Zambala Tibetan Incense / Single Powder Packs (by Nancy)

This incense line is named after Zambala, the Buddhist guardian of the north and bestower of posterity. He is also keeper of the yakshas, nature spirits who live with him on Sumeru, a mythological mountain central to Buddhist cosmology. All of the herbs in these blends are wild crafted in Tibet, formulated according to ancient scriptures, and blessed with sacred prayers for 49 days. From harvest to packaging this line is infused with great care and intention, giving these incenses a tangible spiritual weight.

There are six selections in this line and each is available as sticks, loose powder, or single powder packs. The single powder packs are a great introduction to this line, and I decided to pick some up as a low cost way to do some sampling. They are individually wrapped to preserved the aromatic oils and look like little paper sachets with crimped edges. Each one is filled with about a tablespoon of loose, granulated herbs. To use them you basically light the whole thing and let it smolder. The packs burn best if upright so I recommend using a traditional incense burner filled with sand or ash for support. The whole thing goes up, paper and all, in less than ten minutes, releasing copious amounts of smoke and fragrance as it goes. These are purifying incenses so their fumigating quality is more like a smudging than like burning incense sticks. The sachets can also be carried in your pocket or purse as a charm or amulet.

These formulas are intended to be used as offerings to specific deities and each comes with a unique set of protections and benefits as listed on the outer wrapper.
Kurukulle (red): win over men and gods, remove obstacles, gain power and prestige, bring familial harmony, fulfill wishes.
Manjushree (orange): remove obstacles, attain a sharp and powerful mind, subdue fears, perfect wishes.
Zambala (yellow): accumulate merits of wealth, receive protection, remove obstacles, fulfill wishes.
Green Tara (green): bring protection, satisfy those you owe from previous lives, fulfill wishes, overcome obstacles and disasters, brighten your inner power, increase positive merits, obtain riches and auspiciousness, bring wealth.
Medicine Buddha (blue): subdue physical and mental disease, brighten your inner power, fulfill wishes.
Vajrakilaya (indigo): remove obstacles, disasters of inauspicious nature, and local evil spirits.

Unlike Japanese incense or other more refined styles, these blends have an assertive rustic quality. Their general scent is decidedly earthy and herbal, a sort of sage and cedar with hints of chamomile, juniper berry, and camphor. Thought there are some subtle differences between the six blends, each packet states the same ingredients: “countless precious and rare fragrant medicinal plants, the precious nectar of the four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, and other blessed materials.” The complexity of the formulations tends to muddle the scents a bit, making it hard to distinguish individual ingredients or to compare one blend effectively with any other.

Keep in mind that these blends have been designed primarily for their spiritual qualities and not for olfactory enjoyment per say, so they are not as individualized as other lines would be. Though highly aromatic, the herbs in these blends have been chosen more for their spiritual and religious significance than their smell. With incense like this it is more about the intention and offering than the aesthetic enjoyment of the bouquet. I would recommend these if you are interested in trying a very traditional incense that has been designed for its spiritual connotations. For ease of burn and intensity of smoke the straight powder is probably easier to manoeuvre, though these single packs offer a good sampling without a large initial investment.