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A guide to the Kalachakra Mandala by Julianne

The Kalachakra mandala

07 May 2015

The term mandala literally means a circle or sphere. In religious context it means wholeness, unity or completion. The Tibetan equivalent for mandala is gyilkhor. It is a combination of two words gyil meaning centre and khor meaning surroundings. Hence, in Tibetan tradition, mandala means the centre and the surroundings which cannot exist independent of each other but they complement each other and when combined together they form a totality. The term Kalachakra is derived from two words Kala meaning time and Chakra meaning wheel. This concept is symbolized as a deity which signifies ‘the wheel of time’ whereby the events of the universe are considered to be cyclical in nature and therefore life itself is ephemeral in nature. In case of the Kalachakra mandala, it includes the deity Kalachakra seated at the centre of his palace and many other components and symbols, each with a significant meaning, occupying the surroundings. Kalachakra is made up of five fundamental concepts namely great bliss, wisdom, body, mind and speech. The mandala is a huge palace constructed in such a way that it reflects each of these concepts: The ground level has 4 huge entrances to the palace and it represents the Body mandala. The Speech mandala is located on a platform inside the body mandala and it is also similar in structure to the body mandala. Within the speech mandala, the Mind mandala is erected which has two more levels representing wisdom and great bliss. The Wisdom mandala rises nearly 25 arm-spans above the mind mandala. Finally, the Great bliss mandala is located on a platform in the wisdom mandala and consists of a magnificent green lotus that acts as the seat of the Kalachakra deity and his consort Vishvamata. The grand five-storey palace houses 722 deities in all with the principal deity and his consort present together in a blissful state at the top storey. It is quite common two see two-dimensional images of the Kalachakra mandala in various Buddhist temples. These images are a representation of the floor plan of the palace of the Kalachakra deity. The mandala images are commonly used by Buddhist practitioners as a tool to aid them in the path towards spiritual enlightenment.

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The Tsuglakhang temple in Dharamshala by Stéphanie

30 April 2015

Through this write-up, we aim to provide you with the significant facets of the temple: Buddha Sakyamuni Positioned at the centre of the temple, the idol of Buddha Sakyamuni represents the sage Gautama Buddha. He is the most important figure in religion and his discourses, principles and life accounts formed the bedrock on which the religion was built and followed by people. Made of gilded bronze, the statue of Buddha is about nine feet high and is seated atop a bronze lotus structure. Guru Padma Sambhava The idol of Guru Padma Sambhava is placed to the right of Buddha Sakyamuni. Padma Sambhava, also known popularly as Guru Rinpoche, is a Buddhist guru who is said to have overcome the forces of evil in Tibet and planted the seeds for the growth of Buddhist dharma and philosophies in that region. The idol is placed in such a way that the guru is seen facing Tibet. At twelve feet tall, the structure is even taller than the main Buddha Sakyamuni idol and it is also made of gilded bronze. Avalokiteshvara Avalokiteshvara is an enlightened being who is a symbol of compassion and love. The facial image of the deity is a picture of calmness and serenity, unlike the courage and vigour exuded by that of Padma Sambhava. The sculptors ensured that this idol reflected the Tibetan image of Avalokiteshvara. The deity has eleven faces, a thousand arms and an equal number of eyes. It is indeed noteworthy that the architects managed to fit in such intricate detail into a thirteen feet tall structure. Prayer wheels The walls of the temple contain metallic prayer wheels and each wheel is inscribed with Buddhist prayer mantras. It is believed that if a person rotates the wheels, then he/she would be bestowed with the power of the mantras carved on the wheels. On a crowded day, one can see the wheels spinning ceaselessly as devotee after devotee awaits his/her turn to spin the wheel. Kora Devotees usually undertake the customary Kora – a sacred walk in the clockwise around the Tsuglakhang temple complex. The walk begins to the left of the temple entrance and continues along a circuitous path around the temple complex. The narrow path passes through the woods around the temple and it takes usually 20-30 minutes to complete one round. The route is adorned with player flags and prayer wheels that symbolise the […]

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Kalachakra temple in Dharamshala by Julianne

