Women in the Buddha's Life - A Journey in Search of Buddhism's Feminine Roots:
Pilgrimage January 2018 in India and Nepal with Wendy Garling and Dharmacharya Shantum Seth
With Stories of the Women Who Helped Shape Early Buddhism
Led by Wendy Garling and Shantum Seth
At the end of his life, the Buddha admonished that all believers in the dharma, women and men, lay and ordained, should make a pilgrimage to four special places: Lumbini, where he was born; Bodh Gaya, where he attained enlightenment; Sarnath, where he gave his first teaching; and Kushinagar where he passed into parinirvana at 80 years of age. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has similarly emphasized the importance of pilgrimage, saying, "Dharma Yatra (Pilgrimage) is very important for Buddhists… It develops in us a strong sense of compassion. Ideally, one should be a better person when one returns, otherwise it is not useful, a waste of money and time." (In an exclusive interview given for the book Walking with the Buddha, co-authored by Shantum Seth.)
From January 20, 2018, Buddhapath will present a new and unprecedented approach to the traditional Indian Buddhist pilgrimage. In addition to highlighting the Buddha’s life and teachings, as we journey from one pilgrimage spot to the next we will learn stories in situ about the women in his life: his mother Maya; stepmother Mahaprajapati Gautami; principal wife Yashodhara; his harem wives; the cowherd Sujata; chief patron Visakha; the first nuns; and other women who had significant influence in his life and in the emergence of early Buddhism. Peering deeply into the cultural imagination of ancient India we will further learn the stories that wreathed the Buddha narrative in symbols of the goddess and the sacred feminine, as told in the oral traditions and in his earliest biographies, recorded in Sanskrit and Pali.
For futher information & registration please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Wendy Garling is the author of the acclaimed new book, Stars at Dawn: Forgotten Stories of Women in the Buddha’s Life, published in 2016 by Shambhala Publications. (http://www.shambhala.com/stars-at-dawn.html). She has a BA from Wellesley College and MA in Sanskrit language and literature from the University of California, Berkeley. A Tibetan Buddhist practitioner and authorized dharma teacher, Wendy took refuge with His Holiness the 16th Karmapa in 1976 and first met her root lama, Ven. Geshe Thubten Loden in 1979 en route to an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India.
For almost 20 years Wendy has taught women's spirituality focusing on Buddhist traditions, including original research into ancient Sanskrit and Pali literature.
Seemingly “forgotten,” many early sources hold an abundance of women’s stories that were originally integral to the earliest biographies of the Buddha. In her current book, Wendy re-introduces these ancient women’s stories, weaving them into a refreshing new biography that aims to shift the traditional patriarchal paradigm to a more accurate, gender-balanced and female friendly understanding of early Buddhism. These stories will become our pilgrimage focus as we follow in the women’s footsteps as well as those of the Buddha. Daily sessions of storytelling, practices, and guided meditation will bring the voices of these early Buddhist women to life.
Pilgrimage has played an important role in Wendy’s life. In 2007 she journeyed “In the Footsteps of Machig Labdron,” to sites of the sacred feminine in Tibet, led by Tsultrim Allione and Jerome Edou. In 2012 she traveled on pilgrimage to the sacred sites of the Buddha in India, paralleling our 2018 itinerary. Her dream is to return the stories of women in early Buddhism to their origins, reawaken the women’s voices, and ensure that their stories are not just told, but this time remembered and valorized as integral to the roots of Buddhism.
Dharmacharya Shantum Seth, an ordained dharma teacher, is the foremost expert on sites associated with the Buddha and has been leading pilgrimages since 1988. He worked with the United Nations on volunteering, peace, and social development for more than 15 years, and is currently Senior Advisor to the World bank on pilgrimage tourism. He has co-authored books such as Walking with the Buddha and been a consultant for films like BBC-Discovery’s Life of the Buddha and BBC-PBS’s The Story of India.
At each pilgrimage site along the way, Shantum will tell stories of the Buddha’s life and give teachings to help us understand the Buddha as a human being, the drama of his life and the significance of what he taught.
We will schedule time for daily sitting and walking meditation, regular discussions, and contemplative time for ourselves. The creation of a traveling sangha will be an important aspect of this trip, giving the journey a greater cohesiveness and building a sense of support for those seeking to deepen their practice.
