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In the Footsteps of the Buddha
1. Lumbini & Kapilavastu: Leaving the Pleasure Palace
2. Bodhgaya: Waking up to Reality
3. Varanasi: Teaching the end of Suffering
4. Rajgir: Spreading Peace
5. Sravasti: The Community Grows
6. Kushinagar: The Final Message
Delhi: Where the “father of India” lived and died.
“There are four places, the sight of which will arouse strong emotions in those with faith. Here the Thathagata was born…Here the Tathagata attained enlightenment…Here the Tathagata set in motion the Wheel of the Dharma…Here the Tathagata attained final Nirvana. And, the monk, the nun, the layman or lay woman who has faith should visit these places.”
“Whether you are a Buddhist pilgrim or simply want to learn more about the sources of Buddhism, you will find Shantum Seth’s guided journey to the places in India where the Buddha lived and taught a deeply enriching and unforgettable experience.”
-Stephen Batchelor, Author of Buddhism without Beliefs
Professor Jan Willis:
“Buddhism has always been of service to its community”
This two-week journey will begin in New Delhi after which we fly to Patna. Thereafter, we travel by our own private coach to Nalanda/Rajgir, Bodh Gaya, Varanasi/Sarnath, Kushinagar, Lumbini, Kapilavastu and Sravasti. From Sravasti we go to Lucknow and fly to Delhi. We will be back in Delhi on the 20th of January. The tour will end at 3pm on January 20, 2012 in New Delhi. You should book your departure flight late evening on 20th January early morning of 21st January 2012.
Vulture Peak, Rajgir
For those who take the Agra option, we travel by overnight sleeper train from Lucknow to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and will return to Delhi at 10:30pm on the 21st of January. Departure should be booked early morning of 22nd January 2012.
In Delhi, we will visit the place where Mahatma Gandhi, the father of India, lived and died. This is a wonderful place to begin the pilgrimage. Gandhi personified a unique way of politics where it became an exercise of ethical living. He was a man open to all cultures and religions but with deep faith in his own. Gandhi’s economic ideas were part of his general crusade against poverty and, exploitation against socio-economic injustice, and deteriorating moral standards. His economic philosophy is a result of innumerable experiments which he conducted in the course of his life.
Dhamek Stupa at Sarnath
Our journey will take us across the plains of the River Ganges to Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha attained enlightenment, and the Deer Park at Sarnath, where he gave his first teachings. We will visit his favorite meditation places such as Vulture Peak in Rajgir, the Jeta Grove at Sravasti (where he spent 24 rainy season retreats), and Kushinagar, where he passed away. We will also visit Lumbini, where he was born, and the palace at Kapilavastu, where he spent his childhood. Aside from visiting the places where the Buddha lived, we will visit monasteries, temples and shrines.
The trip includes visits to homes of locals in cities and villages, a gentle 8-kilometer walk to the Dungasiri Mountain (Mahakala Cave) where the Buddha practiced his austerities. We would meet environmental and social activists and visit the homes of both the homes of the poor and the privileged to get a sense of contemporary India. We would combine this with the underpinnings of the Buddha’s teachings, and some of the places he lived and visited so we can examine what we are witnessing and experiencing both from an external and internal perspective. In Varanasi we will meet with leaders of the Clean Ganga campaign, an environmental effort to clean up the Ganga (Ganges), India’s most sacred river. We will also take a boat ride on the Ganges at sunrise.
The pilgrimage is an unforgettable opportunity to explore areas that few tourists visit and to see and experience aspects of contemporary Indian life that, in many ways, have not changed since the time of the Buddha. We invite you to join other practitioners on a transformative journey that will allow you to touch an ancient culture and civilization, and experience the life of the Buddha through the places he lived and taught. Join us on this journey through a fascinating and mysterious India – as we walk in the footsteps of the Buddha.
Reclining Buddha at Kushinagar
India is very diverse in culture, language and environment. The Buddha lived and traveled along the Indo-Gangetic plains in Northern India. Besides New Delhi, the pilgrimage visits two states of northern India, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Bodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya
India’s cities stand in large contrast to her villages and have their own interesting (if seemingly chaotic) lifestyle. Varanasi and Bodh Gaya are both significant pilgrimage sites, having their own distinct character and personality. In these places we get a closer view of how modern and traditional India co-exist. Kushinagar, Sravasti and Rajgir are smaller towns and relatively quiet, giving the pilgrims the opportunity to absorb the nuances of the local culture and society.
Our retreat schedule will include daily sitting and walking meditation, often starting with a morning meditation at one of the Buddhist sites. This will be followed by breakfast at the hotel, after which we’ll visit one of the Buddhist sites listed below in the itinerary. Shantum or Bernie will offer a detailed talk on that site in the context of the Buddha’s life and teachings, and what was happening in the area many centuries ago.
