VAJRA VIDYA SEMINAR 2002
GENERAL INFORMATION FOR SEMINAR PARTICIPANTS
FEBRUARY 25 – MARCH 13, 2002
INFORMATION ABOUT SARNATH & VARANASI
SARNATH is a major Buddhist pilgrimage site (also known as Deer Park) and is located 10-km northeast of Varanasi. This site is where the Buddha gave the first teachings known as the Four Noble Truths and is known as the place where the Buddha turned the First Wheel of Dharma. The Vajra Vidya Institute is located just behind Deer Park. The park is a large and beautiful area with tree, flowers, lawns and a small zoo. The ancient 34 meters high Dhamekh Stupa is located in the park along with the ruins of the ancient monasteries. Adjacent to or near the park is located monasteries and temples of different schools of Buddhism from Japan, China, Thailand, Burma and others. The Indian Buddhist society called Mahaboudhi Society maintains the park. The Mahaboudhi Temple within the park has a tooth relic of the Buddha. The area of Sarnath is very peaceful with few cars on the roads and the air is unpolluted. It is very easy to get around Sarnath on foot or by bicycle rickshaw. The Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies, a university for Higher Buddhist studies of all four lineages of Tibetan Buddhism is also located in Sarnath and it is possible to visit there anytime.
VARANASI, know as the Holy City, is a major pilgrimage place for Hindus. The Ganges River, which flows through Varanasi, is sacred to Buddhist and Hindus alike. On the Ganges, the many temples and burning ghats for cremations make it is a very interesting place to visit. Varanasi is very crowded with air pollution. It is reputed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Varanasi is very famous for silks and silk brocade, traditional music and dance schools. The famous Benares Hindu University and Sanskrit University have students from all over the world. However, Varanasi, in contrast in Sarnath, is very densely populated and crowded.
HOW TO GET THERE
Varanasi can be reached either by air, train or bus from major cities in India. Most people fly first to Delhi and then get a connecting flight to Varanasi. The Varanasi airport is about 1-hour’s drive from Sarnath. There are several airlines flying from Varanasi to Delhi. Two airlines going every day are Indian Airlines and Jet Airways. Train from Delhi takes around 18 hours and is often delayed. Sarnath is approx. 15-20 minutes by car from Varanasi.
When you reach the Varanasi Airport or the city of Varanasi – take a taxi to Sarnath. When you get to Sarnath you want to go to the backside of Deer Park. The area is known as Kajoohay. If the driver doesn’t know then ask someone directions to Kajoohay or the “Big Monastery” or “Big Mandhir (temple”. As it is the largest one (by far!) in the area and is well known to the local people.
It’s advisable to change money at the airport bank on arrival to get Indian rupees for taxis etc. and some funds to last for some time so you don’t need to go to the bank.for awhile. The rate for the Indian Rupee to U.S. dollar is approx. 43 rupees to one dollar. There are banks in Sarnath (and of course in Varanasi if you need to change more money later). Most convertible currencies can be exchanged but U.S. dollars are best. Pound sterling, Canadian dollar, Deutchmark can be exchanged. It’s best to bring traveler’s cheques for most of your money for security reasons and some cash for easy exchange in emergencies.
You must get an Indian visa at an Indian Embassy in your own country before arrival in India. It is not possible to get visa at the airport. It’s possible to get six month’s multiple entry visa. In some countries it’s possible to get a long-term visa (10 years in U.S.) if you have traveled previously to India.
WHERE TO STAY
The Vajra Vidya Institute
There will be approximately 25 rooms available at the Institute, double occupancy, shared bathrooms. The rooms must be reserved in advance. $10 a day per person including meals.
The Golden Buddha Guesthouse
They are planning to have 30 rooms by next year, double or single. Approx., $12 per day with out meals. The rooms have attached bathrooms. It’s about a 20-minute walk from the institute or you can take a bicycle rickshaw. Bicycles can be rented nearby.. The Guesthouse has a restaurant with continental menu. There is no hot water but the staff will bring you a bucket of hot water if requested (they may have hot water by next year!)