Women in the Buddha's Life - A Journey in Search of Buddhism's Feminine Roots: January 20 –February 2, 2018, The cost of the pilgrimage is US $5950 based on double occupancy. The single room supplement is an additional US $1920
There could be minor changes to this itinerary based on a variety of considerations.
||Day of the week
||Pilgrimage begins in Delhi
||Varanasi - Bodhgaya
||Bodhgaya - Rajgir
||Rajgir - Vaishali- Kesariya-Kushinagar
||Sravasti-Lucknow, Fly to Delhi/by train to Agra
||Agra-Delhi late evening
||Delhi-Aurangabad by morning flight
||Aurangabad-Delhi by air
Pilgrimage January 2018:
This journey will begin in New Delhi on January 20th 2018 at 11:30am. The next day we will fly to Varanasi. Thereafter we travel by our own private coach to Bodh Gaya, Nalanda/Rajgir, Vaishali, Kushinagar, Lumbini, Kapilavastu and Sravasti. From Sravasti we go to Lucknow and fly to Delhi.
We will be back in Delhi in the evening of the February 2, 2018, where the tour ends. You should book your departure flight for either late night of 2nd February or early morning of 3rd February 2018.
For those who take the Agra visit to the Taj Mahal, we travel by a day train from Lucknow to Agra on the February 2nd to visit the Taj Mahal. We will spend one night in Agra and will return to Delhi at 8:30pm on the February 3rd. You should book your departure flight for either late night of 3rd February or early morning of February 4, 2018.
For those who take the Ajanta and Ellora Caves journey, we fly from Delhi to Aurangabad in the morning of February 4, 2018. We will spend two nights in Aurangabad visiting Ajanta and Ellora and will return to Delhi in the evening of February 6th. You should book your departure flight for either late night of February 6th or early morning of February 7, 2018.
(Please note that Shantum Seth will only lead the pilgrimage if there is a minimum of 8 registrants. Otherwise it will be led by a person trained by Shantum)
In Delhi, we will visit the place where Mahatma Gandhi, the father of India, lived and died. This is a wonderful place to begin the pilgrimage. Gandhi personified a unique way of politics where it became an exercise of ethical living. He was a man open to all cultures and religions but with deep faith in his own.
Our journey will take us across the plains of the River Ganges to Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha attained enlightenment, and the Deer Park at Sarnath, where he gave his first teachings. We will visit his favorite meditation places such as Vulture Peak in Rajgir, the Jeta Grove at Sravasti (where he spent 24 rainy season retreats), and Kushinagar, where he passed away. We will also visit Lumbini, where he was born, and the palace at Kapilavastu, where hespent his childhood. In addition, along the way we will also try and visit Tilaurakot, the Indian Kapilvastu in a place called Piprawah and Devadaha and the Rohini River in Nepal.
Aside from visiting the places where the Buddha lived, we will visit monasteries, temples and shrines. The trip includes visits to homes of locals in cities and villages, a gentle 8-kilometer walk to the Dungasiri Mountain (Mahakala Cave) where the Buddha practiced his austerities. We would meet environmental and social activists and visit the homes of both the homes of the poor and the privileged to get a sense of contemporary India. We would combine this with the underpinnings of the Buddha's teachings, and some of the places he lived and visited so we can examine what we are witnessing and experiencing both from an external and internal perspective.
In Varanasi we will also take a boat ride on the Ganges at sunrise.
The pilgrimage is an unforgettable opportunity to explore areas that few tourists visit and to see and experience aspects of contemporary Indian life that, in many ways, have not changed since the time of the Buddha. We invite you to join other practitioners on a transformative journey that will allow you to touch an ancient culture and civilization, and experience the life of the Buddha and the women around him through the places he lived and taught. Join us on this journey through a fascinating and mysterious India – as we walk in the footsteps of the Buddha.
India is very diverse in culture, language and environment. The Buddha lived and traveled along the Indo-Gangetic plains in Northern India. Besides New Delhi, the pilgrimage visits two states of northern India, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
India’s cities stand in large contrast to her villages and have their own interesting (if seemingly chaotic) lifestyle. Varanasi and Bodh Gaya are both significant pilgrimage sites, having their own distinct character and personality. In these places we get a closer view of how modern and traditional India co-exist. Kushinagar, Sravasti and Rajgir are smaller towns and relatively quiet, giving the pilgrims the opportunity to absorb the nuances of the local culture and society.
