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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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Discover Bylakuppe by Maryama

Namdroling monastery in Bylakuppe

21 May 2015

Bylakuppe – a quiet and sleepy town located in the Southern part of the Indian state of Karnataka. It is easy to dismiss this tiny hamlet as an obscurity but there’s more to this town than meets the eye. It is home to the biggest Tibetan settlement in South India. Thousands of Tibetans have made Bylakuppe their home. What started has a refugee camp for Tibetans who fled their homeland during the 1959 Chinese invasion has now become a thriving ecosystem in itself. A quick stop at Bylakuppe is more than sufficient to get a flavour of the Tibetan culture, architecture, religion and cuisine. The town is build around the ornately designed Namdroling monastery, the largest teaching centre for the Nyingma school of Buddhism. Nyingma is the oldest of the four major categories of Tibetan Buddhism. Many ceremonies are conducted in the monastery every year, the grandest of them being the Tibetan New Year Losar (usually in the month of February or March). The celebrations run for over a week during which Lamas (Buddhist monks and nuns) take turns to conduct non-stop prayer sessions. The monastery also contains the Golden Temple which houses the three deities Guru Padmasambhava, Buddha and Amitayus. The statues are eighteen feet tall, plated with gold and seated next to each other. The atmosphere is breathtaking when the prayer sessions are in progress. Hundreds of monks chant verses in unison while drums and gongs ring out loudly. Zangogpalri temple, relatively modest when compared to the Golden Temple, is also part of the Namdroling monastery. The Sera Mey monastery and the Serpom monastery are some of the other places of interest in Bylakuppe.

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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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Long-life empowerment ceremony in Kalachakra initiation by Julianne

Long life empowerment ceremony

18 May 2015

Kalachakra initiation is a very important ceremony in Buddhist tradition. It is an intense process of prayers, rituals and rites through which pupils are empowered to attain Buddhahood. The initiation is given by his Holiness the Dalai Lama and the entire ceremony lasts for 12 days. Usually the final day of the Kalachakra initiation is dedicated to a long-life empowerment ceremony. Prayers are given so that his Holiness and all the participants may all have a very long, happy and fulfilling life. According to Buddhist traditions, it is believed that if a spiritual leader dies it is because inhabitants of another realm want him to come and share his wisdom and knowledge with them. In order to postpone this moment and lengthen his stay on this world, special prayers and offerings are made on the final day. The three deities associated with long life are Amitayus, White Tara and Ushnishavijaya. Among these deities,  Tara is associated with purity and the special quality of removing obstacles in people’s lives and thereby enhancing the quality and longevity of their life. It is on this deity that the Kalachakra empowerment rituals are usually performed. Once the empowerment ceremony is completed, long-life offerings are made to the Dalai Lama. The offering involves chanting of a lineage prayer and a show of respect by the Monks and the Oracles. It is quite common to see a few devotees get possessed during this event and such devotees to get an opportunity to pay their respects to his Holiness. Members of various communities too take this opportunity to give offerings to his Holiness. The ceremony witnesses participants from all around the world. The last Kalachakra initiation was held in Ladakh in northern India and was attended by over 150000 people. The next Kalachakra initiation is scheduled to be held from 14 to 25 January, 2016 in Bodh Gaya , India. You too can participate in the Kalachakra initiation and the long-life empowerment ceremony. For more information, please click here. To watch our video about Kalachakra 2016, please click here.

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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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