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Your guide to the holy city of Varanasi by Julianne

The holy city of Varanasi

17 July 2015

Varanasi – one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world with more than three thousand years of documented history. Also known as Kasi or Benares, this city is perhaps as old as civilization itself. Awestruck by the legend of this city, the great English author Mark Twain himself once remarked, ‘Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.’ Apart from being known for its long past, the city occupies a significant and in fact a central position in Hindu religion. It is one of the seven most sacred cities in Hindu mythology. Scores of pilgrims descend upon the hundred odd ghats that line up the river Ganges to take a holy dip which they believe would wash away a lifetime of sins. Hinduism believes in a repetitive cycle of life and death. It is believed that dying here would liberate a person from this cycle and provide him salvation. Every day, at dusk, a ritual known as the Ganga Arti is performed by a group of priests in honor of supreme Hindu God Lord Shiva, River Ganges, the Sun God (Surya), The Fire God (Agni) and the entire Universe. Moreover, the most rigorous rites and rituals pertaining to life and death are performed on banks of the river every day. It is no wonder Varanasi is called the spiritual capital of India. For a first-timer, the experience is likely to be overwhelming. It is easy to become perplexed by the huge maze of narrow alleys, the unrelenting flow of people, the ceaseless chaos and not to mention the annoying touts. However, despite all these hardships, a visit to this city would certainly be a deeply enriching experience. It is no exaggeration to state that Varanasi is a unique ecosystem and the memories of this ancient Indian habitat would linger in your minds even long after you have bid adieu Omalaya organizes two exceptional tours to Varanasi namely ‘Journey to the heart of Indian wisdom’ and ‘Buddha’s Path’. To know more about our Journey to the heart of Indian wisdom, please click here. To know more about our Buddha’s Path, please click here.

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Kalachakra 2017 Preliminary Teachings by Tashi

The Kalachakra temple

14 July 2015

Kalachakra 2017 Preliminary Teachings Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (chodjug) The Chodjug (Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life) was composed by the saint and scholar Shantideva, of Nalanda University, and is used to develop compassion and the experience of ‘void nature’. His Holiness the Dalai Lama considers this preliminary teaching to be more important than the actual Kalachakra initiation. The ancient text gives a concise and comprehensive introduction to the entire practice of Buddhism, guiding both laypersons and the ordained on the path to liberation and enlightenment. It has been used to teach everyone from beggars to kings, in a spirit of friendship and fellow humanity. The Chodjug conveys the meaning of the dharma in easily accessible language and is of special interest to those who wish to take up spiritual practice as a way of life. It covers Mahayana Buddhism’s core practical philosophy of compassion and has been widely quoted by Tibet’s great masters and scholars. Shantideva’s “A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life” We thank His Holiness, our kind teacher, for illuminating the path of the Bodhisattva and guiding us at Kalachakra 2017 ‒ a celebration of the life of each and every human being on the earth and our potential for love, compassion and wisdom. If you like to attend Kalachakra 2017, you can suscribe to our special journey by clicking here. Suggested Reading:       

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Dharamshala – A Tibet in exile by Stéphanie

Moine kora Dharamshala

23 June 2015

Dharamsala is situated in the foothills of the Himalayan Dhauladhar Range, in Himachal Pradesh, northern India. The area is a global, cultural and religious meeting point, where first- and second-generation Tibetan monks and refugees rub shoulders with local Gaddi villagers, Kashmiri businesspeople and travellers from all over the world. It offers a huge diversity of sights, activities and attractions. Dharamsala is divided into four main areas – McLeodganj, Bhagsunag, Lower Dharamsala and Naddi. McLeodganj was named after David McLeod, the British Empire’s Lieutenant Governor of Punjab. It is now the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. During high season, the town throngs with tourists and spiritual pilgrims. McLeodganj’s major landmark is the Thekchen Choling, which houses the Dalai Lama’s residence and the Tsuglagkang (main temple). Of simple design, and built from concrete, the complex provides Tibetan refugees with a gathering place for prayer. Its plainness reflects the Dalai Lama’s decision not to build in lavish Tibetan style, but rather to respect the refugee community’s limited means. Radiating from the main square, McLeodganj’s narrow streets are lined with hotels, internet cafes, shops and stalls, selling everything from Kashmiri shawls to goat-blood sausages, turquoise and coral jewellery, musical instruments and Tibetan hand-made paper. The town’s restaurants range from Tibetan to Punjabi, Italian, French, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Israeli. Adjacent to the main temple are the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics and Namgyal Monastery, from amongst whose monks the Dalai Lama’s personal attendants are chosen. The Mani Path, behind the palace, leads to a home for retired members of the Tibetan administration. A five-minute taxi ride down the steep jeep road towards Dharamsala lies the Gangchen Kyishong, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Here, the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies oversees the running of all government departments, including religion, culture, education, health and finance, as well as contributing to the struggle for a free Tibet. The government complex also houses the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives which, built in 1971, contains statues, paintings and books, many of which were salvaged from Tibetan monasteries and temples by escaping refugees. Two minutes’ further walk takes you to the Men Tse Kang Tibetan Medical and Astrological Centre. The medical centre contains the largest Tibetan pharmacy outside of Tibet, to which staff bring medicinal plants gathered from around Himachal Pradesh for processing. Lower Dharamsala was founded as a military cantonment by the British in […]

