Tag Archives: temple

Lots of Lotus………….

One of the things that I really wanted to do before we left Delhi for good was to go see the Lotus Temple. The inside of the Lotus Temple. I had driven by it a few times and marveled at its beauty and its architecture. It is a lovely, lovely building.

The Lotus Temple is a Bahá’í House of Worship. The Lotus Temple is open to anyone of any religion. No sermons are given but readings can occur and, although a readings can be accompanied by a choir, no musical instruments can be played inside Bahá’í Houses of Worship. Bahá’ís believe in three main principles – unity of God, unity of religion, and unity of humankind. They believe that God has sent messengers through the ages including Abraham, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and recently the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. They believe that humanity is in a process “of collective evolution, and the need of the present time is for the gradual establishment of peace, justice and unity on a global scale.” (thanks Wiki)

I didn’t know all that until I started writing this post and now I am super bummed that we did not make it over there.

Obviously, the temple is designed after the lotus flower which is also lovely.

Lotus flowers are often incorporated into the drawings of many of the Hindu gods – particularly Vishnu and Lakshmi and Ganesha.

And lotus seeds and stems can be eaten. I saw them in the spice market of Old Delhi.

And then, at the very last place I went to eat before we left Delhi, lotus stems were on the menu. You might have gathered that I am not the most adventurous eater out there but how can flowers deemed worthy of designing a temple after be too bad? Plus, my friend had tried them and said they were yummy. 😉

They were d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. Yummy Yummy. They are sweet and crunchy and I liked them even better with a little bit of steamed white rice.

the Silver Temple in Amritsar………

Nope, that is not a mistake – there is certainly a Golden Temple in Amritsar, India (it is the highest of all Sikh temples and you can read more about it here) – but there is also a Silver Temple in Amritsar. It is a Hindu temple modeled after the Golden Temple – and it looks a lot like the Golden Temple except it is (much) smaller and the lines are (much) shorter. The temple is also known as the Sri Durgiana Temple.

The Silver Temple got its name from the beautiful silver doors that adorn the entrance ways.

I was told this guy is the founder of the temple and he welcomes you outside the gate. Actually he is facing the entrance, so it would be more accurate to say he bids you farewell.

This bell is all full of awesomeness. Many temples have bells. I have been told they serve two purposes – one, to let God (or the gods) know you are there and two, to scare the evils away. Either works for me.

This is one of the prayer books.

There are statues of gods everywhere – by some accounts, Hinduism hails over 1 million gods – this one is Ganesha. He is known as the “remover of obstacles”. He watches over you when you try anything new. He is a good friend to have!

This one is Lord Hanuman – the monkey god and is seemingly the most popular of the Hindu gods.

This guy protects you when you travel. (I cannot remember his name, so if you know it, please share it.) So, we visited with him for a minute and took a picture with him just to make sure we had evidence that he knew we were there.

You can see performances in honor of the Goddess Durga while you are there. Apparently it is quite an honor to be selected for the performance – I think someone forgot to this little one that. 😉

According to Wikipedia, Durga “manifests fearlessness and patience, and never loses her sense of humor, even during spiritual battles of epic proportion.” Yep, it would be (very) good to have her on your side.

A lot of people in India like to have their picture taken and then they like to see the image on the camera screen. This guy asked me to take his picture. So I did, then I showed it to him. He was very, very excited. So, he asked our tour guide to ask me to mail it to him. Sure, that’s easy enough. He wrote down his number with a big honkin’ smile on his face.

Then he figured if it worked once, maybe he could ask again. You can imagine that once was charming, twice was amusing, but we were quickly approaching “enough already”. I took the second picture and showed it to him and then we wanted to get on our way. But he must have been concerned that we weren’t taking him seriously because he asked us to stop and he pulled out a piece of paper – he wanted us to know for sure that he was legit – so he showed us his medical release papers – from the mental hospital. Fantastic.

I have not mailed the pictures yet – and it isn’t because I misplaced his address – I know right where it is – it’s somewhere in my house. And when I find it I will mail it. 😉

Over 100,000 served daily……………

Wouldn’t that be fun if that was the number of people who read my blog everyday? Alas, it is not.  In fact, a year and a half into this great blog adventure, I am barely approaching 100k visitors. One hundred thousand is the number of people that are served free food every single day at the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. I did not realize until this trip that every single Sikh Temple (Gurudwara) has a kitchen to feed anyone who comes there to eat. No one who is hungry is turned away. That is amazing. I only have to feed five people and sometimes I struggle with that – and I have a cook. Yikes.

