Kora, The circumambulation

Kora or the circumambulation to the holy object, person or the place. It is a very important part of the daily life in Tibet. It is one of the most visible Tibetan Buddhist rituals you will see while traveling in Tibet.

The Tibetan word for the circumambulation is called Kora( སྐོར་ར་). Kora can be both pilgrimage and meditation in Tibetan Buddhism and Bön Religion. Buddhist doest the Circumambulations in clockwise and Bön practitioners would do it anti-clockwise.

Classification of the object of circumambulation

The General Tibetan terms for the Pilgrimage is called Nekor meaning circulating around an Adobe. Nye means is an empowered and holy place or object, it is believed to have the ability to transform those that circumambulate it.

Nye or empowered place falls into the four different types

  1. Natural site:
    The most momentous Natural Nye are the great sacred mountains and lake. The most popular holy mountain is the Mount Kailash and three holiest lakes are Manasarovar lake, Yamdrok, and the Namtso lake. Kora associate these natural sites can be an arduous trek for long distances through difficult terrain and crossing the numerous high pass.
  2. Man-made structures:
    This includes the temples, monasteries, and the Stupas. The most important places of Man-made Nye are the Jokhang Temple, Potala Palace, and Gyantse Kumbum Stupa. Apart from all the man-made structure in Tibet, Jokhang Temple is considered the holiest of all. It is the most important place of pilgrimage and it can be called Macca of Tibetan Buddhism.
  3. Holy Man:
    Any holy individual like high Lamas are considered a most important Nye. Where ever he/she live the place become nye. It is said during the time of Buddha, the disciples would prostrate in front of him and circumambulate him three times before the teaching. The same tradition is followed now.

The Tibetan Word for the pilgrim is called Nye-Korwa གནས་སྐོར་བ་ (The one who circles the Nye). This word defines them by the ritual of circumambulation, they perform as a part of their Journey. They seek to generate great merit by going kora. Kora is performed by either walking or prostrating around. Kora can be performed with other Buddhist rituals like reciting the mantra, spinning the Prayer Wheels, and counting rosary beads. All these rituals can be performed simultaneously.

Advice on circumambulation

  1. First of all the Motivation is very important in Buddhism. So we have to generate a strong compassion motivation or bodhicitta. Here we have to remember the suffering of all the sentient being in the six realms ( Read more of the six realms here). You will have to feel you have to respond to free them from the endless cycle of existence. To take such responsibility you will have to purify your deeds and accumulate merit. You will have to get intention for this you are circumambulating.
  2. You will have to think you have manifested in the form of the countless number of deities to lead all the sentient being in the circumambulation.
  3. Recite mantras and circulate your prayer wheels. In Tibet we use Rosary to count the number of the mantra we are reciting and having a rosary is so important for us to remember to recite mantras.
  4. Visualize the object of circumambulation. Remember visualize that object becomes empty by remembering the absolute nature of all the object. You can also circumambulate the village, towns, and city with the belief in the Buddha nature of all being living in those. Or you can visualize the holy object as the embodies of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This helps your mind of devotion and helps collect the most extensive merit.
  5. As you walk out for kora, it is a very good practice to recite the Mantras and turn the prayers wheels. As you recite, visualize nectar beams emitted from the holy object and it completely illuminates you and all the other sentient being around you. You can also recite any word of Buddha you might remember, practice rejoicing or meditate on any topic like death, impermanence or emptiness.
  6. It is great practice to dedicate some merit from the action of circumambulation. Normally we do pray this for the dedication “if I have gathered a little bit of merit by circumambulating today. May I dedicate this merits help purifies every single being to attain enlightenment.” Then you can dedicate for the happiness and peace and prosperity in this world. we never say a prayer for our self. As we are already including in the sentient being.

Some population Kora route in Tibet

There are many popular kora routes in Tibet. Since this website is dedicated for the international visitors to Tibet. I would name a few kora routes where all the international are likely to go

  1. Barkhor:
    Barkhor is the kora route around the Jokhang temple in downtown Lhasa. It is a very popular market, Yet you will find thousands of pilgrims going for kora and prostrations around the Barkhor street. Read more about Barkhor here.
  2. Lingkhor:
    Lingkhor is the circumambulation around the entire old city of Lhasa. It would start from your hotel in downtown, all the way to the Lhasa river and walking around the Potala Palace. It would take you about two to four hours depending on your speed. The walk is about 7 kilometers.
  3. Monsatery Lingkhor:
    All the monasteries in Tibet have the kora route around it. the most beautiful and unique monasteries Kora are of the Drepung monastery, Ganden Monastery and Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse.
  4. Lake kora:
    We also go for kora around the lakes. The three holiest lakes are Manasarovar lake, Namtso lake, and Yamdrok lake. We can offer a hiking tour around the Manasarovar lake and Yamdrok lake.
  5. Mount Kora:
    In Tibet, we have lots of Holy mountains. it is very important to circumambulate around those mountains once a life. The holiest of all the mount is Mount Kailash. There is also another holy mountain in Yunnan called Kawa Karpo. For Bonpo believer, there is a very holy mount in Nyintri. We can arrange your trekking around those holy mounts in Tibet.
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