Monday, 19. May 2008
A Passion for Mongolia

The native religion of Mongolia is, like the language, related to the Turkish tradition and would also have similarities with the Tibetan Bön. In general this religion is referred to as shamanism. Rather often shamanism refers to a specific form of this religious phenomena present in Siberia, and although there is a relation with this form it is not the same. Above this `shamanism´ implies that a religious specialist is needed and central to it’s faith and practices while in fact it is an animist religion with an arsenal of beliefs and practices in which a shaman not necessarily is involved.

This native religion is not unequivocal, with a unequivocal doctrine, but rather a diversity of local beliefs and practices, which by a number of common characteristics can be lumped together. Central in this belief is the worship of the Blue, Mighty, Eternal Heaven (köke tngri, erketü tngri, möngke tngri). There is a total of 99 tngri or heavenly creatures of which Köke Möngke Tngri (Eternal Blue Heaven) is the chief. According to European sources from the thirteenth century this would be one god, from whom it is believed he is the creator of the visible and invisible .


Religion in Mongolia

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During communist purges in the 1930´s most monasteries in Mongolia have been destroyed. Monks have been killed or taken to Siberia, to be never heard from again. Since the fall of communism however there is a real revival of Buddhism taking place. Lama´s are trained again, old monasteries are being restored or rebuild at a different place and new monasteries arise.

In general a monastery would consist of various buildings on a compound. One of these buildings is the main temple, where often - though not always - the main ceremonies take place. Like the door of a ger, the entry of a temple should be pointing to the south.


Monasteries and Temples in Mongolia


Here you will find information on Mongolian traditions and culture, religion and much more: Mongoluls - A passion for Mongolia.

At BluePeak you can find a wide variety of images on Mongolia and other countries in the world. The Mongolia section features a virtual tour that takes you from the crowded capital to the pristine nature of the scarsely populated countryside.
Category: Ethno & Shamanism | Monks & Ascets |




Sunday, 27. April 2008
Yogis of Tibet

A yogi, according to this film, is "an individual who has spent years in isolated retreat practicing 'secret,' self-transforming physical and mental exercises. And through these techniques [they] have developed extraordinary control over both mind and body."

The yogis are Tibet's most revered holy men and women, who have developed very specific methods of meditation as a means to enlightenment, yet they are finding themselves pushed into the public sphere in an unprecedented manner.

Yogis are a product of Tibet's unique history. The film does a good job of presenting Tibet's history over the last two millennia very succinctly, and yet with a level of great detail. Its interesting to both those who do and those who do not know about Buddhism.

Very interesting segments are the interviews with the yogis themselves, who illustrate their world-view with eloquent serenity. They emphasize the mind's control over the body.

In one fascinating clip (around 40 min. after start), a younger yogi demonstrates important yoga positions that you will not find in your average health center yoga class. (Never filmed before, which is alone worth all the movie!)

The film includes impressive archived film footage, and interviews with H.E. Choje Togden Rinpoche, H.E. Garchen Rinpoche, Ven Drubwang Konchok Norbu Rinpoche, H.E. Chetsang Rinpoche, and H.H. the Dalai Lama.

During the Chinese takeover, one million Tibetans were killed; many of them were yogis. Had Tibetans not been forced into exile, the story of the yogis might never have come to light.
Perhaps this profound historical, spiritual and educational film will someday be the last remnant of these amazing practitioners.

Enjoy this wonderful documentary, directed by Phil and Jo Borack.


'The Yogis of Tibet: A Film for Posterity'
JEHM Films, 2002
Duration: 77 minutes



See also:
Yogis of Tibet Official Website
Filming The Yogis of Tibet by Jo Borack (Executive Producer)
Category: Monks & Ascets | Movies & TV | Religion & Early Cultures | Yoga & Fitness |




Wednesday, 12. March 2008
What is Freedom?

The Buddha said "As the ocean has but one taste, that of salt,
my teachings have but one taste, that of freedom."
But what is freedom? What does it really mean?

A short film by Alan Clements, duration 6 minutes.



Visionary author, artist, and human rights activist Alan Clements was the first American to ordain as a Buddhist monk in Burma where he lived in meditative silence for the better part of a decade.
Then, without warning or reason, the military dictatorship ruling Burma gave him 24 hours to get out of the country. Clements disrobed as a monk and became a maverick activist working for human rights and freedom in some of the most volatile areas of the world.


