Omalaya director Tashi Gyalpo talks about Eastern spirituality by Stéphanie

30 April 2015

Tashi Gyalpo, founder-director of the spiritual travel company Omalaya, talks about Eastern spirituality and inner search for meaning in an interview on the popular online television show The Juicy Living Tour. The show is hosted by Lilou Mace who has interviewed hundreds of scientists, authors and popular speakers around the world about the aspects of attaining a happy, healthy and fulfilling life. These interviews are posted on Lilou Mace TV website. Moreover, her YouTube channel which has been subscribed by almost 90000 people and has had nearly 30 million views.  

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Guidelines for Indian e-tourist visa by Julianne

E tourist visa guidelines

30 April 2015

The Government of India recently announced electronic visa facility for 43 countries. E-visa enables foreign tourists to arrive in India without possessing a physical visa. From June 15, 2015 foreign nationals from 31 other countries, in addition to the 43 countries currently in place, would be eligible for e-tourist visa. E-tourist visa is not Visa-on-arrival It is important to note that the e-visa facility offered by the government is not the same as Visa-on-arrival. Visa-on-arrival is an option where tourists can obtain a visa after reaching the intended destination. However, e-tourist visa has to be obtained a minimum of 4 days before the date of arrival in India. Many tourists misinterpret e-tourist visa to be visa-on-arrival and arrive in India without obtaining a visa. However, such individuals are asked to go back to the country. How to obtain an E-visa? Click here to apply for your e-tourist visa: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html List of eligible countries The table below lists the countries that are currently eligible for e-tourist visa The table below lists the countries that would be eligible for e-tourist visa from June 15, 2015. Important guidelines Individuals travelling for the purpose of leisure, medical treatment for short duration, casual business visit and meeting with friends or relatives are eligible to apply. The required fee is 62 USD. The facility is currently available at nine Indian airports: Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Goa, Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. From June 15, 2015 the facility would be extended to seven more Indian airports: Jaipur, Amritsar, Gaya, Lucknow, Trichy, Varanasi and Ahmedabad.

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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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Religion and spirituality: How are they different? by Maryama

HH the Dalai Lama

30 April 2015

The debate about spirituality and religion is not new. More often than not, a lot of us tend to use these two terms interchangeably. While there is no denying that religion and spirituality can be intertwined, there are very clear distinctions between the two in certain aspects. To understand these differences, let us first clearly define what a religion is and what spirituality is. A religion is a particular system of faith and belief where the followers worship a particular superhuman power or powers. Many religions around the world have their own set of scriptures, holy places of worship, organized practices and behaviours, members of the clergy and a set of codes that define membership and devotion to the religion. Spirituality, on the other hand covers a broad spectrum of themes out of which religion is just one. The term spirituality is derived from the Latin word spiritus which means the ‘the vital principle in man’. Therefore, spirituality can be described as the process of personal transformation in order to realize one’s vital principle or one’s search for meaning in life. The tenets of spirituality often times overlap with the principles of religion. This is because many religions around the world have narratives, symbols and sacred histories that aim to explain the meaning of life. People derive their sense of morality, ethics, behaviour and lifestyle from their religious beliefs. However it is these exact concepts that spirituality also tends to address and therefore we see that spirituality is interlaced with religion in these aspects. However, overlapping features doesn’t mean that religion and spirituality are one and the same. In fact, in many occasions they are at odds with each other. The biggest such difference is that religion is collective while spirituality is individualistic. All the major religions in the world define a set of codes of conduct that the followers of the religion must abide by. On the other hand, one individual’s process of personal transformation might be different from the other and therefore each individual would view spirituality from a different perspective. For instance, Mother Theresa found meaning in serving the poor while Mahatma Gandhi found meaning in fighting for the freedom of his fellow countrymen. The second major difference is that Religion tells us to follow a particular ideology or obey a certain set or rules while spirituality lets us follow our heart and do what we feel […]

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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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