“Forever etched in heart and mind”
In November 2017 fifteen pilgrims embarked on a life-changing journey in India and Nepal, to visit the sites significant in the life of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, and other holy places in India. Participating in this pilgrimage in the company of our living teacher and spiritual companions was, for many, the fulfillment of a life-long aspiration. The ripple effects of the Buddha’s quest and his realisation of truth are still resounding on our planet today, inspiring us on our own path to freedom. Each holy site and the land it rests on communicates a unique transmission from that one human life; opening to their vibrant wisdom, it came to life in us. From the stillness and mystique of an early morning boat ride along the Ganges in Varanasi, to the celebration of Bodhgaya where the awakening of the Buddha is a joyous living force, the experience of these sacred places became an indelible imprint in each pilgrim’s body, heart and mind. The beautiful dance of order and chaos that is India vividly displayed the Four Noble Truths, revealing the vast continuum of life and death, touching the heart of what it is to be human.
Profoundly moved, forever changed – With deepest thanks to our teacher Bonni Ross, her partner Matthew Eades, to our tour organiser extraordinaire Sarju, and all companions on the path of Liberation.
– words of Chani Grieve
India is a dance between chaos and order, and Sarju provided the steps necessary to safely improvise as we became part of the jostle and jam. The members of our group soon became old friends – though many of us had not met before. Sarju’s sense of humour and his sense of honour for all allowed us not only to do a quick step with chaos but to waltz with acceptance through timeless traditions, faiths and cultures. We danced well within our group, too, with kindness and generosity, our ears tuned to the needs of others. We ate brilliant food in the hotels, all organized and patiently supervised by Sarju. Travelling often by bus, we bounced, laughed, and gasped through landscapes of extremes: a whirling dervish of beauty and dust, of commerce and poverty, of nature and waste, of old and new. Observing and observant, we gathered in temples, gardens, museums, memorials and monasteries, welcomed warmly wherever we went.
Highlights for me? The people. The cows. Rickshaw rides in honking traffic. Sitting in Deer Park listening to Bonni. The monkeys. The early morning boat ride past the ghats on the Ganga in Benares, the Sikh Ceremony of the Book at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the temple devoted to Buddha’s mother in Lumbini, Nepal, the Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Ram Ghat in New Delhi, and a moment forever crystal — looking into the kind eyes of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama at his residence in Dharamsala. Sarju-ji, thank you.
The Buddhist Pilgrimage 2017 was a life-changing experience. Sarju was a wonderful guide and organizer. He was attuned and attentive to the needs of individuals and the group as a whole. He dealt with the inevitable surpirises of India calmly and made adjustments seamlessly when needed. His generous spirit, good heart and humour engendered confidence, happy relationships and good-will amongst the group. The Buddhist Holy sites we visited were imbued with a sacred feeling. It was enriching and powerful to meditate and simply rest into these places. The presence of Pilgrims from all over the world augmented the experience with colour, texture and the beautiful sound of overlapping chanting from all the different groups.
Thank you Sarju for opening this world for so many people. You are a treasure!
A huge thank you to Sarju, organizer extraordinaire, for arranging and supporting our Buddhist pilgrimage trip to India last month. He is truly an expert planner, and was the perfect guide and companion on a trip like this to such a different culture as India is. There are so many benefits to having Sarju taking care of everything, a person who knows the country and its customs so well, who can navigate through any language obstacle we might meet with grace and good humour, who can advise on all manner of foods to buying anything, which we’d know nothing about.
