Along the Path – India & Nepal

Along the Path Pilgrimage to India and Nepal

There are four places which should be (visited and) seen by a person of devotion,” the Buddha said to his attendant monk, the Venerable Ānanda. He then named his birthplace (Lumbinī), the place where he attained Enlightenment (Bodhgayā), the place where he first taught the way to Enlightenment (Sarnath), and the place where he attained parinibbāna (Kushinagar).

Features

 

 

  • Visit and meditate at Deer Park, Bodhi Tree, Vultures Peak, Jeta’s Grove, and other famous sites connected to the Buddha
  • Listen to stories and learn about the Buddha's life and teaching in the places where they actually happened
  • Visit and meditate at Vipassana centers along the pilgrimage route
  • Travel, meditate, and develop friendships with meditators from around the world

 


Upcoming Pilgrimages

October 31 to November 21, 2017

(FULL but accepting for WAITLIST)

Open - Apply Now

Maximum of 30 pilgrims

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February 28 to March 21, 2018

OPEN - APPLY NOW

Maximum of 30 pilgrims

Itinerary

Day 1: Sārnāth
Arrive in Sārnāth and check in to our accommodations where we’ll have an orientation session, group meditation, and dinner.

Day 2: Sārnāth
We’ll head out early in the morning for a guided tour and meditation at the Deer Park, where the Buddha gave his first sermons and set in motion the wheel of Dhamma. After lunch with a local family, we’ll visit the Archaeological Museum, wander around town, and meditate at the Mūlagandhakuti Vihāra while Indian and Sri Lankan bhikkhus chant the Dhammacakkapavatthana Sutta.

Day 3: Sārnāth
To help orient the pilgrimage experience, we’ll do a 1-Day course at the Dhamma Cakka Vipassana Centre.

Day 4: Sārnāth to Bodhgayā
After a hearty breakfast and group meditation, we’ll embark on a six-hour bus-ride to Bodhgayā, with a pit-stop along the way for chai (tea) and lunch. After checking into our accommodations, we’ll honor the Buddha’s Awakening with a group meditation under the Bodhi Tree at the celebrated Mahābodhi Temple.

Day 5: Bodhgayā
We’ll begin the day with a group meditation under the Bodhi Tree, followed by a delicious breakfast at the Be Happy Café. We’ll then continue to tour around, listen to stories, take colourful snapshots, and meditate around the Mahābodhi Temple’s complex before returning to the Be Happy Café for an Italian-styled lunch prepared by a Canadian pizzaiola. Pilgrims can then spend the afternoon meditating on their own at the Mahābodhi Temple, wandering around Bodhgayā’s monastic zones and markets, savoring a cup of chai, or resting back at our accommodations.

Day 6: Bodhgayā
Known today as Mahākala Cave, this site where we will climb up to and meditate is where the Buddha spend his days engaged in meditation and austerities prior to Awakening. After a delicious Indian vegetarian meal at the Hotel Tathagata, we’ll have some more free time before our final group meditation of the day under the Bodhi Tree.

Day 7: Bodhgayā
To help internally absorb our pilgrimage experience, we’ll meditate for the day at Dhamma Bodhi Vipassana Centre.

Day 8: Bodhgayā
This morning we will pay homage to the Saṇgha by offering the daily meal and material requisites to a group of bhikkhus at the Burmese Vihara. Not only is it the oldest monastery in Bodhgayā, this sacred space is also where Goenkaji taught some of his first 10-day Vipassana courses in India. After partaking in a scrumptious Burmese vegetarian meal, meditating among golden Burmese Buddha images, and receiving blessings from the resident and visiting Burmese bhikkhus, we’ll climb up Gayasisa Hill to meditate on the wisdom of the Buddha’s celebrated Fire Sermon. Once again, we’ll conclude our day with a group meditation under the Bodhi Tree.

Day 9: Bodhgayā to Nāḷandā
After meditating at Mahābodhi Temple for one last time we travel onward to Nāḷandā, famous for its heritage as an international Buddhist university that lasted for more than 700 years. The town also featured the Ambalataṭṭhikā and Pāvārikā’s Mango Grove—the Buddha’s favorite spots in the region.

Day 10: Nāḷandā & Rājagaha (Rajgir)
With meditation gear in hand we’ll tour around Rājagaha, one of India’s oldest inhabited cities and currently celebrated as a place of spiritual importance by Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus. On our way up the mountain to Sattapanni Cave where the First Council was held after the Buddha’s passing, we’ll enjoy spectacular views of mountains and valleys dotted with contemporary Jain and Hindu temples. After a delicious buffet lunch at Hotel Siddhartha, we’ll listen to inspiring stories and meditate in the lovely gardens of the Bamboo Grove, the first monastery established by the Buddha. From there, we’ll briefly visit Jivaka’s Mango Grove and Bimbisara’s Jail before sauntering up to Vulture’s Peak for a spectacular sunset meditation.