I had heard so much about the magnificence of the Golden Temple – the highest of all Sikh Temples – and was thrilled Ann and Julia were up for the trip. They survived the overnight train and we all really enjoyed Amritsar.

Everyone who enters the Golden Temple must cover their head (yep, the men too), remove their shoes, and wash their feet. Because the water was in a marble basin area, I thought it was going to be freezing – but it was delightfully warm.

These guards stand watch and I believe they know the history of the Golden Temple and are also meant to help anyone with questions.

The name Amritsar means “nectar of mortality” and the man-made lake around the Golden Temple is thought to be filled with immortal nectar. While we were visiting the temple, we saw many men bathing in the water, drinking the water, and/or placing droplets of water on their heads. The women have their own section that is in a building to ensure their privacy and so that crazy bloggers won’t take their picture and post them on the internet for all the world to see.

You might notice that these men have daggers in their turbans. Many Sikh men carry with them 5 things that symbolize their allegiance to the Sikh faith. These things are known as the 5 Ks and they are:

Kesh is uncut hair on the head and body, symbolizing acceptance of God’s will. Apparently more contemporary Sikh’s do not necessarily follow this rule.
Kachh is a white cotton undergarment. It is practical in battle, and therefore symbolizes moral strength and chastity.
Kara is a steel bracelet symbolizing responsibility and allegiance to God. It is also my understanding that the bracelet can protect the owner’s wrist in battle and is a constant reminder to do the right thing – the hand shall not be used for any wrong-doing.
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is a wo0den comb that represents personal care and cleanliness. Plastic combs cannot be used because they are more likely to pull out hairs.
Kirpan is a steel dagger, a symbol of resistance against evil and defense of truth.

Every Sikh is asked to do all that they can to make a pilgrimage to the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) at least once in their lifetime. And the temple receives 200,000 visitors each day. To accommodate those traveling to the Golden Temple, there is an entire building with rooms for sleeping and the most unbelievable soup kitchen I have ever seen. Both of which are free to visitors. These are just some of the plates.

I know some of my germ-o-phobic friends are thinking Holy Swine Flu, Batman, how many hands are touching those plates. But each plate, cup, and all utensils are washed 5 times before they are put back into rotation. The temple has 3,000 volunteers who come everyday to help out.

I think this might have been the dahl.

This is the main dining hall. You bring an empty plate and sit on the floor and you can have as many helpings as you would like.

Julia asked if we could help out and they put us to work making chapatis. The woman helping me just shook her head and laughed (a lot). I don’t think I will be opening a chapati stall anytime soon. They were all crooked and uneven. I finally got up when I realized she could make 10 chapatis in the time she was “helping” me make one. I was way dumbin’ her way, way down. But I would sincerely argue that it was difficult to keep my big arse scarf out of the way – they should really just consider hair nets. 😉 Julia was much, much better at it. They were actually sad to see her go.

After we made handmade chapatis for the masses, they showed us this machine that can make something like 3,000 chapatis an hour.

There are some things at the temple that are supposed to bring you good luck. One is if fish swim up to where you are standing. Notice 3 fish – 3 friends. That was lovely.

Then this blackbird landed on the branch while we were standing nearby. There was only one bird, but we took three pictures of it just in case.

And then there is this tree. It is the jubi tree and was planted by the first head priest over 450 years ago. It is believed to have very special powers and women who do not have children tie a ribbon on it for good luck. (Please do not even ask me if we tied ribbons.) It still grows fruit but no one is allowed to pick it. It is simply amazing to me that this tree is older than the United States.

This post is getting much longer than I thought it would be so I am going to say goodbye for now and finish up tomorrow. Nite nite.

Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua …………

Say what? That means “Tiger Temple”. It is about a 3-hour drive from Bangkok. Yes, we went! You had to know we would. It is a Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand run by Buddhist monks. The head of the temple is called the abbott (not sure why you need to know that – but if you ever pull that one out in a game of trivial pursuit you can thank me.) They care for the tigers and give visitors an opportunity of a lifetime.