Agra Building Love, the Taj Mahal (beginning and ending in Delhi) February 2-3, 2018 – US$ 395
Agra was the capital of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar, who started the building of the Agra Fort. His grandson Shah Jahan built the beautiful monument to love, the Taj Mahal, as a mausoleum for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
The Exquisite Caves – Ajanta & Ellora (beginning and ending in Delhi) February 3-6, 2018 – US$ 1350
Ajanta is situated near Aurangabad. Beginning in the 2nd century BCE and continuing for 900 years, twenty-six caves were chipped out of a horseshoe shaped cliff. The early followers of the Buddha created an isolated haven, shrouded in the darkness of the caves where they could meditate in peace. The exquisite Buddhist paintings and sculptures created by using simple tools in the glow of lamps rank among the world's most important cultural treasures and the area has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Although the Jataka Tales form the main theme of the paintings, also depicted are scenes from contemporary courtly life all demonstrating a startling degree of sophistication. In the Ajanta paintings we see the brilliant union between sacred and secular art.
Ellora Caves: Nearby is Maharashtra state's most phenomenal ancient monument, the Ellora caves which carried on the legacy of Ajanta from the 7th century AD and was subjected to Buddhist, Jain and Hindu influences. The sculptures at Ellora are massive in form and the entire spectrum of carvings pulsates with life and energy. The phenomenal rock cut Hindu temple of Kailash which is carved out of a hillside is the world's largest monolith and the site's principal attraction. Ellora too, is a World Heritage site declared by UNESCO.
DAILY SCHEDULE & SPECIAL EXCURSIONS
Our retreat schedule will include daily sitting and walking meditation, often starting with a morning meditation at one of the Buddhist sites. This will be followed by breakfast at the hotel, after which we’ll visit one of the Buddhist sites listed below in the itinerary. Shantum or Wendy will offer a detailed talk on that site in the context of the Buddha’s life and teachings, and what was happening in the area many centuries ago. Pilgrims will have some time at the site itself, after which we will go to lunch. We’ll rest after lunch or we may visit another site, go to a village, school, visit a teacher or institute, meet with environmental activists, etc. We return to the hotel by evening in time for dinner and usually end with a group discussion on the day. On the days we travel, the itinerary will vary slightly, and there will be some flexibility depending on the size, needs, and interest of the group.
PILGRIMAGE REGISTRATION INFORMATION & TRAVEL FACTS
The cost for the pilgrimage Women in the Buddha's Life - A Journey in Search of Buddhism's Feminine Roots (January 20 – February 2, 2018) is US $5950 based on double occupancy. The single room supplement is an additional US $1920.
The cost of the Agra Taj Mahal visit (February 2-3, 2018) is U.S. $395 based on double occupancy. The single room supplement is an additional US $130. The tour price includes guide services, transportation, meals, monument entrance fees, bottled water and lodging arrangements for the duration of the Agra option.
The cost of The Exquisite Caves of Ajanta & Ellora journey (February 3– 6, 2018) is U.S. $1350 based on double occupancy. The single room supplement is an additional U.S. $355. The tour price includes guide services, transportation, meals, monument entrance fees, bottled water and lodging arrangements for the duration of the Caves option.
The tour price includes: airport transfers and escort services in New Delhi, guide services, transportation inside India, monument entrance fees, all meals, bottled water and lodging arrangements for the duration of the pilgrimage. All registration fees are payable in US dollars or the equivalent in GPB, Euro etc.
As the good hotels are limited at the Buddhist sites, and sometimes a few groups arrive on the same day, it may be difficult for hotels to provide a single room, and in some very exceptional circumstances, even a twin-sharing basis is unavailable. We ask for your understanding if this circumstance should arise.
Please note that the cost does not cover:
International airfare to and from New Delhi, visas and other international arrangements, any extra days spent in India beyond the dates of the pilgrimage, excess baggage fees on the flights, phone calls and faxes during the pilgrimage, laundry during the pilgrimage or medical and other insurance coverage such as travel insurance.
A non-refundable deposit of $500 U.S. per person is required at the time of booking. The remainder of the cost of the pilgrimage is due by November 15, 2017.
For cancellations received up to eight weeks before the commencement of the journey only the deposit will be forfeited. The cancellation fee within eight weeks of the beginning of the journey will be 100% of the total cost.
Travel Insurance: The range of coverage can vary significantly from policy to policy, and travelers are encouraged to speak with a travel agency to identify a policy that suits their needs. Things to consider are travel delays, trip cancellation or interruption, medical coverage, and baggage loss or delay. Before purchasing insurance, you may wish to check with your health insurance carrier to see if your policy includes medical care overseas. Please note that many insurance carriers require that insurance be purchased at the time a deposit or final payment is made; check with your carrier for details.
Arrival and departure are to and from New Delhi (Delhi), India. Participants are responsible for making their own round-trip flight arrangements from their point of origin to New Delhi, India and back. For international flights, tickets should be booked as early as possible. Flights to and from India are frequently full, and this trip takes place at the height of the tourist season. Most international flights arrive at night or early morning. You may check with us before you confirm your flight bookings.