Pilgrims will have some time at the site itself, after which we will go to lunch. We’ll rest after lunch or we may visit another site, go to a village, school, visit a teacher or institute, meet with environmental activists, etc. We return to the hotel by evening in time for dinner and usually end with a group discussion on the day. On the days we travel, the itinerary will vary slightly, and there will be some flexibility depending on the size, needs, and interest of the group.
|Day||Date||Day of the week||Travel||Night’s stay|
|1||7th Jan||Saturday||12 noon||Delhi|
|2||8th Jan||Sunday||Dalhi-Patna by air. Patna-Rajgir by road||Rajgir|
|4||10th Jan||Tuesday||Rajgir-Bodh Gaya||Bodh Gaya|
|5||11th Jan||Wednesday||Bodh Gaya||Bodh Gaya|
|6||12th Jan||Thursday||Bodh Gaya||Bodh Gaya|
|7||13th Jan||Friday||Bodh Gaya-Varanasi||Varanasi|
|14||20th Jan||Friday||Stravsti-Lucknow by road, Lkn-Del by air/Lkn-Agra by train||Departure/Agra|
|15||21st Jan||Saturday||Agra-Delhi (departure)||Departur|
The tour price includes: airport transfers and escort services in New Delhi, guide services, transportation inside India, monument entrance fees, all meals, bottled water and lodging arrangements for the duration of the pilgrimage. All registration fees are payable in U.S. dollars only.
Please note that the cost does not cover: International airfare to and from New Delhi, visas and other international arrangements, any extra days spent in India beyond the dates of the pilgrimage, excess baggage fees on the flights, phone calls and faxes during the pilgrimage, laundry during the pilgrimage, or medical and other insurance coverage such as travel insurance. It may be advisable that participants purchase travel insurance.
For cancellations received up to six weeks before the commencement of the journey a cancellation fee of 10% of the total cost will be levied. Between six weeks and two weeks before the journey, the cancellation fee will be 50% of the total cost. The cancellation fee within two weeks of the beginning of the journey will be 100% of the total cost.
All refunds will be processed within 60 days of notification of cancellation.
Arrival and departure are to and from New Delhi (Delhi), India. Participants are responsible for making their own round-trip flight arrangements from their point of origin to New Delhi, India and back. For international flights, tickets should be booked as early as possible. Flights to and from India are frequently full, and this trip takes place at the height of the tourist season. Most international flights arrive at night or early morning. You may check with us before you confirm your flight bookings. The pilgrimage will begin at 11am on January 7, 2012.
The tour will end at 3p.m. on January 20, 2012 in New Delhi. You should book your departure flight late evening of 20th January 2012. For those who take the Agro option, the tour will end at 10:30p.m. on January 21, 2012 in New Delhi. You should book your departure flight early morning of 22nd January 2012.
For those wishing an extra day or two to recover from air travel before the pilgrimage begins, or who wish to stay longer after the pilgrimage ends, we would be happy to provide a list of hotels in Delhi. Please make your hotel bookings for New Delhi well in advance, as December is peak season.
You will need a valid passport and visas for India. Normally the visa is valid for 6 months from date of issue. The visa should be obtained before travel.
The Indian Embassy has a Consulate in New York (Tel: 212 774 0699), Chicago (312 595 0405), Houston (713 626 2148) and San Francisco (415 668 0662). The main embassy is based in Washington DC and their number is (202) 939 7000. You can apply at the place closest to you. We recommend speaking with them by telephone first, letting them know exactly when you plan to visit India and ensuring that the visa will cover the travel period you are applying for. Sometimes they can send you a visa through the mail and you can check with them directly about that. A travel agent can help you as well, but they normally add a service charge. If you need a reference in India, you can give: Mr. Shantum Seth, 309-B, Sector 15A, Noida 201 301, District Gautam Buddha Nagar, India. Telephone: +91-120-2511633.
Each participant must provide the following details in order to reserve train, air and hotels: Name, gender, date of birth, passport number, date of issue of passport, date of expiry of passport, place of issue of passport, and emergency contact information. In addition, registrants must provide the visa number, date of issue, date of expiry and place of issue as soon as the visa for travel to India has been issued.
As stated above, hotels, food, transportation within India, and guide services are all covered by the tour fees. It is suggested that travelers carry cash for expenses like gifts or souvenirs, as it is difficult to change money at the sites we visit during the pilgrimage. Travelers will also need money if they are planning to extend their stay in India before or after the pilgrimage. Credit cards such as VISA or American Express are accepted in some of the hotels and large shops in Delhi or Varanasi, but not in the other places we visit. There are ATM machines in some places where one can access cash, but their presence is not universal as it is in the U.S. As of January 12, 2011, one U.S. dollar approximates 45 Indian Rupees. We recommend that you convert some cash at the airport when you arrive in New Delhi. There is no need to exchange it in the U.S. — it is best to do so in India. There are a couple of banks with a standard exchange rate at the airport both before and after you clear customs. ATM machines are also an easy method of exchanging currency into rupees. Please keep your bank receipts carefully in case you need to change the money into dollars when you return home.