There are two different types of tours – one is where you go to the park in the afternoon and see the tigers during their quieter time of day – afternoon. I am sure this is fabulous – when else are you going to see that many tigers so close together and get your picture taken with a big arse cat? However, it’s afternoon – the cats are not that active. They have just eaten lunch and it’s hot. (Did I mention that Thailand is super hot? I did not think it was possible to be hotter than India. Wrong.) So I am guessing you do a lot of looking at cats resting after lunch. Of course, if you are going to sit near a big arse cat and have your picture taken, after their lunch is probably a very good time to do it. Otherwise you might become what we call the appetizer – formerly known as my loyal blog reader.

We chose to go to the temple first thing in the morning and spend about 3 hours with the monks and tigers. Holy cat batman, that is the way to go. You might suspect that this is the (much) more expensive option – it is – but it really is a once in a lifetime experience. And our children are earning their bachelors degrees from the school of life, who really needs college anyway? I am quite sure that when their prospective employers read on their resume that they have pet and played with and fed and bathed very large tigers, they will be a shoe in for any job.

Anycat, the day started with us being picked up at our hotel in Bangkok at 5am in the morning. We get in the van and drive, drive, drive and then drive some more. Luckily, it’s early and we are still exhausted, so we slept a good bit of the way. (By the way, the roads in Thailand are very well developed – but they are bumpy – so dramamine is a good idea of you are easily nauseous in the car.) Then we stopped at a mini mart – now if you have been living in India and do not exactly have mini marts, this is a pure slice of junk food and soda heaven. We filled up with c.r.a.p. for us and bought some breakfast items to offer to the monks. It is my understanding that the majority of the food they eat is donated. Our guide told us to buy them Pepsi because they apparently don’t get too much of that. Too funny. Pepsi it is.

So we get to the park and line up behind a table with our offerings. We had to remove our shoes. The monks lined up and walked past us with buckets. We bowed to them. They took the food and Pepsi. It was kind of strange really – but cool enough. If you ever do this, there are about 14 monks at the temple. Each one of them walks by you with a bucket. Make sure you buy at least 14 things. And the volunteers at the temple, get their leftovers – so really stock up.

Okay, I was the only one in my family who actually offered food and bowed. This is all the hard evidence number one hubby needed to prove, once and for all, that I am a dork of the highest magnitude this side of Kanchanaburi. But, I believe that when in Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, you should do as the Wat Pha Luang Ta Buans do.

Then we were asked to sign a waiver. It went something like this. You are an idiot for wanting to play with and feed real tigers – you do know they are wild animals, right – they might attack you – if they attack you, you are not going to be on the winning side of the fight – we are questioning your sanity – oh good, you brought your smallish children – sign here.

Off to the park. We first met the smaller tigers and one adorable tiger cub named Full/New Moon – sorry, I cannot remember the thai translation for that – but she was born on a full moon. She was just about a month old. We fed the tigers bottles and honestly marveled at their beauty and strength. The younger tigers were very soft – but as they age, their fur becomes more wirey.

And I got bitten- for the first time – by a real flippin tiger. In our little intro to the day, they explained that they really weren’t kidding – these are real tigers with real teeth and they really might (try to) bite us. They live in this nice little sanctuary but they are w.i.l.d. animals. If they did bite at us, we were supposed to push their heads away and NOT pull away from them.  It was our responsibility to keep their mouths away from any body parts we wanted to leave with still attached to our own body. The not pulling away part was emphasized – so I made a mental note of it. Do not pull away. Then, I completely forgot that and immediately pulled my leg away (intact) and I did not remember to push the tiger’s head away. Luckily there are trainers with you and they remembered just what to do. The tiger did not even break the skin – but it was a wee bit scary. They immediately rushed to me and asked if I was okay. Leg still there – check. No blood gushing out of my body – check. Children ok – check. More blog material – check. Yeah, I am good. I was left with a small scratch and a bruise – battle scars.

I can now add “I have been bitten by a tiger” to my list of quotes for that silly getting to know you game where you write something down that no one would ever guess about you and then they try to guess who wrote it. It’s good to have something interesting to write down.

There was a baby cub there and several adolescent tigers. The larger tigers were chained to posts and we were able to sit with them and pet them and feed them bottles. Interestingly enough, tigers don’t purr like domestic cats do. They do roll and stretch and like to be scratched like pets though.

Next we had breakfast with the monks. Well, the monks had breakfast over there and we ate over here. But they sat and we watched. I stood up to take pictures and was told that a woman cannot be higher than the monks so I had to sit back down. Normally, I would have been all “what’s up with that” but they were letting me pet their tigers, so I took a pass on going Norma Rae on them. Then we got to watch a small chanting/prayer ceremony. That was interesting enough and really quite peaceful.

