Insights into the Stok Guru Tsechu monastic festival by Tashi

stok oracle

04 March 2016

Stok Guru Tsechu is a very unique monastic festival that takes place in the sacred land of Ladakh. Apart from the famous mask dance, its highlight is the awaited oracles’ prediction for the coming year. Guru Rinpoche’s birthday and the Winter Festival The Stok Guru Tsechu Festival is held in the first month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, the holy prayer month. It is celebrated in accordance with Guru Rinpoche’s (Padmasambhava) birthday which falls on the 9th and 10th day of the first Tibetan month.Next year 2017,winter Shamanic festival will be held on 6th to 7th March 2017 and 24th and 25th February in the year 2018. Stok village, where the festival takes place, offers the great view down the valley on the mighty Indus river and the majestic snow-capped Stok Kangri Mountain (6,153m above sea level). Every now and then one gets easily delighted by the festive vibes that the locals emanate in their colourful attire. The day of spiritual gathering and meeting of spiritual masters The monasteries have served as a source of spiritual tutelage in Ladakh for hundreds of years. Every Ladakhi monastery stores centuries-old Buddhist scripts: kagyur (108 texts of Buddhist canons) and tengyur (235 commentaries texts). Monks and nuns residing in monasteries are taught, guided and looked after by an incarnated lama, the head of the monastery. The festival is a platform where villagers take the opportunity to serve their spiritual masters and the monastery in its turn entertains its long-bearing benefactors through a colourful Cham or mask dance. The villagers are introduced to different manifestations of Tantric Buddhas through the means of religious dance performed by the monks who are in turn disguised in sacred costumes, ornaments and huge masks resembling different Buddhas. Cham dance of Laughing Buddha, Mahakala and more Once all the preparations have been done, the series of cham begins. In the morning session starts with the dance of Hashang and Hathuk. Hashang has a bald head, pot belly and a big smile on his face, and he is escorted by his twelve children that all look like him. Hashang or the Laughing Buddha in China is considered the main benefactor of all the Buddhas who will descend to earth to preach the Dharma. The dance of Hashang is followed by the dance of Mahakala, the wrathful form of Buddha of Compassion, who wears a fierce mask topped with skulls. Then, Namse […]

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Tibetan mini prayer flag as vehicle accesory by Sangmo

Tibetan prayer flag

18 February 2016

While cultural assimilation taking place in China occupied Tibet is one of our major contention, the cross adoption of cultural mores in India and other exile diaspora is not analyzed as widely. China’s brutal occupation of Tibet in 1959 that drove His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans  into exile ensued more than just the spread of Tibetan Buddhism to a niche global audience. In the process of adaptation, certain symbols of Tibetan religion and culture took off and gained more grounds than others like the adoption of momo eating culture. A recent trend we  have all noticed is the use of Tibetan prayer flag as interior car accessory strung across inside the rear window of thousands of cars on the streets of Delhi, Shimla, Dharamshala and everywhere. It is also common to come across bike enthusiast embarking on tours to have their cruiser bike handles decorated with the smaller size Tibetan prayer flag. The frequency of such cars that I spotted on my trip to Shimla few weeks ago had me musing on the phenomena. On the face of it,  it seem as if the perennial prayer of the Buddhist to have the Buddha dharma spread far and wide is getting answered as prayer flag is an important symbol of Tibetan Buddhism. Yet, we must step up to capitalize on opportunities such phenomena presents and ensure that they are accompanied by right narrative versus letting it be. Sometimes, widespread incorporation of certain cultural mores could usher in the end of it by inadvertent changes in meaning and symbolism that occur in the process, grateful to have survived. The prayer flag in Tibet is strung high on the mountain peaks, roofs and trees as the Tibetan people believe that the wind that passes over the surface of the flags  gets  sanctified by the mantras and spreads good will and compassion into all pervading space. As the images fade from exposure to the elements, it becomes part of the universe. Tibetans usually hoist new prayer flag of varying size during Losar (Tibetan New Year). The new ones are strung alongside the older ones and really old ones are burned, not disposed. It is also a common practice in Tibet and Tibetan refugee settlement like Ladakh to hoist  lungta(luck) prayer flags on mountain before important life events to garner luck. Monasteries and households in Tibet also erects vertical prayer flag in the courtyard like the one below. Prayer flag can have different […]

