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    Tibetan fortune cookies? (well…divination dough balls)

    By Jennifer 8. Lee | April 22, 2008

    Nate Barksdale remembered of his Let’s Go India researchers wrote in his report on Dharamsala back in 1998 — to wit, that one of the Dalai Lama’s lesser-known tools of statecraft involves choosing between balls of dough that had little notes hidden inside. (fortune cookie-ish yes?)

    There’s even an explanation from the Tibetan government-in-exile:

    Varieties of Divination:

    i) Doughball Divination: This method is practised mainly in the monasteries or by individual lamas when an important decisions needs to be made, such as in the search for the reincarnation of very high lamas. A number of possible answers to the enquiry, such as the names of likely candidates for a reincarnation, are written on slips of paper. These are then encased in equal sized balls of dough. Great care is taken to weigh the dough balls to ensure that they are exactly the same size. The doughballs are then placed in a bowl, which is carefully sealed and placed in front of a sacred object, such as the Jowo statue in the main temple in Lhasa, images of Dharma protectors or the funerary monuments of great lamas, requesting their inspiration in deciding the outcome. For a period of three days monks remain in the temple reciting prayers day and night. During that time no one is allowed to touch the bowl. On the fourth day, before all those present the cover of the bowl is removed. A prominent lama rolls the doughballs round in the bowl before the sacred object until one of them falls out. That is the ball containing the answer.

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