to consecrate the tsa tsa recite:

"Om Vajra Supatita Vajra Ye Soha"

Dedication

"Om Vajra Ahrandze Berandze Soha"

Also at the end, it is good to dedicate the merit of the entire session using your own words or a prayer such as the following:

"Through the merit created by making these holy images,
May I and all beings quickly attain enlightenment.
May all those beings who see, touch or come in contact with these tsa tsas receive benefit.
May they be drawn to the teachings of the Buddha,
May they be inspired to meditate, and may all their physical and mental illnesses be healed."

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Further Information

Two handbooks published by FPMT's International Office entitled "Tsa-Tsa Practice" and "Tsa-Tsa Making Options" are available to download as Adobe® Acrobat® PDF files -- see the links below.

"Tsa-Tsa Making Options" is especially recommended for those who would like to learn more about casting tsa tsas using hydrostone or hydrocal. It gives detailed explanations on the pros and cons of using these and other materials for casting tsa tsas. Hard copies of these booklets may be obtained by contacting FPMT (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) directly.
 
 Tsa-Tsa Practice  Tsa-Tsa Making Options

To view these files, you need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader version 4.0 or later. You can get the latest version from http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html.
 

Downloading Instructions:

To download a booklet:

  • If you have a Windows-based PC, right-click on one of the links above and choose "Save Link As..." (or a similar option) from the pop-up menu that will appear.
  • If you have a Mac, click on a link and hold the mouse button down until the pop-up menu appears, then choose "Save Link As..." (or a similar option).

Choose a location to save the downloaded file, then click the "Save" or "OK" button (the options and button names will depend on which computer and Web browser you are using).

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