Tag Archives: Spiritual

Life reflections at the Reflection Pool in Madrid

By Rohan:

I am not religious by nature. I was never forced to abide by my parents’ religious beliefs and I try to learn about all faiths to gain a greater understanding of people. It recently occurred to me that I’m a very spiritual person. Not spiritual in the sense that I look to the stars for my future, spiritual in the sense that I am aware of life’s mysteries and believe that not all of them can be solved with science.

I’m currently sitting at the Parque de Oeste in Madrid. It’s a peaceful evening. The full moon looms overhead, acting as a spotlight on one of Europe’s liveliest capitals. It’s relatively quiet. Only the shutters of tourists’ cameras and faint sound of dying evening traffic are able to disrupt the still reflection pool at the Templo de Debod. Most visitors come here to see the sunset, but they only get half of the story. While dusk provides dramatic vistas of the city with skies that seem to be painted in dreamy shades of blue, there’s something oddly calming about nights here.

I turn around to the Plaza de España. In the distance, I hear a few street performers crooning. The moon stares right back, its light causing the Royal Palace to glow. Today reminded me that everyday life is tumultuous. We’re constantly worrying about what’s next, who we have to impress, where we have to go. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it”. Much like life, travel can be hectic. My friends and I all have a myriad of things to do before our semester abroad comes to a close. Today’s visit to the temple taught me something. Life isn’t about the main event. We spend so much time fixating on it that we forget how beautiful everything around us is. We all lead hectic lives with jobs, school, family, and friends taking over most of our decision making. It doesn’t hurt to take an evening to appreciate everything. To look into the still waters of a reflection pool and find peace, even if it’s in the heart of the city.

Jokhang Temple, Lhasa – A Beautiful Journey to the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism

By Lakshmi:

No visit to Lhasa could be considered complete without a stop at one of the holiest sites in all of Tibet – the Jokhang Temple.

And so one morning, we headed out on a pilgrimage to the heart of Tibetan Buddhism.  As we approached the square housing the temple, we passed by many rows of shops that sold everything from prayer wheels and incense to mandala paintings and little statues.  This was so similar to the scene you encounter en route to a Hindu temple, with one slight difference that made us smile.  We saw Buddhist monks shopping for textiles and instead of walking on, we stood there just gawking at this trio, pretending to shop so we appeared discreet.

As we got closer we saw people throwing juniper leaves into huge clay burners, leading to the air smelling of juniper incense.  The smell was evocative of the scent of incense sticks at Hindu temples.  And what we saw next was identical to a scene I have experienced at many a temple since my childhood.  We saw adults, children, the elderly all prostrating repeatedly in front of the temple.  Some were doing it a few times, many several hundred or thousand times and a few for several days too.  This was indeed the best visual depiction of devotion.

After circumambulating the temple a few times, we walked in and encountered swarms of people smiling with warmth and genuineness towards us.  The children were enthralled by Sathya, since she was petite and they kept looking in her direction and smiling.  The Gods could not have extended a warmer welcome to us.

The temple was dimly lit with yak butter lamps and in this dimly lit space we saw many of the jewels.  The many paintings, the holy statue of Sakyamuni, statues of King Songtsem Gampo, Princess Wen Cheng and Princess Bhrikuti and of course the Dharma Wheel.  There was one other realization that dawned on us as we observed the swarm of faces dimly lit by the lamps…there was a look of genuine contentment painted across the spectrum, and any hardships or troubles that existed seemed lifetimes away within this place of worship.

We proceeded to the top from where we got some beautiful views of Barkhor Square and the throng of worshippers lining to come inside.

As we walked away from the temple towards another line of shops beyond the square, we were awakened into reality with a poster of Aishwarya Rai, the Indian movie actress.  And in the distance we heard hindi music playing.  But my spiritual journey was not yet complete.  It was completed when I saw and got a silver Tibetan Ganesha, the only one of its kind sitting at a table among the many Buddha statues.

To learn more about visiting the Jokhang Temple, click here: