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His Holiness the Dalai Lama to celebrate his 80th birthday in Southern California by Stéphanie

HH the Dalai Lama

22 May 2015

His Holiness the Dalai Lama turns eighty on July 6, 2015. His eightieth birthday is considered to be a major milestone by Tibetans. Therefore, celebrations may be held throughout the year in many different places. Earlier, in March this year, the Dalai Lama celebrated his birthday a few months in advance along with his friend Reverend Archbishop Desmond Tutu. To view the birthday celebrations, please click here. On July 6, the Dalai Lama is expected to conduct a global compassion summit in Southern California. The three-day summit will kick-start on July 5 and focus on the importance of compassion in today’s world. The Honda Centre in Anaheim will be the stage for the first day while the event will be held at the University of California, Irvine. The University had hosted the Dalai Lama earlier in 2004 and 2011. A wide range of events and religious rituals have been scheduled. Discussions with Buddhist leaders and fellow Nobel Laureates to explore the importance of universal peace in modern day world. Over ten thousand people from all walks of life are expected to participate in the celebrations.

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The four places that shaped Buddhism by Stéphanie

Eyes of Buddha

20 May 2015

Buddhism is one of the oldest religions in the world. Its principles are based primarily on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known popularly as the Buddha (meaning ‘the Enlightened one’). Born into a family of Kings, Siddhartha renounced his material pleasures in search for a higher meaning in life. He wandered far and wide in the Indian subcontinent before he became Lord Buddha. His principles on which the religion was founded were shaped by four places namely: Lumbini – Buddha’s birthplace Bodh Gaya – the site of his englightenment Sarnath – the site where Buddha delivered his first discourse Kushi Nagar – his place of death In fact, the Buddhist text Parinibbana Sutta says that Buddha himself identified these four places before coming into this world. Lumbini Situated in the foothills of the Himalayas in modern day Nepal, Lumbini is the place where Queen Mayadevi is said to have given birth to Siddhartha Gautama. Legend says that the Queen visited Lumbini during her pregnancy and was enthralled by its natural grandeur. Once when she was standing in a garden she felt labour pains, caught hold of a branch of the nearby sal tree for support and delivered the baby. A temple was erected in honour of the Queen and she was worshiped as a Goddess in the past. In 294 BC, the great Mauryan emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini and constructed a stone pillar and four stupas as symbol of Buddhism. Though it had suffered serious neglect for many centuries, Lumbini is today a very popular tourist spot. Bodh Gaya Perhaps the most sacred Buddhist site, The North Indian town of Bodh Gaya is the place where Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became Buddha. Enlightenment is a state where one has a profound wisdom about the universal truths that guide mankind. Siddhartha is said to have undergone a rigorous six-year long penance in Bodh Gaya before he finally became awakened. A huge temple complex known as the Maha Bodhi defines the town’s landscape today. Millions of tourists from all around the world visit Bodh Gaya year after year. You can also read  our exclusive article about Bodh Gaya to know how this quaint Indian town became the birthplace of Buddhism. Sarnath Located a stone’s throw away from the holy Indian city of Varanasi, Sarnath is fortunate to have played host to Buddha’s first ever sermon known as Dhammacakkhapavathana Sutta. After becoming enlightened in Bodh Gaya, Buddha went to Sarnath to impart his learnings to […]

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The mythical land of Shambhala by Stéphanie

The mythical land of Shambhala

16 May 2015

Shambhala is an ancient kingdom believed to be hidden somewhere in Central Asia. The name finds a mention in both Hindu as well as Tibetan Buddhist literature. It is a believed to be a place filled with happiness, peace and tranquility. It is even referred to as a paradise on Earth whose inhabitants are loving, wise, kind and compassionate. Shambhala has been the topic of acute interest for many a scholar, scientist, philosopher and researcher but their findings show enormous variations. While certain texts place Shambhala in modern day India, others believe that the kingdom lies in Southern Siberia. There are even texts that suggest that the kingdom is located in China. The legend of Shambhala dates back a few millennia. The epic Hindu text Vishnu Purana mentions Shambhala as the birth place of Kalki, the final incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who is expected to usher in the Satya Yuga, the age of truth where intrinsic goodness in people is expected to reign supreme. Buddhist texts state that Shakyamuni Buddha is said to have taught the principles of Kalachakra to King Suchandra, the then ruler of Shambhala. Vajrayana, a sect of Buddhism, suggests that Shambhala would be ruled by thirty two kings and the reign of each of them lasts one hundred years. The first seven kings are known as the Dharmarajas (meaning messengers of Truth) and the remaining 25 kings are known as the Kalki Kings. Legend has it that the last Kalki king and his army will triumph over evil and bring peace to the world. While the kingdom of Shambhala can possibly be dismissed as a work of pure fiction, the philosophies and ideas that it stands for are worth reflecting upon. The kingdom can be perceived as a symbol of hope for a good, honest and fulfilling life and its inhabitants as examples of how a human being should live. In fact, many Tibetan Buddhist teachers view Shambhala as more than just a physical place. The place has a subtle meaning for it also represents one’s own mind and body. The ideal of Shambhala is built on the fact that in order to establish an enlightened society, one first has to have a pure heart.

