Sunday, September 13, 2009

Torma Making, Illustrated


One of my happiest memories is sitting on the floor with Tarthang Rinpoche, when I was 17 years old, making tormas. I would run down to Telegraph and Ashby to buy barley flour and red food coloring, then run back up Webster Street. Rinpoche was always in a festive spirit when we made torma, and I have very warm associations with this activity.


Large torma in Lhasa, circa 1921 (Pitt River Museum)

Nowadays, I enjoy making torma with my youngest daughter, who is artistically inclined, despite officially being a full-fledged, teen-aged goblin bobcat. Although I have considerable numbers of the manufactured tormas, because of particular practices and so forth, I also wind up making fresh torma almost every day. I am not very versatile, and I only know how to make a few designs, but we do have the Tibetan manuals and so forth, and sometimes we experiment.


I have been waiting for something like this to show up, and now it has: a YouTube guide to making torma. Actually, it seems there has been an explosion of video aids to torma making, as you will find if you visit YouTube and do a simple search. In these videos, they are using marzipan, which a lot of people seem to do these days. Marzipan is a ground almond paste, made with sugar and egg whites. I remember visiting a marzipan shop in Zurich, Switzerland, and being amazed at what they could sculpt. However, marzipan is not entirely traditional, and anyway, I only know how to use barley flour, butter, and honey.

These videos are from Akshobya78, who also has a nice video on how to tie a vajra knot. I want to thank him for making these, and encourage him to make more. Also, here is one of our famous notes to publishers: the first publisher to bring a comprehensive, well-illustrated torma making manual to market will be richly rewarded with consistent sales. Think Complete Book of Torma Making: A Step-by-Step Guide.

I do want to note that Lama Pelma, of the Diamond Heart organization over there in Bowie, Arizona, has written a nice book about making the Vajrayogini tormas, and you can arrange to purchase this by clicking here.

Today is a great day to start making tormas, so why not give it a try?



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