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Ladakh Festivals date 2015 to 2020 by Stéphanie

Festival in Zanskar

06 June 2015

Throughout the world, festivals are great expressions of the joy of life. We offer the chance to experience the monastic festivals of Ladakh, with their ancient rituals, which connect the energy of the self with that of nature and the universe. Many Ladakhi festivals are held in winter – a relatively idle time for most of the population – and involve dance-dramas performed by lamas attired in colourful robes and masks. Monks mime aspects of Buddhist religion, such as the progress of the individual soul and its purification, and the triumph of good over evil, to the accompaniment of complex chants in Tibetan and Sanskrit. The festivals are generally held to commemorate the establishment of a particular monastery, the birth anniversary of its patron saint, or a major event in the history of Buddhism. Discover Ladakh Festivals Calendar:

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Rishikesh, a perfect place for inner connection by Maryama

Rishikesh by night

05 June 2015

Throughout ancient Hindu times, saints and sages have traveled to Rishikesh in search of a higher awareness through meditation. Hindu’s believe this beautiful city to be one of the holiest in all of India. Westerner’s commonly know it as the yoga capital of the world. And all those who visit know it to be a powerfully transformative and breathtaking place. Located in northern India in the state of Uttarakhand, Rishikesh is the gateway of the Himalayas and it is here that Mother Ganga leaves the mountains, flowing out toward the plains on its way to Varanasi. Legends tell of Lord Rama doing penance here after killing Ravana, of Lord Agni meditating here after he angered Lord Vishnu, and other great Indian sages like Rishi Vashishta meditating in nearby caves for thousands of years, thus building up a powerful energy to the area that is still felt today. Yoga capital of the world Because it is a holy city, Rishikesh is vegetarian by law. You will not find meat or alcohol served within the city. What you will find are a cornucopia of yoga ashrams and studios, yoga teachers and students, and an atmosphere of learning and seeking. Famous yoga ashrams like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram, made famous by The Beatles, Shivananda’s Divine Life Society, and Kailash Ashram Brahmavidyapitham, a 133 year old ashram dedicated to preserving and spreading Vedantic studies, are some of many beautiful institutions found here. Since 1999, the Parmarth Niketan ashram has been hosting the annual International Yoga Festival. The festival attracts serious yogis from across the globe who come to deepen and expand their yoga practice. In Rishikesh, and throughout India, yoga practice is not simply about asana. Serious students of yoga come here to meditate, to learn kriya and pranayama, to study Vedanta, and to immerse themselves in the yogic lifestyle. It is here, in Mother India, that yoga moves beyond the physical and into the inner world. Though the practice of the eight limbs of yoga (yama, niyama, asana, meditation, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana, and dhyana) students move deeper into their practice. Source of the Mother Ganga Each evening people gather on the banks of Mother Ganga near Parmarth Niketan ashram for aarti. Aarti is a Hindu ritual in which small fire offerings are made to various deities. In Rishikesh the aarti’s are lead by the children of the ashrams. The ceremony begins with chantings […]

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Indo-Tibetan Psychology Inner Journey into oneself by Stéphanie

Landscape in Ladakh

04 June 2015

Over the past three decades, Tibetan philosophy and psychology have become important focuses of spiritual interest to the world and offer practical tools for negotiating your relationships with yourself and others. Indo-Tibetan Psychology The 2,500-year-old tradition of internal Indo-Tibetan psychology is human civilisation’s longest uninterrupted internal science. Its fundamental philosophy is the interconnectedness of body and mind at the subtlest level – known as Sem Kyi Rig Gnas – knowledge of which leads to physical and mental health and well-being. Tibetan psychology is a science, an art and a philosophy. It is scientific in that its principles are enumerated in a systematic, logical framework based on the investigation and an understanding of the dynamic working relationship between body and mind in relationship to universe. It is an art in that consultation is based on the insight and the compassion of the therapist, which opens up the creativity and inner resources of the client. It is a philosophy in that it embraces the causal nature of all phenomena and the ethics of altruism. Tibetan Art of Relationships Indo-Tibetan psychology offers a gateway, via inner experience, to the nature of the relationship between oneself and others, and our experience of reality. This workshop breaks new ground in practical meditation exercises, philosophy and psychology, and provides practical tools to help integrate experiential knowledge with inner development and well-being. Benefits of Tibetan Psychology In the modern world, our need for greater speed of thought pushes us away from our internal selves and creates disharmony of body and mind. The understanding and application of psychology in our daily lives reduces the resulting stress, depression, isolation and anxiety. The Tibetan psychologist’s openness and compassion facilitate a genuine proximity with the client. The enhancement of self-awareness in the moment requires us to be aware of our feelings, which determine our experience of reality. The key to this is to be in touch with our bodies moment by moment, and thus gain entry to our inner home, where we find a natural sense of self. The river only flows because it changes with the moment. Many people who have experienced Indo-Tibetan psychology report that they : Have genuine, increased control over their lives. Have taken active reponsibility for their own well-being. Have richer, more harmonious relationships with themselves and others. Are more self-aware and able to remedy negative experiences more quickly. Inhabit your body! Inhabit your senses! Feel […]

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