Kochi is a blissful fusion of religious faiths by Julianne

Kochi a blissful fusion of religious faiths

11 May 2015

The sea-side metropolis of Kochi is one of the biggest cities in Kerala, the South Indian state that is known popularly as God’s own country primarily for its lush green landscapes dotted by pristine backwaters and lagoons. Kochi acts as a gateway to many popular tourist destinations in Kerala such as Munnar, Alleppey, Wayanad, Thekkadi etc. However, Kochi is a unique in itself for it is a prime example of peaceful coexistence of major religions. The followers of the world’s major faiths – Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism and Buddhism – all form a part of the Kochi cityscape. In a country where more than 80% of the people follow Hinduism, Kochi stands as an exception because just one out of every two residents of the city is a Hindu. The existence of a healthy mixture of religious faiths in this region is due to the fact that it witnessed many waves of migrations during the course of its history. For instance, records establish the creation of settlements by Jews in Kodungallur, a port near Kochi, in the first century AD. It is believed that Saint Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, arrived in Kerala in 52 AD and laid the foundations for the spread of Christianity. Today, the descendants of St.Thomas Christians call themselves Syrian Christians, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. The city’s Islamic history can be traced back to the eighth century. As early as 3rd century B.C, Buddhism finds a mention in Malayali (Malayalam is the language spoken by the locals) literature. There is a significant presence of Jainism and Sikhism as well. The atmosphere in the city is filled with religious harmony and is evident from the presence of shrines for every major religion. Each individual follows the faith of his choice and at the same time acknowledge the presence of other religious faiths. Some of the renowned religious abodes in the city are: Santa Cruz Basilica With a history spanning more than five hundred years, Santa Cruz Basilica is one of the oldest churches in India. Renowned for its grand décor, the church was constructed in gothic-style architecture. Though it was deemed as a cathedral for most of its timespan, it received the status of a Basilica from Pope John Paul II in the year 1984. Apart from being a centre for religious congregation, the basilica receives […]

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Omalaya teaches you how to make Momos by Maryama

11 May 2015

A momo is a dumpling that traces its origins to Nepal and Tibet. Today it is a popular dish not just in Tibet and Nepal but also in India. While it is a staple diet in Nepal, it is seen more as a quick snack in India. Although, in recent times, many variants have spawned to cater to the local cuisine, the recipe for making a momo remains pretty much the same. Watch this short video to learn how to make momos. The detailed recipe for making momos is given below: A momo consists of two parts – the outer covering and the inner filling. To make the outer covering: To make the outer covering, mix wheat flour, salt and a spoon of oil in a bowl. Add water in little quantities and slowly but firmly knead the dough. Set aside the dough in a closed container for nearly half an hour. Take a small portion of the dough and roll it till it becomes a small circle of 5-7 centimetres in diameter. To make the inner filling: When it comes to preparing the inner filling, the choices are virtually unlimited. One can choose from  plain vegetables to chicken or mutton or a combination of meat and vegetables. Chop the required filling to very small pieces and fry for a few minutes in an oil-pan. Add garlic, pepper and onion to enhance the taste of the filling. Once it is appropriately fried, take a small quantity of the filling and cover it with the dough. Steam boil the raw momo for 20 minutes and Voila! You have fresh momos ready 🙂 For more videos from Omalaya, kindly visit our Youtube page.

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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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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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Buddhism and its four noble truths by Maryama

Buddhism and its four noble truths

05 May 2015

Buddhism is a major religion with nearly 500 million followers around the world. A religion that traces its origin to more than 2500 years ago, Buddhism is built on a set of fundamental principles known as the ‘Four noble truths’. They are: Dukkha Dukkha states that any phenomenon that is temporary or conditional is not  gratifying and is therefore a pain or suffering. Interestingly, when one views from the perspective of Dukkha, even life seems temporary and conditional. Buddhism even goes on to say that life is a suffering because it is impermanent. Samudhaya Since our very existence is not everlasting, chasing worldly pleasures and delights and expecting them to give us everlasting joy and happiness is a myopic venture. Samudhaya is a principle that says that the root cause of all suffering is desire. In the unquenchable thirst for worldly pleasures, we consume ourselves and in the end become frustrated and unhappy. Nirodha All our pursuits are subject to the cycle of birth, aging, sickness and eventually death and  therefore ephemeral in nature. Once we realise this, we can begin to control our cravings and start experiencing a peace of mind and happiness that is much more valuable that all the commonplace pleasures that we usually seek. Magga Magga is the medication that can cure us from our sufferings. According to Magga, suffering can be completely eliminated by correctly following a eight-fold path namely: right view, right thoughts, right language, right deeds, right livelihood, right efforts, right mindfulness and right concentration.

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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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