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History of the Tibetan Calendar

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Two Major Calendar Traditions

Uniquely, the Complete Tibetan Calendar 2004 represents both of the major astrological traditions developed in Tibet, which are referred to as the Tsurluk and Phukluk systems. The calendar provides the Phukluk and Tsurluk date for each Gregorian day, as well as major North American and traditional Buddhist holidays.

Phukluk the Astrological Tradition of Phukpa

The main calendar of Tibet was developed based on the system of Phukpa Lhündrub Gyatso, a great astrologer, who in 1447 CE composed an astrological treatise called The Oral Teachings of Pundarika [pad dkar zhal lung]. This work founded the so-called Phuk system and hence this tradition is known as Phukluk, the astrological tradition of Phukpa Lhundrup Gyatso. This living tradition is used by the majority of Tibetans, and Phukluk and is regarded as the official calendar of Tibet. However, Phukluk is not the only Tibetan astrological system. Another tradition has been carried on within the lineage of the Gyalwa Karmapas.

Tsurluk Astrological Tradition of Tsurphu

The Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339) composed a treatise on astrology called the The Compendium of Astrology [Tib. rtsis kun bsdus pa]. The seat of the Gyalwang Karmapa lineage is Tsurphu, Tibet. Thus the tradition of astrology which developed from the Karmapas in Tsurphu is known as Tsurluk. 

Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim, India is the seat of the Karmapas, whose lineage is responsible for the development and continuing flourishing of the Tsurluk Calendar system of Tibet.

Tsurluk flourished during the time of the Seventh Karmapa Chödrag Gyatso (1454-1406). Töndrup Öser, a great scholar of Tsurphu, composed numerous pith instructions and a great treatise on astrology based on the work of the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje's system. Later, the Second Pawo Rinpoche, Tsuklak Trengwa (1504-1566), a student of Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje (1507-1554), authored an extensive commentary on the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje's Compendium of Astrology. Later, Karma Ngeleg Tenzin, the chief disciple of Tai Situ Chokyi Jungney (1700-1774), wrote The Excellent Vase of Necessary Elements [nyer mkho bum bzang] and many other treatises on various systems of calculations, including the computation of the calendar, astrology, and methods of prognostication.

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great, Yönten Gyatso (1813-1899) composed the unfinished Compendium of Excellent Discourse [legs bshad kun btus] and numerous scholars employed this system based on his commentarial instructions. During the time of the Fifteenth Karmapa, Khakhyab Dorje (1871-1922) and the Sixteenth Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924-1981), the eminent scholar and master of astrology, Öser Rabten, employed the Tsurphu tradition to create a calendar and to promulgate astrological predictions.

The Tsurluk continues today, during the time of H.H. the Seventeenth Karmapa Ogyan Drodul Trinley Dorje. Tsipa Gelek Dhargay is primarily responsible for this tradition, and works from the seat of H.H. the Karmapa, in Dharma Chakra Centre, Rumtek, Sikkim India.

The Tsurphu calendar arises out of the unbroken tradition of Tsurluk, or Tsurphu astrological science. By publicizing this small calendar, we hope to create a wonderful opportunity for all of us to participate in this living science, part of the heritage of Tibet, and to share this aspect of humankind's wisdom with all the people of the world.

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