Day 11: Nāḷandā to Vesālī (Vaishali)
Our morning will begin with a group meditation at the memorial temple dedicated to Xuan Zang, the renowned 7th century pilgrim who traveled by foot from China to India without a map. If not for his fascinating written accounts, much of India’s culture, history, and society, not to mention knowledge of the pilgrimage sites, would be largely unknown today. We’ll then travel to Vaishali, a newly emerging pilgrimage site, where the Buddha frequently taught. After checking in to our accommodations, we’ll meditate at the Licchavī Stūpa, one of the original eight mahāstūpas containing the Buddha’s relics.

Day 12: Vesālī (Vaishali)
The first part of the day will be spent meditating and wandering the ruins of the Mahāvana Kutugarasala Vihāra, the eminent forest monastery home to numerous teachings given by the Buddha and his disciples, as well as the stūpa that contained the mortal remains of Ānanda, the Buddha’s cousin and personal attendant. Pilgrims will have the second half of the day to rest or wander around the village.

Day 13: Kesariya & Kusinārā (Kushinagar)
On our way to Kushinagar, we’ll break at the ruins of the magnificent multi-terraced Kesariya Stūpa, which marks the site of when the Buddha departed from the Licchavī princes for the last time before his passing. This spot is also believed to be in the vicinity of where the Buddha delivered his famous Kāḷāma Sutta, highlighting that Truth must be discovered by oneself and rooted in reason and experience. Upon our arrival in Kushinagar, the city where the Buddha passed into Mahāparinibbāna, we’ll dine at the Lotus Nikko Hotel before meditating and retiring for the evening at the colorful Tibetan Monastery, located a few hundred metres away from the Mahāparinibbāna Stūpa and Temple, the shrine marking the site of the Buddha’s permanent departure from the world of mind and matter.

Day 14: Kusinārā (Kushinagar)
The day will commence with meditations and stories of the Buddha’s last days at the Mahāparinibbāna Stūpa and Temple, followed by a Saṇgha-dāna and lunch at the Burmese Vihāra. In the evening, we’ll meditate upon the arising and passing of all phenomena at the Ramabhar Stūpa, the monument marking the Buddha’s cremation.

Day 15: Lumbinī
Today we will travel to Lumbinī, the Buddha’s birthplace. The long drive will be broken up with stops for chai, and will include a rest at the Thai 960, a tropical Southeast Asian oasis in the middle of the dusty agricultural plains of North-central India. After crossing the border into Nepal, we’ll check-in to the lovely Tashi Rabten Ling Guest House before our evening meditation at the spiritually charged Mahāmaya Temple in the Lumbinī Sacred Garden.

Day 16: Lumbinī
The first half of the day will be spent touring around, listening to stories of the Buddha’s childhood, and meditating at the tranquil Lumbinī Sacred Garden. After lunch at Tashi Rabten Ling, we’ll have a chance to explore the numerous Buddhist monasteries by foot, bicycle, or rickshaw, or simply relax in the charming gardens at Tashi Rabten Ling.

Day 17: Lumbinī
On the agenda today is a visit to the Nepalese part of the ancient kingdom of Kapilavastu. Our first stop is at Tilaurakot, the site of the Great Renunciation where the Bodhisatta left his family to seek out the end of human suffering. Next, we’ll wander monastic ruins, absorb old wisdom tales, and meditate under wild mango trees at the Nigrodhārāma, where many Sakyan warriors left the worldly life to follow in the footsteps of their clansman. After lunch at Tashi Rabten Ling, we’ll have free time before reconvening for a group meditation at the Lumbinī Sacred Garden.

Day 18: Lumbinī
A 1-Day Vipassana course at Dhamma Janani Vipassana Centre will provide an opportunity for integrating all the lessons learned during the sacred pilgrimage.

Day 19: Indian Kapilavatthu (Kapilavastu)
Disembarking from the long bus ride from Lumbinī, we’ll find ourselves at the Royal Retreat colonial paradise. After a sumptuous international buffet and rest period, we’ll meditate at the Sakyan Stūpa, a multi-layered monument where three of the Buddha’s relic caskets had been found.

Day 20: Sāvatthi (Shravasti)
Upon our arrival at the Korean Monastery in Sāvatthī, the largest and most prosperous city during the Buddha’s time and where he had spent twenty-four of his rainy seasons, we will spend the day mindfully roaming about the manicured landscape of the Jetavana Anāthapiṇḍikārāma.

Day 21: Sāvatthi (Shravasti)
After a ½-day Vipassana course at Dhamma Suvatthi Vipassana Centre, we’ll visit and meditate at the ruins of the Miracle Stūpa and at the reconstructed site of the famed Pubbarama Monastery, which had initially been built by Visākha, the Buddha’s foremost patroness who had attained the first stage of Awakening in childhood. After lunch at the Lotus Nikko Hotel, we’ll saunter around at the Angulimāla Stūpa, Anāthapindika Stūpa and Sri Lankan Monastery, which contains a wonderful mural depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life.

Day 22: Lucknow
Once we are finished with our morning meditation and breakfast at the Korean Monastery, we’ll travel to Lucknow where pilgrims will be dropped off at the train station or airport for their homebound journeys.

