Pilgrimage Itinerary
DHARMA JOURNEY NEPAL AND INDIA PILGRIMAGE ITINERARY
Day 1
(Oct. 23, 2017)

Everyone meets in Kathmandu. Our local staff will pick you up at the airport and transfer (20-30 minutes) you to the hotel. First you will go through immigration (obtain visa) and then go up stairs to claim your luggage. Take a cart for this and finally go through customs and proceed to exit the airport. As you go outside look for a sign with your name on it.

Meet in the hotel lobby for dinner at 6 PM This will be with the entire group including Ven. Robina and our local guide Amber. Overnight at Hotel Tibet International. The hotel is less than a five minute walk from Boudhanath Stupa, the most holy of Tibetan Buddhist shrines outside Tibet. The hotel has all the services you'd expect including a good restaurants and great views of the stupa. (Dinner)

Days 2 - 4
(Oct. 24-26, 2017)

Meditation retreat at Kopan Monastery with Ven. Robina. Meet in the hotel lobby at 8 AM for the drive to Kopan and its sister nunnery Khachoe Ghakyil, located on a hilltop outside the town of Boudhanath.

Established in 1970 as a monastery for the monks of Solu Khumbu (where Lama Zopa Rinpoche is from), Kopan is beautifully situated on the crest of a hill above the Kathmandu Valley. One of the best Gelug monasteries in Nepal, it is home to 400 monks and, at Kachoe Ghakyil down the road, 400 nuns. People come from all over the world to attend retreats and courses at Kopan, especially the famous November course led by Rinpoche. You will find the accommodation simple but comfortable and the food very satisfactory. There has even been a cook book published with favorite recipes from Kopan. Note that single rooms are not available and also that men and woman room separately at the monastery.

A typical day on retreat starts early with meditation, followed by breakfast. Then there will be teachings and discussion until lunch, with a tea break. After lunch there will be a two-hour break, during which you can take a short easy walk, rest, or study quietly in the excellent library or on your own. During the afternoon there are more teachings and discussion; and after dinner a final session of teachings and meditation. Often a group in retreat will opt to maintain silence for all or part of the time (for example before breakfast and after dinner) as this adds to the contemplative quality of the experience. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 5
(Oct. 27, 2017)

In the morning visit Boudhanath stupa and temples, monasteries and the village. Boudhanath is the religious center for Tibetans living in Nepal and is especially beloved by them. Lama Zopa Rinpoche says that upon first sight of the stupa, all one's prayers will be fulfilled.

In the afternoon visit Swayambhunath stupa. According to legend, Kathmandu Valley was filled with a great lake, at the center of which a lotus flower grew. With the slash of the bodhisattva Manjusri's sword the lake was drained and the lotus settled on top of the hill and transformed into the stupa. There is evidence that the great Indian Buddhist Emperor Ashoka visited the site 2,000 years ago. Overnight at Hotel Tibet International. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 6
(Oct. 28, 2017)

Visit the village of Pharping which is 11 miles south of Kathmandu. Once an independent kingdom, Pharping with its many shrines, monasteries and temples, is perched on a hillside. It is a powerful place of the female Buddha, Vajra Yogini, and many yogis meditate here. We will see "the self-emanating" Tara and Padmasambhava's cave. Guru Padmasambhava is one of the great teachers of Tibetan Buddhism. An Indian, he went to Tibet in 817 and is famous for his great devotion and magical powers. On the route to Pharping, we will stop for a short visit to Manjushri's Gorge. On our return to the city, we will stop to view the ancient statues of Chenrezig, Tara and Manjushri which are found near the center of Kathmandu. Overnight at Hotel Tibet International. (Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner)

Day 7
(Oct. 29, 2017)

Lumbini. Meet at the lobby at 7:00 AM (after tea) for transfer to the airport. Our airport reporting time is 8:00 AM and flight time is 9:00 AM Fly (30 minutes) to Bhairahawa airport on Buddha Air and drive to Lumbini in one hour for our hotel check-in (tentative schedule).

After lunch, visit the birth place of Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. Here there is an Ashokan Pillar with an inscription of King Ashoka from 250 BC, a sacred pond, ruins of the ancient monasteries, stupas and the temple of Mayadevi, the prince's mother. The site is a 15 minute walk from the hotel. (Tea, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 8
(Oct. 30, 2017)

Lumbini to Sravasti. After breakfast, we will leave Lumbini and drive to Sanauli (the Nepal/India border) in about an hour. We stop for passport control and to change money into Indian rupees if you have not already done this. We continue driving five and a half hours to Sravasti (129 miles, six to seven hours driving total). Overnight at Hotel Lotus Nikko. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 9
(Oct. 31, 2017)

After breakfast we visit Jetavana, in Sravasti, capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom, where Buddha and his disciples retreated each rainy season for twenty-five years, and where he gave many of his teachings. According to Rinpoche, it is easy to meditate here, so blessed is it.

