Questions for those who have travelled to India

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Questions for those who have travelled to India

Postby VictoryInTruth » Sun Feb 09, 2014 8:28 pm

Dear Dhamma Wheel members... I am contemplating visiting India within the next 2 months and wanted to know if any of you have visited the sites related to Buddhism in India? I am going to renew my passport soon and wanted to know of reputable Buddhist pilgrimage companies online that I can look into to see which pilgrimage packages are available.

If any of you have visited the Buddha's sites in India please share your experience with me... I have been wanting to go for some time now and have finally gotten the courage to go through with it.

Any info would be greatly appreciated.


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Re: Questions for those who have travelled to India

Postby cooran » Sun Feb 09, 2014 8:55 pm

The most suitable times weather wise for pilgrimages in India are November to February.

One of the most respected tour companies is the one run by Shantum Seth:
http://www.buddhapath.com/Shantum%20Seth.html

With metta,
Chris
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Re: Questions for those who have travelled to India

Postby Babadhari » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:39 pm

you dont need to book with a tour company. theyre vastly overpriced and take all the adventure out of it.

i travelled to Kushinagar squashed into the back of a jeep with 8 people. Great fun, stayed in Temple lodgings.
walked 43km to Lumbini in 40degree heat by foot because there was a complete strike in Nepal on the day i arrived. was given food and water on my journey by an amazingly kind family.
I went to Sarnath from Varanasi train station and encountered the most incredible woman i've ever met and made a lifellong friend in a local rickshaw driver.

Ajanta and Ellora caves are definitely worth checking out also if you have time to travel to Maharastra
. Local transport is cheap , readily available and greatly entertaining in India and accomadation in Hotels and guesthouses is easy to find.

sorry i cant help you with tour companies but for all the bad publicity India has had over attacks and such, these are very rare and do not reflect accurately on the country whose inhabitants have all been extremely loving and helpful to me.
whatever you decide, enjoy your holiday, im sure you will have an amazing time.
:namaste:

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Re: Questions for those who have travelled to India

Postby jungblood » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:46 pm

I'd echo the doubts of others about tour companies... lots of money and I feel it depersonalized the experience... I spent time in Varanassi and the Deer Park where Buddha spoke... I also spent a few weeks in Dharamshalla in the north - a truly magical place in the mountains where the Dalai Lama lives... when buying train tickets or booking hotels, just make sure to avoid the many people who will try to guide you towards 'alternative' ticket offices, and those who will tell you your hotel has burned down but they know another one... as a westerner in India, people are going to try to scam you - it's a nuisance but, once you learn not to fall for it, its a small price to pay for getting to know a truly wonderful place... Good luck with your adventures!
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Re: Questions for those who have travelled to India

Postby cooran » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:47 pm

A few memories of trip taken a few years ago:

viewtopic.php?f=22&t=1238&p=15491

With metta,
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Questions for those who have travelled to India

Postby Babadhari » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:56 pm

cooran wrote:A few memories of trip taken a few years ago:

viewtopic.php?f=22&t=1238&p=15491

With metta,
Chris


excellent Chris i look forward to reading it! :twothumbsup:
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Questions for those who have travelled to India

Postby Weakfocus » Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:16 pm

VictoryInTruth wrote:Dear Dhamma Wheel members... I am contemplating visiting India within the next 2 months and wanted to know if any of you have visited the sites related to Buddhism in India?


Do visit the Global Vipassana Pagoda if you ever come to India.
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Re: Questions for those who have travelled to India

Postby piano piano » Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:23 pm

This thread is a week old and VictoryinTruth has not come back yet. It is imaginable that some of the things said here so far can appear discouraging, especially for someone who has not travelled to and in India before. Cooran's write-up is hilarious at some places, but also gives rise to, well, possible false impressions.

Victory, what I would suggest in your situation, is not that you plan for a tour of the holy places, but that you plan to stay instead in one or two of them for longer. I have read about your setting up of an altar, and how you have to conceptualize a lot of it, so it won't be critisized by the people you live with. In this same vein I would encourage you to cultivate in your heart that desire and plan, and gather the necessary information about the details, to later, at some time, when the time is ripe, to go to India and fulfil the desire of your heart.

it is not something you can do within two months. The first obstacle is that you have to get an Indian visa. The visa-acquisition process for India is at the moment in disarray in the U.S., as the Indian company which was chosen by the Indian Government for the outsourcing of the required services in the U.S., has been totally inadequate in the face of a (for them) unexpectedly massive load of visa-requests. The company has given up on it, and another company is set to take over, but only in July. So this means for you, at best to make plans for next year.

