Posts Tagged ‘Tibet

18
Mar
12

Wisdom from Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama Buddha was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded.  The word Buddha is a title for the first awakened being in an era.

“A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker.”

Buddha

In most Buddhist traditions, Siddhartha Gautama is regarded as the Supreme Buddha of our age, “Buddha” meaning “awakened one” or “the enlightened one.”Siddhartha Gautama may also be referred to as Gautama Buddha or as Śākyamuni. The Buddha found a Middle Way that ameliorated the extreme asceticism found in the Sramana religions.

“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.”

Buddha

The time of Gautama’s birth and death are uncertain: most early 20th-century historians dated his lifetime as 563 BCE to 483 BCE.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.”

Buddha

UNESCO lists Lumbini, Nepal, as a world heritage site and birthplace of Gautama Buddha. There are also claims about birth place of Gautama Buddha to be Kapilavastu in Uttar Pradesh, or Kapileswara in Orissa. He later taught throughout regions of eastern India such as Magadha and Kośala.

“The wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve.”

Buddha

Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarized after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition, and first committed to writing about 400 years later.

“I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.”

Buddha
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17
Apr
11

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet: The Panchen Lama’s seat

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is seat to the Panchen Lama, the second most imporant leader of Tibet. It is one of the Six Big Monasteries of The Gelugpa (or Yellow Hat Sect) in Tibet.

Also called the Heap of Glory, the monastery is located at the foot of Drolmari (Tara’s Mountain) in Shigatse. Founded by the First Dailai Lama in 1447, the monastery’s structure was expanded by the Fourth and successive Panchen Lamas. Tashi Lhunpo Monastery covers an area of nearly 300.000 square meters (3.229.779 sq. ft.). The main structures found in the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery are The Maitreya Chapel, The Panchen Lama’s Palace and The Kelsang Temple.

Standing on the entrance of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery, visitors can see the grand buildings with golden roofs and white walls. The remarkable Thangka Wall which is nine floors high was built in 1468. The wall displays the images of Buddha on the 14th, 15th and 16th of May every year following the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. The images are so humongous that one can easily see it from Shigatse City. Visitors can find The Maitreya Chapel by strolling into the monastery on the west side of Tashi Lhunpo. You can tour the upper floors of the chapel using a wooden staircase to appreciate the superb skill of the Tibetans.

The Kelsang Temple is one of the oldest and biggest buildings in Tashi Lhunpo. It is a colossal compound. The Main Chanting Hall is a place for lamas to learn the sutras and listen to the Panchen Lama’s sermon.  Besides the grand palace and gigantic statues, the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery also treasures characteristic wall paintings. Because of the variety of shapes, resplendent colors and exquisite painting, the murals are considered to be another masterpiece of Buddhist art.

15
Mar
11

Gyantse, Tibet – Kumbum Stupa and Palkhor Monastery

The Palkhor Monastery lies in Gyantse, about 230 kilometers south of Lhasa in Southwest  Tibet and 100 kilometers east of the Shigatse Prefecture, at the foot of Dzong Hill.

It is well-known for its Kumbum, which has 108 chapels in its four floors. The multi-storied Kumbum Stupa was crowned with a golden dome and umbrella, surrounded with more chapels filled with unique religious statues and murals.
The monastery was founded in 1418 by the second Prince of Gyantse, Rabten Kunsang, who was a devotee of Kedrub Je, Tsongkapa’s disciple. It became an important centre of the Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1904, the town and monastery were attacked by British soldiers, most of the damages were later restored, but bullet holes from this attack remain there up to now. It was partially destroyed in 1959 after a revolt against Chinese ruling class and again was damaged in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), but has since been largely restored.

The compound housed approximately 15 different monasteries, made up of three different sects (Gelugpa, Sakyapa, and Kahdampa) in a rare instance of tolerance amongst the Tibetan sects of Buddhism. It is the only monastery that housed monks from different sects in harmony. Meanwhile, its structural style, enshrined deities, and murals are pretty special.

Palkhor Monastery is most famous for its Bodhi stupa (Kumbum in Tibetan, meaning hall of 10.000 Buddhist figures).