More appreciated though is how his warmth, patience, and flexibility spread over to me at least, but I expect to us all on our journey. Very quickly, I found it was easy to relax into knowing that if problem needed solving, (like a long wait at a border, or an overworked A/C on our bus), Sarju had a solution up his sleeve which was relaxing and pleasurable (and in one case allowed for an unplanned visit to a pilgrim way-station where we could and did spend money on beautiful craft gifts.) There was surprise built into how Sarju plans—because we didn’t have to think about details of days in front of us, I got used to the happy rhythm of our unfolding days together, and found delight in that our dawn boat ride on the Ganges happened, or at night a beautiful hotel loomed ahead, white from the end of a dark cattle track of a road, trees brushing against the bus on all sides. Perhaps we were going to camp?? but no. We were so well taken care of! We also learned admiration and appreciation for the skills of Indian drivers, from tuk-tuk to taxi, to full scale bus. I did understand that there are grades of drivers’ abilities, and Sarju had engaged the best, the Cadillac realm of drivers.
I felt that Sarju enjoyed the trip as much as the rest of us, and as others have said, was a real friend. Though we knew he had lots of ongoing work arranging things, he was open and free for anything that needed doing. I wish I’d been up for the hiking in the hills around Dharamshala, as, like everything else for us, there were remarkable things to learn about—from the animal/botanical surrounds to local encampments and that there are retreat centres nearby. As Sarju is an avid trekker, Graham and he in our group showed off broad grins and suntans at the end of their day hiking.
Sarju organized this trip for Bonni and her husband Matthew, and many of the pilgrims were students working with her. Sarju made arrangements for all our visits to sites, our group meditations, our daily plans, with this as focus, and set a tone of respect for all of the trip and what personal reasons individuals brought to it. It was of course, a pleasure and a learning in a very deep sense.
If this trip comes again next year, I recommend trusting Sarju to make your time in India truly memorable.
Traveling through Northern India and across the border to Nepal by bus and by air was seamless under the guidance and excellent planning of Sarju.
Over three weeks of our journey to 16 destinations there was not one moment of disruption to cause concern. Every detail was taken care of in a quiet and unassuming way with delightful little surprises woven into our trip, Sarju and his many friends and contacts smoothing our way.
I had a wonderful time with our group of 15, enjoying the sights and sounds and smells of India and Nepal. Lots of laughs in among the more reverent moments of our pilgrimage journey.It was all a joyful experience.
A huge thanks to Sarju who was the best traveling companion, friend and guide one could wish for on this once in a life time journey.
Joining others on this pilgrimage was such a privilege and a pleasure. We were all able to relax into the experience of being in these powerful and significant places without having to concern ourselves with where we would stay, what to eat and how we would get around.
Sarju in his calm and cheerful way managed all of this for us. It was clear he had done a huge amount of preparation beforehand and he navigated the unforeseen issues that naturally pop up with ease and clarity.
His attention to detail and concern for others is admirable. He went above and beyond to ensure we were all catered for.
I would highly recommend Sarju and his company of you are considering a trip like this. It was simply WONDERFUL!!.
Just recently I had the great good fortune of being part of a pilgrimage group to visit some of the Buddhist Holy sites in India and Nepal. The organisation of this trip was incredible. Sarju crafted an expertly guided journey that will forever be etched in my heart and mind. I wholeheartedly recommend this experience to others. Life will never be the same again!
The opportunity to travel with my teacher and fellow dharma brothers and sisters was an incredibly rich experience. In terms of meditation practice, I have been inspired and motivated.
Bodhgaya, Lumbini and Varanasi are places I would love to revisit and spend more time in, the 2 weeks flew by so fast.
Huge thanks to Sarju for his knowledge, guidance and generosity.
Sarju created a safe environment for us. “Oh, travelling in India is easy, I thought”. Well that’s because Sarju took care of all of the details so that we could just sink deeply into the experience.
India is full of colours and tastes and sights and movement and sacredness. Sarju created a way of experiencing India that did not overwhelm.
Being in India, on pilgrimage, is like surfing a big wave in a boat. Sarju is the steersman at the back of the boat, keeping everything flowing and smooth. We just drink in the beauty and feel vibrantly alive.
Going on a pilgrimage in India is a series of blessings. Each place we visited had a unique energy that imprinted on us. “You wanted to be changed? Go to India with Sarju as your guide”.