The best time to be in that part of India, is either November-December, or March. January, February is too cold in my view and the air pollution is pretty heavy at that time, because poor people burn fires in the cold, so there is lots of smoke in the air. In March it starts to get warmer. I would not totally rule out February, if you'd like to stay longer than a month. (Theoretically you can stay up to 6 months in India on a tourist visa, and many do just that. In fact Americans have the much envied priviledge of getting 10-year-visas, which allows them to have many successive 6 months-periods in India, with just an interruption of a few days out of the country, for instance in Nepal, to then return again for another 6 months.)

So my suggestion to you, or anyone else reading this, is to go and stay in one of the holy places, preferably in a monastery, for a good period of time. Monastery-stay means just using the facility of the guesthouses associated with the monasteries. Mostly Mahayana-monasteries have such guesthouses. Theravada ones have them too, but they are too often full with the many different pilgrimage groups coming through, especially Sri Lankans and Thais or other South East Asian nationalities.

A good place to begin with is Bodhgaya; many people stay there for months at a time. In December/January it is absolutely full with Tibetans; a huge tent-town is built outside of the town to house the masses of them. In other times when it is quieter, a single visitor would have enough space and freedom to spend a few hours every day around the Mahabodhi. It is a devotionally very intense place, as many people come there to do their smaller or bigger rituals or ceremonies, and to spend some time sitting in meditation.

Another very inspiring place not very far from Bodhgaya (80 km/50 mi) is modern Rajgir (old Rajgaha), or rather the specific places associated with the Buddha and the Sangha, at the outskirts of the "modern" town; i.e. the Bamboo-grove / Veluvan, and further down towards Bodhgaya, Vulture's Peak / Gridhakuta. Personally I feel almost more attracted to the latter than to the Mahabodhi, because the Mahabodhi as it is today is a historically grown monument, while at Vulture's Peak you have the rocky hill with its ancient caves which more likely have not changed that much from the time of the Buddha. Since there is less human influence (or let's say: construction) that affected the place, it leaves more space for the heart to reach out in commemoration of the Buddha and the Dhamma which he taught there to an intently listening Sangha. Naturally, there are also the other hills there with their respective significance, like the one where the first council with the 500 arahants took place. Other places inviting a visit are Nalanda, and the Jaina places.

It is definitely worth spending at least about a week in in the Rajgir area, something you cannot get on a conducted tour which rushes you through all these places in just a few days.

Now if one wanted to, it would make sense to go from Rajgir by car either directly to Kushinagar / Kushinara, or stop on the way in Patna /Pataliputa, and Keshariya (where the Kalamasutta was spoken), and make a stop-over for a night in Vaisali / Vesali . The more detailed tour is for those who wish to get a glimpse of most of the places associated with the Buddha. The shorter one for people who just want to be in one place for longer, as I suggest for VictoryinTruth. Kushinagar is not a place to stay longer than 1-3 nights though, in my (unimportant) view. It does not really have a very conducive atmosphere, if that would count as a reason. But there are enough monsteries there to stay for those nights. (A reason for the lack of atmosphere is that the sites there are government organised monuments, and not really very devotional places.)

A good place to stay longer, however, will be Lumbini, even though also there there is much organisation to be felt, but the place considered to be the one where the birth of the Bodhisattva occurred, has a lot of dignity and meditative atmosphere under the nearby trees. (The way to get to Lumbini is via Gorakhpur, about 50 km/30 miles from Kushinagar). With appropriate information it is easy to do the trip with public transportation by oneself. I can give the details later on, if there is interest.

The last of the four places which are mentioned in the Suttas as part of a pilgrimage, is Sarnath. (Many people go to Savatthi / Sravasthi, too, but it is quite a ways off the direct road to Sarnath, after Lumbini. Could also be done, no problem, along with Kapilavattu - the Indian one - only one would need to hire a car again. A car is also a good idea to get to Sarnath, but train from Gorakhpur is also an option if one has more time).

Sarnath is a rather quiet part of the outskirts of Varanasi. There is a tendency for increasing (non-Buddhist) tourism there, but it is still a relatively quiet place. I stayed once in the Burmese monastery there, at other times it was full, and I stayed in a private guesthouse instead. There are lots of them, where a simple, clean room costs 300-500 Rupees (5-8 US$). Sarnath has an appealing atmoshphere again, although logistically the situation is similar to Kushinagar. So it is again a place to stay on for some time, if one wished to. (One can also fly from Varanasi to Delhi, when the time to leave the country comes.)

One could also do the circuit the other way around, coming from Bodhgaya/Rajgir directly to Sarnath, then go from there to Lumbini and Kushinagar (and leave the part with the "minor" destinations Vesali, Keshariya, and Patna out).
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