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How did Tibet look like before the Chinese Cultural Revolution? by Stéphanie

Two monks

08 February 2016

Tibet, this dream-like mystical land has been untouched by external influence for many centuries, preserving its own unique traditions and lifestyle. After Tibet’s occupation by China in 1959, the history of the roof of the world saw a dramatic and disruptive change. Little was known about this remote isolated plateau called Tibet in the Western world. A German expedition led by Ernst Schafer, a renowned hunter and zoologist, in 1938-1939 is one of the few extraordinary cases of Western visitors in the faraway Tibet. The main purpose of the expedition was to carry out research on landforms, climate, geography and culture as well as establishing German representation. Catch a contemplative view of an authentic yet endangered Tibetan way of life. It is impressive how these snapshots manage to register the culture so well.                                     If you feel inspired and encouraged to undertake a journey of a lifetime to the mysterious Tibet, please contact us for designing a tailor-made trip for you. Be sure to rejoice in the authencity of your experience. Source: Bundesarchiv .

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Healing with Tibetan singing bowls: when it’s a matter of vibrations by Tashi

tibetan bowl

04 February 2016

Have you ever made a Tibetan bowl sing? If so, your mind has probably been marked by the power of its resonance. The sound spreading across the room seems to come from another world, the vibrations flow in benign and soothing waves whose power will never leave you unimpressed. Here is to shed light on a little-known but one of the most efficient therapies. The origin of the bowls No one knows exactly the time the first Tibetan singing bowl dates back to. The mystery that surrounds the origin of this great object accords it more charm. It is estimated that they emerged when the Bon religion, which predates Tibetan Buddhism, was predominant in Tibet. Today they are made of bronze or copper, but originally the bowls were manufactured from seven different metals symbolising the planets: Silver (the Moon) Copper (Venus) Tin (Jupiter) Iron (Mars) Mercury (Mercury) Gold (the Sun) Lead (Saturn) The seven alloys also represent the seven chakras and their resonance balances each other and also the seven days of the week. How to make a Tibetan bowl sing? We can make the bowl vibrate in different ways. There is a variety of different shapes and sizes that produce very distinct sounds just as there is a variety of  stick that helps to produce them. You can strike the bowl more or less gently to hear it ringing until the vibrations die down, or roll the stick around the bowl by holding it like a pen in the manner of a crystal glass that we would make sing with fingers. Therapeutic properties The sound and singing have been used in healing rituals all over the world from time immemorial. Tambourine, rain sticks, gongs, cymbals…the instruments vary depending on their user whether it is a shaman, a priest or a monk reciting mantras. The sound creates a connection to the present moment, and this is more pronounced with Tibetan singing bowls. When you listen to the sound carefully, it will allow you to experience deep meditation. A single session of treatment with singing bowls would have the effect of months of meditation! How is this possible? It is possible because everything is a matter of vibrations. Our body is composed of 65% of water on average. It is this water that will react first to the vibrations of the bowls that are placed all around and on the body. Imagine you throw a stone into the lake; the waves that gets created […]

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III – Khunu Lama: Teachings from his life by Sangmo

