In the Footsteps of the Buddha: North India Travel Tour

with India Supera & Karma Tensum

February 16 – March 6, 2018




On this very special tour we will trace the footsteps of the Buddha from his birthplace at Lumbini, his Enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, his very first sermon at Sarnath to his parinirvana or passing away at Kushinagar.

First time travelers to India often find it an overwhelming experience. Often, things in India are overwhelmingly different, contradictory and evoke strong responses. Underneath that external chaos is a land of majestic beauty and architectural splendor saturated with spirituality. On this tour, we will seek inspiration and learning from one of the most influential teachers the world has ever had – The Buddha. At every sacred site, we will take time for introspection, reflection and learning. Regardless of whether one is a Buddhist or not, there are spiritual values and inspirations that we can take away from every site – the sum total of which can be a journey of spiritual awakening and self discovery. Our very best hope is that this will be an experience of a life time – something that truly changes your outlook and restores a sense of balance and harmony in your life.

Feb 16: Depart US

Feb 17: Arrival in N.Delhi to discover the inner peace of a city rich with culture, architecture and human diversity, deep with history and totally mesmerizing. The capital of India, Delhi has a historic past and a vibrant present, blending the beauty of the Mughal Empire found in the ancient walled city to ultra modern skyscrapers and official government buildings.

Feb 18 – 20: Clement Town

Clement Town

From Delhi, we will head to Clement Town. Located about 200 miles north, Clement Town is a thriving Tibetan community in exile. We will be arriving  on the third day of LOSAR – the Tibetan New Year. Here Losar is celebrated for five days. While the first two days are private family affairs, the last three are community celebrations. The group will be invited into Tibetan homes and take part this special celebration.

Clement Town is also the home of Kyitsel-ling Tibetan Children’s Education Center – the hostel TCEF helped to found 20 years ago. We will meet children and elders supported by TCEF. Kyitsel-ling will host a dinner for the group. The children at Kyitsel-ling receive an education that grounds them in the Tibetan culture. Tibetan music and dance are a core part of their school curriculum. The Kyitsel-ling children will entertain the group with an evening concert of Tibetan dance and music.

Feb 21: Day trip to Haridwar and Rishikesh

Haridwar & Rishikesh

On Feb 20: We will take a day trip to the twin holy cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh – situated on the banks of the Ganges river at the foothill of the Himalayas. Haridwar is the gateway to 4 pilgrimages in the Uttrakhand region and is one of the 7 sacred cities in India. Haridwar has been blessed by the sacred trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, and is an ancient site of purifying body, mind and soul. Haridwar is a living example of religious harmony visited by people of all sects from around the world. The Ganges here is strong, clean and fast. People believe that bathing here removes layers of negative karma, purifies the soul and opens the way for ultimate freedom.

When the sun rises behind the mountains, local people wash in the river. Beginning at 4 am , temple chanting floats across the water until dark. The city becomes breathtakingly beautiful in the evening as puja offerings of hundreds of camphor flame leaf boats and marigold floats picturesquely on the Ganges.

Feb 21: Return to Delhi by road

Feb 22 – 25: Flight Delhi to Varanasi – Sarnath

Sarnath

After he received Enlightenment, the Buddha spent the next 45 years teaching and it all began here at Sarnath. Here at the historical Deer Park, he taught his very first sermon and set in motion the ‘Wheel of the Dharma’.

At the site where the Buddha first spoke the words of the Dharma stands a massive stupa called the Dhamekh stupa. The original stupa was constructed by Ashoka. Pilgrims visit this place to circumambulate this sacred stupa and to worship the Buddha. The first discourse of the Buddha was on the ‘Wheel of Law’. The wheel symbolizes samsara – the eternal round of existence which goes on and on, life after life because of ceaseless cravings and desire.

Right in the shadow of the massive and ancient Dhamekh stupa, one can get a sense of the profound message that changed billions of lives, one can reflect on our own ceaseless cravings that bring so much suffering – and take our first steps in letting go – whether it is external ‘stuff’, a bloated ego or emotional negativities. If there is one central and eternal message from the Buddha to take from this sacred site,it is that our cravings and attachments often can be the cause of suffering…. A life of balance, a freeing away of attachments even if it is only material attachment that you can free yourself of, is a great beginning to start a life of balance…

Varanasi

Varanasi is an ancient and holy city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh dating to the 11th century B.C. Regarded as the spiritual capital of India, the city draws Hindu pilgrims who bathe in the Ganges River’s sacred waters and perform funeral rites. Along the city’s winding streets are some 2,000 temples, including Kashi Vishwanath, the “Golden Temple,” dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.

