Tuesday, January 16, 2018

An Introduction to Budhhichitta Mala Beads

Among the Tibetan or Himalayan Buddhist followers, one of 
Buddhichita Beads with center bead indicating Om 
the common ways of keeping up their practice is to possess a set of prayer bead which they use counting and praying during special occasions.  Prayer beads are called Japa Mala in Sanskrit.  Based on places, teachers and practitioners themselves, Japa Mala can be metal, stone, fruits, wood and so forth. 

According to Himalayan Buddhist tradition and belief, malas made from fruits of Boddhichitta plant is the best.  And a little known place of Timal (or Temal) in Central Nepal is the only place from where beads of Boddhichitta comes from. Timal is home of native Tamang people who refer Boddhichita Mala as Thenga or Frengba in their own dialect.  Interesting enough is that, why would a religious sect that emerged in Tibet, that now continuously flourish as one of the strongest spiritual belief systems in the world, be connected with virtually unknown Nepal's hilly remote village?  This piece is aiming to illustrate background about it.   

To begin with, we need to trace back the origin of Tibetan Buddhism.  It was king Thri Song Dechhen (756 – 804AD) who had invited Indian teacher Guru Padma Sambhava (Guru Rimpoche) to Tibet in order to establish proper Dharma Center or monastery and form Sangha or monastic system.  Guru Rimpoche in the other hand had done more practice and contemplation before heading to Tibet.  It was here in Nepal, he had advanced his achievements towards enlightenment and spiritual power to skillfully transform Tibet to new religion.  He had spent years meditating in various places such as Pharping, Halesi, Helambu and so forth in Nepal.  In the course of his travel to those places, it's said that, he also had meditated in one of the caves in Timal. It is believed that, he had sown a plant of Buddhichitta fruit there as a gift (Ter) to the local Tamangs.  Back in Tibet, due to the nature of Pre Buddhist religion, bon which comprised rather wrathful practices, Guru Rimpoche introduced compassionate aspect of practice in order to balance with wrathfulness.  This is where he introduced god of compassion as center deity and his practice as daily routine for the Tibetan people.  It's said that in response to King Thri Song Dechhen's series of questions related rightful and simple practice of Dharma, Guru Rimpoche instructed to have Japa Mala  containing 108 beads and recite the chanting of lord of compassion(Chenrezi). Furthermore, he had also specified the different Japa Malas having different qualities in achieving spiritual benefits.  He had said that, ordinary benefits can be gained by reciting with iron made mala whereas copper made mala would multiply twice the benefit. Similarly Japa Mala made of precious stones such as pearl would multiply the benefit hundred thousand times and benefit of reciting Boddhichita Mala is said incomparably more than any other malas. At the same occasion of giving the teaching about Mala Beads, Guru Rimpoche had said seed of such precious plant is sown by himself in Timal of Nepal.

Buddhichitta Plant and Fruit, Photo By Lapsang Lama (Timal) 

Since then, an unattractive barren reddish looking hill village of Timal some 50 miles east from Kathmandu has been visited by many Tibetans mainly to collect the holy beads.  Locals had known its use for making mala but only few knew its deeper meaning.  People who reached to collect malas in the past, could either get it free of cost or would pay only nominal.  In recent years, however, the holy bead has turned to an expensive object for both tourists and spiritual practitioners.

The ancient legend that stated its availability only in Timal turned out true as the national herborioum and plant laboratory experts KR Bhattarai and M L Pathak, confirmed  that the plant of Bodhichitta that falls in Jijifus family is not found anywhere else.  Their thorough research related to Bodhichitta plant was not limited to Nepal alone but it covered the areas of China, India, Bhutan and other parts of Asia. Their research paper published in 2015 April- June edition of Indian Journal of Plant and Science. Apparently, the plant wasn't recorded in plant encyclopedia, so as per the researchers have said, it has been recorded as 'Jijifus Buddensis KR Bhattrai and Pathak' a rightful name in honor to Buddha and the pioneer researchers. 

The number 108 in a mala is somewhat unique.  A Hindu scholar mentioned that, 108 is the total of male and female phonetic sound of 54 Sanskrit alphabets.  So the set of 108 means completeness of entire alphabets and sounds for a perfect prayer or mantra.  Buddhichitta mala is not of Hindus but the concept of mantra, sanskrit language and various spiritual aspects are shared by both religions. Thus this logic of why Japa Mala should contain 108 beads is quite convincing.  From the Tibetan Buddhist point of view, the mala is mostly associated to god Chenrejig who ichnographically appears in forms for different purposes. Even though he may have numerous different forms, most believe that he has 108 different forms.  So the mala of 108 beads could have been put to represent all different forms of god of compassion as to fulfill the complete prayer to him.

