A sa tsa is a small replica of a chorten (Sanskrit: stupa) that is made by placing clay into a sa tsa mold. This mold both shapes and imprints the clay. Within the monastic sutra tradition, making sa tsa can be one of the daily practices of generosity and is considered a method of accumulating merit. Lay practitioners also make sa tsa to accumulate merit. Additionally, making sa tsa for someone who has died is considered to be both a sacred support for a positive rebirth for the one who has passed away as well as generating merit for the one making the sa tsa. Some texts prescribe the making of sa tsa in order to dispel obstacles and negativity.
As with any practice, one begins by requesting the blessings of the lama, taking refuge and generating the mind of compassion. Then, once the clay is gathered, it is cleaned and ritually purified with water and incense. The clay is kneaded and molded into shape. The sa tsa mold is prepared by lightly coating the inside with butter. The clay is then pressed into the mold. From the center bottom of the clay, a small portion of clay is removed to create a cavity. Within this space is placed a powdered mixture of the five precious things: gold, silver, turquoise, coral and crystal, as well as blessed herbal medicine called mendrup, and consecrated white rice. Clay is then used to close the space and seal these substances within the sa tsa. If sa tsa are being made to benefit a being that has died, a small amount of the cremation ash is added to the substances placed within the sa tsa. Each of these steps includes a specific mantra and intention including mantra to empower the sa tsa with the energy of enlightened Body, Speech and Mind as well as mantra to bring the exalted, perfected qualities of each of the four directions into the sa tsa. Once the clay has dried, the sa tsa are painted silver or gold and then consecrated through prayer and ritual. Traditionally, the sa tsa are then placed within a chorten or a tsa khang, a sa tsa house, that will protect the sa tsa from the elements. These tsa khang can be located anywhere but are often found at sacred places. These tsa khang are located so as to make circumambulation of the structure possible. In the absence of a tsa khang, sa tsa are also placed in caves at the top of mountains or at pilgrimage places.
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