Do not dwell in the past, do not reside in the future, concentrate on present. You have only now at your hand –Buddha
The above quote is from the compiled teachings of Gautama Buddha, which represents wisdom, a much needed ingredient by humanity to cook a meal that could bring peace. A person who has learnt to appositely apply the teachings of the great preacher, Gautama Buddha, in his life has attained Buddhahood, and can be called Buddha that literally means ‘an enlightened person’. Certainly, it is a sheer blessing of the consciousness that in India we have Himachal Pradesh that has many monastic institutions educating Buddha teachings. In turn, spreading the vibes of Buddha.
Many, now days, have shown a penchant for spiritualism. Taking this into consideration, travel companies have started curating exclusive spiritual packages for the peace seekers. Picking a Himachal Spiritual package would take you to various monasteries, Gompas, Buddhist libraries and Tibetan temples abounding in various locations of the state.
Apart from centuries-old Buddhist monasteries, there are many meditation and yoga retreats at many hill sites in Himachal Pradesh that provide courses to learn for the people plying on the roads of spiritualism and animism. Usually, these retreat centers are located amidst nature’s presence. That means retreats are surrounded by a natural abundance of trees, mountains and river streams. This proffers a learner to connect with nature in its unadulterated form, somehow expedites the process of connecting with the ‘all pervasive’.
This hill station exudes Buddhahood in the air. Reason for so goes to His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama who took up this place as his home after being exiled from Tibet in 1959. Along with him, many follower monks came to the place, due to which Dharmashala has a large population of Tibetan people.
Tsuglag Khang temple and Namgyal monastery are two important monastic institutions in Mcloedganj (an upper suburb of Dharmshala) where monks and nuns practice the Buddhist teachings round the year. These Buddhist shrines house many paintings, sutras and translated compilation of teachings in English and other languages. Everyday ochre robe donned monks and nuns chant the mantras in harmonization.
Om Ashram and Himalaya Shanti ashram are the two meditation and yoga centers, which render mediation and yoga courses. These ashrams are encapsulated by the natural surroundings of mountains, majestic trees and hurtling river streams.
Legends say that the king of Mandi perpetrated to assassinate Guru Padmasambhava (an eminent Buddhist teacher) to wean off his daughter from his influence, as she became his devotee. It is believed that the king caught them and set the guru on fire. But with the guru’s celestial power, the pyre turned into a lake.
Rewalsar is a town in Mandi, established beside the pious lake. To commemorate Guru Padmasambhava an eye-catching 150 feet tall statue of the guru stands near the lake. The monastery near the lake has many murals, scriptures, stucco statues of Buddha and other cultural paintings well-kept to exhibit to the pilgrims and travelers.
The town also has a Gurudwara built in 1930 in memory of Guru Gobind Singh who stayed near the sanctified lake for around a month.
Lahaul and Spiti valley
Nature at work has given contrasting features to Spiti and Lahaul valley. In comparison to plush green valleys of Himachal, Kullu, Kangra and others, this area has only freckles of greenery, which even disappears in peak winters. People in the valleys have reverence for even the harsh mystical facet of nature. This acceptance is dwelling among people due to the diffused Buddha teachings in their upbringing and conditioning for many centuries, cascaded to contemporary civilization. As an indication of the animistic ethos, many renowned centuries-old monasteries and Tibetan temples are housed in the valleys.
People having a fervent desire to get an in-depth knowledge of the Buddhist culture come to the monasteries of Lahaul and Spiti that allays their spiritual thirst. A few famous ones are:
Kee Monastery: Apprentice of a prominent Buddhist teacher, Dromtom established this monastery in the 11th century, making it a 1000 year old monastic structure. The monastery is the largest of all in Spiti valley, houses many thangkas, murals and exclusive wind instruments. Hundreds of monks and lamas come here to receive their spiritual education.
Another elusive feature of the monastery is its location. It hangs on a cliff at a staggering height of more than 4000 m, overlooking the flowing Spiti River.
Komic Monastery: Built at the highest motorable village of India, Tangyud monastery is on a hilltop at an altitude of more than 15000 feet above sea level. This monastery can be reached by road only. A sturdy off-roading vehicle should to be preferred to ply on the roads of Spiti valley.
Tabo Monastery: It is the oldest monastery in Lahaul and Spiti region. The monastery is located in Tabo village that is about 50 km away from Kaza. Monastery has clusters of caves and buildings that house many chortens, temples and monk’s and nun’s chambers.
Dhankar Monastery: 30 km from Tabo, there is another monastery which is hanging off a cliff precariously. It was built in the 16th century as a fort and prison, later got converted into a monastic institution. Inside the monastery, one can find murals on the walls, paintings of protector deities and thangkas. This monastery awes people with its surreal location. Dhankar Lake is situated merely 2 km up from the structure, which is considered as sacred waters by the people of Dhankar.
All the above places and many more portrays the influence of Buddhism in Himachal Pradesh. These places are worth visiting even if you are not inclined to Buddhism as the religion doesn’t preach its doctrines sternly, but tell humans - how to view life and lead it in the best way. That’s why it is said that ‘All are Buddha, just realization of it is pending’. Visiting the Buddha influenced places, and learning from the people who know its importance could help anybody get enlightened.