For further information visit World Dharma.
Category: Meditation & Mind | Monks & Ascets | People & Organisations |


Sunday, 24. February 2008
Earth pilgrim: A year on Dartmoor

"God is Nature - and Nature is my God."


This unique BBC 2 Natural World documentary reflects on our connection to our natural environment.

This exquisitely photographed film is a spiritual journey into the ethereal landscape of Dartmoor with Resurgence Satish Kumar, the world-renowned ecologist, former Jain monk and pilgrim for peace.

Through changing seasons, Satish walks the moor and explores ancient woods and rivers, which are home to a wealth of wildlife including red deer, emperor moths, starling roosts, kestrels and foxes. His meditations on the natural world are lyrical, uplifting and timely. He offers a very Indian perspective through the changing seasons.

Earth pilgrim: A year on Dartmoor by BBC (Natural World Serie 2008)
Duration: 50 minutes.





Press coverage of Earth Pilgrim:

Soul man by The Guardian.
Satish Kumar has spent much of his life walking the Earth to spiritually connect with nature; now he wants environmentalists and all of us to forget gloomy predictions and follow in his footsteps. John Vidal reports.

Meet the Pilgrim Father by The Metro.
As an Indian Jain monk, I always had a reverential view of nature. But coming to the West, I learnt a bit more Western philosophy and science, and tried to see a balance between the two. There is a value in an analytical, scientific, empirical, evidence-based understanding but there is also a value in human intuition and human spirit. If you can put those two together, then the meaning and the matter become one.
Pilgrim Father full version (pdf)

Day-by-day Celebration of Nature and Peace by Western Morning News.
Practising what you preach isn't always the easiest path to follow, but when it involves walking hand in hand with nature, rejecting the fear and resentment of the average modern existence, and working towards a peaceful world, it could start to sound more appealing than daunting.
Category: Buildings & Places | Monks & Ascets | Movies & TV |


Thursday, 17. January 2008
The Zen Mind - An Introduction

This is a clip from The Zen Mind documentary, filmed in Japan 2006. It serves as a nice overview of zen - a topic very few people can fully understand.



More at Empty Mind Films, an independent documentary film studio specializing in the martial arts and the philosophy and culture of Asia and in particular the countries of Japan and China.
Category: Martial Arts & Combat | Meditation & Mind | Monks & Ascets | Movies & TV |


Sunday, 11. November 2007
Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy

Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy takes you on an intimate journey deep into the heart of an ancient Buddhist world. Four years in the making and hailed as a cinematic masterpiece in 1979, writer/director Graham Coleman's three-part feature has been unseen for over 20 years.

In 2005 the film has been reworked into a single presentation, complete with digital restoration of the original material and new commentary.

Part One: The Dalai Lama, the Monasteries and the People is filmed in the Dalai Lama's residence in Dharamsala and in Sera monastery and explores the ways in which the inner knowledge of Tibetan Buddhist culture is developed and refined and communicated out to the lay community.

Part Two: Radiating the Fruit of the Truth reveals the essence of the mystical philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism. The film follows the lamas of the Sakya monastery in Boudha, Nepal as they prepare to perform an ancient protective ritual associated with Tara known as a "Beautiful Ornament".

Part Three: The Field of the Senses is set in the majestic mountain landscape of Ladakh. It follows the monks and farmers through a day, ending with an unflinching depiction of the monastery's moving ritual response to a death in the community. As in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the departed is guided through the dream-like intermediate state between death and birth.

Commentary read by Thubten Jinpa. Written and directed by Graham Coleman, produced and photographed by David Lascelles. In Tibetan language with English commentary and subtitles.

An astonishing experience for those interested in Tibet and Buddhism.
Duration: 134 minutes.


Category: Monks & Ascets | Movies & TV | Religion & Early Cultures |


Monday, 10. September 2007
A Day in the Life of a Trappist Monk

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What Is Monasticism?

Since ancient times, people who seek to fulfill their spiritual calling have been inclined to leave all worldy beliefs and possessions behind, finding in their solitude a practice of simple life and peaceful devotion. The desert or the wilderness - uninhabited places of the unknown - are often used as metaphors in the life of the monastic. Trappist monasticism is a way of life for men and women who practice this way devoted to seeking God and following Christ under a rule and an abbot in a stable community that is a school of brotherly love.


Monastic communities, both of men and women, offer the opportunity of freedom, refuge, education and stability.