Then off to walk the tigers. Excuse me? Walk the tigers – as in take them off the posts that they are currently restrained by? Okay. Please remind me exactly what that waiver said. This isn’t safe or a good idea? Am I remembering that correctly?

Sure, I’ll walk the tiger. And I will let my children do it. Why not? Katie Couric isn’t here filming a “what not to do as a parent” episode is she? Because if she is, I need to put on my lipstick.

And if you are wondering if they are as powerful as they seem on the Discovery Channel when they are bringing down a large antelope – the answer would be “absolutely!”

Angel was thinking that maybe she got delivered to the wrong family by the stork. She was hoping for parents that looked out a little better for her safety and well being.

The next stop was an enclosure and where we got to play with them for a good 45 minutes. They were majestic and magnificent and amazing and, dammit, another one bit me.

Don’t even ask, if I remembered the “rules”. You know good and damn well I did not. I pulled my leg back immediately. I did not push his head away. Angel watched it happen and decided that she really liked the tigers – from a distance. Again, no blood. Again, leg still attached. Again, children fine. It’s all good. But I have to say reality set in and I got a little nervous. So I decided Angel should not have to watch from far away all by herself. Like any good mother would, I went and sat with my cub in the shade, far away from the action. And like any good mother would, I left my 12 and 10 year old in the middle of the activity.

After that, we were invited to bathe and feed the tigers. Tremendous. You mean they will eat something besides me? Yeah! So we washed them with soap and rinsed them with a hose and fed them cooked chicken. Yes, right out of our hands.

Tigers in the wild eat raw meat – so they also get supplements to offer them the nutrients that the cooked meat does not have. But they do not want them eating raw meat because they do not want them to taste the blood. No, I did not read that on the waiver. They conveniently left that little tid bit off. But there is also the concern for avian flu – so it is important that the meat is cooked. The tigers had no problem eating the chicken and leaving our hands in tact. So it was  a win-win.

And if you are wondering, my thought bubble is very full of wonders at this point – is this the one that bit me earlier? Do humans really taste like chicken? Remind me again who thought this was a good idea.

Then we were told it was time to go to the canyon with the big cats. They said Angel was too small to be in the canyon because the really big tigers might want to play with her – I think that translated into – we weren’t kidding with the waiver crazy lady – your children should not be here. But they offered to let her go back with the baby cub and play with her for a while. They were so nice and told me that one of the staff members could take her back to the cub and walk her around the park to see the bears and lions they had rescued while we went to the big cat canyon.

Now, I might let her come to the tiger temple and walk and feed tigers – but thank so much – I am not letting a total stranger walk her around solo in the wooded Tiger Temple that is in Thailand. Yep, I went with Angel – Number One Hubby took Bear and Flower to the canyon.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. The temple has rescued a couple of lions and a couple of bears in addition to the tigers they care for. Angel and I got to see these animals because she could not go to the canyon. They are not on the regular tour yet. Their enclosures are being built and I think once they are done, these animals will be available for the public to see.

This bear is folding his paws and giving the traditional Asian bowing greeting. The guide asked if Angel wanted to feed him. I said sure – after all I had already signed the waiver, right? And at least this guy is behind bars.

Meanwhile, the rest of my crew went the the canyon where they watched the big cats frolic and play and were in absolute awe of their strength and agility. For that part of the tour, you are in a small fenced in area while the very large tigers walk and play around you. As you can see, the term fence is used loosely – it was not even waist high.

The staff and volunteers were amazing. They shared their love of these big beasts with us and kept us safe. Most of our pictures are from them – they were so generous with their time and energy and often took our cameras and captured our experience so we could just be fully engaged in our adventure. One thing that is important to know is that flash photography is strictly forbidden. But as you can see, you really don’t need it.

There are reports that abuse and illegal trafficking and breeding are happening at the temple. There is even speculation that the tigers are drugged to make them calmer. I can tell you that the people we talked with love these animals and treat them with respect and tenderness. The tigers seemed very comfortable and relaxed. We never saw any abuse or signs of abuse. I cannot speak to how the tigers get there or what breeding practices are in place. But I can tell you that the tigers we saw were vibrant and active and simply magnificent and are very much loved.

I will leave you with this – my new friend is about 400 pounds.

In the meantime……….

I have sporadic access to the internet right now so this will be quick. We are having some fabulous adventures and I have lots to share with you. In the meantime, here are a few photos….

