Buddhism in Dharamshala - Divine Light of Buddhism Spreading in World
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Dalai Lama's Abode in Dharamshala is epicentre of Buddhism
Buddha - Brief Information
Prince Siddartha also known as Gautama Buddha was born a Hindu in the Kshatriya caste of warrior aristrocrats in approx. 563 BC-483 BC , in the Shakya clan's village of Kapilvastu in the foothills of the Himalayas.now known as 'Lumbini' in Nepal.
Siddartha married and had a son, but at age of 29, he left the Palace in search of salvation of the soul..after witnessing a dead body, old age person and a diseased beggar outside his Palace. He lead a life of an ascetic and wandered around in search for answers!! Around 528 BC he concentrated on meditation under a 'Bodhi Tree' in Bodhgaya and realised the 'Middle Path' which is the base of Dalai Lama's Tibetan Buddism in Dharamsala, India.
This 'Enlightenment' is called ..'A State of Bodhi' and hence the name 'Buddha' or 'The Enlightened One' was given to him by his followers!
For the remaining 45 years of his life he travelled the Gangetic Plain of Central India teaching and founded the community of Buddhist Monks and Nuns.. the Sangha to continue His spiritual teachings after his body had become one with the universe. Buddha died at Kushinagar, India at the age of 80. His last meal was 'sukara-maddava' and His last words were "All things which are made of parts eventually come apart. Be mindful and achieve Enlightenment!"
The rituals of Tibetan Buddhism along with the concept of Universal Peace and Compassion have their roots in Buddha's Middle Path Philosophy.
Tibetan Bon Tradition in Dharamshala
Tibet's oldest spiritual tradition is Bon religion. 'Tonpa Shenrab', the founder of this religion, said to have been born in the mythical land of Olmo Lung Ring, renounced the world at the age of 30. Like all 'Bodisattvas' he lead a life of austerity and helped people out of their misery and suffering. During his time he arrived in Tibet in the region of Mount Kailash known as 'The Land of Zhang Zhung'...the historical principal seat of Bon Culture and doctrine.
Today, His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala is the Head of Tibetan Buddhism and has stressed the importance of preserving the traditions of Bon religion as the indigenous source of ancient Tibetan culture. The doctrine taught by Tonpa Shenrab are classified into two types..'The Four Portals and One Treasury' and 'The Nine Ways of Bon.' The Nine ways of Bon is further synthesised into three : The first four as the 'Casual Ways', the second four as the 'Resultant Ways' and the ninth one as the 'Way of Great Completion!' These are all contained in the Bon Canon compromising more than 200 volumes under four sections. The 'Sutras'..the 'Prefection of Wisdom'.. the 'Tantras'..and last is 'Knowledge'.
Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism
The tradition of Nyinmapa Buddhism has its roots in the teachings of Guru Padmasambhava who came to Tibet in 817 C.E. at the invitation of King Trisong Deutsan to help propagate Tibetan Buddhism. He hid hundreds of treasures in the form of scriptures, images and ritual articles which he said would only be revealed at a certain time when his disciples were prepared mentally to understand and accept them. However the Tantra teachings he gave to his 25 principal disciples were acts of spiritual accomplishments.. Namkhe Nyingpo, for travelling on beams of light, Khamdro Yeshe Tsogyal for reviving the dead, Vairochana for his intuition , Nanam Yeshe for soaring in the sky, Kawa Peltseg for reading others mind and Jnana Kumara for his miraculous powers.
The Nyingma doctrine constitutes of the the lineage of revealed teachings of Padmasambhava , Tantric teachings of of many Indian saints Vimalamitra , Shantipa, Dharmakirti..., esoteric texts, the Dzogchen doctrine and the Maha Maya Cycle of teachings by Vairochana.
The Nyingmapa tradition in Tibetan Buddhism divides the entire Buddhist teachings into nine vehicles. The three common vehicles compromising of the Hearer, Solitary Realiser and the Boddhisattva. The three outer Tantras consist of Kriya Tantra which places greater emphasis on Disciplined behaviour. The Upa Tantra has a deep affinity and development of the soul and the Yoga tantra aimed at developing inner strength. The last three innermost Tantras - Maha Yoga emphasis on the generation stage in which the ordinary level of Human attachment is eliminated through sacred Vision.
The present head of the Nyingmapa sect is 'His Holiness Penor Rimpochey.'
