The rituals of lhasang (ལྷ་བསངས་) and trüsöl (ཁྲུས་གསོལ་) are commonly practiced throughout Bhutan. Trüsöl is the offering of ablution, and like the lhasang offering, it combines the practice of offering ablution with the practice of purifying negativities through bathing. In this latter role, trü has a purificatory function. It is akin to Hindus immersing themselves in the Ganges or Christians’ use of holy water. The offering of trü is also analogous to other offerings, when pleasant and/or cherished things are offered to the enlightened beings worthy of receiving such offerings.
To make the trü offering, the basic requirements are clean water and a clean cloth. The water can be anointed with perfume or fragrances. In order to make the offering more elaborate, one can perform extensive visualization processes. This helps to transform trüsöl further into a meditation practice or exercise for mind training.
What should one think of while performing thruesol?
One can firstly visualize a spacious celestial bathhouse crafted from precious jewels with the ideal temperature, beautiful decor, luxurious canopies, soft seats, and every comfort imaginable. One can think of it as a fabulous mansion for ablution where pleasant music is always playing and offering goddesses provide incense, music, and other luxuries. The mirror that is held during a trüsöl ritual symbolizes this. The Buddhas and bodhisattvas are then invited to this environment to accept one’s offering of ablution.
Then one must visualise the water to be high quality spring water imbued with eight good qualities, known as chobo yenlak gyéden (ཆོ་བོ་ཡན་ལག་བརྒྱད་ལྡན་), and anointed with fabulous scents. Beautiful goddesses gracefully pour the water from vases or bumpa (བུམ་པ་) made out of precious metals, represented by the use of a bumpa in the ritual.
When the bath is concluded, one visualises that soft and warm cloths are offered as towels to wipe the enlightened beings, symbolized by a khadar (ཁ་དར་) scarf. Then one can also visualise perfume being dispersed and new clothes being offered to the Buddhas. One must also recognise that through the merit generated through conducting trüsöl, all of one’s physical illnesses, impurities, negative karma, and defilements are cleansed.
In addition, there are visualisations of trü that are associated with Vajrayana Buddhism. In this case, one should consider the bumpa itself to be a celestial mansion, in which many Buddhas—especially the Buddhas of the five families—are assembled. While chanting the appropriate mantras, one visualises that the Buddhas melt into sublime liquid or nectar. Then, the liquefied Buddhas are visualised as flowing onto oneself to wash away any impurities and bless one with health, longevity, and bliss. Often when people are ill and when they go to a lama for treatment, the lama gives trü with these types of visualisations and pours water over the supplicant’s head. For the actions to be most effective, it’s believed that the recipient should understand the entire process so that s/he can also perform the visualisations.
How to perform trüsöl in modern settings?
In modern life, trü offering and purification can even be done effectively while one is in the bath or shower. One can visualize oneself as the Buddha of one’s choice and then take the shower or bath as a trü offering. Or, one can visualize Vajrasattva Buddha above one’s head and imagine the shower as nectar flowing from him and cleansing oneself. In doing so, one is physically cleaned by the water, and adherents can use the opportunity to also be mentally and spiritually cleansed through the visualisation. This method is actually much more effective trü than would be a simple sprinkling of water on the head with no accompanying visualisation.
Translation of trüsöl verses
The practice can be enhanced by chanting these well-known trüsöl verses:
ཇི་ལྟར་གཏམས་པ་ཙམ་གྱིས་ནི། །ལྷ་རྣམས་ཀྱིས་ནི་ཁྲས་གསོལ་ལྟར། །
ལྷ་ཡི་ཆུ་ནི་དག་པ་ཡིས། །དེ་བཞིན་བདག་གིས་ཁྲུས་བགྱི་འོ། །
Just as the Buddha was offered ablution
By the gods immediately after he was born,
In the same way, I make this ablution
With pure celestial water.
འདི་ནི་ཁྲུས་ཆུ་དཔལ་དང་ལྡན། །ཐུགས་རྗེའི་ཆུ་ནི་བླ་ན་མེད། །
བྱིན་རླབས་ཡེ་ཤེས་ཆུ་ཡིས་ནི། །ཅི་འདོད་དངོས་གྲུབ་རྩོལ་བར་མཛོད། །
This bathing water is excellent.
Through this unsurpassable water of compassion
And the blessings of the water of wisdom,
Grant me the spiritual attainments I wish.
སྲབ་འཇམ་ཡངས་པ་ལྷ་ཡི་གོས། །མི་ཞིག་རྡོ་རྗེ་སྐུ་ལ་ནི། །
མི་ཕྱེད་དད་པས་བདག་འབུལ་ན། །བདག་ཀྱང་རྡོ་རྗེ་སྐུ་ཐོབ་ཤོག །
I offer, with unwavering devotion,
The thin, soft, light celestial clothes
To the indestructible adamantine body.
May I also attain an adamantine form.
Karma Phuntsho is the Director of Shejun Agency for Bhutan’s Cultural Documentation and Research, the President of the Loden Foundation and the author of The History of Bhutan. The piece was initially published in Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel as part of a series called “Why We Do What We Do.”