AWAKENING TO FREEDOM:
Yoga & Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley
October 27 - November 7, 2014
*As with all the plans we humans make, this schedule is also subject to change. :)
Phase 1: Touching Ground in Nepal
You'll spend 4 nights at the Vajra, an authentic, Nepali-style hotel away from the chaos, but close to everything you want to see. Here, your instructors will lead morning and evening yoga classes in the ‘pagoda room’ with gorgeous ceiling frescos, overlooking the great stupa at Swayambhu. (The glow of Swayambhu at night is a sight not to be missed.) You'll spend three days taking in the best that Kathmandu has to offer with its extraordinary temples and shrines dedicated to Hindu, Buddhist and local deities.
Day 1: When you touch ground in Nepal, our drivers will be there to pick you up from the airport. You’ll be transferred to the hotel, where you can unwind from your journey, rest, enjoy the garden and a meal, and soak up the atmosphere. Once everyone has arrived, you’ll have a gentle yoga practice before dinner and a brief orientation before turning in for the night.
Day 2: After an early breakfast, you'll be guided on foot to Swayambhu, and climb the 365 steps required to reach the great stupa. The epic climb is an auspicious way to begin your journey! Also known as the ‘Monkey Temple’ due to the abundance of Rhesus Macaques that live here, Swayambhu offers a fanastic view of the Kathmandu Valley. Here, learn how stupa architecture reflects Buddhist thought, meet the ‘5 Dhyani Buddhas’, and join local pilgrims as they circumambulate the holy site.
Later, enjoy a rejuvenating yoga practice and a delicious lunch back at the hotel. After lunch, we have a fantastic lecture planned for you, entitled "Understanding Nepal" with our expert guide and mentor, Anil. Then explore the Kathmandu Dhurbar Square with its traditional, ornately carved architecture. Here, you'll visit the old palace as well as the house of the ‘living goddess’, Kumari. You'll wander among the many Hindu shrines, including Black Bhairab, Shiva at his most fierce. Then you'll head out for a night on the town and some sumptuous local cuisine.
Day 3: After an early breakfast at the Vajra, you'll head to Patan. Full of religious art, temples, monasteries and communal courtyards, Patan's ornate architectural details are an incredible feast for the eyes. In many ways, life carries on here as it has for centuries. A town full of artisans and craftspeople, Patan offers a great opportunity to meet the people who give this city its unique beauty. You'll also see first-hand how spirituality is woven into everyday life and observe this community's morning rituals. Later, you'll return to your hotel for an afternoon practice session, lunch and the first part of our "Introduction to Buddhism" talk series in the pagoda room. Tonight, we'll be taking you to a very special dinner in one of Kathmandu's heritage buildings.
Day 4: Put on your walking shoes. After an early morning practice and breakfast, you'll venture to Nagi Gompa, a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery tucked away high on a hilltop in Shivapuri National Park. See first hand how the nuns live, experience a genuine place of retreat, and enjoy sweeping views of the valley. Visit the nuns prayer hall and observe the performance of daily rituals and prayer. From here, you'll head out on foot down the steep hillside past local villages and through pine forests to Pullahari, one of the most stunning Tibetan monasteries in the Kathmandu Valley (a 2.5 hour hike). Observe the monks' evening puja and an incredible Kathmandu sunset. Tonight you'll enjoy a hearty meal after a long day's trek.
Phase 2: Reflection and Study among Buddhas
In Boudhanath, dozens of monasteries are situated around an enormous, breathtaking stupa. Hundreds of Tibetan devotees circumambulate the stupa while reciting mantra and spinning prayer wheels every morning and evening. During your 4 nights at the Siddhi Manakamana Hotel, you’ll practice yoga and receive dharma teachings as monastic life carries on around you.
Day 5: After early morning practice and breakfast, you'll head to Boudhanath with our expert guide where you'll explore the Boudha stupa, a massive, three-dimensional mandala (one of the largest in Asia) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After lunch you'll check in at the Siddhi Manakamana Hotel and have some free time to wander a few of the many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the area and check out the countless shops selling Buddha statues and other ritual items as well as textiles and other local handicrafts. We'll continue our "Introduction to Buddhism" lecture series this evening and learn more about how Buddhism developed over the past 2,500 years, how Buddhism itself was changed by the cultures it came in contact with, and how the main schools of Buddhism evolved. After the talk, you'll have a chance to circumambulate the stupa with the local community and find some tasty eats on your own (a recommended list will be provided.)
Day 6: After early morning practice and breakfast, you'll head to Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery in Boudhanath and meet Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, the Abbot and spiritual head of the monastery. After meeting Rinpoche and offering the traditional 'katag' or ceremonial scarf, you'll attend his dharma talk in the monastery’s main prayer hall. Receiving teachings in this space, with giant golden buddhas gazing out at you, is a powerful experience you'll never forget. After the teaching and lunch at a local favorite restaurant, you'll have some free time in the afternoon to explore the neighboring monasteries before our second teaching of the day with Venerable Drokpa Tulku, a senior teacher at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery. You'll join the group tonight for a rooftop feast overlooking the great stupa.
Day 7: Free Day
Phase 3: Merging with the Sky
Just when you're ready to take up the monastic life, you'll head to the valley's edge, to the hills of Kavre. The peacefulness of this stretch of the valley is hard to imagine until you're there. At the Namo Buddha Resort, you'll enjoy 3 days of Himalayan views and lush, green terraced fields. It is the ideal place for practice, and the surrounding hills and villages provide beautiful scenery for day hikes.