At some point in the life an ascetic, he/she will feel an urging to live closer to the Creator. This feeling is what guides them to choose a life of monasticism. In fact, every person on this planet has a calling. Whatever urging interest or passion a person feels, in order to accomplish a dream or leap a hurdle, is in essence a calling. The calling is just the beginning to a journey down one of life’s many pathways.

Take a moment to assess what your calling may be. Sometimes this can be a hidden passion, or even a small task that you enjoy.

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The most important part in every person’s calling is the values that are present in each person already. What kind of person do you want to be as you grow up?

Activities

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The monks of the Abbey of Our Lady of the Prairies have welcomed artists from the St. Norbert Arts Centre into their archival history. Here we have found a story of peace, a community of love and devotion, an ancient way of life guided by the principles of simplicity, self-sufficiency and prayer. Join us as we discover a spiritual journey through the humble daily life of a 21st Century monk.


A Day in the Life of a Trappist Monk (all English or French)
A very well designed website with supreme content!
Category: Monks & Ascets |


Thursday, 05. April 2007
Kathmandu’s Slice of Tibet

Images of Boudhanath, one of the largest stupas in South Asia.

Boudha near Kathmandu is famously known as Little Tibet. It is one of the top tourist spots in the world, located around five kilometers northeast of Nepal's capital city on the old road from Tibet.


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Stupa of Boudhanath


Boudha gets its name from Boudhanath, one of the largest stupas in South Asia and a UNESCO world heritage site. White and looming 36 meters in height, Boudhanath has become a focal point for tourists and Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal.

The main stupa is surrounded by a path which is now itself surrounded by a tight circle of buildings. The area surrounding the stupa is fast urbanizing and numerous modern gompas (Buddhist temples) have been constructed, which has put a great pressure on conservation efforts.


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A woman spins a prayer wheel.


The general belief is that the stupa was constructed in the 5th century CE, however there is no definite proof.

Boudha Stupa stands upon a three layered pedestal, having the shape of a Mandala, and we can easily go up to the dome by taking a flight of stairs.

A ring of 108 images of Amitabha surrounds the base of the dome. A brick wall containing five groups of prayer wheels encircles the dome and there are several chaityas.

Read more ...
Category: Buildings & Places | Monks & Ascets |


Wednesday, 10. January 2007
Sadhus, Holy Men of India

The Indian concept of holiness is quite different from that in the West. It is not necessarily (though often) associated with the "good." In fact, some all-India saints, such as Ramakrishna or Chaitanya, would be considered lunatics in the West. There is a long tradition of 'divine madness' in Hinduism.

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Sunmarpan Das

To Hindus, spiritual enlightenment has always represented the highest goal in life, the one thing that gives it meaning and purpose. Moreover, enlightenment is a state of being that is in principle attainable by everybody.
The average individual, however, would need many incarnations to become enlightened, to see God, to become one with the Absolute, to merge one's mind with Cosmic Consciousness -- in short, to become holy.


But since time immemorial shortcuts have been available for people wanting to become enlightened in this life rather than the next.
Those who follow the fast track, mostly men, are the sadhus, the 'holy men' of India.

For thousands of years they have been around. Once they must have been more numerous, but even today there are still four to five million sadhus, constituting about half a percent of the total population.


Organised in various sects, they passed on the wisdom of old, the method of yoga, that is 'yoking' soul and Soul together.

Usually they live by themselves, on the fringes of society, and spend their days in devotion to their chosen deity.

Some perform magical rituals to make contact with the gods, others practise intense forms of yoga and meditation to increase their spiritual powers and acquire mystical knowledge.

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Standing the world on its head, this baba practices
yoga everyday, concluding his panch-agni tapasya.
This posture is emblematic for the life of a sadhu, for
by 'reversing all values', by acting contrary to human nature, they intend to speed up enlightenment.
This baba also wears a rope arbandh.


Certainly, not all sadhus are enlightened. But believers regard them all as holy anyway, if only because of their radical commitment. And successful sadhus are even worshipped as 'gods on earth'.

Believers only have to 'behold' a sadhu -- as a kind of living idol -- to receive a spark of his spiritual energy. They give donations to the sadhus -- regarded as offerings to the gods -- and get their blessing in return. Thus, since time immemorial, has Indian society been organised to support the holy men, for they are not supposed to work.

But in India too, the times they are a'changing.


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An integral part of the exercise is the ritual offering of foodstuffs to the smouldering heaps of cowdung, the holy fire, under the acompaniment of muttering mantras.
In this ascetic ritual the sadhu symbolically sacrifices himself to the fire, he has become the offering.
Having made offerings to his fires, the baba blows the shankh, or conch-shell, to invoke the deity.