The Rest of the Story (Singapore Style) …….

There were just a few other things we did in Singapore that we did that you might want to know about if you get a chance to go there.

Of course, there is the Hard Rock Cafe.

And there is a great beach at Sentosa Island. Bear even found a sand dollar. And the girls found some great shells.

One-fourth of all the world’s cargo goes through Singapore, so you can see a lot of big ships coming in and out of the port.

Singapore has a Chinatown that is very fun! And we thought expensive.

And Chinatown has a Hindu Temple.

And a Buddhist Temple.

This guy is watching you so behave yourself!

And Chinatown has lots of market shops with fun trinkets.

And this laughing budha who will give you well wishes if you rub his belly (and drop a coin in the slot).

The seahorses did not fare so well. Apparently they are used in soup.

This was bamboo something – it looked kind of like a bamboo jello jiggler. No, I did not try it. Next time.

There is a go-kart ride that goes down a pretty big hill. Lots of fun. Be careful doing this if your kids are at all competitive. It could end up costing a lot of money trying to let everyone win.

After the go-kart (luge) ride, you take a chair lift back up the hill. If you catch it at the right time, you will see this amazing view.

And what is a visit to an Asian city without a little monkey love?

And the dare devil adventure continues. Here is one of my Trapeze artists in the making.

Here is a little quiz for you – do you know what happens if you put a picture of one daughter on the flying trapeze for all the world (and her friends) to see and you do not put one of your other daughter? You pay for therapy for years. So, forget what the economists are recommending this is my own little version of savings. Angel taking a flip……

And this is the mega zip. You put on a harness, attach it to the cable, say a quick prayer, and zip down the mountain. This is a fabulous ride ladies – you actually have to weigh enough to do it. No skinny minnies here.

The whole way down I am thinking “I cannot believe I just strapped myself to a cable this high off the ground and trust that I am going to land safely. And I took my child with me.” When I landed, I thought, “that was really fun!”

You can also rent segues.

The trick is to lean forward enough – but not too far. Here is what I learned about riding segues – you really don’t want anyone taking your picture from the back. 😉

And there is a suspended obstacle course. Yeah sure, sign me up. You can choose to obstacle one, two, or three stories up. First floor for me and Angel. Hubby, Flower, and Bear – all the way to the top. The kids really enjoyed this. Hubby and I were very glad to have survived it.

Why does it look so high up you ask? Because it is.

And there is the night safari. Some people LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this. We could have skipped it and gone to the regular zoo instead. It’s at night and so it’s dark – I know, continue to be amazed by my deductive reasoning abilities. But it is hard to see the animals and many of them are still sleeping even though they are nocturnal. But seeing these guys dance around with fire was pretty full of awesomeness.

And the animal show was cute enough.

Especially when they wrapped this big-arse snake around my husband’s neck.

And forget a chicken in every pot. I am running for President and promising a 7-11 on every corner! Slurpees and all. Singapore 7-11’s even have a mashed potato fountain machine. They tasted a lot like KFC mashed potatoes which made Bear and Hubby very happy!

What not to wear………….

When you travel around and visit different religious sites, it is very good to be prepared – to know what is considered acceptable attire. Most people don’t want to unwittingly insult their hosts – count me among those people. I am careful and try to pay attention to the rules. I take a scarf to cover my head and wear longer pants or skirts. I keep my shoulders covered and try to leave all leather materials at home. I know to take my shoes off before I enter and to walk away from idols backwards. I know not to point my feet out in front of me when sitting on the ground.

I have been around the temple block so to say.

H.o.w.e.v.e.r., when you are in Old Delhi and you visit the Jama Masjid Mosque, short sleeves are also a no no. Ooops.

But, have no fear, the keepers of the mosque are gracious hosts and they will offer you a robe to wear insist that you wear a robe so as not to embarrass yourself.

I will leave it to you to decide whether you will wear short sleeves in the Jama Masjid. (And men, you can laugh it up all you want. But if you wear shorts, they will give you a wrap – read skirt – to cover up those too sexy legs of yours.)

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The Temples of Kathmandu – part 2…………

Yesterday, I wrote about the Pashupati Temple in Kathmandu. If you have nothing but time on your hands today, you can read that post here.

If you are new here, I’ll catch you up. Last weekend, my family went to visit Kathmandu in Nepal. We saw Mt. Everest from the comfort of an airplane seat and soaked in the markets. It was an amazing experience! Today, I am going to continue to share our trip with you and today’s post will be about more of the temples we saw.

