Bodh Gaya and Sarnath 2016 update, photo links
and information for January, 2017 retreats
We held our 42nd annual Dharma retreat in India on mindfulness, insight meditation (vipassana) and liberation in India in late February. 2016.
Indian newspapers had been reporting a decline of around 5% tourists per year (outside Goa) for several years in India. For example, British tourists and travel agents were disgruntled with the £98.00 visa charge (the British government charge even more for Indian citizens to secure a tourist visa for the UK), plus sending in the passport, photo and visa forms to the Indian High Commission. One small error or oversight in the form could result in delays in securing the visa.
Tourists have been switching to Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand instead.
To its credit, the Indian government has issued to 150 countries an online e-visa (£38.00) for a 30-day visa, non-extendable. Visitors to India have increased already by 7% since introduction of the e-visa. The Indian High Commission in London confirm the visa for printout within 72 hours.
We changed the name of our website in 2015 to www.meditationinindia.org . To my surprise, nobody had registered the name of this website despite the widespread interest in Indian spirituality and meditation. Our website can offer the programmes in India for Bodh Gaya, information on our school in Bodh Gaya, named Pragya Vihar School and our Sarnath programme.The website also provides information on the various programmes our sister networks of Open Dharma and Sanghaseva in India. Our website will be modernised during 2016.
Thai Monastery, Bodh Gaya
We switched our meditation retreats from Bodh Gaya to Sarnath after 40 years.
The Buddha experience his night of awakening under the tree in Bodh Gaya some 2600 years ago. The Thai Monastery in Bodh Gaya demolished the old buildings or shifted locations for the retreats. Male practitioners will remember sleeping on the floor with mosquito nets in the basement of the temple, along with mice and mosquitoes, while women experienced crowded dormitories.
The Lord Abbot raised funds in Thailand to build a five star meditation centre with marble floors, a Dharma hall for sitting/teachings for 100 plus meditators and a walking/yoga hall of the same size on the floor above. Thick walls should reduce the sound level of any nearby weddings with all meditators being provided with ear plugs. Just in case.
The new meditation centre is 95% complete. The Lord Abbot has kindly offered as a dana (donation, the gift, the practise and act of generosity) from the monastery to supply the cooks and Thai vegetarian meals for the retreats there. Our retreats in Bodh Gaya and India rely totally on dana. In the past years, yogis kindly gave dana to pay for food, necessities, equipment and cooks wages. The monastery will now offer the dana, as well as provide the stainless steel kitchen in the meditation centre. As usual, there will a dana appeal for travel costs for the teacher and support for daily life expenses.
Radha (Nicholson), a senior Dharma teacher in Australia, will offer the retreat in the Thai Monastery, Bodh Gaya. Radha and I taught for several years together in Bodh Gaya.
Thai Monastery, Sarnath
The easier access to an Indian visa, the use of the Thai Monastery in Sarnath (40 minutes in the taxi from Varanasi station) and the name of our new website has contributed to increase in participants on the two seven day retreats. With managers, teacher (s) and yogis, we had 58 for the first retreat and around 48 for the second retreat. We have beds for 60 people, plus around 12 tents.
Senior retreat manager, Dominika took care of everybody with Dora as the assistant manager. Dora will be our senior manager in Sarnath for 2017. Beloved Dominika is expecting a baby in early June 2016. Both women live in Brighton, England
Our beloved Indian cooks, along with Mahadeva and his son, Suni, provide excellent mildly spiced vegetarian food. The Abbot kindly spends (and much more) all the dana we give to the monastery to improve the meditation facilities. It is a dana from the monastery. In 2015, he arranged to build a 11 bed room facility, offer showers with hot water, two glass doors for the meditation hall, marble floors for many rooms and more. The Sarnath centre is developing into a fine meditation facility.
We have concern about the noise from the nearby weddings. On the first retreat, we had one wedding. It usually last for about three to four hours in the evening. There were several weddings on the second week. We learn that the Hindu astrologers pick certain days as auspicious for a wedding and these days are selected more than a year in advance.
With the Abbot’s permission, we have changed the dates our retreats to two weeks when there are only two auspicious days for weddings – one on the last night of the first retreat and one on the first night of the second retreat. India is unpredictable. We shall see.
Dates for the Dharma retreats for 2017
Thursday January 26 to February 2, 2017 with Christopher are:
February 2 to February 9, 2017 with Christopher and Zohar.
February 12 – 19th in the Thai Monastery, Bodh Gaya with Radha.
After the Bodh Gaya retreat, yogis can travel by train or perhaps bus together, and stay in Thai Monastery, Bodh Gaya, as soon as they arrive in Bodh Gaya. Radha has invited a Dharma senior in Australia to manage her retreat.
Photo links to Bodh Gaya and Sarnath monasteries
Here are photos the new meditation centre in the Thai Monastery, Bodh Gaya. It will be finished by end of May, 2016. Also, there are some pictures of our school with 560 children – supported by our Dharma community and other kind benefactors. There is easy access to Bodh Gaya through flights to Bodh Gaya airport and trains to nearby Gaya.
Click on small square with arrow in centre on top right hand side of flckr page to watch as slideshow.
Photos from Bodh Gaya
Here are photos to the meditation centre in the Thai Monastery, Sarnath, near Varanasi. The Buddha gave his first teachings in Sarnath on the middle way between self-promotion and self-hate. There are also a few photos taken in the nearby hamlet, a few hundred metres away.
Photos from Sarnath
You will see in the photos the 23-metre-high statue of the Buddha in the grounds of the Thai monastery. A team of India craftsmen spent years building this rather beautiful statue. They only used a hammer and chisel to carve out statue from blocks of stone. The workers employed bamboo poles to erect the statue with his 560 blocks of stone.
The Abbot said the workers only employed traditional carving and construction methods. No electricity was used. Teachers and yogis from our retreat donated the dana to cover the cost of the blocks of stone and carving for the lips of the Buddha in the statue. The blocks of stone came from a sacred mountain in north India that the legendary King Asoka used to proclaim his famous edicts.
Do join the Sarnath and Bodh Gaya retreats in late January/February, 2017. It might be a genuine life changing experience.
May all beings live mindful lives
May all beings live with wisdom
May all beings know liberation