Life on the banks of the Ganges here at Varanasi begins at dawn when thousands of pilgrims come down to the river to wait for the rising sun when the sacred river will cleanse them of their sufferings and wash away their sins. Varanasi is situated on the western bank and has a spectacular view of the rising sun. It is one of the most fascinating cities in India.

Feb 25 – 27: Road trip from Varanasi to Bodh Gaya on Feb 25 followed by three days at Bodh Gaya

Bodh Gaya

Located in the Indian state of Bihar, Bodh Gaya is the most sacred place for all Buddhists – the Mecca of Buddhism. This is the place where the Gautam Buddha attained Enlightenment or Nirvana under the Bodhi tree.

Bodh Gaya today is dotted with Buddhist temples from all over the world – but the heart and soul of Bodh Gaya is the Mahabodhi temple – a UNESCO world heritage site. In the inner compound of this holy temple is a bodhi tree – a direct descendant of the tree under which the Buddha became enlightened 2500 years ago. Here, we will breathe the air of spirituality , sit and meditate under the same sacred tree. For some, this sacred experience might sow the seed of a spiritual awakening, for others it might simply be an opportunity to think about how they can bring some balance and compassion in their own lives.

Feb 28: Bodh Gaya to Rajgir by road

Rajgir

Rajgir is the place where the Buddha taught the Transcendent Perfection of Wisdom (Prajna paramita), at the Vulture Peak, sixteen years after his enlightenment, to an assembly of 5,000 monks, nuns and laity, as well as innumerable bodhisattvas. This teaching is known as the second turning of the Wheel of Dharma and it focus on understanding the meaning of ‟emptiness”, which is the ultimate nature of phenomena.

When Buddhism states that emptiness is the ultimate nature of things, it means that the things we see around us, the phenomena of our world lack any autonomous or permanent existence. But emptiness is not at all a void, or the absence of phenomena, as early western commentators of Buddhism once thought. According to Buddhism, learning to understand the essential unreality of things is an integral part of the spiritual way. Knowledge of our spirits and knowledge of the world are mutually enlightening and empowering. The ultimate aim of both is to dissipate suffering.

Mar 1: Kushinagar by road

Kushinagar

Kushinagar is the place where Lord Buddha passed away near the Hiranyavati River and was cremated at at the Ramabhar stupa. It was once a celebrated center of the Malla kingdom. Many of its stupas and viharas date back to 230 BC-AD 413. when its prosperity was at the peak. In 543 BC, on a full moon night of Magh the legend delivered lecture to his Sangha and declared that he is going to leave the mortal world soon enough.

Kushinagar also expresses the common thread of all sects of Buddhism through its magnificent Viharas, Chaityas, temples and Tibetan monasteries.

Kushinagar’s greatest lesson is that of the impermanence of all phenomena – including the mortal form of the Shakyamuni or Buddha. An inner realization of this phenomena may not rid our trials and tribulations – but it will help one to overcome them without too much stress and fear. Mindfulness of impermanence helps all to lead a balanced life where fear does not rule.

Mar 2: Kushinagar to Sravasti by road

Buddha in Kushinagar” (CC-BY-SA-3.0) by Mahendra3006

Sravasti

During the times of the Buddha this was the capital of Kosala Mahajanapada. The city is said to have hosted the Buddha during 25 rainy seasons.The presence of Lord Buddha in Sravasti led his Sangha advance to congregate into one place. Sravasti is also renowned for the magical feats showed by Lord Buddha, sitting on a lotus, and for the other many stories that are linked with Buddha. The most popular is the story of the woman who came to resurrect her dead son. There are many other stories, related to Sravasti, basically confirming the supremacy of Lord Buddha and proving him as a legend. Its not known whether these really happened or not but looking at the faith of the local people its hard to believe that these are mere stories and not the truth that happened here. The place also has a magical charm that enlivens tired tourists instantly.

Mar 3 – 5: Sravasti to Lumbini by road, followed by stay at Lumbini

Lumbini by wonker, on FlickrLumbini – Buddha’s Birthplace

One of the four most holy places for Buddhists, Lumbini is situated at the foothills of Himalayas in the Terai plains of southern Nepal. The bewitching beauty and tranquility of Lumbini is not only for the pilgrims but also to any one seeking peace and serenity. This spiritual destination is filled with historical, cultural and spiritual values.

Lumbini associated with the birth of Lord Buddha is of immense archaeological and religious importance and also a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site. It is said that Prince Siddhartha Gautam, who later became Buddha the ‘Enlightened One’, was born in the gardens of Nepal’s Lumbini in 623 B.C.