Sarju is caring and attentive in his choices. He gives us options, but also adds the wisdom of his experience, so we felt gently guided.
Our Buddhist Pilgrimage was really the trip of a lifetime. Sarju was totally dedicated to making the trip as smooth and comfortable as possible. It took the “hassle” out of being in India so that we could relax into the remarkable holy places we visited and reap the most benefit. It also meant we could really soak up India while feeling supported and safe. I am so grateful for his care, effort and great sense of humour, and cannot recommend this trip highly enough.
The journey to the Himalayas Buddhist pilgrimage was the trip of a lifetime, and one of the most significant evets of my life so far. I felt totally cared for by our skillful and well organised guide Sarju. I could just relax and let the incredible energy and mystique of India and those holy places wash over me.
Having our pilgrimage organised by Sarju was simply marvellous. His thoughtful planning, knowledge of the country and people, attention to detail and delightful presence meant that we could focus our energies on actually visiting and experiencing the sacred historical sights. Sarju’s support and skill enabled us to have a rich and stimulating trip to India, for which we are extremely grateful.
India and the Buddhist pilgrimage we experienced as a group of practitioners was a profound and moving experience. From the ghats of Benares to the views from Vultures Peak there were constant reminders of the ephemera of life and the importance of being fully in the present in order to be able to appreciate them.
The entire adventure was flawlessly overseen by Sarju, who worked extremely hard to facilitate the best possible experience for the group. Without his organizational skills I am sure the journey would still have been worthwhile but definitely much more exhausting and difficult.
1. Dalai Lama Temple – There is so much happening there. It’s not a museum, it’s a place of work. For example, I’ve finished a meditation on one of the benches and I look around to see the Dalai Lama speaking to a large gathering on the concourse below, then there are many people doing their laps of the upper deck spinning prayer wheels and counting mantras, then there is a group of young monks chanting very loudly, and much more. So much happening. Fantastic.
2. Bodhgaya Temple. So much work going on. Even on the outer square where I’m doing laps with many monks. We’re going pretty fast. There is even a few people running. There are a few odd turns, upstairs, down stairs, we spin prayer wheels, and make a donation to a very old monk near the entrance. There are hundreds of young monks doing prostrations on their boards, these boards are arranged to fit into the space there is no order.
3. Humours Note — Temple Washrooms Are Amazing. I love the Bodhgaya washrooms because they have slippers, plastic clogs, at the ready. So civilized. I believe they’re funded by a Japanese monastery. The design and build quality is very first world. In fact the washrooms at all the monasteries have been great. The Dalai Lama Temple has a super slick marble and stainless steel design with a beautiful view of the valley and Golden Temple in Amritsar has many monstrous 100+ urinal design of perfect marble & steel.
Places on Itinerary
Buddhist Pilgrimage (India and Nepal):
This pilgrimage will take you to places in the Gangetic Plains of Northern India and southern Nepal. This is the area where Buddha lived and taught.
LUMBINI:Birthplace of Gautama Buddha.
UNESCO World Hertiage Site.
BODHGAYA: This is where Buddha attained Enlightenment.
Mahabodhi Temple. Temple of Dalai Lama. Museum.
SARNATH: Where Sangha (as we know/think) came into existence
Dhamekh Stupa. Deer Park. Museum.
RAJGIR: Ancient capital of Magadha.
Buddha as well as Mahvira (Jain) spent considerable time over here.
NALANDA: Site for the excavated ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara (University). .
5th Century AD. Sariputta Stupa. Archaeological Museum.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
VAISHALI: 55 km west of Patna.
Ashoka Pillar. Archaeological Museum. Ruins of Kolhua. Budha Relic Stupa. Peace Pagoda.
KUSHINAGAR: This is where Buddha passed away.
(One week before the main trip)
Your journey will start at Dharamshala, the centre of the Tibetan Government in Exile, and home to the monastery and residence of Dalai Lama. Here you will familiarise yourself with Tibetan Culture and Tibetan Buddhist way of life. You will also visit the temple of Karmapa at Baijnath.
