Off the Beaten Path – India

Explore rarely visited sites where the Dhamma flourished in India from the 3rd Century BCE to the 10th Century AD in the vicinity of Sarnath, Bodhgaya, and Rajgir. The experience of being at these places with a meditative mind will enable the pilgrim to appreciate more fully the Dhamma communities that once lived and practiced there up to two thousand years ago. Exposure to these stimulating sites will reward the meditator with a vivid sense of where and how the Dhamma evolved in its country of birth.

Features

This pilgrimage is recommended for those who have completed the traditional journey to the places where the Buddha lived and taught (either with Pariyatti or on one's own), and would like to extend their awareness and understanding of ancient India to include those places where the Dhamma flourished during the time of the Buddha and during the centuries after his parinibbāna.   

While there will be ample time for meditation on this pilgrimage, most of our days will be occupied on mindful walks, ranging between one to five hours, through fields and along mountain trails. Only those who possess good physical health and stamina should apply.

This pilgrimage will be led by Kory Goldberg, co-author of Along the Path: The Meditator's Companion to Pilgrimage in the Buddha's India and Nepal.


Upcoming Pilgrimages

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Itinerary

Day 1: Allahabad
Pilgrims will arrive to Allahabad and check in to the hotel. After our orientation session and group meditation, we’ll take a boat at sunset to the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and mythical Sarasvati rivers. Our first day will conclude with a delicious buffet dinner at the hotel.

Day 2: Allahabad & Kosambī
We’ll start our 120-km day-trip early in the morning to the remote Prabhosa (Mankula) Hill where the Buddha spent his 6th rainy season meditating alone and enjoying the sweeping views of the Yamuna River and surrounding villages. After meditating in one of the caves, we’ll drive to the ruins of Ghositārāma, Kosambī’s most famous monastic complex where the Buddha spent his ninth rain season giving numerous Dhamma teachings to both Saṅgha members and the laity. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch and group-sitting here before returning to our hotel in Allahabad.

Day 3: Allahabad to Sārnāth
After a hearty breakfast and meditation at the hotel, we’ll embark on a three-hour drive to Sārnāth. The afternoon will be spent settling into our accomodations and then exploring the ruins and meditating at the Deer Park, where the Buddha gave his first sermons and set in motion the wheel of Dhamma. We’ll also meditate at the Mūlagandhakuti Vihāra while Indian and Sri Lankan bhikkhus chant the Dhammacakkapavatthana Sutta.

Day 4: Sārnāth
Our morning will begin with a sunrise boat-ride on the Ganges followed by breakfast. We’ll then walk for approximately three hours through rural farming villages and fields, using the same route said to be used by the Buddha when he traveled between Varanasi and Sārnāth. After the journey, pilgrims may rest at the pleasant monastic compound where we’ll be staying or return to the Mūlagandhakuti Vihāra to meditate during the chanting of the Dhammacakkapavatthana Sutta.

Day 5: Sārnāth
To help orient the pilgrimage experience, we’ll attend a 1-Day course at the Dhamma Cakka Vipassana Centre.

Day 6: Sārnāth to Bodhgayā
After a group meditation and mindfully consumed breakfast, we’ll travel six hours to Bodhgayā, with a pit-stop along the way for chai 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 7: Bodhgayā
Between our group sittings and meals at the famous Be Happy Café, pilgrims will 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 8: Bodhgayā & Surroundings
Towering above the remote village of Gurpa is Kukkutapadagiri, or Cock's Foot Mountain. We’ll climb up this steep mountain to enjoy spectacular views and meditate at the commemorative shrine where the Buddha’s famous disciple, Mahākassapa, was last seen. Legend has it that the rugged bhikkhu is still meditating in a secret cave awaiting to offer robes to the next Buddha. After a delicious Indian vegetarian meal at a local restaurant, we’ll have some more free time before our final group sitting of the day under the Bodhi Tree.

Day 9: Bodhgayā & Surroundings
Today’s mini-road trip will be spent visiting the Barābar, Nāgārjuni, & Kauwa Dol Hills. We’ll have a chance to hike around these hills and meditate in some ancient caves that were carved out by King Asoka for the bhikkhu Saṅgha and yogis from other contemplative traditions.

Day 10: Bodhgayā
To help internally absorb our pilgrimage experience, we’ll meditate for the day at Dhamma Bodhi Vipassana Centre.

Day 11: Bodhgayā to Rājagaha (Rajgir)
Leaving Bodhgayā after an early breakfast and group sitting, we’ll drive to Jethian, the village said to be the location of the Palm Grove Monastery. Jethian, or Laṭṭhivana, is where King Bimbisara became a sotapanna and offered land to the Buddha for the first monastery. From here, we’ll walk along an old mountain trail, undoubtedly used by the Buddha and the bhikkhus-of-old, for approximately five hours, until we reach the ancient capital of Rājagaha. Here, we will rest and nourish our bodies at a local pilgrim’s rest-house.

Day 12: Rājagaha & Surroundings
With meditation gear in hand we’ll travel to Vediya Mountain, which is home to the Indasāla Cave where the Buddha meditated and gave Dhamma instructions to Sakka, the king of the devas. On the way back to Rājagha, we’ll stop for a brief visit to Silao, the famous site where the Buddha and Mahākassapa exchanges robes, and to Juafardīh, the site of Mahāmoggāllana’s birthplace and Parinibbāna. After a late lunch and rest, we’ll listen to inspiring stories and meditate in the lovely gardens of the Bamboo Grove, the first monastery established by the Buddha.

Day 13: Rājagaha & Surroundings
Today, we will hike around and meditate at Giriyek Hill, the site of Sāriputta’s birthplace and Parinibbāṇa. After lunch and some time to rest, we will spend the afternoon hiking around Vulture’s Peak before settling ourselves for a meditation at sunset.

Day 14: Rājagaha 
We’ll meditate and have a picnic at Ayer Pathri, a remote site where the Buddha enjoyed retreating for secluded meditation. Our last hike of the trip will be up to the hot springs on Tapovana Hill, a site said to have been enjoyed by the Buddha himself. The day will end with a group-sitting and wrap-up session.

Day 15: Pilgrimage Ends
After our final early morning meditation, we’ll enjoy one last breakfast together before being shuttled of to the Patna airport or train station.

View Map of Route

View Route with Google Maps

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

Off the Beaten Path – India: US$1,100 per person. This covers all accommodations, meals, transportation, entry fees, and guide fees. Accommodations are shared and in monasteries and hotels. 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.

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. 

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.