Mar 6: Lumbini to Kathmandu or Delhi by air. End of trip

Lumbini” (CC BY 2.0) by wonker

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Tour Leaders:

India Supera

India Supera, Executive Director and founder of Feathered Pipe Foundation, as many friends of the Feathered Pipe Ranch know, has long loved the great civilization of India. She spent her 20’s studying with her guru Sai Baba and living and traveling extensively in India. Inspired by the culture, beauty and spirit of the country, she has brought the Sacred Spirit of India to the Ranch.

India herself has been a passionate and vibrant leader inspiring many in their personal spiritual journeys. As the founder of the Feathered Pipe Ranch, she has, for the past 35 years, led many retreats and tours around the world. For the ultimate spiritual tour of pilgrimage destinations there can be no journey more inspiring than a tour in India of the holy cities. India will introduce you to the India she loves with great Compassion and Joy. Her knowledge of the culture and history will enrich this tour of the majestic beauty, architectural splendor, and natural wonder in the land saturated with spirituality and divine love – Mother India.

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Karma Tensum

Karma was born in Tibet but raised in Northern India. Born into a Tibetan refugee family his life was transformed by an education made possible by the wisdom of HH The Dalai Lama and the early Tibetan leadership in exile coupled with the compassion of kind sponsors.

Karma’s life experiences is  custom built to lead this Foot steps of the Buddha tour in the heartland of India. Raised as a cultural Tibetan, he is a practicing Buddhist. Educated in India he has a Master’s in Indian History and Culture. Having lived in the West for the past 15 years he can share Buddhist philosophy or Indian history in a way that can relate to Westerners.

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REGISTRATION INFORMATION:

Cost for above itinerary:

$3,500 USD per person, double occupancy (excluding all airfare)




*To pay by check and save credit card charges, please send an email to karma@tibetchild.org or call (406) 461-8745.

An $800 NON-REFUNDABLE deposit is required to hold your space. Final payment is due December 15, 2017 and there are no refunds or credits for cancellation after this point. For this reason we strongly urge you to purchase travel insurance to safeguard your investment.Final payments must be made by check or money order.

Rooming: If you want a double room we will try to match you with a roommate. It sometimes happens that we are not able to do that – in that case you will have to purchase a single supplement.

INCLUDED IN YOUR TOUR:

Hotel accommodaton on twin sharing basis
Traditional welcome
Welcome drink
Arrival departure transfers by ac coach
All sightseeing by ac coach as per the program
Daily breakfast & dinner
Monument entrance fees
Boat ride at River Ganges
English speaking guide and escort
Two bottle water everyday

COST DOES NOT INCLUDE:

 International Air & In-Indian Travel
India & Nepal Visa Fee
Any expenses of Personal Nature
Tips & Porterage

DOCUMENTS:

You must have your passport and visa before you leave the US. India has now outsourced its visa issuing to Cox & King Global Services (516-206-1483 / 646-589-0088). Your birth certificate will be required. Expect the entire process to require 2 – 4 weeks. Your passport is ok if it does not expire before April 30th. Foreign nationals are only allowed to apply for 10 year tourist visa. (They will automatically issue you a multi-entry one, so those going on to Nepal needn’t worry about the return to Delhi.) We will get our Nepal visas at the border for the extension.

The application form asks for a reference in India. You may use our land agent Raj:

RAJ MADAANMULTIVISION TOURS & TRAVELS (P) LTD.

A -125 Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi, India 110016

It’s a good idea, prior to departure, to send yourself an email with your passport numbers and any other important numbers – like credit cards, traveler’s checks, etc., so you can retrieve them easily if you need them. Also, scan the inside front page of your passport, and the page with the visa stamp, and email it to yourself. SEND us a good quality photocopy of the inside front page of your passport and the visa page, or a good, legible scanned copy. Having this will speed up replacement should that ever become necessary.

AIRFARES:

We are in the process of investigating the best airfare for both the international travel and in-India air-travel. Upon securing best rates, we will contact those who have registered to book air flights accordingly.

TRAVEL INSURANCE:

You must have travel insurance! If you think you can’t afford it, just think of the financial consequences if you don’t have any and something goes wrong. Make sure your insurance covers health care, theft of property, lost luggage, travel delays. Over my many years of travel in India and surrounding area I have used every one of those coverages at one time or another. We are traveling in safe places, not doing dangerous things, but you will want to know that if anything were to happen, you would be covered. Then you can travel with your mind at ease, and so can we.

We recommend Travel Guard Insurance www.travelguard.com which can be purchased on-line.