It is the musical instrument with which Vishnu produces the primordial sound of Creation, and it is only used by Vaishnavas. This concludes the preliminary rituals, and now the Baba can sit in meditation.

A ‘standing’ Baba, who is called khareshwari, has taken the vow not to sit or lie down for twelve years. He may rest one leg by hanging it in the sling under his swing. It is a painful austerity: the swollen legs and feet tend to develop persistent ulcers.

Khareshwaris may walk about, but usually just hang in their swing in their corner -- and stand.

Some, at a mela for instance, may turn this austerity into quite a performance. The lay pilgrims are always much awed by khareshwaris and consequently very generous with their donations, in money or in kind.

A tree is the traditional place for the austerity of standing, not only because the swing can be attached to one of the branches, but also because of the baba’s identification with a tree, for it is also termed vrik-asana (or vrikshasana), meaning ‘tree-posture’.

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Bajrang Das, a 'standing' baba


And indeed, the khareshwari starts resembling a tree, his swollen feet look like roots, with a firm grip on the ground.

The austerity of ‘standing’ is performed by Ramanandis, Nagas, Naths and Udasin.


Sadhus, Holy Men of India by Dolf Hartsuiker.

Author of the book Sadhus: India's Mystic Holy Men
Category: Ethno & Shamanism | Monks & Ascets |


Friday, 15. December 2006
Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery

Deep in the heart of the Kanchanaburi province in Western Thailand there lies a Buddhist temple with a difference. For not only is this temple home to monks who spend their time in prayer and meditation, over the last 7 years it has become a sanctuary for tigers: The Tiger Temple.

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Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery was established by the Abbot-Phra Acharn Phusit (Chan) Kanthitharo in 1994.

Since its opening Wat Pa Luangta Bua gained a reputation as a wildlife sanctuary. It started with an injured wild fowl given to the monk by the villagers, then peacocks came attracted by the calls of by then rather large colony of wild fowl. An injured wild boar stumbled in to the monastery and the monks cared for him until he could be released back into the forest. The next day he came back followed by his family group of about 10 animals. By now a countless number of boar find shelter in the monastery. Villagers also started to bring in unwanted pets: four species of deer moved in, followed by buffalo, cow, horses, wild goat and gibbons. All these animals are roaming the grounds of the monastery freely.


Official Website:
Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery (Tiger Temple)

The Bible tells of a time when the lamb will lie down with the lion. But here in rural Thailand, it's the deer, the wild boar, the peacock, the water buffalo, along with many other species, living in peace with the tiger. The man who made this improbable harmony possible is not a believer in biblical prophecy. Phra Acharn Chan is a Buddhist monk who never dreamed he would be a guardian to so many of God's creatures. His unlikely twist of fate began 27 years ago when a doctor told him he had a very short time to live.

Buddhist Tiger Temple - An Interview with Abbot Phra Acharn Chan by PBS, Religion & Ethics. With Video.

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Andrew Barron, director of an Animal Planet documentary on the Tiger Temple, tells us more about the Abbot who runs the sanctuary and why he does it. Another Interview by The Asian Journal.

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Welcome to Walking With Tigers a support site for the Famous Tiger Temple in Thailand. The tiger temple has been featured more than once on Animal Planet and has undisputable reputation as a Tiger sanctuary. We need money to make a new home with in the temple grounds called the Tigers Island for the 18 Tigers. The work is already on its way but lots need to be done and your big or small donations are a great help. We have a set up diary and forums where you can read and ask questions about the Tiger Temple.


Walking With Tigers - A site created by Tiger Temple Friends.

Here are two clips (5 min & 2 min) about the Tigers
at the Kanchanaburi Tiger Temple in Thailand:





Compassion ... nurtures the world

So Ferocious you are,
King of the forest;
As a killer, you are merciless;
It has become legendary;
Your fierceness and cruelty,

Everyone is well aware;
How ruthless a tiger is;
But with a heart of love and care;
I tend for you, gently and bit by bit;

Soften and cooled down;
Even a tiger, you also somehow;
Sense and feel the tenderness;
In the Law of Karma, it may be seen;
That animals are not always mean;

All living things are to be pround;
Not to be caged, nor to be bound;
In a lifetime, thereus nothing to bind;
Nothing but a generous mind;