The Gelupa Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism
The Kadampa tradition founded by Atisha was the inspirational source for the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded by Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419). He was born in Tsongkha region of Amdo province. At the age of seven he was given the name of Lobsang Drakpa and could recite by heart the texts of 'Expression of the Names of Manjushri.'
Tsongkhapa travelled far and wide in search of knowledge and studied all the Buddhist traditions. Along with all his intensive studies he engaged in extensive Meditation Retreats...wherein he performed millions of prostrations, mandala offerings and often had visions of 'Meditational Deities' specially of Manjushri with whom he used to have spiritual debate. He was a great scholar, teacher and wrote 18 volumes of teachings. He passed away at the age of 60 entrusting his throne in Ganden to Gyeltsabjey, a tradition which is followed till today..!
The 99th successor and the formal head of Gelupa is Ven. Yeshi Dhondup. The major Ganden Monastery was founded by Je TsongKhapa in 1409. By the turn of the 16th century this tradition had spread enormously as Tibet's political strength had grown with the Third Dalai Lama..Sonam Gyatso(1543-1588), bringing the 'Mongols' back to the religion of Buddhism. The Great Fifth Dalai Lama had complete Spiritual and Temporal rule of Tibet. He founded the Ganden Phodrang Government which continues to funtion under His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet in Exile in Dharamsala, India.
The Biggest centre of Buddhism outside Tibet is Tsuglagkhang Complex, the largest Tibetan temple outside Tibet, which has a large meditation hall containing some beautiful statues and thangkas, where you can meditate while listening to monks chanting from 6-8 a.m. and watch monks debate between 4 -7 p.m. The Tsuglagkhang is the monastery of the Dalai Lama and is located just in front of his residence.
Meeting Dalai Lama
While visiting Dharamshala, There are opportunities to meet the Dalai Lama face-to-face during your stay in Mcleod Ganj, but private audiences are rarely granted.
Mahayana Buddhism in Dharamshala
Many tourists come to Dharamshala to study Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism and Tibetan history. In Mcleodganj, there is a world famous Tushita Meditation Centre for the study and practice of Buddhism from the . Here teachings, meditations and practices based on the tradition of Lama Tsong Khapa of Tibet (the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism), are taught by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The course offered covers Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and meditation from a modern perspective and apply ancient knowledge to increase peace, happiness, and compassion in your daily lives.
Tushita Meditation Centre - Dharamshala
Meditation starts at 6AM in the meditation/learning hall, & studenst spend 45 minutes meditating. Meditation is followed by breakfast that usually consisted of porridge, fruit, bread, peanut butter and chai. The rest of the morning is normally spent in the meditation hall where following topics are covered
The Mind and Emotions
Love and Compassion
The Nature of Reality
At noon, healthy, vegetarian food is offered as lunch. After Lunch, there is lesson on karma yoga, which is basically daily tasks assigned to do as selfless work. The rest of the late afternoon into the evening is spent in the meditation centre for more teachings until 6:30PM. After the last teaching of the day, Dinner is served, which is a vegetarian soup, followed by another 45 minute meditation session.
In the beds at night, students are encouraged to write in journals or read material on Tibetan Buddhism.
On the last night of the course, a ceremony is held at the stupa located just outside the meditation/ hall. A stupa is the earliest, and some consider most significant, architectural Buddhist expression-monument in Buddhism and is used by Buddhists as a place of worship. students, lit candles and place them around the stupa. The light of the candles symbolizes burning away mental afflictions of desire, aggression, greed, jealousy, pride and so forth.
Perched atop the green hills that rise above Dharamsala valley sits the surprisingly busy village of Mcleod Ganj, home to the Tibetan government in exile and the residence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Flanked by the snow-capped Himalaya mountains and filled with countless courses and activities at a minuscule price, the little town has also attracted a significant population of expatriate volunteers and students of Buddhist philosophy.
Like the other popular traveler hangout in India’s Himachal Pradesh state—Manali—Mcleod Ganj is well prepared to receive the thousands of backpackers and tourists that come for the spiritual ambiance, to help Tibetans refugees or to simply escape the heat and chaos of the low-lands and spend a few days relaxing in the cool mountain air.