HEALTH OF THE BODY:

There are allopathic doctors everywhere and good doctors in the cities. I have every confidence in the medical professionals I know in communities there. We do ask you to do a few things in the month before we depart to help your body gear up:

Continue with whatever daily vitamins you are currently taking, with the addition of a good probiotic (Renew Life or Nature’s Way Optimum are good ones). Begin taking “CoQ10” – an enzyme that helps oxygenate your heart and head. Begin taking extra Vitamin C. Taking Acidophilus regularly – starting a month before you leave – will keep your intestines happy.

Most of all, PLEASE TALK WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE YOU GO AND FIND OUT WHAT SHE OR HE RECOMMENDS FOR YOU. Check out any developments on the Center for Disease Control website at: www.cdc.gov. In particular, ask about:

VACCINATIONS:

Hepatitis: There are vaccines for both Hepatitis A and B. (Having had hepatitis, I think you may be happier if you take the shots.)

If needed, booster doses for tetanus, diphtheria and measles, and/or a one-time dose of polio for adults.

Talk with your doctor about everything mentioned above, and also about taking along a full-spectrum antibiotic, like Cipro (Ciprofloxacin), in case of dysentery, and Lomotil for diarrhea. (You will also want to take along some “Emergen-C” packets – the electrolytes will help if you get diarrhea.) We recommend that you wash your hands frequently, and bring along a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. (Only bring ONE small bottle – it lasts and lasts!)

NOTE: Rabies is widespread in Asia. Rabies treatment is now a series of 3 shots. If you get bitten you have to take them. You can usually tell a rabid animal — it looks and acts crazy – but don’t be friendly with the numerous dogs. If you’re afraid of a dog, pick up a rock and throw it. If you want to feed dogs, like I always did, just put the food down in the street. (Beware of the monkeys, too – they can be very aggressive.)

AIRPORT SECURITY PROCEDURES:

These rules change periodically so please check with your airline. All liquids and gels in your carry-on bag must be in bottles no larger than 3 oz., and these bottles must be inside ONE clear quart-sized Zip-Lock-type bag. (Don’t carry any sharp and dangerous weapons of terror and mass destruction (like tweezers) in your carry-on bag.)

LUGGAGE AND PACKING:

We recommend that you fit all your personal items into one pull-along suitcase that you can handle easily yourself. We will have porters everywhere, but you should be able to handle it yourself just in case. Inside that suitcase bring a light duffle bag for things you purchase along the way. The in-country flights have a 35 lb weight limit. Use security-style luggage locks — the kind that the security people can unlock with their special keys. This way your bags may remain locked in transit. We are happy to help you decide what to bring.

PLEASE HAVE YOUR LUGGAGE VERY CLEARLY MARKED AND EASY TO IDENTIFY. Prior to boarding your domestic flights in India, as you leave the main terminal you sometimes may be required to identify your checked baggage as it’s being loaded. Failure may mean that your checked baggage will not be put on the flight. Unfortunately, this process is not followed by all airlines and at all departure points, SO PLEASE MARK YOUR LUGGAGE WELL.

CLOTHING:

Comfortable and modest clothing is the key. Bring flip-flops and whatever comfortable walking shoes you like. Sometimes when you take shoes off outside temples they disappear so don’t bring your most expensive shoes. There are some Hindu temples that forbid you to take any leather goods – such as belts, wallets and leather bags – inside the temple. Therefore keep leather to a minimum. Both men and women will need to cover their heads prior to entering a Sikh place of worship. You MUST bring a money belt that goes underneath your clothes for your passport, etc. Bring long pants, good walking shoes and changes of cotton socks. Dress modestly. We can easily get ready-made Punjabis and saris at any level of quality and price in India. If you are coming to Nepal we will have another list for you.

THINGS TO BRING:

Flashlight, batteries, day pack, water bottle, dental floss, tampax, watch, sunglasses, sun hat, insect repellent, something for the itches in case you don’t get the repellent on fast enough, any medications you need (prescription or otherwise). Electricity is 230-240V, 50 cycles, alternating current. (You will need transformers for electrical equipment.) Light rain gear will be good to have. In other words, bring anything you may need for your health and safety – bring it rather than relying on finding it in a culture vastly different from our own. There are internet cafes almost everywhere and our hotels will have internet. Bring only those yoga props you absolutely need.

 

MONEY:

The currency is the Rupee. It is pretty easy to obtain in any hotel (in Delhi) or from readily available, but not always functional, ATM machines, etc. So, for the smaller towns, do bring some traveler’s checks, dollars in addition to debit/credit cards – it is easy to convert them into Rupees. Talk with your bank and credit card companies before you leave home and pre-arrange the amount you can draw or spend at any one time, so you don’t get stymied by an unexpected limit. (India is an absolute delight as far as what you can buy there – gems, carpets, saris, artworks, etc., costing up into the thousands. There’s no end of money you can spend in India – just decide what you might want to spend before you leave.) Everyone will charge you a fee to use credit cards.