As the symbol of the monastery, the spectacular stupa (Buddhist shrine) consists of hundreds of chapels in layers, housing a hundred thousand figures of Buddha or so, Bodhisattvas, Vajras (thunderbolt symbols), Dharma Kings, Arhats (enlightened Buddhists), and disciples and great experts of different orders in Tibetan Buddhist history. The stupa also contains about 3,000 statues of outstanding figures in Tibetan history such as Songtsen Gampo and Trisong Detsen, so it is also called Myriad Buddha Stupa.

Covering a space of 2,200 square meters, the stupa has a total 108 gates and 77 chapels, each of which has a dominant religious figure and murals. The cylinder, 20 meters in diameter, has four chapels inside. This graceful structure is one of the most visited places in Tibet.

05
Mar
11

March 5th: Tibetan New Year 2011

The Tibetan New year, known as ‘Losar’, is the most important festival in the Tibetan calendar. The ‘Losar’ festival is celebrated by Tibetan people, and is marked by ancient ceremonies that represent the struggle between good and evil, by chanting, and by the passing of torches through the crowds. A certain amount of levity is provided by events such as the ‘dance of the deer’ and the amusing ‘battles between the King and his various ministers’. The ‘Losar’ festival is characterized especially by its music, dance, and a general spirit of merrymaking. The 2011 Tibetan New Year takes place on 5th, March. To honor the Tibetan people, and to declare them my sympathy, I’m publishing some of my  Tibetan images together with this article.

‘Losar’, the Tibetan word for New Year, is composed to two characters: ‘Lo’, which means “year”; and ‘Sar’, which means “new”. The celebration of ‘Losar’ can be traced back to Tibet’s pre-Buddhist period. At that time, Tibetans were followers of the Bon religion, and held a spiritual ceremony every winter. During the Bon celebrations, people would burn large quantities of incense on a certain day of the year, in order to appease local spirits, deities and protectors. When Buddhism arrived in Tibet, the older “heathen” ceremony of Bon was simply incorporated into the Buddhist tradition of Tibet, becoming the Buddhist ‘Losar’ festival. The Buddhist ‘Losar’ festival originated during the reign of Pude Gungyal, the ninth King of Tibet. 

The Tibetan calendar consists of twelve lunar months, and ‘Losar’ begins on the first day of the first lunar month. However, in Tibetan-Buddhist monasteries, the celebrations for ‘Losar’ begin on the twenty-ninth day of the twelfth month. That is the day before ‘Losar’s Eve’. On that day, monasteries do a special kind of ritual in preparation for the ‘Losar’ celebrations. Also on that day, a special kind of noodle called ‘Guthuk’, which is made of nine different ingredients, including dried cheese and various grains, is made. In addition, people place various ingredients such as chilies, salt, wool, rice and coal inside dough balls, which are then handed out,. The ingredients that one finds hidden in one’s dough ball are supposed to be a lighthearted comment on one’s character, in the spirit of a Chinese fortune cookie.

On New Year’s Day itself, Tibetans rise early, and, after having taken a bath and gotten dressed, they proceed to the household shrine in order to pay homage to the gods in the form of offerings. These usually consist of animal and demon shapes made from a kind of dough called ‘Torma’. In addition, it is on New Year’s Day that family and friends exchange gifts, much like people in the West exchange gifts on Christmas Day. Families and friends also share a hearty meal together, which usually consists of a kind of cake called ‘Kapse’, and an alcoholic beverage called ‘Chang’, which was traditionally drunk in order to keep warm.

On the first day of the New Year, celebrations are usually restricted to the immediate family. The city’s or village’s streets are generally very quite on this day. The second day of ‘Losar’ is the day for visiting with friends and relatives. On the third day, Tibetans in Lhasa especially visit the local monasteries, where they make offerings. Tibetan New Year usually last 15 days. Traditional ways of celebrating ‘Losar’ have changed somewhat through time. For example, fireworks is a relatively recent addition to ‘Losar’, but have grown in popularity until today they are possibly ‘Losar’s’ main attraction (at least among youths). These days, on the first day of New Year, good tidings ring out all across the country by means of the electronic media, and New Year celebrations are broadcast on television throughout the country.

22
Feb
11

The beautiful scenery of Tibet in autumn: The side of Yarlung Tsangpo River

There is a Galaxy in the heaven and a Sky River on the earth, which is Yarlung Tsangpo River. In Tibetan, Yarlung Tsangpo River means water flowing down from the crest. Found in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known as ‘the roof of the world’, the Yarlung Tsangpo River is the biggest river in Tibet and also holds the position as being the river found at the highest altitude across the world.