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Kailash: the sacred mountain for four religions by Stéphanie

Mount Kailash

14 May 2015

Mount Kailash, also referred to as Gang Rinpoche by the Tibetans and Gangdisi Shan by the Chinese, is a 21778 feet tall majestic peak located in Tibet. Though it does not rank among the tallest peaks in the Himalayas, one of Mother Nature’s finest creations, Mount Kailash holds significance for other reasons. It occupies an important position in the beliefs of four religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Bönism. Buddhism According to followers of Tantric Buddhism, a sect that firmly believes in the Mahayana philosophy of Buddhism, Mount Kailash is the home of Demchok, the divine figure who is associated with the feeling of ultimate bliss. Moreover, there are many religious sites dedicated to Guru Padhmasambhava who is said to have laid the foundations for the spread of Buddhism in Tibet. According to religious folklore, Mount Kailash was the scene of one of epic battles between proponents of two religious faiths. Before Buddhism planted its roots firmly in Tibet, Bön was the predominant religion in this region. However, Jetsun Milarepa, a famous Buddhist yogi and poet, called upon the advocate of Bon religion Naro Bön-chung for a combat. Both the warriors were equally matched and during the course of the battle it became evident that neither one of them would be able to claim a conclusive victory. Finally, it was mutually agreed that whoever reached the top of Mount Kailash first would be declared the winner. Naro Bön-chung quickly began his ascent but just when he was about to reach the summit, Jetsun Milarepa rode on the rays of the sun and pipped him to the finish. Thus, this landmark race firmly established Buddhism as a major force in this region. Jainism Jains believe in the concept of rebirth and they also believe that the soul can attain ultimate liberation or moksha only if it frees itself from the human form that it is constrained to. According to Jain texts, Rishabadeva – the founder of Jainism – is said to have attained moksha at Ashtapada, a mountain peak adjacent to Mount Kailash. Jain literature also refer to Mount Kailash as Meru Parvat and consider this peak to be the centre of all physical as well as spiritual cosmos. Hinduism Lord Shiva, one the three most important gods of Hindu religion, dwells in Mount Kailash. Mount Kailash is the abode of Shiva and his wife Parvati where they are said to exist […]

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Omalaya wishes his Holiness the Dalai Lama a ‘Happy 80th Birthday’ by Stéphanie

05 May 2015

His Holiness the Dalai Lama celebrated his 80th Birthday at the Tibetan Children’s Village school on April 23, 2015, a few months in advance. Joining him in the celebrations was his beloved friend Reverend Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa.  The air was filled with joy and color as hundreds of students joined together in conveying him their best wishes. The Dalai Lama and Reverend Tutu took their seats amidst the throng of cute Tibetan children, beautifully clad in green and white. The Dalai Lama initiated the proceedings by delivering a message about the need for love and compassion among humans. He chose to speak in Tibetan because his friend Reverend Tutu believed that his command over English wasn’t good. After receiving a rapturous applause from the crowd for his messages, the Dalai Lama passed the mike on to Reverend Tutu. Reverend Tutu’s speech was punctuated by his characteristic wit, humor and trademark high-pitched chuckle ‘Wohoo’. He recounted his days of enduring oppression in South Africa. He proclaimed that, just like how things changed for the good in South Africa, Tibetans too would be free one day. Their speeches were followed by a brief Q&A session during which enthusiastic students posed a lot of questions ranging from anger management, joy etc to environment protection. After patiently responding to all the students, the Dalai Lama rose to cut the cake. Reverend Tutu led the crowd in singing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. The ceremony finally drew to close with a rendition of the famous song ‘We are the world’ by the school band. The Omalaya team is indeed immensely proud to have witnessed these merry moments. We have compiled a video that vividly captures the joyous scenes of the day. For more videos from Omalaya, kindly visit our Youtube page. Video credits: Jeremie Gabrien (website: www.jeremiegabrien.com)

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A Buddhist perspective on compassion by Stéphanie

Buddhism and Compassion

04 May 2015

According to Buddhist philosophy, compassion is similar to a state of empathy where an individual perceives other people’s suffering as his own and wishes other human beings to be free from suffering. Wisdom is the basis of compassion – wisdom to understand the causes of others’ sufferings and wisdom to acknowledge the potential for liberation from suffering. Buddhism even goes on to say that compassion and wisdom are the foundations for the emotional well-being of any society. Compassion, practiced in its purest form, is not just about understanding and empathizing with the pain and anguish of others. It is also about empowering others so as to face their problems with courage and unyielding determination. An individual is said to be truly compassionate when he/she is selfless to the point of not expecting a reward or even a statement of gratitude from the beneficiary. Compassion reduces the inclination towards committing cruel acts. A society is peaceful as a whole when its members are understanding of each other rather than being self-serving. This noble quality is essential to every human being. Even the world-renowned Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama believes that it is important to be compassionate even if one chooses to reject subjects such as religion, ideology and knowledge. In order to develop compassion for others, one has to first develop compassion for oneself. While this might sound selfish and even seem at odds with the principle of caring for others, Buddhism believes in the principle of tonglen according to which one can empathize with others’ sufferings only if one is able to connect with one’s own suffering.  In addition to being self-empathetic, one has to curb malicious thoughts such as desire to control and manipulate other people’s lives, ego-centricism and selfish life goals in order to become a compassionate person. While attaining a state of compassion is no easy task for any normal human being, one can take heart from the fact that even the great Gautama Buddha had to undergo a six-year long penance before becoming an enlightened being.

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