Trans Himalayan Buddhism

01 Buddhism in Himachal

Twelve centuries after the Buddha attained 'Nirvana', the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo ( Sron-bTsan Sgam-Po ) who ruled from 618 to 649 AD.), married Wen Cheng from the court of China's Tang dynasty and Bkrikuti Devi, a Nepalese princess. Under their influence, Buddhism slowly developed in the Central Himalayan and Trans Himalayan region of Tibet, Spiti, Lahaul and Ladakh till it became the prominent faith. A great impetus came when king Trison Detsen ( Khri-Sron-Ide-bTsan ) 755-797 AD.) of Tibet embraced the teachings of Buddha. He sent to India for great masters like Santarakshita and the famous teacher and tantric named Padmasambhava. Under Padmasambhava's influence, Mahayan Buddhism, the Greater Vedic fanned over the world's highest plateaux. Known to the Tibetans as Guru or Orgian Pimpoche, the Precious Master Padamsambhava began the synthesis of Mahayan practises, yogic tantracism and the native Bon religion - retaining a large measure of its nature worship and demonolatry. The combine of ritual, faith and philosophic content created what we recognise today as Vajrayana Buddhism, the Thunderbolt Vehicle.

The 9th century brought a break in the spread of Buddhism learning when the king, Lang Darma rejected it and began supporting the Bon faith. He was murdered by a Buddhist monk, Pal Dorje, and the 10th and 11th centuries witnessed the grand revival og Buddhism learning. It was an age of great teachers - Atisha, Marpa, Rinchensang - po and Milarepa. In 1357 AD., the towering reformer, Tsong Khapa began the religious renewal that emphasised Atisha's teachings and a purity of doctrine. He founded the Geluk - pa sect, the Yellow Hats, who grew to hold considerably sway - and from which the Dalai Lamas were to come. In 1578 AD., a descendent of Chengis - Chengis Khan and ruler of China, had given Sonam Gyatso the title of Ta-le, now written as Dalai - which means the Master of the Ocean of Wisdom. When the kingdom of Guge rose in Western Tibet after the assassination of Lang Darma, it encompassed the present day tract of Spiti, Lahaul, Zanskar and upper Kinnaur. The strong cultural and religious identity of the region dates back to those years.

02 The Kaalchakra Ceremony

The Kaalchakra Ceremony and ritual is regarded as an essential part of Vajrayana Buddhism . It is believed to have been first preached some 25 centuries ago by the Buddha himself. The Kaalchakra or the Wheel of Time is regarded as the highest and most secret of the Tantra Yanas - discipline - of Vajryana Buddhism. At its simplest, this is a ritual of initiation, purification and benediction. One of the pillars of Vajrayana Buddhism is that it seeks not only personal salvation, but also the liberation of all humanity from the painful cycle of birth and rebirth. Reincarnation is sought as a deliberate choice to help others escape this cycle. And to be able to achieve this, one has to reach the level of a Bodhisattva, an enlighted person, who returns to earth to help others. To reach the level of a Bodhisattva, one has to go through various stages within one's lifetime - like the Dharmakaya ( the Stage of Wisdom ), and the Sambhogakaya ( the Stage of Unity ). It is only when stages are crossed that the living being truly sees the impermanence of the world around him. The role of a Guru, or guide in this process is essential and here, in the Kaalchakra Tantra, this role is played by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. >> The Kaalchakra Mandala, the large circular design drawn by the Dalai Lama himself, is central ti this ritual. Often called the 'Palace of Deities', the diagram is a representation of the cosmos and chambers in which various deities reside. This is used by the lay monk as an aid to meditation and to 'connect' to his personal deity. This is the only part of the ritual that is done in public. The ceremony is regarded to assist in peace and harmony throughout the world.

The 14th Dalai Lama's 33rd Kalachakra ceremony was held in Leh, Ladakh, India from July 3 to July 12, 2014. About 150,000 devotees and 350,000 tourists were present in the ceremony