I have gotten a lot of positive feedback (thanks guys) from my last few posts and what I really want to say is – if you can ever go to Kathmandu – go. Go. GO. Go! Kathmandu really surprised me. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. And it hit me right in the soul. I have really had a hard time explaining why. It is a magical place. Really and truly magical.

There was such beauty in the tangible manifestation of prayer – the fact that something lingers even after the prayer has been answered or denied. Stunning. It is also humbling to see just how many worries are out there in the world. We are certainly not alone in our request for help and guidance. We all need it sometimes. I wonder how many of the flags represent prayers that have long gone out of consideration. Worries that are no longer worrisome.

It helps to put our concerns into perspective about what to really focus on. I know that if I had to put a permanent mark on the world for all of the prayers I have offered, there would have been far fewer of them. That truly helps define what really deserves our energy. I felt so lucky to currently just have global prayers like health for the world and peace for the world and nothing really immediately personal. I always pray for people who are alone in the world and anyone who is struggling in any way – so I included them. But my own heartache is simply being away from home – that can absolutely feel overwhelming at times – but going to Nepal was perspective changing. The sadness of being away from family and dear friends is lessened ever-so-slightly (and effectively) by the experiences my immediate family is sharing together. We only wish our friends and family were here with us.

The second temple we visited was the Bouddhanath Stupa. It is a Buddhist Temple. And it was the first place I had ever seen prayer flags and the prayer wheels. If you want to get a 360 degree view of the stupa, click here.

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There does not seem to be a clear understanding of who built this stupa and several different versions of its beginnings are offered. They are all very different and not seemingly connected. So, I won’t try to turn this into a history lesson.

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The walkway around the stupa forms a circle. Number One Hubby and I agreed that the “town” surrounding the temple felt very European. Of course the walkway is lined with merchants selling trekking gear and souvenirs.

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There are four sets of eyes on the temple. One set facing each direction. It is my understanding that they represent the fact that we are always being watched over for protection and that they watch for assurances that we are doing our best. They are the eyes of wisdom and compassion. Kind of brings new meaning to the mother’s claim that she has eyes in the back of her head. 😎

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This prayer wheel stood from floor to ceiling. It was massive. And there was a bell on it that rang every time it made a complete rotation. It was humbling to stand before it. Really, what kind of prayer calls for a wheel this big? I cannot imagine how heavy a heart must be with angst to call upon this wheel.

Then we went to the Swayambhunath Temple. It is also known as the monkey temple. There are monkeys everywhere! Both Buddhists and Hindus worship here.

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This is the world peace pond that greets you when you enter the site.

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When you come from a country that is just over 200 years old, it is amazing to see structures that have
lasted through so many generations. This temple is believed to have been created in the 5th century.

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There are prayer flags strewn all throughout the temples in Kathmandu. They are magnificent.

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The Tibetan name for this temple means Sublime Trees because it sits on the mountain side and is surrounding by a great number of different trees. The tree below is my favorite – it is a broken tree in the middle of such splendor and still it stands out with its own beauty. Maybe there is hope for me yet. 😎

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This temple is believed to be the most sacred of Buddhist pilgrimage sites. There is a stupa on the site and various shrines and temples. A Tibetan monastery, museum, and a library are more recent additions to the compound. Much of the symbolism at the site comes from the Vajrayana tradition of Newar Buddhism, but Buddhists of all schools find the site important. Many Hindus also revere the complex as well and come here to worship.

Swayambhunath, is among the oldest religious sites in Nepal. According to the Gopālarājavaṃśāvalī Swayambhunath was founded by the great-grandfather of King Mānadeva (464-505 CE), King Vṛsadeva, about the beginning of the 5th century CE. This seems to be confirmed by a damaged stone inscription found at the site, which indicates that King Mānadeva ordered work done in 640 CE.

The dome at the base represents the entire world. When a person awakes (represented by eyes of wisdom and compassion) from the bonds of the world, the person reaches the state a bit higher. The thirteen pinacles on the top of it symbolises that sensient beings have to go through the thirteen stages of enlightenment to reach Buddhahood.

