Each year, on the 19th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar, the monks of Ritoma Monastery and men representing each clan and household make their way to the mountain behind their monastery to celebrate Earth Washing Day. They ride their horses, motorcycles, or three-wheelers, the laymen in their red chubas and cowboy-style summer hats, and together, they make incense offerings and recite prayers to cleanse the environment of impurities likely to cause obstacles to the well-being of their fragile ecosystem:
Don't contaminate water; it is the blood of the earth
Don't dig the ground; it is the earth's flesh and bones
Don't cut down our forests; they are the earth's skin and fur
Protect the earth; it is our home.
Buddhist teachings are based on the law of cause and effect, the belief that each individual is accountable for his or her deeds and that contentment, respect, and compassion will bring happiness and harmony. This principle has led the Tibetan nomads who live on the Plateau to develop a culture of respect and restraint towards their environment, aware that moderation is the key to maintaining the balance essential to their survival. They tune into nature's cycles and pay respect to the invisible creatures, spirits, and earthly gods, whom they believe inhabit certain areas, enlisting their support and apologizing for any faults committed by their presence. During these ceremonies, which cleanse the negative effects of any offense such as digging the ground, felling trees, or contaminating the water, they offer incense, hang wind horse flags, burn offerings, and throw papers printed with the effigy of the Wind Horse, a symbol of good luck, thus reestablishing the healthy relationship that will benefit them and the ecosystem they depend on for survival.