Travelers often have questions about tipping. In the last few years, Shantum has developed a system where he does all the tipping/donations during the pilgrimage and keeps a running tab of it. At the end, the amount is divided among the pilgrims and repaid to him (contributing is optional). Thus far, this has worked well.
If you arrive before the start of the pilgrimage or stay after it concludes, the general rule is as follows: tipping someone who has carried your luggage is common and we would suggest Rs.50. Depending on how heavy your luggage is and how many pieces there are, Rs.50 is a reasonable amount for three pieces of baggage. In restaurants, one normally leaves a tip of 10% of the entire bill, unless a service charge has already been levied. It is not necessary to tip taxi drivers; however if you have hired a car for the day and you are happy with the driver, a tip of Rs.100 is fine.
We choose the best available accommodations in the vicinity of the sites (which are normally five-star hotels, heritage hotels and Japanese guest houses) based on shared, twin-bedded rooms with a private bath or shower and toilet. The accommodations are clean and comfortable — in some cases monastic-style, and in some cases rather luxurious. If you prefer a single room (where available, as the Buddhist route can occasionally get very full), there is a price supplement of U.S. $1585 per person.
Given that there can be a high variation between the daytime and evening temperatures (the general range is from 4 degrees to 25 degrees Celsius (centigrade), layering is a practical approach. It’s important to be comfortable and modestly dressed. We recommend that you bring one thick sweater or jacket and one or two light sweaters for the day; perhaps a shawl if you want to meditate in the morning. Some thermal underwear and socks are also recommended. For the warmer part of the day, cotton shirts and T-shirts work well, and some pilgrims even bring cotton trousers. There is no need to bring formal clothing.
Generally, the weather is dry with a small possibility of light rain or fog in some places. It is handy to have an umbrella that can double as a sunshade if it gets too sunny or even be used as a walking stick. Please bring comfortable sneakers or sandals (which you can wear with socks if it gets cold). We do not go on treks, but one or two of the (optional) walks are long. We also visit a number of temples where you will need to remove your shoes, so it is helpful to bring a pair of socks (the airline slip-ons are very convenient). It is always useful to have a hat or cap to protect you from the sun. We are allowed 20 kilos (44 lbs.) check in baggage and 7 kgs as cabin baggage on Indian airplanes, so we recommend that you travel light. Laundry facilities are available at all the places we stay, and laundry is returned within 24 hours.
We stay in clean, safe places, and the food in the places we stay will be clean, fresh and prepared to suit a delicate digestive system. You will be provided bottled mineral water for drinking.
you are coming from Africa or some parts of Latin America, a certificate of yellow fever inoculation is required by the Indian authorities. There is no other medical restriction upon your entry into India. We normally recommend a Hepatitis-A shot and a Tetanus shot. If you prefer to be more careful, then please speak to your physician. We do carry a first-aid kit with us, but many people prefer to bring their own supply of medicines. We would recommend you get an insect/mosquito repellent and also a stomach medicine for both diarrhea and constipation as one’s stomach has its own way of adjusting to different foods.
We provide all the transport services during the pilgrimage, including having you met on arrival in New Delhi. There is no extra charge for meeting people at the airport. For those who want to make your own arrangements, the Delhi Airport has PRE-PAID cab counters. The booth/counter is located after the customs area. You just need to tell the person at the counter where you want to go and the pieces of luggage you have and he will ask you to pay a certain amount and give you a slip of paper. Outside the airport the cabs are lined up and you show your slip to them. After the cab driver has dropped you at your destination, then you give the slip of paper to him. You need not pay anything extra. Depending on the time you arrive the cab fare will be in the range of Rs.500-700. It is easy to get a cab at the hotel for the airport when one leaves for the same price.
It may be advisable for registrants to purchase travel insurance. The range of coverage can vary significantly from policy to policy, and travelers are encouraged to speak with a travel agency to identify a policy that suits their needs. Things to consider are travel delays, trip cancellation or interruption, medical coverage, and baggage loss or delay. Before purchasing insurance, you may wish to check with your health insurance carrier to see if your policy includes medical care overseas. Please note that many insurance carriers require that insurance be purchased at the time a deposit or final payment is made; check with your carrier for details.
Shantum Seth and Seth Consultants Pvt. Ltd. while undertaking tours, transportation, hotel accommodation and other services only act on the clear understanding that they shall not be in any way responsible or liable for any accident, damage, loss, delay or inconvenience caused in connection with travel and other facilities arranged by the company, their employees or agents. All bookings are accepted and executed with utmost care, yet no responsibility is taken for any change or deviation on account of factors beyond their control.
By making a deposit for the tour, participants acknowledge that they have read and understood this document in its entirety, and have consented to all conditions herein, including the Disclaimer and Release of Liability. For participants under age 18, their parent or legal guardian shall sign on their behalf and the same Disclaimer and Release shall apply.