The Nechung Oracle, medium for both prophecies and warnings, has been the protector of Tibet since the eighth century. Today, the Oracle is a monk living in Dharamsala, who grows flowers and speaks perfect English.


 

The Nechung Oracle, Thubten Ngodrup, poses with a small companion. Copyright Hannelore Evans.
The Nechung Oracle, Thubten Ngodrup, poses with a small companion. Copyright Hannelore Evans.

I wander around my garden, stopping to look at some bright purple clarkias growing next to several stalks of barley. Both the seeds of the clarkia and the grains of barley were given to me by a gentle monk in Dharamsala, India, home of the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans in exile. Like many Tibetans themselves, the tiny clarkia seeds from Lhasa in Tibet now flourish in an alien culture. I reflect upon their…I wander around my garden, stopping to look at some bright purple clarkias growing next to several stalks of barley. Both the seeds of the clarkia and the grains of barley were given to me by a gentle monk in Dharamsala, India, home of the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans in exile. Like many Tibetans themselves, the tiny clarkia seeds from Lhasa in Tibet now flourish in an alien culture. I reflect upon their journey to my garden.

One cold early dawn shortly after the Tibetan New Year, I congregate with others outside the small Nechung Monastery, in the compound of the Library and Archives. We are here to witness the Nechung Oracle perform one of the first trances of the New Year. A monk leads us through a slide door, where we are seated on a wooden floor carpeted on both sides, while eleven monk musicians with tall yellow hats take their places in the middle facing a raised platform. In the background stands a large statue of a gold Buddha in a cabinet with long prayer books on either side, a photograph of the Dalai Lama, and deities in glass cases. In front of the cabinet stands a throne strewn with red robes. Incense and tormas, painted molded rice flour offerings, with khata, white ceremonial scarves, sit on a side table. A few prominent signs are stuck on the brightly colored ornate posts, proclaiming: “It is strictly prohibited to photograph the Oracle when in trance.”

The peaceful atmosphere is broken by hundreds of Tibetans clambering through the front door to experience this great opportunity of the Oracle going into trance. The doors remain open to allow as many people as possible to witness this occasion. (Although he goes into trance about twenty to twenty-five times a year, the event is not always a public one.)

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