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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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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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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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