Monday February 19, 2018

Dalai Lama teaches the ‘Tree of Faith- a Self Exhortation’ to Tibetan students

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  • The Dalai Lama gave public teachings to over 10,000 people from June 1- 3
  • ‘Heart of Wisdom’ Sutra and The Tree of Wisdom were recited
  • The Dalai Lama departed with the words, “We’ll meet again next year”

Dharamshala, H.P., India: From June 1 – 3, the Dalai Lama gave public teachings to over 10,000 people on ‘Tree of Faith- a Self Exhortation’, who had gathered around the Tsuglagkhang. The Tsuglagkhang is the main Tibetan temple located in Dharamshala, HP, India and is the main focus for many visiting pilgrims and tourists.

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The 10,000 people who had gathered for this public teaching included school students, over 600 college students, 2000 foreigners from 66 countries and 5000 individuals from the Tibetan public. This event was organised by Tibetan Children’s Village School and the local Introductory Buddhist Study Group

On June 1, 2016, the yearly event began with the recitation of The Heart of Wisdom Sutra in Tibetan. It was followed by verses in homage to Buddha. His Holiness then went on to explain that the text ‘Tree of Faith- a Self Exhortation’ was obtained from 16 Drops of Kadam, a special teaching that emerged from the interaction of Atisha, Dromtonpa, Ngok Legpai Sherab, Nagtso Lotsawa and Geshe Kawa at Yerpa Lhari Nyingpo.

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Dalai Lama explained the first verses of the text, before concluding for the day. He then encouraged everyone gathered to read the verses once again, reflect on the teachings and discuss it among themselves.

On the second morning, His Holiness took his seat after addressing the pupils sitting around his throne. The ‘Heart of Wisdom Sutra’ was recited. He then went on to cite a verse that summarised the teachings of Buddha. After an active discussion with the individuals gathered, the reading of the ‘Truth of Wisdom’ was resumed.

On the final morning of the public teaching, his Holiness lead a ceremony for the awakening of the mind. He also gave the permission of Manjushri, the bodhisattva embodying wisdom. After that, he went on to finish the reading of the text, ‘Tree of wisdom’. Soon after His Holiness had given his final remarks, the senior staff members of TCV made their offerings to him, which included 113 copies of a prayer to Amityasus and images of enlightenment.

In the eulogy that followed, Ngodup Wangdu, the director of TVC expressed his gratitude. He also wished for His Holiness’s long life.

The Dalai Lama departed with the words, “We’ll meet again next year”.

Report prepared by Devika Todi. Twitter @devika_todi

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BJP Offers Christians a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Is Religious Pilgrimage A New Playground For The Political Parties?

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community

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In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
  • The political parties (BJP and Congress ) are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage in the coming local elections of the eastern states of India
  • The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively
  • After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022

The Campaign promises during the elections times are quite bizarre nowadays, from “I’ll cut your taxes,” to “vote for me, and I’ll set you free.”

In the coming local elections in the Christian- majority state of Nagaland in India the agenda by the rival BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and Congress parties are unique: “Vote for us and get either a free or a heavily subsidized pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

Yes, you read it right. The political parties are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. The offer has been put up by the Prime Minister Modi- led BJP for the upcoming elections. Even the local partners of the Congress party are treading up the same path.

Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

The BJP has not made it clear yet if it is offering the scheme to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland. The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively. Nagaland is one of smallest states of India, with the population of just under two million people.

Also Read: Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

As per the Tourism Ministry figures, around 58,000 Indian tourists came to Israel in 2017, a 47% increase from 2015.

The elections are scheduled for the February 27 in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month.

The AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also tweeted on the double standard of the government and lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community. But recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. The government cited the reason for the subsidy withdrawal as they wanted to utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for the education of minorities, particularly girls. After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022.

Also Read: Government ends Haj subsidy as part of a new policy

The scheme is a clear cut example of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies. It seems quite contrary, on the one hand, the government is cutting down the benefit scheme for one section of the society and on the other hand, some other community is been offered the same thing. Such moves bring out the double standards of the political parties just for the sake of vote bank. In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented.

In 2011, Nigeria also did something same as that of India. For many years, their government financed a trip to Mecca for Muslims, leading to some 42,000 Nigerians visiting the country. But with the change in the government, subsidies have been cut considerably and now a 12-day pilgrimage costs around 2000 dollars. The change in stance has resulted in 78% decrease from 2011.