On each of the four sides of the main stupa there are a pair of big eyes which represent Wisdom and Compassion. Above each pair of eyes is another eye, the third eye. Saying goes that when Buddha preaches, cosmic rays emanate from the third eye which acts as message to heavenly beings, so that those interested can come down to earth to listen to the Buddha. The hellish beings and beings below the human realm cannot come to earth to listen to the Buddha’s teaching, however, the cosmic ray relieves their suffering when Buddha preaches. (Thanks again Wikipedia)

Okay, this one is getting l.o.n.g. too. So, I’ll check out for now. I will just leave you with this view of Kathmandu from the temple.

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On a wing and a prayer……………

If you ever get the chance to visit Katmandu in Nepal, please do it. Don’t hesitate for even one second – just say yes and go. It is an amazing, amazing place and over the next few days, I will share our experiences with you. Katmandu is set in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, so the scenery is stunning – it is beyond compare.

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We took a mountain flight near Mt. Everest and literally saw the top of the world. Right before we left my son said, “it’s just another mountain, why do we have to go?” Be sure that he is not saying that any more. Mt. Everest is certainly more than just another big mountain. It is spectacular. We were all blown away.

Katmandu is also the most spiritual place I have ever been.

We also visited several temples. Hinduism has over 1 million gods, so there is a lot to celebrate and pay tribute to. The Buddhists also have a very strong presence in Katmandu. And there is no shortage of holy men.

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So come back tomorrow for more details  – you won’t want to miss it, I promise. Pinky swear.

Old Delhi, part two – the mosque and the temple….

When you arrive in Old Delhi, you cannot miss the Jama Masjid Mosque. It’s name is a reference to the Friday noon prayers practiced by Muslims. (How do I know that? Wiki of course.) The courtyard can hold up to 25,000 worshipers. This beautiful structure seems to sit in the middle of Old Delhi – you can walk thru it – if you do, be prepared to take off your shoes and, if you are a woman, to cover your head. You will also go thru security.

It is my understanding that Muslims believe in only one God – Allah. We were visiting Old Delhi during Ramadan – which is a time when Muslims fast from dawn until sun down. As it got darker, it got more crowded as more and more people began to break their fast. Ramadan is also a time for more prayer than usual in an effort to learn more patience, modesty, and spirituality (at least according to Wikipedia).

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Several times during our visit to Old Delhi, there were calls to prayer. We chose not to walk thru the mosque, but around it. Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate to enter during the calls to prayers. The walk around was not that far and it gave us the chance to “experience” Old Delhi fully. The people and the sounds and yes, even the smells.

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Unfortunately, you cannot see this is in the picture – but flying in the sky, were hundreds of kites.

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The picture below is of the entrance to the Jain Temple.
In order to enter, you must remove any leather products, remove your shoes, and wash your hands.
If you are a woman, you do not have to cover your head, but you cannot be menstruating.
(Sorry guys, but it’s good for the ladies to know that.)
And, dangit, no pictures allowed inside.

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Jainism is defined by 5 principles..

  • Non-violence (Ahimsa) – to cause no harm to living beings.
  • Truth (Satya) – to always speak the truth in a harmless manner.
  • Non-stealing (Asteya) – to not take anything that is not willingly given.
  • Celibacy (Brahmacarya) – to not indulge in sensual pleasures.
  • Non-possession (Aparigraha) – to detach from people, places, and material things.

The Jains believe that all living things have the potential to be divine. This is very different from Christianity and, I believe, all other religions. Most Jains are vegans because they are not impressed with the treatment of animals at modern dairy farms. They also will not eat root plants like potatoes, carrots, and garlic. They believe that eating the root denies the plant its life and that all life is sacred.

Their belief in non-violence goes beyond physical violence and includes not hurting others in anyway – by thought, word, or deed. Lovely huh? Their goals seems to be to search out the truth from different points of view.

It seemed that the temple mostly had statues of believers – I am not sure how many gods there are.

Of course, most of these details came from Wikipedia. You can read more here.

One last thing. If you visit a Jain temple (there are over 160 Jain temples in Delhi), the guide might offer you a blessing and will place a dot of oil/wax on your forehead. It is polite to let him do that. But if you are leaving the Jain temple to go out into Old Delhi during Ramadan, you might want to wipe off the dot. I do not think this would offend the Jains (although I wiped my off out of their field of vision, just in case) because they are big believers in not insulting others. And I am frankly not sure the symbol would offend anyone in Old Delhi, but if you are an expat you will stand out enough without the aid of a dot. It is good to respect this holiday – and it is a time of renewing the Muslims commitment to modesty – so, ladies, it is good to be pretty covered up.