By Suma Varughese April 2004 This summer, give succour to your soul by taking off on a spiritual holiday. Here we offer you options that range from traditional and non-traditional ashrams to Zen meditation centres, yoga retreats, nature cure sanatoriums and luxurious spas. Enjoy! Krishnamurti Study CentresChennai, etcExisting under the aegis of the Krishnamurti Foundation of India, an organisation that oversees the teachings of the sage-philosopher, J. Krishnamurti, these centres arose out of his desire to provide a tranquil and supportive setting for seekers to immerse themselves in his teachings. Krishnamurti (1875-1986) was an unconventional wayshower. He eschewed all established religions, doctrines and paths. He said: “Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any road…” But he suggested that this spiritual cul de sac could be negotiated with the application of self-knowledge, the ‘choiceless awareness’ of one’s feelings, thoughts, reactions, and dreams. And, of course, his own teachings. The centres are located within the complexes that house the Krishnamurti schools, though a few are on their own. There are centres in Vasant Vihar, Chennai, headquarters of the Foundation, Rajghat (Varanasi), Uttarkashi, Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh, Sahyadri School near Pune, The Valley School, Bangalore, etc. Books, audio- and videotapes of Krishnamurti’s teachings are available. There is no fixed regimen; the seeker is left with his own “seriousness to guide him”. Situated in places of great natural beauty, the centers encourage visitors to spend time with nature, the greatest teacher of all. The weather in the centres in Uttarkashi, Rishi Valley School and The Valley School is pleasant during summer months. Accommodation/food: All the Study centres have accommodation facility (furnished rooms with attached baths) with excellent vegetarian food provided. Reservations must be made in advance, from two weeks to six weeks. Laundry facilities are available on request. Fees: In keeping with Krishnamurti’s wish, the fees are nominal in order to make it available to all. They range from Rs 150 per day to Rs 350, depending on the centre. Contact: Krishnamurti Foundation India, Vasanta Vihar, 64 Greenways Road, Chennai 28. Ph: (044) 24937803. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgFor Rishi Valley: Rishi Valley P.O. Chittoor District, 517352. Ph: (08571) 280622/280582/280261. E-mail: email@example.comFor Rajghat: Rajghat Fort, Varanasi 221001. Ph: Study Centre Guest House (0542) 2430289 . E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.For The Valley School: Haridvanam, Thatguni Post, Kanakapura Main Road, Bangalore 62. Ph: (080) 28435243. E-mail: email@example.comFor Uttarkashi: Uttarkashi Education Centre, P.O. Ranadi via Dunda, Dist. Uttarkashi, Uttaranchal 249151. Ph: (013712) 5417.For Sahyadri School: Study Centre, Post Tiwai Hill, Taluka Rajgurunagar, Pune 410513. Ph: (02135) 284278/3. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org School of Ancient Wisdom, Devanahalli, near BangaloreSituated 32 km from Bangalore, this haven of beauty and tranquillity offers weekend and one-day courses on a variety of spiritual and esoteric subjects such as The Seven Spiritual Planes of Nature and the Seven States of Matter, Yoga and Meditation, total Body, Mind Health and Stress Management. Started in 1998 by Manize Sait, a former industrial engineer, the School is not aligned to any spiritual organisation, though it is influenced by Theosophy. Its major attraction, apart from the courses, is the wonderfully landscaped grounds that do homage to the full glory of nature, providing a tranquil and soothing atmosphere for spiritual inquiry. Flowering trees and plants and a forest pond with water lilies and golden fish refresh and rejuvenate jaded urban senses. The tiled cottages too are straight out of an English countryside. A bookshop, library, an ayurvedic doctor, inhouse astrologer and numerologist are other facilities on offer. The School forbids smoking, drinking and the consumption of non-vegetarian food within its premises. Visitors are welcome to extend their stay before or after the beginning of the course. Sightseeing tours within Karnataka can be arranged. Groups can be offered custom-made programmes on a prior notice of two weeks. Accommodation/food: The rooms are comfortable and clean with modern amenities. Food is simple but appetising vegetarian. Fees: Courses are free. Accommodation inclusive of food is Rs 750 per person per 24 hours, with Rs 350 on the day of departure. Fees for corporate and government bodies are higher. Therapies, astrological and numerological consultations are at extra cost. Contact: Ram Menon, School of Ancient Wisdom, Devanahalli, Karnataka.Ph: (080) 7682181/2. Mobile : 9845077128. In Bangalore: (080) 5586837. Email: email@example.com Aurobindo AshramPondicherryThe Aurobindo Ashram houses the samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and