Yoga Learning in Dharamshala
Mcleod Ganj is home to countless yoga schools, offering Hatha, Ashtanga, and Kundalini yoga classes through daily drop-in sessions, as well as week-long intensive courses and teacher training courses that last a month or more. Classes, which cost Rs100 per session, are held in the morning, afternoon and evening at the following schools:
Universal Yoga (Highly recommended), with international classes and locations.
Location: Yongling School, Jogibara Rd.
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Center
Location: Dharamkot Rd
Yogi Cottage (Yoga alliance approved, also offer reiki courses)
Location: Bhagsu Rd
Location: Thardoeling, Near HH Dalai Lama temple
Kailash School of Yoga & Holistic Healing
Location: 100 meters from main chowk.
Aku Pema Performance Art
Location: Norbulingka Institute
Established in 2000, Aku Pema Performance Art group aims to preserve traditional Tibetan art and culture. International visitors and volunteers are welcome to contribute and enjoy the cultural programs. They seek volunteers able to teach: group music and singing, English language (any level and age), and dancing (any style).
Meditation & Buddhist Philosophy Courses - Dharamshala
Tushita Meditation Centre
Tushita offers 10-day Introduction to Buddhism/meditation retreats, 8-day non-residential courses, and programs for advanced students, all in the Tibetan Mahayana tradition. Silence is the norm most of the day, but discussion groups do take place after philosophy lessons. The price of around Rs500 per day includes lodging, lessons, and three vegetarian meals a day.
Location: On the road between Dharamkot and Mcleod Ganj.
Vipassana Meditation Center
This center, located in nearby Dharamkot, runs austere 10-day vipassana (mindfulness) meditation retreats, during which you must remain completely silent. The retreats, which run from May to November, are intense (up to 14 hour days), but no previous meditation experience is required, as you will be asked to set aside any practice while learning the vipassana technique. It is recommended that beginners attend a course like those offered by Tushita — a mix of meditation, philosophy, and discussions. The retreat is free, but donations are welcome.
Library of Tibetan Works and Archives
Located inside the government compound at Gangchen Kyishong downhill from Mcleod Ganj, this library hosts a number of Buddhist philosophy courses throughout the year. Most teaching is in Tibetan with an English interpreter. Most courses last from two to three months and cost Rs200, in addition to the Rs50 registration fee. The library also runs long-term Tibetan- and Hindi-language courses for beginners and advanced students for Rs250 per month plus a Rs50 registration fee.
Tibetan Buddhism and language
The organization offers courses in Tibetan Buddhism, as well as Tibetan- and Hindi-language classes.
Cooking Classes in Dharamshala - Mcleodganj
Mcleod Ganj is a great place to learn how to cook authentic Indian and Tibetan cuisine. Classes cover everything from Tofu Thukpa to South Indian Masala Dosas. Prices run about Rs250-500 per class, which usually last two hours. There are a number of entrepreneurs who run courses of dubious quality out of their homes, so it is best to be circumspect and stick with one of the following established kitchens:
Lha Charitable Trust
Offers courses on how to make different kinds of momos, Tibetan breads, and Tibetan noodles. Rs300 for a 2-hour class.
Location: Temple Road
The organization teaches traditional Tibetan vegetarian food with different courses every day, including soups, momos, and Tibetan bread. It all takes place in Lhamo's single room house right in the center of town. Classes Rs250, 3-day courses Rs550.
Location: Bhagsu Rd
Mr Sangye's Kitchen
Tibetan food, with different courses every day.
Location: Joqibara Rd, next to Tashi Choeling Monastery. Classes Rs250.
Namgyal Monastery Dharamsala, India
Namgyal Monastery is a Tibetan buddhist monastery closely associated with all the Dalai Lamas since the third. Namgyal Monastery is the personal monastery of the 14th Dalai Lama.
Its primary role is to assist with rituals involving the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Its main tantric practices reportedly include those of Kalachakra, Yamantaka, Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, and Vajrakilaya.
Founded in either 1564 or 1565 as Phende Lekshe Ling (on the foundations of the since defunct monastery called Phende Gon) by the Third Dalai Lama Gyalwa Sonam Gyatso, Namgyal Monastery was renamed in honour of the female long-life deity Namgyälma in 1571.
Since the completion of construction on the Potala Palace (begun by the Fifth Dalai Lama), Namgyal was traditionally housed in the red section at the top of that building in Lhasa.