Relax in the afternoon with lunch on your own or visit Angulimala Cave. This is where a dreaded bandit used to live. After meeting Lord Buddha, he calmed down and embraced Buddhism. Overnight Hotel Lotus Nikko. (Breakfast, Dinner)

Day 10
(Nov. 1, 2017)

From Balarampur to Kushinagar. In the morning we will return to Jeta Vana for meditation. After breakfast, we begin our 150-mile drive (about six to seven hours) from Balrampur to Kushinagar. A light lunch is provided enroute. Kushinagar is the place of Buddha's death. His last words were said to be, "Decay is inherent in all component things. Be diligent in your practice." (Breakfast, Light Lunch, Dinner)

Day 11
(Nov. 2, 2017)

In Kushinagar. After breakfast we visit Mahaparinirvana Temple where there is the statue of Buddha passing away in meditation. In the afternoon we visit the unadorned but very holy Rambhar Stupa, where Buddha was cremated. "Do not be sad," he told his disciples. "Let the Dharma I have taught you be your teacher after my passing." (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 12
(Nov. 3, 2017)

All day travel from Kushinagar to Rajgir. Overnight Hotel Rajgir Residency. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.)

Day 13
(Nov. 4, 2017)

Enjoy an early morning visit to Vulture Peak. We will take a leisurely walk up to the top for meditation and teachings where Buddha gave many teachings, including The Heart Sutra. Then visit Nalanda. From the 5th to the 12th centuries, Nalanda was an important Buddhist university with 10,000 monks and students in residence. In the afternoon we drive to Bodhgaya and overnight at Root Institute. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 14
(Nov. 5, 2017))

Based at FPMT's Root Institute, a meditation center set in a tranquil garden enjoy a first visit to the Mahabodi Stupa, the site of Buddha's enlightenment. Bodhgaya also has shops and restaurants to explore. From Root Institute it's a short walk into town. Rickshaws are also available. Overnight at Root Institute. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 15
(Nov. 6, 2017)

Enjoy an early morning return to Mahabodi Stupa and in the afternoon, visit several centers to learn about charitable activities such as the Maitreya School and Tara's Childern Project. This evening, we can enjoy another return to Mahabodi Stupa.

Day 16
(Nov. 7, 2017)

This morning we will visit Mahakala (Dungeshwari) Caves, just a short drive from Bodhgaya. These are caves where Lord Buddha underwent years of self-mortification before descending to Bodhgaya. Two small shrines are built to commemorate this phase of Buddha's journey to enlightenment. Your afternoon is at leisure and this evening after dinner, we'll have a final puja at Mahabodi Stupa. Overnight at Root Institute. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 17
(Nov. 8, 2017)

Today we'll travel to Varanasi (Benaras). Lunch en route with plenty of time to relax in the afternoon. In the evening, we can pay an optional visit to the banks of the famous River Ganges, one of the holiest Hindu sites, for the evening worship. Overnight Nadesar Palace, Varanasi. (Breakfast, Lunch)

Day 18
(Nov. 9, 2017)

Sarnath. Eight miles from Varanasi is Sarnath, where, at Deer Park, Lord Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma for the first time, teaching on the four noble truths and the eightfold path to the five ascetics who were his first disciples. Enjoy a visit to the excellent archaeological museum with many Buddhist images dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries. After lunch, your afternoon and evening are free to enjoy as you wish. Overnight Radisson Varanasi. (Breakfast, Lunch)

We'll travel from Varanasi to Kathmandu today. Transfer from the airport in Kathmandu to the Hotel Tibet, International. (Breakfast)

Day 19
(Nov. 10, 2017)

We'll travel from Varanasi to Kathmandu today. Transfer from the airport in Kathmandu to the Hotel Tibet, International. (Breakfast)

Day 20
(Nov. 11, 2017)

Kathmandu. Our last day is free to relax or to explore the city. Nepal's capital is a delight to the senses, the imagination and the heart. For centuries Kathmandu was forbidden to outsiders. Since it opened to the world in the early 1950's, it has been one of the most eagerly sought travel destinations. Durbar Square is at the heart of this historic city. There are options to have lunch on your own in the city or at the hotel. An optional half day sight-seeing of Kathmandu will be offered. Cost per person, assuming a minimum group size of six, is $25USD payable directly to your local guide, Amber Tamang. This cost includes vehicle, driver and guide but not entrance fees or lunch. Later we meet up for a final group dinner and overnight at Hotel Tibet. (Breakfast, Breakfast)

Day 21
(Nov. 12, 2017)

After breakfast, the final group activity is a morning puja at Boudha. Later, transfer to the airport to depart Kathmandu or continue exploring the region. (Breakfast)

Notes: This is meant only as a guide to what our days will be like.
1. PreTrip Arrival: Fly to our meeting point in Kathmandu, Nepal. Travelers from the Americas ‘lose’ one day crossing the international date line. You must arrive in Kathmandu no later than Monday, October 23, 2017. If you arrive early, we can arrange transfers and additional accommodations on request (additional cost).
2. Changes may be made as we go along and will be announced as well as posted when possible in the hotel reception areas. These changes will be based on local conditions, health and hotel availability.
3. Times mentioned are all approximate and rounded off.
4. Sturdy vehicles with air-conditioning will be provided.
5. Airport transfers included on October 23 and November 12. We can arrange optional transfers and services at a modest cost should you arrive early or depart late from the program.
6. Included meals for each day have been shown as bold at the end of each daily description.
7. Contact information is current and subject to change.
8. The format for the phone numbers is country code, city code, then the local number in parentheses. Nepal’s country code is 977 and India’s country code is 91. For mobile phones in Nepal you don’t need to put the city code 1 after the country code as you do for other local numbers. You will find more information about international calling in our trip notes, provided after registration
 
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