Agra is known for the location of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal is one of the finest example of Mughal architecture and was built from 1632 to 1653 by Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz.
Conscious development of spiritual community has been a lively part of the engagement she, with her partner Matthew Eades, has with students in Canada and New Zealand. Bonni and Matthew have extensive experience working in the world and this, plus idiosyncratic senses of humour, informs a practical, integrated approach to committed practice. “The world is my cloister” is the motto of Sunshine Coast Retreat House.
Bonni began exploring the teachings of liberation in the early sixties. In the mid 70’s she met her principal teacher, Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche, whose direct, eclectic teaching and example are central to her life. The encouragement of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, teachings from many great Buddhist masters, and innovative westerners like Fritz Perls and Buckminster Fuller have had direct influence, as well as artists, composers, scientists, poets, dancers, philosophers and mystery writers too numerous to mention. Her inspiration comes from “ordinary” people who demonstrate exceptional courage and compassion in the midst of great suffering.
Delhi – Lumbini – Kushinagar – Vaishali – Nalanda/Rajgir – Bodhgaya – Varanasi/Sarnath– Delhi (14 Days)
ADD ON (before the Pilgrimage): Dharamshala & Taj Mahal (+7 days)
PLEASE NOTE This is a tentative itinerary. The exact route of the journey will be finalized closer to the trip date and it might differ from this itinerary. Weather and road conditions permitting, this trip will include visit to all these places. Pick-up and drop-off place and date will not change. Please read the TOS for more details
Most of the international flights tend to reach India in the night.
*Dinner for this day is not included in the Tour Cost.
Flight from Delhi to Gorakhpur: 2h.
Gorakhpur to Lumbini by road: 125 km, 3-4h.
Border Crossing at Sanauli. Reach Lumbini by evening.
DAY 3: Lumbini
178 km by car, 4-5 hours. Border Crossing.
Lumbini to Gorakhpur: 123 km, 3-4 hr by car
311 km, 7-8 hours
Visit Vaishali enroute (close to Patna)
Nalanda-Bodhgaya: 84 km, 2 h 30 min.
Visit Temples. Sight Seeing.
Day of rest and Practice.
Car/Train. Full day of travel.
By Train or by Car: 220 km, 4 hours.
Day trip to Sarnath. 15 km, 30 min from Varanasi
Fly or by Train. Both are comfortable and reliable.
May the merits of this Pilgrimage be shared with all sentient beings.
Dharamshala & Taj Mahal (7 Days)
(Before the Buddhist Pilgrimage with Bonni Ross)
DAY 1: Pick Up at New Delhi
OVERNIGHT: New Delhi*
Most of the international flights tend to reach India in the night.
Please make sure that you reach New Delhi by late night of Nov 3rd. We will be taking an early morning flight to Dharamshala on Nov 4th.
*Dinner for this day is not included in the Tour Cost.
DAY 2-5: DHARAMSHALA
Day 2: Delhi to Dharamshsla
Flight: 1 h 40 m.
Visit the monastery of Dalai Lama in the afternoon.
Stroll the market/bazaar of McLeod Ganj in the evening.
DAY 3: DHARMSHALA
Baijnath: Visit Gyuto Monastery of HH Karmapa.
Norbulingka: Located 30 min from Dharamshala, Norbulingka is an institution for the preservation of Tibetan Handicrafts.
DAY 4: DHARAMSHALA
VTIPA (Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts)
DAY 5: DHARAMSHALA
DAY 6-7: DELHI & TAJ MAHAL
DAY 6: DHARAMSHALA to DELHI*
Flight: 1h 20 min.
Delhi Sight Seeing.
*Dinner for this day is not included in the Tour Cost.
DAY 7: Day Trip to Taj Mahal.
Delhi to Agra (Taj Mahal): 196 km, Train, 2 hours one way. Overnight in Delhi.