 Yarlung Tsangpo River originates from a glacier on the northern side of the middle Himalayas, over 5,300 meters (208,661 feet) above sea level. It runs across the south of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau from west to east, through India and Bengal, and finally flows into the Bay of Bengal. Altogether more than 2,900 kilometers (1,802 miles) long with a catchment area of 935 thousand square kilometers (361,006 square miles), it is the fifth longest river in China.

Yarlung Tsangpo River Valley is rich in forest resources, owning 2,644 thousand hectares’ of virgin forest. Rare and unique plants and animals along with a natural treasure house of wildlife. The coniferous broad –leafed trees here appear in different colors in different seasons, green spots in spring and summer, and red, yellow, green in autumn and winter. It is well known as “five colored forest”. With the coming of the autumn, the golden autumn scenery attracts eyes of the tourists.

Water resources
Though people lack not wealth,
They cannot afford to breathe clean air,
Rains and streams cleanse not,
But remain inert and powerless liquids
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

20
Feb
11

Buddhist religion: Tibetan Praying Wheels

A Praying Wheel is an exclusively Tibetan Buddhist praying instrument which always bears the mystical word ‘OM MANI PADME HUM’ [Jewel in the Lotus of the Heart] numbering six syllables in the mantra of Avalokitesvara. The syllables are carved outside the wheel as well as kept inside the wheel printed in the paper in numerous numbers. It is generally made of a cylindrical body of metal, penetrated along its axis by a wooden or metal handle. The cylinder can turn around the handle, with a slight rotation of the wrist, thanks to a cord or ballasted chain, which keeps it in movement. Inside this cylinder, written on paper or skin, are esoteric texts, usually invocations (mantra), the most common being that of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of compassion (Avalokitesvara).

 

These prayer wheels may be small and carried by pilgrims, or larger and fixed to the gates of monasteries or around stupas and chortens. Each turn of the cylinder generates as much merit as the reading of the sutra or the formula enclosed therein. All these objects are also called chockor in Tibetan, ‘Wheel of the Law’. Some are very large and, enclosed in small structures, turn under the action of a ‘mill’ driven by waterpower and electric motors.

 

Tibetans use prayer wheels to spread spiritual blessings to all sentient beings and invoke good karma in their next life. They believe that every rotation of a prayer wheel equals one utterance of the mantra, thus the religious practice will in return help them accumulate merits, replace negative effects with positive ones, and hence bring them good karma. The religious exercise is part of Tibetan life. People turn the wheel day and night while walking or resting, whenever their right hands are free while murmuring the same mantra. Buddhists turn the wheel clockwise. Bon followers turn the wheel counter clockwise.

19
Feb
11

Buddhist ceremonies: Offering butter lamps

In Buddhism offering light signifies the stability and clarity of patience, the beauty which dispels all ignorance.
According to many Rinpoches: “It is also excellent to offer the butter lamps, candles or light because this act of offering  symbolizes burning away our mental afflictions of desire, aggression, greed, jealousy, pride and so forth. The other part of the symbolism is that it is a way to burn away our illness.”

“Offering butter lamps is the most powerful offering because their light symbolizes wisdom. Just as a lamp dispels darkness, offering light from a butter lamp represents removing the darkness of ignorance in order to attain Buddha’s luminous clear wisdom. The lamp offering is a sense offering to the Buddha’s eyes. Because Buddha’s eyes are wisdom eyes, they do not have the extremes of clarity or non-clarity. Our ordinary eyes, however, are obscured by the darkness of the two defilements, gross afflictive emotional defilements and subtle habitual defilements. While the Buddha does not have desire for offerings, we make offerings for the purpose of our own accumulation of merit & wisdom. Through the power of this accumulation, we can remove the cataracts of our ignorance eyes in order to gain Buddha’s supreme luminous wisdom eyes. When we offer light, the results are the realization of Clear Light wisdom phenomena in this life; the clarification of dualistic mind and the dispersal of confusion and realization of Clear Light in the bardo; and the increase of wisdom in each lifetime until one has reached enlightenment.

Traditionally, butter lamps are also offered as a dedication to the dead in order to guide them through the bardo by wisdom light. We can pray as well that this light guide all beings of the six realms, removing their obscurations so that they may awaken to their true wisdom nature.
With genuine faith & devotion, visualize that with your offerings, countless offering goddesses offer immeasurable light to all enlightened beings.