The Kalachakra mandala

30 April 2015

The Kalachakra temple is located inside the Thekchen Chöling temple complex in Mcleodganj in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh in India. The temple complex also houses the Namgyal monastery, the private chambers of his Holiness the Dalai Lama and the famous Tsuglakhang temple. Opened in the year 1992, the Kalachakra temple is a symbol of the concept in Buddhist religion known popularly as ‘The wheel of time’. Kalachakra is a combination of two Sanskrit words Kāla (meaning: time) and Chakra (meaning: wheel). Kalachakra is a notion that Buddhist philosophies and even the Hindu religion strongly believe in. According to this notion, Time is considered to be a cyclical concept whereby the timeline of the world is divided into certain ages or epochs and they repeat after one another in a circular pattern. In the Buddhist tradition, there are important rituals associated with Kalachakra. At the temple, monks perform Kalachakra empowerment procedures that they believe would enhance the spirituality of the environment and further the cause of peace and harmony among human beings. Apart from being the site for Buddhist rites and rituals, the Kalachakra temple is also a regular venue for public meetings and discourses conducted by his holiness the Dalai Lama. The temple is perhaps one of the best examples of Kalachakra-based architectural style. A huge mural adorns the wall and at the centre of the wall, the principal god of Buddhism – Shakayamuni Buddha is portrayed in a Kalachakra avatar. Surrounding the image of Shakayamuni are the frescos of seven hundred and twenty two deities. The Kalachakra consists of four aspects namely wisdom, body, mind and speech. The image of the Buddha at the centre represents wisdom while the deities surrounding him represent body, mind and speech. It is reported that the Dalai Lama himself personally monitored the progress of the mural painting right from the start to finish. The adjacent walls features the portraits of the 14th Dalai Lama and thirty two Shamblala kings of whom the first seven are called Maharajas (Great kings) and the rest are known as Kalkis. Images of Tibetan deities such as Guru Padma Sambhava, Milarepa, Palden Lhamo, Yamantaka, Atisha and Tsongkhapa can also be seen in this temple.

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Kanyakumari – the abode of the child Goddess by Stéphanie

Kanyakumari

29 April 2015

Kanyakumari, or Cape Comorin as it is popularly known, is the southern-most point in India. The town is noteworthy for it is located at the confluence of the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, the three massive water bodies that surround the Indian peninsula. Devotees soak themselves in these waters in the belief that these waters hold divine powers that wash away their sins. The name Kanyakumari itself is derived from the name of a Hindu deity just like many other Indian cities. The name is attributed to Goddess Devi Kanya Kumari, the sister of the Hindu God Krishna. The Kanya Kumari temple is dedicated to this deity and attracts fervent followers from all across the country. The temple is also believed to be one of the 51 Shakti peethas in the Indian subcontinent. A Shakti peetha (peetha means abode) is a Hindu temple ordained to the Goddess Shakti (also known as Sati), the principal female deity of the Hindu religion. Unlike other Shakti peethas, the Goddess here is in the form of an adolescent child and she is said to bestow upon her worshippers a peace of mind and a tranquil life.  Some ardent believers who have difficulties finding a good life partner even believe that worshipping her would bring them suitable marital prospects. Surprisingly, she is also perceived as a symbol of sanyasa which is a stage in a devout Hindu’s life that involves renunciation of all worldly and materialistic possessions. Though the exact date of construction of the temple is not clearly known, the shrine  is believe to be many a century old as it finds a mention in ancient Sanskrit literature such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha. Though the temple is located in the state of Tamil Nadu, the rites and rituals performed in the temple mirror that of a typical temple in Kerala, the neighbouring state. This is because the town was a part of Travancore state (erstwhile name of Kerala) until 1956 when the Government of India deemed Kanyakumari to be a part of Tamil Nadu. Though the town swapped states, the traditions continue to be carried across generations.

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Bodhgaya: the birthplace of Buddhism by Maryama

Bodhgaya

24 April 2015

Bodhgaya is perhaps the most sacred site for the followers of Buddhism. Located in the Indian state of Bihar, it is the place where Gautama Buddha, the sage whose teachings are the foundations on which the religion is established, is said to have attained enlightenment after a six-year long penance. According to Buddhist literature, the term Enlightenment means a state of awakening that helps one acquire profound knowledge about the universal truths sought by mankind. Legend has it that Buddha performed deep meditations under a sacred fig tree known as the Bodhi tree before attaining enlightenment. Buddhist texts even suggest that Buddha was extremely grateful to the tree because he believed that it catalysed his quest for enlightenment. Though the original tree is long gone, the followers planted a new tree and continued the tradition every time the tree was cut down or died due to old age. The Bodhi tree that is currently in existence in Bodhgaya is called the Sri Maha Bodhi and was planted more than a hundred years ago at the exact same spot as the original tree. In fact, the Bodhi tree has become a symbol of Buddhist religion and it can be seen in every Buddhist monastery around the world. The Sri Maha Bodhi tree is located inside the Maha Bodhi temple (Maha Bodhi means great awakening) complex. A UNESCO World heritage site, the temple is the seat of the Buddhist religion and was originally founded by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in the third century BC. The temple underwent significant restorations and renovations before transforming into its current form. A majestic fifty-metre tall spire rises above the sanctum that houses a bright golden-coloured, two metre tall statue of Lord Buddha. The temple complex itself is one of the four Buddhist shrines that have a direct association with the life of Buddha (the others being Sarnath, Lumbini and Kushinagar). In addition to the main Maha Bodhi temple, many temples and monasteries add colour to the gorgeous canvas of Bodhgaya. Many of them have been built by foreign Buddhist communities in their traditional national style. Visitors would be fortunate enough to witness temples modelled on Thai, Bhutanese, Vietnamese and Japanese architecture at the same place. It is indeed a pleasure to witness the fusion of architectural styles from different cultures at Bodhgaya, the quaint little town in the Indian hinterland that gave this world Gautama Buddha.

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