These days we can find mala of different kinds and qualities including with customized colors and sizes.  However, Buddhichitta mala has been considered special among them.  Also the reality of Buddhichitta plant being native of Timal area has added yet another phenomenon to Nepal being home of spiritual and cultural heritages. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Join Lower Dolpo Dhorpatan Trekking Nepal 2017

contact : threejewelsnepal@gmail.com

A tea shop near lake Phoksundo
Join this incredibly beautiful, adventurous and less tourist area of west Nepal lower Dolpo.  We, Three Jewels Adventures local guides owned trekking agency have been able to run trekking trips in lower Dolpo and Upper Dolpo in regular basis since last few years.  For coming September – October which are good months or season for trekking here in Dolpo, we have got one interested client looking to join a group of other trekkers to form small team for fun, safe and mutually benefiting trekking here.  Trekking itinerary posted here is combination of Lower Dolpo and Dhorpatan hunting reserve both visited by very few tourists every year.  Lower Dolpo – Dhorpatan trek starts at Juphal airport after 45 minutes' flight from Nepalgunj in a small aircraft.  First part  of the trek goes to famous lake Phoksundo or Phoksumdo then it becomes more adventurous trekking over Numala and Bagala passes.  After the passes trek descends to beautiful Dolpo village of Dhotarap.  Ending part of the trek goes over no man's land type wild areas to arrive in Dhorpatan and Jaljala alpine zones.  Then finally trek ends at road-head near Beni.  From Beni you come back to civilization of Pokhara or Kathmandu.  Dhorpatan – Dolpo combined trek is of 21 Days. 

Lower Dolpo and Dhorpatan Trekking Itinerary for 2017
Starting 15 September

Day 01. Kathmandu – Nepalgunj flight

Day 02. Nepalgunj – Juphal flight and 4 hours trek to Kagani

Day 03. Trekking Kagani to Rainchi

Day 04. Trekking Rainchi to Phoksundo Lake

Day 05 – 06. Explore the village,lake and monasteries. Be acclimatized for Altitude

Day 07. Half day trek to advance    base camp of Bagala

Day 08. Cross Bagala at 5169 meters and camp

Day 09. Cross Numala at 5300 meters and camp at  Dhotarap

Day 10. Rest

Day 11. Trekking Dhotarap to Newarpani

Day 12. Trekking Newarpani to Laini

Day 13. Laini to Sahartara

Day 14. Sahartara to Sen Khola

Day 15. Senkhola to Dhule

Day 16. Dhule to Pelma

Day 17. Pelma to Dhorpatan

Day 18. Short trek to Jaljala and rest for grand view next morning

Day 19. Jaljala to Muna (jeep meeting place)

Day 20. Return to Beni and to Pokahra (8 hours drive)

Day 21.  Onwards plan to return home or stay longer 



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Discovering Nepali Heritage Away From Nepal

"...Listen mighty king! This wonderful stupa is one that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the all times have actually dissolved into and in which they abide….It's like a wish-granting jewel which automatically answers any prayer that is made to it."  Great Buddhist guru Padma Sambhava replying to King Thrisong Dechen of 8th century in Tibet; quoted from the history of great stupa (Bouddha).

Such are the praises found in the Buddhist scriptures about the historic Bouddha Stupa an iconic monument of Nepal, world heritage site declared by UNESCO and a principle pilgrimage site for Buddhist religious devotees from across the world.  In Buddhist countries stupa or chaitya is one of the most common monuments build for spiritual purposes; thus, we find them in everywhere built in different sizes and designs dating back to different periods of the history. 
Bouddha Stupa Renovated after the Earthquake of 2015

Bouddha stupa also called Jyarung Khasyor by Tamangs and Tibetans along with another historic stupa of Soyambhu has special value in spirituality of Mahayana Buddhism.  The stupa was not only visited by pilgrims of all levels from common people to royal families from different neighbouring countries from time to time, but its replicas were built in respective countries by the Buddhist rulers and their families. One of such replicas of Bouddha build in 18th century is believed to be in eastern Bhutan a place called Tashiyantse. Another one built in 17th century is recently renovated in Shey, Ladakh of Jammau and Kashmir state of India.  

Ladakh a remote western Himalayan land was an independent kingdom ruled by Buddhist kings from 9th century to 19th century before becoming the integral part of modern India. According to the sources found in leaflets and guide books, Ladakh's King Deldan Namgyal (1642-1694 AD) had requested King of Nepal to send a team of Nepali architects and craftsmen not only to build the replica of Boudha stupa near his palace in Shey but he also requested them to build a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha that still guard the ruined palace of Ladakh kings.  
Shakya Muni Buddha Inside Shey Palace, Ladakh
I had visited Shey palace several years ago and had seen the Giant Buddha Statue made of copper considered one of the largest metal Buddha status found in the entire Himalaya. Inside the shrine room of Buddha there was a small handwritten note displayed saying the statue was built by Nepali artists in request to Ladakhi king.  Looking down from the ruins of the palace one could gaze the view of a virtually vanished monument that still looked like small Bouddha stupa of Kathmandu.  I used to tell to my foreigner tourist friends that, the ruin resembled like a replica of Bouddha. However, I couldn't find resource to reconfirm it as even most local people seemed unknown about the forgotten monument. 
Nepali Workers Giving Hand in Renovation of  Replica Bouddha Stupa
I reached Ladakh once again in 2014 during the Kalachakra event and I found out exciting news that the stupa near the old palace is in the final state of its renovation with the help of foreigner volunteers.  And sure enough to my guess, the team involved in renovation had done enough research which affirmed, the stupa was originally built by Nepali architects in 1650s who were invited by the then king Deldan Namgyal.  Luckily, I had an opportunity to witness both the ongoing renovation and consecration puja for newly renovated stupa and very nice coincidence that the project team had found eight Nepali workers from west Nepal to give their hands on rebuilding the replica of their own heritage back in their home country. 

 View of Replica Bouddha Stupa Shey, Ladakh Before Renovation in 2004