Day 8: After morning practice and breakfast, you'll head to Namo Buddha, long held as a "power place" for spiritual practice and retreat. You'll arrive at the Namo Buddha Resort in the late afternoon, settle into your cottage, and soak up the scenery. After an early evening yoga practice in the main hall, you'll have a hearty dinner and free time afterwards to catch up on journaling or just hang out with fellow yogis.
Day 9: At the resort, enjoy morning and evening yoga and meditation sessions, and visit nearby Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery, perched on a steep ridge overlooking the valley. Here, the view is so spectacular you just might think you've already reached nirvana. The beautiful and sprawling Thrangu Monastery was built on the hillside where, in a previous life, the Buddha is said to have offered his own body to a starving tigress in order that she could feed her cubs. The site celebrates this fearless act of compassion and is a principal pilgrimage place for Tibetan Buddhists.
Day 10: After an early morning practice and breakfast at the resort, you'll begin a 3-hour hike through local villages and rice terraces to the town of Dhulikhel, where the views keep unfolding before you. Dhulikhel was once a major stop on the ancient trade route linking Nepal to Tibet.
After the day's journey, head back to the resort for an evening meditation and a healthy meal.
Phase 4: Coming Home Again
Day 11: After morning practice at the monastery, you'll head back to where you started -- the Vajra Hotel. For many, it's the last full day in Nepal, so after checking back in, you'll have the chance to hit Thamel for some last minute shopping. Here, you can pick up any gifts you want to bring back with you from the hundreds of colorful shops and handicraft sellers that line the streets.
When you've had your fill, everyone will meet in the Garden of Dreams (more on that later) for a very special farewell dinner.
Day 12: After our final morning practice in the pagoda room, we'll have breakfast and some final goodbyes. It's time to head back home. Your airport transfer will be waiting just outside of the hotel to take you back to Tribhuvan International Airport.
Rooms are shared (private rooms are available for an extra fee depending upon availability).
You'll spend a total of 4 nights at the Hotel Vajra, an authentic, Newari-style hotel with some Tibetan touches. You'll have everything you need for a comfortable stay. Morning and evening yoga classes will be held in the ‘pagoda room’ overlooking the great stupa at Swayambhu. Rooms have parquet floors and the attached bathrooms all have shower and running hot water. Rooms are also equipped with chairs and writing desk. Some rooms have a coffee table and private balcony. Internet services are located on the ground floor.
During your 4 nights at the Siddhi Manakamana Hotel, you’ll rise to the sound of monastery horns and enjoy early morning practice as monastic life carries on around you. Siddhi Manakamana, located just steps from the Boudhanath Stupa, offers simple, comfortable rooms, each with its own bathroom and hot water, flat screen TV, and balcony opening out to a pleasant garden. Here you can breathe and relax while you take in the many sights and experiences that Boudhanath can offer. No doubt you'll be joining the locals for morning and evening kora, circumambulation of the stupa. Internet access is available here as well as many other sites around the Boudhanath Stupa.
Located at the top of an 1,800 meter (5,905 ft) hill, the Namo Buddha Resort offers a taste of the simple life in the Nepali countryside. Comprised of several small, beautifully built cottages, this one-of-a-kind resort is rich in traditional Nepali style. All cottages feature, adobe walls, decorative niches, stone roofs, colorful textiles and lots of gorgeous woodwork. On a clear morning, wake up to panoramic views of the Himalaya, including the Annapurna and Khumbu mountain ranges.
The resort is surrounded by forest and has its own organic farm where vegetables, grains, flowers and many fruits are grown. They collect milk from their own cows and honey from their bees. They also makes their own jams, breads, and other bakery items.
Namo Buddha Resort also features wireless internet and a wood sauna.
$2,690 (USD) discounted rate for the first 8 registrants -- $200 off!
$2,890 (USD) regular program fee
Final payment deadline: July 10, 2014
A non-refundable deposit of $600 is required at the time of registration to hold your space.
Late registration: After July 10, 2014, we can accommodate late registration only in the event that a space remains available. If a late registration is possible after July 10th, full payment is required at the time of registration to hold your space and the entire payment is non-refundable.
Fee includes: 11 nights accommodations, 3 vegetarian meals per day on most days, bottled water and tea/coffee at meal times, yoga and meditation sessions, scheduled excursions to pilgrimage sites, knowledgeable guides and teachers, all entrance fees, land transportation within Nepal, and airport transfers.
Fee does not include: air fare to and from Kathmandu, airport or departure taxes not included in your air ticket, visa fees ($25), additional hotel nights before or after scheduled program dates, unscheduled activities and excursions, soft drinks, alcohol and espresso drinks, phone calls, massage services, shopping, laundry or other personal expenses, additional meals, drinks and snacks, travel insurance, trekking extensions, or single supplements ($400 depending upon availability).
The Fall 2014 program begins late Monday afternoon (around 4pm), October 27 and ends after breakfast on Friday, November 7. You may arrive on October 27 and depart on November 7.
Please inform us if, due to flight arrival and departure dates, you require an extra night or two on either end of the trip and we'll place a reservation on your behalf. (A fee for extra hotel nights would apply.)