Following the Tibetan uprising of 1959, Namgyal Monastery relocated to Dharamshala, India, where it continues, active, to this day. According to Namgyal's website, Namgyal (Dharamshala) has "nearly 200" monks (up from 55 in 1959), representing all four main Tibetan monastic lineages.
In 1992, on the advice of the present Dalai Lama, Namgyal established an American branch in Ithaca, New York, including within it the Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies. On February 8 of 1996, the monks of Namgyal Monastery's Institute of Buddhist Studies offered their first "Blessing of Cyberspace" as part of the "Twenty-four Hours in Cyberspace" event.
In 1998, Namgyal incorporated a Tibetan monastery in Bodhgaya, India, called Gendhen Phelgyeling. That monastery is now known as Namgyal (Bodhgaya), and has 45 monks.
Namgyal (Dharamsala) also manages a temple in Kushinagar (since 1967), and an elderly home in Simla (since 1992).
Whether the People's Republic of China has maintained an institution with the same name inside Tibet is unclear.
Dharamsala can be approached by air from Delhi. The nearest airport is at Gaggal, 13 km away. Pathankot, the nearest broad gauge railway station is 85 km away, Una is 132 km and the toy train station is 17 km at Kangra. Buses for Dharamsala are available at both places. From Pathankot the drive takes about three hours or you can drive from Delhi (489 km) via Chandigarh, Kiratpur,Una,Amb,Bharwain,Kangra and takes about 10 hours.
Best Season / Best time to visit Dharamsala
Dharmasala has a cool climate all through the year but the best season to visit Dharmasala is from mid-September to June.
Winter (December to February) is chilly and freezing. During January the mercury dips below -1 °C. Snowfalls in winters (especially January) are ideal for enjoying honeymoon but extra care needs to be taken.It is advisable to carry woollen clothes.
Summer (March to June) is warm with temperatures between 22 °C to 38 °C. Trekking enthusiasts prefer this season.
Monsoons (July to mid September) with heavy rainfalls can be messy. The months of July and August witness heavy and are avoided by tourists. From the mid of September, rainfall stops.
Autumn (mid-September to November) is beautiful and is ideal for sightseeing and adventure activities.
While winters is ideal for spotting snow capped hilly areas, summer is best for all kinds of tourist activities including trekking in the hilly terrains. The months from September to November are ideal for sight seeing, temple visits, outings and trekking. July to August are not the best time as heavy rainfall can causes road blocks.
Mc Leodganj is the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile and the residence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.The Budha temple is situated opposite to the present abode of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and is worth a visit. The Tibetan Institute of performing Arts(TIPA) is 1km. walk from McLeod Ganj and preserves a number of musical dance and theatrical traditions of Tibet.It is also known as ‘Little Lhasa in India’. Dal Lake is situated at a height of 1775m above sea level and is just 2kms from Mc Leodganj.
Masroor is about 55 km from Dharamshala. There are 15 rock-cut temples in Indo-Aryan style and are richly carved. It is a unique monolithic structure in the sub-Himalayan region and is a protected monument.The main shrine contains three stone images of Shri Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. The temple complex is located on a hill and also has a large rectangular water pond. The view of snow clad Dhauladhar is amazing from the temple premises.
Triund is a popular picnic spot at an height of 2827 m. The area is on the foothills of Dhauladhar range and is 17-kms from Dharamsala. The snow line starts at Ilaqa, which is five kms from Triund. The breathtaking views of the mountains and the valleys make Triund an ideal picnic spot and trekking spot.
Chamunda Devi temple is 17 kms from Dharamshala, dedicated to Goddess Durga or Chamunda, the surroundings of the temple provide an excellent venue for meditation prayers and spiritual attainments. It is an enchanting and charming spot with fascinating view of the Dhauladhar Mountains, rivers and forests. The location of temple was used as a cremation ground by the people of 22 villages and supposed to be a place of solace, spiritual attainments. The temple has artistic carvings on its lintel, pillars and the ceiling. A large number of devotees travel to this place for worship and to attain spiritual peace for their ancestors. The 700 years old temple, Chamunda Devi comprises of big complex with a ‘Kund’ (pond) in it. There is a cave-like scoop located at the back of the temple, representing the stone lingam (embodiment of Shiva).
