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9 march 2012 001Brussel: On Sunday 4th of March 2012, the Tibetan Cultural Center in Belgium has organised a very successful Tibetan Culture Day in Brussels. About 100 people participated in this interesting cultural event at "Le Cercle" in Etterbeek, among them several representatives of Tibet organisations and quite a lot Belgian Tibet supporters.

Everyone was welcomed warmly with a cup of Tibetan butter tea, and meanwhile a video was shown with traditional Tibetan dancing and singing. Before the programme started, the participants enjoyed the butter tea and took a look at the small exhibition in the hall and some craft stalls. The different kinds of Tibetan hand writing were exposed on a wall, and at one of the stands people could buy a Tibetan calender of the New Tibetan Water Dragon Year 2139 or a poster with vegetables and fruits with the Tibetan names.

Mrs. Kelsang of the Tibetan Cultural Center gave a welcoming speech and asked the participants to go to the garden of the hall together, for the fire offering and prayers led by two Tibetan monks. According to a very old tradition, everyone took a little bit tsampa, roasted barley flour, to throw in the air, an expression of good wishes for your own and others happiness and the overcoming of all obstacles.

Back inside the hall, a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama was placed by the monks on a beautiful throne. Khatas, silk scarves, were offered to honour the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.

Afterwards, everyone was asked to stand up for the Tibetan National Anthem. Earlier, a paper with the phonetic lyrics of the National Anthem was given to the westerners, to sing along. Afterwards one symbolic minute of silence was asked, to commemorate all the Tibetan victims who have died.

After this, Mrs. Kelsang explained why this Tibetan Culture Day was organised: "This cultural event is not organised for fun or our amusement. The situation in Tibet is very difficult now, so it's not the time to have a party. The Tibetan Cultural Center wants to present the rich Tibetan culture and today we want to show different aspects of our precious culture, that's the reason why this event is organised."

More prayers were done by the two monks, throat singing, prayers with a very deep voice that is so typical in Tibetan rituals, and Tibetan chanting.

Mr. Lhakpa Tsering announced a video about the activities of the Tibetan Cultural Center (TCC) in Belgium, an association that is established in November 2008. The TCC has set up three Tibetan schools, in three different cities in Belgium. For several years already, the Tibetan children who are living in Belgium attend weekly classes in which the Tibetan culture and history is taught, but also the Tibetan language, singing and dancing and dharma classes, lessons about buddhism and compassion. At present there are 60 students. All the people involved in the TCC are volunteers, even the teachers of the Tibetan schools. Once a month around 40 students between 15-20 years attend the dharma classes, each time at another place, for example at the Tibetan buddhist temple in Brussels or the library in Antwerpen via Skype with Khenpo Yugyal from Esukhia in Dharamsala. Each year, a one week summer camp is organised for the children. During this week, the children also get lessons, but of course there's also enough time for recreation, games, music and sport activities. The parents of the children are closely involved with the TCC, because the association also organises meetings with the parents on a regular base, to discuss one and another.

After a short speech in Tibetan by the representative of the Office of Tibet in Brussels, a part of the children of the Tibetan schools performed a nice song, "Om mani padme hum". On a poster they all showed one syllable of "Om mani padme hum" in Tibetan. The children wore a very colourful and beautiful chupa, a Tibetan dress.

Then lunch was served, it was a delicious Tibetan-Indian buffet, with rice, noodles, vegetables, chicken tandoori and of course also Tibetan momos.

After the lunch it was time for music. Traditional Tibetan songs were performed by several members of the Tibetan community in Belgium. Mr. Tenzin Norbu played the dranyen, a stringed instrument, like a small guitar.

Mr. Lhakpa Tsering gave two demonstrations, how to make pake (with tsampa) and how to prepare Tibetan butter tea. Mr. Lhakpa Tsering explained everything very carefully while showing it step by step. Mrs. Kelsang translated in French. Everything was filmed, so the visitors could follow the details of the demonstrations on a big screen. Mr. Lhakpa Tsering also talked about tsampa, and how good it is for the health.

Another aspect of the Tibetan culture are the philosophical debates by the Tibetan monks. Such discussions are a part of the training of the Tibetan monks, in all the monasteries. Two monks debate about one subject, and on the Tibetan Culture Day the monks discussed bodhicitta, the awakening mind or the mind of enlightenment. One monk was sitting down, the other one stood in front of him, and clapped one time in his left hand after finishing an opinion or question. The hand clapping is so typical in these debates.

Afterwards the popular bingo game was played. The person who got all the numbers on his paper first, won. The numbers were said in Tibetan, French and English, so it was a way to become a little bit more familiar with the numbers in Tibetan.

At the end of the afternoon, a short but very beautiful documentary was shown, about a Tibetan nomad family.

At 5 pm the Tibetan Culture Day was ended. Several Belgian participants of this event were asked for a reaction, and they all found it "very good and interesting", "enrichting" and "well organised". The Tibetan Cultural Center in Belgium has done a very good job indeed. In one afternoon so much different aspects of the rich Tibetan culture were presented, the public was also involved to participate in things, and everything was presented in a modest way, restrained and not exhuberant at all.

For more information about the Tibetan Cultural Center: http://www.tibetcultur.be/. Donations for the TCC are always welcome. The association is financed by private sponsoring.

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