is a sprawling and disparate collection of 400 buildings set in the eastern side of Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) was of the view that human evolution is incomplete and that a brand new species—‘supramental being’—would come about. He was later joined by the Mother, a Parisian occultist called Mira Alfissa, under whom the ashram grew. The ashram does not have a structured spiritual practice, but visitors can spend time at the samadhi, and visit the hundreds of tasteful little businesses that the ashram runs, like those delightful Pondi crochet slippers, handmade paper and the famous Auroshikha incense. Accommodation/food: You can stay at one of many ashram guesthouses. Seaside Guesthouse is the best, located in the middle of the beach road. Food is available. Park Guest House has rooms facing the sea. You can also partake of the tasty vegetarian fare at the ashram. Fees: Price per day ranges from Rs 650 for an A/c double room to Rs 80, depending on the guesthouse. Contact: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Rue de la Marine, Pondicherry, 605002.; Ph: Central Bureau (0413) 2339648; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.sriaurobindosociety.org.in AurovilleAuroville is a commune, where some 1,000 residents strive to realise Sri Aurobindo’s vision of “a divine life in Matter”. A vast and disparate colony of some 80 settlements (each with their own culture and flavour) scattered over 2,600 acres of land, it is an experiment in community living. The community is committed to deep ecology, organic farming, renewable energy, appropriate technology, holistic architecture, holistic healing, and the practice of a dazzling range of arts, crafts and personal growth therapies. The spiritual soul of Auroville is Matri Mandir, a huge globe within which is a beautiful meditation chamber of pure white marble, at the centre of which is an enormous crystal sphere. Accommodation/food: There are guesthouses within some of the settlements where you can stay and observe the many experiments in spiritual living run by the community. Some are basic while others are comfortable and professionally run. Among the better ones are Centre Guest House, Afsaneh Guest House, Atithi Griha Guest House, Samasti Guest House and Gaia’s Garden. Food is available at many restaurants. Fees: Rs 350 to Rs 1500, depending on where you stay. Contact: For general information, Visitors Centre, Auroville 605101, Tamil Nadu. Ph: (0413) 2622239; Email: email@example.com. For accommodation contact: Ph: (0413) 2622704E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.auroville.org Bodhi ZendoKodaikanal, Tamil NaduA Zen meditation centre run by a Christian father is as integrative as you can hope for. And when it is located on the cool and beautiful hills of Kodaikanal, its attraction is real. Father Ama Samy, the Zen master, is of the Sanbo Kyodan lineage of Kamakura/Japan. At the Zendo, emphasis is on zazen (meditation), sama (work), study and community living. The daily schedule includes four to five hours of meditation, community work and time for private study. In addition, they have a day of silence and meditation once a week. The first weekend of each month (Fri–Sun) is a mini intensive retreat (called sesshin). There are also periodic longer retreats of 5-7 days duration. All are free to attend though the affable Father requests a prior notice of preferably two months, at least a month. The weather between April and June is pleasant, with cool evenings. Take a sweater along. Accommodation/food: The Zendo can accommodate 30 people and tends to be full from December to May. Rooms are simple and austere and with single occupancy. Food is simple vegetarian. Fees: A nominal fee of Rs 200 per day is charged for food and lodging. But, says the thoughtful Father, lack of money should not stop you from coming. Contact: Father Ama Arokia Samy, Bodhi Zendo, Perumal Malai P.O., Kodaikanal 824104, Tamil Nadu. Ph: (04542) 230345. Email: email@example.com Vipassana International AcademyIgatpuri, MaharashtraFounded by S.N. Goenka, the Vipassana International Academy claims to have brought back the Buddha’s original meditation practice from Burma to the land of its origin. A rigorous 10-day programme featuring 10 hours of meditation daily, it has two stages. For the first three days you practise the preparatory anapana-sati, watching the movements of the breath over a smaller and smaller part of the anatomy until it is reduced to the triangle between the upper lip and nostril. Then comes the actual practice of Vipassana, which consists of scouring every part of the body for sensations, neither resisting the unpleasant ones nor clinging to the pleasant ones. As the days go by, the sensations become more and more subtle until you see the body and mind as vibrations, arising and disappearing ceaselessly. Thus the Buddha’s assertio
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