Out of compassion, we' ll nurture the World;
Comfort every heart and soul;
By the great power of Dhamma;
All creatures will be brought closer;
And learn to love each other;

May the loving kindness;
Extended to all beings;
Under the same sufferings;
Bring peace and serenity;
To our world eternally;

Composed in Thai by Mr.Chuchart Krutjaikra,
Translated by Ms.Sunanta Wattanakongtong
Category: Buildings & Places | Monks & Ascets | People & Organisations |


Sunday, 20. August 2006
Tantra of Gyuto – Sacred Rituals of Tibet

Tantra of Gyuto is an account of the Tibetan Buddhist ceremonies by monks of the Gyuto Tantric College. Through ritual and mantric power, the Gyuto monks use sound to effect a specific change in the individual and his environment. By their sheer inherent potency and disciplined execution, these concentrated essential energies bring about direct spiritual phenomena.

It is only this exceptional time, an age of massive world change, that the lamas have reversed their traditional practice of secrecy and allowed certain chants to be heard. These rituals were filmed by authorization of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who introduces the ceremonies.

The film includes extremely rare historical footage from the 1920's to the 1950's.



This streaming video takes 51 minutes.

A film by Sheldon Rochlin and Mark Elliot, Video, Mystic Fire Video
Category: Monks & Ascets | Movies & TV | Religion & Early Cultures |


Sunday, 18. June 2006
The Boy and the King

This is an animated story of Obaid, a boy who tries to teach his people to worship Allah alone, but is opposed by a powerful and arrogant king. While Obaid is the apprentice of an evil sorcerer, he learns about the oneness of God from a pious monk. The boy struggles to teach this truth to others, but his wicked king tries desperately to kill him.

The story is taken from an authentic narration of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which explains the reference to ‘The People of the Ditch’ (Ashab-ul-Ukhdood’) in Surah Burooj (Qur’an 85:4).



This streaming video takes 1 hour 28 minutes.

Produced by Ella Film, Turkey. English Version by Astrolabe Pictures, USA.
Category: Fairy Tales & Fables | Monks & Ascets | Movies & TV |


Monday, 27. March 2006
Footsteps to Buddha

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Monks chant in a waterfall.
Dalat, Vietnam.



Some beautiful photographs!

Footsteps to Buddha
by Dang Ngo.

Category: Art & Visions | Monks & Ascets |


Sunday, 26. February 2006
Chuang Yen Monastery Tour

Take a tour of this unique monastery in New York, USA, where the largest statue of Lord Buddha resides indoors. This is the largest in entire Western Hemisphere.

See for yourself how beautiful it is ...



This streaming video takes 29 minutes 20 seconds.
Produced by Amolak Sehgal.
Category: Monks & Ascets | Movies & TV | New Age & New Religion | Religion & Early Cultures |


Monday, 06. February 2006
The Monkey King & Other Chinese Myths

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"Monkey King", or known to the Chinese as "Journey to West", written by Wu Ch'eng-en (1500?-1582), a scholar-official, is one of the renowned classical Chinese novels about an allegorical rendition of the journey, mingled with Chinese fables, fairy tables, legends, superstitions, popuar beliefs, monster stories as well as whatever the author could find in the Taoist and Buddhist religions. It was based on a true story of a famous Chinese monk, Xuan Zang (602-664).

Monkey King is an indeed rebellious extraordinary being, born out of a rock, fertilized by the grace of Heaven, Being extremely smart and capable,


he learned all the magic tricks and gongfu from a master Taoist, being able to transform himself into seventy-two different images such as a tree, a bird, a beast of prey or a bug as small as a mosquito so as to sneak into an enemy's belly to fight him inside or out.

The story of Journey to the West is divided into three parts: (1) an early history of the Monkey spirit; (2) pseudo-historical account of Tripitaka's family and life before his trip to fetch the sutras in the Western Heaven; (3) the main story, consisting of 81 dangers and calamities encountered by Tripitaka and his three animal spirit disciples - Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy .The average readers are facsinated with the Monkey King, all prowess and wisdom, while many critics agree that the protagonist embodies what the author tried to convey to his readers: a rebellious spirit against the then untouchable feudal rulers.

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The Monkey King (English)
With beautiful Chinese paintings.

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Check also the other stories:


Western Chamber

Water Margin

Three Kingdoms

Strange Stories

The Scholars

Red Chamber

Peony Pavilion

The Golden Lotus

The Story of Ch'u Yuan

Category: Monks & Ascets | Myths & Sagas |


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