Brajeshwari Devi is situated in Kangra town & is just 14 kms from Dharamshala- This temple is one of 51 Shaktipeeths in India. The Brajeshwari Devi Temple is located in main Kangra city and has achieved a reputation for wealth, in gold, pearls and diamonds and tempted many invaders over centuries. The State Govt. maintains the temple now and the deity (Maata Brajeshwari) sits under a silver dome with silver umbrellas.
Jwalamukhi is the deity of Flaming Mouth, recognized as one of the 51 Shaktipeeths of India. It is believed to have nine permanent flames named after the goddesses- Mahakali, Anpurna, Chandi, Hinglaj, Bindhya Basni, Maha Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ambika and Anji Devi. Sati's tongue had fallen at the very place where Jwalaji Temple is now situated. The tongue of Sati is represented by Jwala (Holy Flame) that is perpetually burning.It is about 56 kms from Dharamshala.
Adventorous Activities in Dharamshala:
Dharamshala is an ideal destination for adventurous enthusiasts as the town offers plenty of activities that one can enjoy here. Some of the adventurous activities in Dharamshala include trekking, paragliding, fishing, rock climbing and angling.
If you are not an adventurous person by nature, you can explore this picturesque town by going for leisure walks in the lap of Himalayas. Trekker’s delight, Dharamshala is a popular base for trekking in the forested Dhauladhar range, equipment can be hired here. The best season for trekking is from April till June and again between September and October.
Seasoned trekkers may try the exhilarating and adventurous stretch from Dharamshala to the Chamba valley, over the Indrahar Pass. Trekkers may also take the route through snowbound Dhauladhar Range terminating at Lamu.
There are some easy treks as well for beginners including the McLeodganj and Dharamshala that stretches from Tang Narwana to Toral Pass. If you are a hard-core trekker then take the route through Bhagsu via Dharamkot to Triund and enjoy an exquisite view of the peaks of the Himalayas.
Rock climbing is another activity in Dharamshala that you can indulge in a remote part of the Himalayas. Dharamshala-Nayagraon is one of the popular tracks for rock climbing.
You can spendyour time in the lap of nature and enjoy fishing and angling in the small streams and rivers around Dharamshala. The 20-km stretch in River Beas from Nadaun to the Pong Dam is popular for fishing.
Paragliding is another outdoor activity that you may enjoy in Dharamshala
At Dharamshala you can do so many things .
McLeodganj is famous for various authentic Tibetan products like carpets, thangkas, jewellery, and other knick-knacks. Just a kilometre away from McLeodganj is the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) where you can find musical, dance, and theatrical traditions of Tibet.
Visit Losel Doll Museum which is located in the Norbulingka complex to explore the history of Tibet. The museum showcases elaborately detailed beautiful dolls that depict the costumes of each region of Tibet. You can also visit Museum of Kangra Art at Kotwali Bazaar. The museum has a rare collection of miniature paintings from the Kangra School, in addition to local jewellery, traditional wood carvings with some of the exhibits dating back to the fifth century.
If all that sightseeing has made you hungry then you can just drop in to one of the restaurants or café scattered around McLeodganj for some traditional Tibetan, Israeli or even a German cuisine.
The main shopping area in Dharamshala is in McLeodganj, offering range of handicraft items including woollens, carpets, metal ware, Thangkas, and jewellery.
The handicraft items sold in Dharamshala are created by the local artisans; these products reflect excellent craftsmanship and artistic calibre of the people.
The Kotwali Bazaar is the prime shopping destination. The Tibetan carpets and rugs sold in this market are worth buying. The vivid colours, traditional motifs and unique artwork on the carpets depict the Tibetan culture.
You may also like other Tibetan handicrafts including hat, the Chubas (traditional outfit of the Tibetan women) and bags that make for some great souvenirs as well. Don’t forget to buy Thangkas, as your r shopping in Dharamshala will be incomplete without buying them.
Easily available in almost all the shops in Dharamshala, Thangkas are brightly coloured cloth paintings depicting Buddhist culture, fair and festivals. Kangra Style of paintings depicting the court scenes or the love story between Radha and Krishna of the mythological era, are other must-buy items in Dharamshala.
Wooden carvings on bamboo are popular among tourists visiting Dharamshala. Tourists can visit Norbulingka Institute on Khanyara Road to check out the artwork. Silk and woollen woven scarves, embroidered kurtas are also worth including to your shopping list. Don’t forget to add Kangra Valley Green Tea as well to the shopping list.