Mrigadava Tourist Bungalow
There is another guesthouse in Sarnath called the Mrigadava Tourist Bungalow. They have 10 rooms and a dorm. Rates are about the same as the Golden Buddha . It is close to the Deer Park and has a restaurant. Double or single are the same price - $10 approx. for Deluxe room - $5.50 for regular. Regular rooms have squat toilet but all rooms have hot water. Deluxe rooms have air conditioning.
Some of the other monasteries in the area have attached guestrooms. There are also many good hotels in Varanasi from medium prices (around $12 a day) up to the “Taj” which is a five-star hotel. There are also a number of budget hotels. If you are interested check “The Lonely Planet Guide to India”. Last year some participants stayed at “Clarks of Varanasi” which is a four star hotel and very comfortable with swimming pool etc. Discounted cost was around $50-60 a day.
WEATHER & CLOTHING
The weather will be hot so bring very light clothing and sandals for Sarnath. If you plan to travel to Dharmsala or Sikkim you will need some warmer clothing and a light jacket. If travelling to Nepal you may need a sweater for nighttime, long sleeved t-shirts and socks.
If you are going to Nepal, there is an Indian Airlines daily flight from Varanasi to Kathmandu. Bhoudgaya can be reached by train or by car within one day. To get to Dharmsala one needs to return to Delhi and go either by air (3 flights a week), train or bus. You can get to Sikkim by air from Delhi to Bagdogara in the Darjeeling District or by train to Bagdogara and then bus to Gangtok, Sikkim. Kalu Rinpoche and Bokar Rinpoche’s monasteries are in the Darjeeling district and can also be reached from Bagdogara (near Siligaree). Airfare between Delhi and Varanasi and Kathmandu/Varanasi is about the same – around $72 one way. Kathmandu to Delhi is $142-one way.
There will likely be other people attending the seminar who will want to go to some of these places if you want to travel in a group. If you are travelling in India I would suggest that you buy “The Lonely Planet Guide to India” for travel and accommodation info etc.
There are communications offices in Sarnath for long distance telephone calls & faxing. There is also an e-mail service in Sarnath.
We have both e-mail facilities and long distance phone service in the Institute.
Medical care is not as good as Kathmandu but there are doctors of western and herbal medicine as well as homeopathic doctors. There are many well-stocked pharmacies with most types of ordinary medicines. Many pharmaceutical companies in Europe and America are in partnership with Indian companies.
WHAT TO BRING
As well as light clothing bring:
Bar soap,Toopaste, batteries, chocolate bars are available in local stores.
- a flashlight for power outages (you can buy flashlights but they are not as good),
- mosquito repellent for nighttime,
- pens and notebooks are not good quality so better to bring them if you need them
- medicines and vitamins that you take regularly
- tapes and tape recorder if you wish to tape the teachings yourself
- a towel or two if you are staying at the Institute
- a few hangers if you need to hang your clothing
- there are people who do laundry nearby, however for underwear and small things bring a small line and clothespins
There is a shop at the Vajra Vidya selling dharma items, books and texts. There is also a coffee shop run by the Monk’s Welfare Assoc. (very popular!) You can buy bottled water, toilet paper, film etc. at the Institute Store.
THE SEMINAR PROGRAM
Teachings will be Monday to Friday only. There will be times for scheduled personal or group interviews with Thrangu Rinpoche. The two weekends are free for practice, study, visiting Varanasi etc. We will have some scheduled events on the weekend (such as a picnic with Thrangu Rinpoche and the monks and nuns). Participants are welcome to practice in the various shrinerooms.
7:00 or 7:30
8:00 – 8:45
9:00 – 10:00
10:00 – 11:30 (approx.)
11:30 – 12:00
12:30 – 1:30 approx.
1:30 – 3:00
3:00 – 4:30 Tibetan Language, Text Study or Discussion Groups
7:00 – 8:00
IF YOU HAVE ANY FURTHER QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS CONTACT:
Gloria Jones, Seminar Coordinator
Fax: 977-1-472529 / Phone: 472024
I will be in Sarnath at least one week prior to the seminar.
CONTACT NUMBERS FOR THE VAJRA VIDYA INSTITUTE
PHONE : 91-542-585944/ 587236/ 587237/ 587608 FAX: 91-542-585463
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (use this address only after February 17, 2001)