10 day course: Tushita – Introduction to Buddhism in Dharamkot
It was my plan to travel to North India for a few years, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I only had a two months visa this time and didn’t plan to see many places but focus on yoga and meditation. A friend and teacher from my Yoga teacher training recommended me the Tushita Meditation Centre in Dharamkot, the village up the hill next to McCleod Ganj. So from Australia I already signed up for the 10 day retreat “Introduction to Buddhism” in Mai 2018, which is already high season. Traveling alone I find it really helpful to join group retreats – it’s a lot of self practice but at the same time you’re in a safe group.
I had alreadyexperienced a 10 day Hridaya Mediation retreat, which is a mix of teachingsfrom worldwide spiritual traditions and a 10 day Vipassana Meditation course,which is also a Buddhist tradition. I heard that at Tushita they practiceTibetan Buddhist traditions which includes many Tantric Art forms andtraditional ceremonies.
|6.45 – 7.30am||Mindfulness Meditation|
|9:00 – 11:00am||Teaching|
|11:15 – 12:00pm||Stretching (if teacher available) or Walking Meditation|
|12:00 – 2:00pm||Lunch & Karma Yoga Jobs|
|2:00 – 3:00pm||Discussion Groups|
|3:30 – 5:00pm||Teaching|
|5:30 – 6:15pm||Guided Meditation|
Simple but beautiful
The course was inquite a big group of people sitting in a beautifully decorated room on pillowsin front of a small table for each of us. We got a course book with all thetopics and were allowed to takes notes. 1 hour a day we spent in a smalldiscussion group, the rest of the days were spent without any talking toothers. I slept in a room with about 12 other women, the bed was very simplebut comfortable and warm, due to water shortage and few bathrooms it wassometimes a bit chaotic, but totally acceptable for a donation based retreat. I loved the generous meals, the tibetan dishes were delicious and I ended upaddicted to their homemade peanut butter.
Every day we had several hours of Buddhist Teachings class with two teachers, I found it very deep and helpful. On top of that we were allowed to use the library and read books to deepen topics. A lot of the meditations were led by the two teachers and connected to the topics, we were just learning about. Since I practiced mostly silent meditation before, I had to open up for this style and in the end I definitly had some very beautiful and deep meditations there. It was not very strict, we were allowed to move the body at any time and I think the course is nice for beginners.
Teachings about Tibetan Buddhism
In the lessons there was sometimes a short discussion with the teacher, people were allowed to ask questions. We talked a lot about the mind and the Buddhist concepts of perception. It was good to meditate on all these topics and try to experience it. “The nature of the mind is clear and pure like the blue sky that is only temporary covered by clouds.
The stains on the mind can be removed, it’s not its natural state.” “We are looking for the NATURE of things/mind and deeply investigate in how we perceive everything, no need to label and define everything.” I feel that in the western societies I grew up in, I totally learned identifying myself with my thoughts (I think, so I am), but in the Buddhist traditions they watch the thoughts and even more focus on the breaks between thoughts, to go one level deeper.
Some of the very oldTibetan teachings were interesting and new to me, like “Human life inTibetan Buddhism is the most fortunate reincarnation ( others: Demi God, God,Animal, Hungry Ghost, Hellbeing)”. Since we are able to suffer in thehuman life, we have even higher chances for liberation than the Gods. Sufferingcan open us up to the other side, the is a way to develop internal happinessand satisfaction for no outer reason by not reacting any more but justobserving. In Buddhism there is no need to express any anger, watch andtransform the anger. Practice love and forgiveness for the person you’re angryat. Also typical for Tibetan Buddhism is working with our own death andrealising the short time we have on this earth – in 100 years all the 8 billionpeople on this planet right now will be dead.
10 days in a retreat
I really liked that a woman volunteered to teach a short Yoga class on the rooftop every morning -it was good to move and feel the body after all the sitting. In Vipassana thiswas strictly forbidden and therefore I experienced quite some pain there (beingused to daily stretching). The whole area is in the forest and very quiet, inMay there were many monkey families around and sometimes even disturbed us.
Being in the course with so many people and animals was sometimes disturbing or anoying, but that way I was able to practice “May you be happy…” to anything I disliked, which left me feeling better and not getting angry. We also talked about Tantra as a spiritual practice where you identify deeply with some Gods and therefore can quicker achieve some deep states of realization, it is seen as a faster way to liberation than for example only meditating on the emptyness of everything. It can also be an easier understanding of the message than the abstract higher Buddhist teachings.
Day by day I felt more peaceful and content. In the breaks I often went up and down a little path with many stairs in the forest. I was still getting used to the high altitude and enjoyed spending time in nature. Many evenings I did an extra silent meditation session in the empty hall and just felt my whole system quiet down and my focus open for everything around.
Final ceremony and new friends
The last two days became even deeper – we meditated more and were invited to fast during the meals to get even more focus and clearity. They showed us a movie about the life of the Dalai Lama which deeply touched me. We finished the retreat the last evening with a beautiful candle ceremony and watched an impressive thunderstorm in the mountains. After the silence I met many nice people there and we kept meeting in the weeks after.1