We will arrange a complimentary airport transfer on arrival.
The pilgrimage will begin at 12:00pm on January 20, 2018.
The Second Half of the pilgrimage will begin on the morning on February 2, 2018
We will do a complimentary airport transfer for your departure.
The Peepal pilgrimage will end in the evening on February 2, 2018 in New Delhi. You should book your departure for a late night flight.
The Agra Taj Mahal journey will end at 8:30pm on February 3, 2018. You should book your departure flight for a late night flight on February 2nd or early morning of February 3rd.
The Exquisite Caves of Ajanta & Ellora journey will begin immediately after the Agra extension, with a night in Delhi on February 3rd. You will fly to Aurangabad on February 4th. The journey will end in the evening on February 6th. You should book your departure flight for a late night flight on February 6th or early morning of February 7, 2018.
For those wishing an extra day or two to recover from air travel before the pilgrimage begins, or who wish to stay longer after the pilgrimage ends, we would be happy to provide a list of hotels in Delhi. Please make your hotel bookings for New Delhi well in advance, as February is peak month.
Single rooms are available and there is a single room supplement.
For single travelers who do NOT want to opt for a single room, we will undertake to room them with someone suitable.
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR THIS TRIP
You will need a valid passport and visas for both India and Nepal
Normally the visa is valid for one to ten years from date of issue.
The visa for Nepal can be obtained on arrival (it costs US$30) at the Indo-Nepal border while on the pilgrimage. Please ensure you have an empty page on your passport and two passport-sized photographs.
The visa for India should be obtained at least one month before travel. Please send us the details after you have obtained it.
India Visa Information
Please ensure your visa to India is a MULTIPLE ENTRY visa.
The Indian Embassy in the US has outsourced its visa applications at http://www.in.ckgs.us/index.shtml
The Indian Embassy has a Consulate in New York (Tel: 212 774 0699), Chicago (312 595 0405), Houston (713 626 2148) and San Francisco (415 668 0662). The main embassy is based in Washington DC and their number is (202) 939 7000. Please ensure that the visa covers the travel period for which you are applying. If you need a reference in India, you can give: Mr. Shantum Seth, 309-B, Sector 15A, Noida 201 301, District Gautam Buddha Nagar, India. Telephone: +91-120-2511633.
(A SINGLE ENTRY Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) as e-Tourist Visa (eTV) is also available for travelers from 116 countries including Australia, New Zealand, United States of America, Singapore, Germany, Russia, Mexico, Japan, Norway, Finland... https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html
You can apply for this Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) a minimum of 4 days before your date of travel and a maximum of 30 days before your date of travel. This visa is issued for 30 days only and is for SINGLE ENTRY ONLY).
Each participant must provide the following details in order to reserve train, air and hotels: Name, gender, date of birth, passport number, date of issue of passport, date of expiry of passport, place of issue of passport, and emergency contact information. In addition, registrants must provide the visa number, date of issue, date of expiry and place of issue as soon as the visa for travel to India has been issued.
CURRENCY EXCHANGE, ACCEPTANCE OF CREDIT CARDS & TIPPING
As stated above, hotels, food, transportation within India, and guide services are all covered by the tour fees. It is suggested that travelers carry cash for expenses like gifts or souvenirs, as it is difficult to change money at the sites we visit during the pilgrimage. Travelers will also need money if they are planning to extend their stay in India before or after the pilgrimage. Credit cards such as VISA or American Express are accepted in some of the hotels and large shops in Delhi or Varanasi, but not in the other places we visit. There are ATM machines in some places where one can access cash, but their presence is not universal as it is in the U.S. One U.S. dollar approximates 60 Indian Rupees. We recommend that you convert some cash at the airport when you arrive in New Delhi. There is no need to exchange it in the U.S. — it is best to do so in India. There are a couple of banks with a standard exchange rate at the airport both before and after you clear customs. ATM machines are also an easy method of exchanging currency into rupees. Please keep your bank receipts carefully in case you need to change the money into dollars when you return home.
Travelers often have questions about tipping. In the last few years, Shantum has developed a system where he does all the tipping/donations during the pilgrimage and keeps a running tab of it. At the end, the amount is divided among the pilgrims and repaid to him (contributing is optional). Thus far, this has worked well. It usually works out to $10 to $15 per day, but this figure could vary.
If you arrive before the start of the pilgrimage or stay after it concludes, the general rule is as follows: tipping someone who has carried your luggage is common and we would suggest Rs.100. In restaurants, one normally leaves a tip of 10% of the entire bill, unless a service charge has already been levied. It is not necessary to tip taxi drivers; however if you have hired a car for the day and you are happy with the driver, a tip of Rs.300 to Rs.500 is fine.