ONCE WE’RE IN INDIA

AT THE AIRPORT IN DELHI:

When you arrive at the airport in Delhi, there are good ATM machines there. SO BE SURE TO GET YOURSELF $200 WORTH OF RUPEES BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE AIRPORT. That will handle your immediate needs without having to hassle with finding an operating ATM somewhere else.

You will be met at the airport. It will be something of a mob scene, whatever time you arrive. Walk out beyond customs with your luggage, and look for someone with a sign with your name and the name of our group on it. (Just in case you need help – Raj Madaan, our great friend and land agent, will be available by cell from the Delhi airport at 93 1121 1994.)

FEEDING THE BODY:

We will be eating mostly in hotels or at friend’s houses but everywhere we must take basic precautions. This will all be explained as we go along but the basic rules are: No salads, even in hotel buffets, peel any fruits or vegetables yourself; eat only hot foods, no ice. Bottled water only – inspect the seal, don’t drink from any bottle with a broken seal. Learn to love Indian food. India has the best food in the world. It’s a well-developed vegetarian diet. If you are attached to having some particular food, bring it along.

WEATHER:

We are visiting when winter is tapering out and Spring has still not arrived. Average daily maximum temperatures range between 10 and 28 degrees C (50 to 82 degrees F)

DRUGS:

It is part of the religious tradition in the North to incorporate things like hashish. Bhang lassi is a drink made from the leaves of marijuana with yoghurt. There is not a big judgment around this and you will encounter it. If you decide to experiment be wide awake and in a safe place. Intoxication makes you susceptible to robbery. My advice is the same as in the US: best left alone unless you’re in the proper circumstance for it.

SCAMS:

You may have heard about scams in India, but when you’re traveling with a group like ours, you don’t need to worry about that. By and large, India is a safe country in which to travel, and Sikkim and Bhutan even more so. (There are always going to be touts and commission agents around – that’s how the system works there, and they can be great helpers.) So don’t be going into India with the fear that you’re going to be ripped off. “Trust in God but tie up your camel.” Keep yourself healthy and keep your chi around you and you will be fine. (People are more vulnerable to getting robbed or cheated when they are tired.)

TIPS, GRATUITIES, GIFTS & ALMS:

I will collect the money for tips ahead of time. This way we can make sure to handle all of the gratuities and alms in the way that will best help the people in the communities you will be meeting, and you won’t have to worry about it at all. Visit the TCEF website (www.tibetanchildrenseducation.org) – our main charity in India. We also will handle all of the normal tipping for dining rooms and luggage, etc. Most people don’t know where to pay baksheesh, what bribes are needed, etc., and we do. I find it easiest to collect the money before we leave. It will be $200 per person for India. If you do see something you feel you’d like to give to, ask for my help to avoid scams.

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BEFORE WE GO

BOOKS – INDIA’S SUGGESTIONS:

If you read only one book I recommend Freedom at Midnight, by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. It’s based on the events leading up to independence from England and will give you a good political background for modern India.

Arranged Marriage: Stories by Chitra Divakaruni
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Anything by Khushwant Singh
Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri
A Million Minutes by VS Naipaul (Nobel Prize Laureate in 2001)
Any book by Chetan Bhagat (The most read author of younger Indian world)
Any book by Karin Desai

Spiritual readings: We’re going to be mostly in Tibetan Buddhist world, so you may want to read up on it. You may also want to read up on Hinduism in the Mahabharata, or any condensed version or the Ramayana.

MOVIES:

Classic and good include:

“Heat and Dust” is an older film that’s wonderful. I also recommend “City of Joy” and “Phoolan Devi: Bandit Queen.” Any film directed by Satyajit Ray would be great (www.satyajitray.org). Also “Salaam Bombay,” “Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids,” Directed by, Zana Briski. “Water,” “Fire,” and “Earth,” Directed by Deepa Mehta. (Mehta’s movies have scandalized India. She’s the closest thing to Satyajit Ray these days.) “Namesake” by Mira Nair. There is a very good film you can watch online about Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, who was one of the authors of the Indian Constitution, a low-caste Indian who rose to prominence. He became a Buddhist, and was responsible for the Neo-Buddhist movement in India. More popular and for fun include: “Bend it Like Beckham”, “Monsoon Wedding,” “Bride and Prejudice,” and “A Touch of Pink.” Also, “Slum Dog Millionaire.” Also “Three Idiots.”