View Map of Route

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view route on Google Maps


Map of Pilgrimage in India and Nepal

Optional Ease into India Package (US$475)

  • Day 1: Arrival in Delhi at any time; hotel check-in; Welcome dinner
  • Day 2Small briefing/introduction; Delhi sightseeing; Group sitting in a Buddhist Temple; Dinner
  • Day 3: Breakfast; Transfer to Delhi airport for flight to Varanasi; Transfer to Sarnath for start of pilgrimage

Pilgrimage for 21-nights (US$1,595) 

  • Sarnath: 3 nights (includes 1-day Vipassana course at Dhamma Cakka)
  • Bodhgayā: 5 nights (includes 1-day Vipassana course at Dhamma Bodhi)
  • Nālandā & Rajgir: 2 nights
  • Vaishali: 2 nights
  • Kushinagar: 2 nights
  • Lumbinī: 4 nights (includes 1-day Vipassana course at Dhamma Janani)
  • Shrāvasti: 3 nights (includes half-day Vipassana course at Dhamma Suvatti)
  • Lucknow: Drop off at airport or train station

Eligibility

Eligibility & Code of Conduct

Pariyatti pilgrims are expected to be serious Vipassana meditators who are committed exclusively to practicing Vipassana meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka, and have: (click Read More)

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  1. completed (not including service) at least three 10-day Vipassana courses
  2. not practiced any other meditation techniques since their last 10-day course
  3. been practicing this technique of Vipassana for at least one year
  4. attempted to maintain a meditation practice and the five precepts in daily life.

The capable Pilgrim:

  • understands that a Pilgrimage is not a vacation, but rather a serious endeavor that requires both physical and mental stamina. The Pilgrimage process is much more like a Vipassana course, and requires participants to practice awareness and equanimity to everything that they experience both externally and internally.
  • understands that a Pilgrimage is physically demanding. In addition to long hours of sitting, participants will often walk between the various sacred sites and frequently spend long periods of time on bumpy bus rides.
  • understands that it is his/her responsibility is to put up with discomforts and uncertainties as they arise, and also work with his/her inner “storms” in a balanced and responsible manner. Staying back from a day’s activities when feeling unwell, either mentally or physically, is not a loss but will help you recuperate for the rest of the pilgrimage. Pushing your limits is not acceptable as the results affect the entire group.
  • understands that while on a Pilgrimage, limiting speech is the best approach. When speech is necessary, it should be limited to the concerns at hand or to Dhamma-related discussions. This will foster a deeper and more balanced pilgrimage experience.
  • is expected to be firmly committed to daily meditation practice. Group sittings are central to the pilgrimage experience and to fostering unity and harmony with your fellow pilgrims.
  • is expected to be consistent in participating in scheduled group sittings. At the same time, s/he is expected to make sensible choices to maintain one’s physical, emotional and mental health and may choose to meditate on his/her own or to take rest, when needed.
  • is expected to dress modestly and in line with local cultural norms. Shorts, tank tops, and other tight or revealing clothing are not appropriate in the cultural context or while on a Pilgrimage. Clothing which is ideal for the climate meets these requirements, and it is available for minimal cost locally. Please plan ahead to ensure you have appropriate clothing before the pilgrimage starts.
  • is expected to comply with requests made by the Pilgrimage Guide and male/female managers.
  • understands that if s/he is unable to meet this Code of Conduct, s/he may be removed from the pilgrimage, and will be responsible for arranging the return travel.
  • is required to carry travel health insurance.
  • displays conduct that is amenable to group travel and appropriate for the cultural context.

Cost

Along the Path – India & Nepal: US$1,595 per person. This covers all accommodations, meals, transportation, entry fees, and guide fees. Accommodations are shared and in monasteries and meditation centers. The pilgrimage cost does not include visas, personal travel insurance, cost of airfare to and from India, nor additional nights' accommodation at the beginning and end of the pilgrimage.

Optional Ease into India: US$475 per person. If you are able to afford it, we highly recommend it as it will give you time to recover from jet lag and acclimatize to the country before starting your pilgrimage. This includes an airport pickup, transfer to the start of the pilgrimage, and all accommodations, meals, transportation, entry fees, and guide fees for 3 days and 2 nights.

Scholarships & Donations: If you are able to afford the full fees, in the application process you will have the opportunity to consider donating to fund scholarships to support others who cannot afford the full amount. For those who cannot afford the full fees, in the application process you will be asked how much you can afford to pay. 

Anyone wishing to donate to our Pilgrimage Fund is welcome to do so. Contributions to the Pilgrimage Fund will be used to cover the costs of volunteers who help us run the pilgrimages, and also to provide scholarships for those who are unable to afford the full pilgrimage fees. Scholarships are not awarded to cover the costs of the optional Ease into India package.

Donate to the Pilgrimage Fund

Guidebook

Along the Path cover

Now revised and updated, this unique guidebook provides practical and inspiring information for meditators who plan to visit India and Nepal and the sacred sites where the Buddha lived and taught.