We choose the best available accommodations in the vicinity of the sites (which are normally five-star hotels, heritage hotels and Japanese guest houses) based on shared, twin-bedded rooms with a private bath or shower and toilet. The accommodations are clean and comfortable — in some cases monastic-style, and in some cases rather luxurious. If you prefer a single room (where available, as the Buddhist route can occasionally get very full), there is a price supplement.
India uses 220 volts, 50 cycles AC. Plugs/sockets are usually an issue (the electrical sockets in India have round holes, not flat one, so please ensure that the stems of your plug has rounded stems). It’s best to travel with a universal plug adaptor.
WEATHER & CLOTHING NEEDS
Given that there can be a high variation between the daytime and evening temperatures (the general range is from 5 degrees to 25 degrees Celsius (centigrade), layering is a practical approach. It’s important to be comfortable and modestly dressed. We recommend that you bring one warm coat or jacket and one or two lighter sweaters for the day; perhaps a shawl if you want to meditate in the morning. For the warmer part of the day, cotton shirts, T-shirts and cotton trousers will work well. There is no need to bring formal clothing.
Generally, the weather is dry with a small possibility of light rain or fog in some places. It is handy to have an umbrella that can double as a sunshade if it gets too sunny or even be used as a walking stick. Please bring comfortable sneakers or sandals (which you can wear with socks if it gets cold). We do not go on treks, but one or two of the (optional) walks are long. We also visit a number of temples where you will need to remove your shoes, so it is helpful to bring a pair of socks (the airline slip-ons are very convenient). It is always useful to have a hat or cap to protect you from the sun. We are allowed 15 kilos (33 lbs.) check in baggage and 7kgs as cabin baggage on Indian airplanes, so we recommend that you travel light. Laundry facilities are available at all the places we stay, and laundry is returned within 24 hours.
We stay in clean, safe places, and the food in the places we stay will be clean, fresh and prepared to suit a delicate digestive system. You will be provided bottled mineral water for drinking.
If you are coming from Africa or some parts of Latin America, a certificate of yellow fever inoculation is required by the Indian authorities. If you are coming from Kenya, you have to take the OPV (Oral Polio Vaccine) before you travel.
There is no other medical restriction upon your entry into India. We recommend a Hepatitis-A inoculation and a Tetanus shot. If you prefer to be more careful, then please speak to your physician. We do carry a first-aid kit with us, but many people prefer to bring their own supply of medicines. We would recommend you get an insect/mosquito repellent and also a stomach medicine for both diarrhea and constipation as one’s stomach has its own way of adjusting to different foods.
If you have any special diet needs or medical needs, please do let us know.
SIM CARD, IPHONE ETC.
It is quite easy and inexpensive to get a local SIM card for your mobile phone at Delhi airport. You need one photograph and a copy of your India visa and passport. If you have an iphone, you may need to ‘unlock’ it before you come to India. Mobile telephony in India is inexpensive.
ADDITIONAL TRAVEL SERVICES (e.g. shuttle buses, taxis)
We provide all the transport services during the pilgrimage, including having you met on arrival in New Delhi. There is no extra charge for meeting people at the airport. For those who want to make your own arrangements, the Delhi Airport has cabs. The cab-stand is located just after you exit the airport. You pay according to the meter - you need not pay anything extra unless you are traveling between 11pm and 5am, when night charges will apply (25% extra). Depending on the time you arrive the cab fare will be in the range of Rs.600-900. It is easy to get a cab at the hotel for the airport when one leaves for the same price.
DISCLAIMER AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY
Shantum Seth and Seth Consultants Pvt. Ltd. while undertaking tours, transportation, hotel accommodation and other services only act on the clear understanding that they shall not be in any way responsible or liable for any accident, damage, loss, delay or inconvenience caused in connection with travel and other facilities arranged by the company, their employees or agents. All bookings are accepted and executed with utmost care, yet no responsibility is taken for any change or deviation on account of factors beyond their control.
By making a deposit for the tour, participants acknowledge that they have read and understood this document in its entirety, and have consented to all conditions herein, including the Disclaimer and Release of Liability. For participants under age 18, their parent or legal guardian shall sign on their behalf and the same Disclaimer and Release shall apply.
Each pilgrim must complete this form in full, and send (email is fine) with a non-refundable deposit of $500 per pilgrim to:
Ms Bina Aranha
309-B, Sector 15A
Noida 201 301, India
Tel: +91-120-4334284; 2511633; 2512162; 2512162