Khunu lama teachings

03 February 2016

Khunu lama or Negi lama Tenzin Gyaltsen (1894-1977) was the storehouse of the rich Buddhist tradition and practices passed down from centuries. Buddhism bore the brunt of the 1959 Chinese occupation of Tibet that resulted in the weakenening of the tradition and fate of the many great lama becoming untraceable. In that precarious scenario, Khunu lama was one of the few to have absorbed such vast range of teachings and be able to bequeath the key concepts to the leading lamas of Tibetan Buddhism. Because of Bodhicitta by Khunu Rinpoche “It is because of bodhicitta that one gives up the pleasure of meditative concentration, and in order to relieve others of their suffering goes down to the deepest hell as if into a pleasure park.” Insights Apart from the scholarly teaching,  there are other compelling aspects of his lifestyle as a Buddhist practitioner that we can all learn from… Non Sectarianism Khunu lama cannot be more different from other highly realized lama. He is not only a non-Tibetan but also a layman who practiced Tibetan Buddhism. He remained unordained all his life despite almost always being in the company of ordained monks, lamas and rinpoches. After imbibing the  assorted teachings and practices from masters of all sects, he remained unaffiliated to any particular sect. He continued to emphasize the futility of sectarianism and would give a common book Shantideva’s “Guide to Bodhisattva way of life” to all his students, be it H.H the XIV Dalai lama, Ling Rinpoche or H.H the XVIth Karmapa. He is renowned as one of the most influential teachers in the rime (non-sectarian) movement within  Tibetan Buddhism which was founded in Eastern Tibet during the late 19th century. Lay man Practice In early 20th century and still today, layman or unordained practitioner mostly limit their practice to the surface of the Tibetan Buddhism, leaving the sophisticated applications to the ordained and realized. Khunu lama showed that formally practicing the highbrow teachings as a layman could secure the same profound result and is a great example of that possibility. Mastering the Language Before engaging in Buddhist studies, Khunu lama learned the grammar, composition and literacy of Tibetan language. He considered it a prerequisite to master the Tibetan language, the lingo franca of Buddhism to develop clear understanding of it. He spent more than a year in Sikkim and Khamda monastery polishing the Tibetan language and then after becoming a highly realized master in Tibet, moved to India to learn Sanskrit and spent 6 years perfecting it. The emphasis he put on the proper understanding of the scriptures instead of mechanical learning left traces on the type […]

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Tashi’s Tips for pilgrims attending Kalachakra 2017 by Tashi

Tashi's tips for Kalachakra 2017

01 February 2016

Omalaya Travel is happy to offer its customized Kalachakra tours to India to the devotees wishing to attend the precious Kalachakra 2017 Empowerment teaching. Omalaya-designed spiritual journeys are rooted in individual’s quest for self discovery and we incorporate the same outlook in designing the Kalachakra 2017 tour package. Omalaya Travel operated a successful Kalachakra tour to Ladakh in 2014. Omalaya-led devotees can receive Kalachakra initiation, teaching & empowerment under the expert guidance of tour’s spiritual guides like Geshe Tsering with Dr Chok and Geshe Lobsang with Tulku Phuljung. Thousand of pilgrims will be attending the Kalachakra teaching which is a Buddhist equivalent of Kumbh Mela. Yet many devotees  are ill-prepared for the journey of the lifetime to India. Tashi is  first winner of investment award given by Central Tibetan Administration and  Department of Finance.The award money was made possible with the support of Dalai Lama Foundation, Montreal, Canada. He was recently interviewed by Radio Free Asia for being the only Tibetan inbound tour operator specialised in creating and operating spiritual tours and retreats in India shares  some great insider information on making the pilgrimage to Bodhgaya, the venue for Kalachakra 2017. Tashi organized a successful Kalachakra package tour to Ladakh in 2014 and will be operating a special package tour in January 2017 for the 34th Kalachakra. Omalaya has been recommended by Petit Fute, French travel guide, one of the most innovative travel company of the year 2016. Here are some exclusive tips on attending the H.H the Dalai lama’s Kalachakra teaching. Tip 1 Mind the Fog in Delhi and Northern India As Kalachakra teaching will take place during the winter month of January in India, Delhi would be engulfed in dense fog. Many of trains inbound to Delhi and out runs late and even gets cancelled. So there will be numerous rescheduling of trains. The fog scene affects the operation of flights too but not as much as trains. So, it is a good move to fly few days ahead to Delhi or even better, make arrangement to arrive few days ahead in Bodhgaya or Delhi. Tips 2 Warm outfits and rain gear India in general is very warm but not so during the winter months in Northern India.It could be very cold when fog engulfs as temperature drops to minimum. So bring more warm clothes than you think you’ll need. A rain coat and a boot will be helpful as Bodhgaya can get very muddy as it did […]

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