Day 1: Delhi - Patna by air. Our journey begins on the 7th of January 2011 in the historic and ethnically diverse capital of Delhi, which has long been the seat of many faiths and cultures. We will visit the site where Mahatma Gandhi was martyred and hear a talk on his life and teachings from Shantum Seth. Shantum and his family will invite you to their home for a meal with friends. We shall then fly to Patna that evening, the city that had been the capital of the great Buddhist emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC.
Day 2: Patna - Nalanda - Rajgir. Today we travel 70 miles on an air-conditioned motor coach to the lovely hillside city of Rajgir, the capital of the Magadha Empire at the time of the Buddha and the site of the first Buddhist council. We shall visit the Bamboo Grove which was the site of the Buddha’s first monastery and watch the sun set from Vulture Peak (Gridhakuta mountain) that the Buddha was especially fond of. We also have an opportunity to visit Jivaka's mango grove (Jivaka was the Buddha's physician) and Satadhara (seven hot springs) where it is said the Buddha came to relieve his bodily pains. En route we shall visit Nalanda, one of the world’s greatest universities founded in the 5th century, the Great stupa built on the relics of Shariputra (Buddha’s foremost disciple), extensive monastic ruins and the archaeological museum that houses many of the finds of Rajgir and Nalanda. During its peak in the 7th century, Nalanda was home to 10,000 monks and scholars.
Day 3: Rajgir - Bodhgaya. Our pilgrimage takes us south to Bodhgaya, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment. It is here where Siddhartha Gautama sat under a Bodhi tree (Ficus Religiosa) and meditated, determined not to get up until he gained enlightenment. Still standing is the Bodhi tree said to be a descendent from the original tree. We spend the day in sitting and walking meditation, in and around the Mahabodhi Temple, listening to stories and teachings. We shall visit some of the best of the outlying temples erected by Buddhist practitioners from around the world, especially from Japan, Thailand, Tibet and Bhutan. We shall also visit the village of Uruvela, across the Neeranjara River, where the young girl Sujata gave the monk Guatama rice pudding to end his period of austerities before he became the Buddha. We shall visit the dwelling hut of a local villager who met Shantum as a 12 year old boy 23 years ago.
Day 4: Bodhgaya.
Day 5: Bodhgaya - Varanasi. This morning we will drive on to Varanasi also known as the 'City of Light', and the sacred Ganges River. Varanasi is one of the holiest places in India and is considered by Hindus to be a most auspicious place to die. The old city of Varanasi, where spirituality and commerce mingle, is a maze of narrow streets shared with pilgrims, locals, sacred cows and Hindu sadhus (holy men). Ghats along the river are teeming with people, sounds and enormous activity.
Days 6 - 10: Varanasi - Sarnath - Varanasi. This journey takes us to Sarnath to attend and listen to the Dalai Lama's annual teachings. His Holiness the Dalai Lama will offer five-days of teachings at Sarnath, where the Buddha gave his first teachings to his first 5 disciples on the Middle Way, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path and Non-self thereby 'turning the wheel of the law'. We will spend these days together attending teachings, having discussion, visiting the Dhamekh stupa, the Deer park and temples of different Buddhist countries. We will also visit the fine archaeological museum, which houses the Ashoka pillar and the Lion capital from the 3rd century BC and the famous teaching Buddha from the 5th century AD.
We will stay at a very comfortable 5 star hotel in Varanasi (6 miles from Sarnath) and go for the teachings each day. In the evenings we will have an opportunity to explore some of the facets of Varanasi, whether it is the 'ghats' on the Ganges where Hindu pilgrims and locals come to perform their rituals including the beautifully choreographed 'aarti' (worship) offering of elements to the goddess Ganga. We will go for a boat ride on the Ganges, walk the ancient alleyways, visit the cremation area and the temples, meet knowledgeable local scholars, teachers, artists, cultural and environmental activists and crafts people. We will also visit silk weaving workshops which use techniques which are over 2500 years old.
Day 11: Varanasi - Delhi by air. After the teachings we will fly back to Delhi to close the Bodhi pilgrimage. End of the tour.
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