Thursday, July 2, 2015

Modern yoga retreat, new dimension, new way of living


My friend Yann, a French Catholic priest and a Hindi student from Banaras Hindu University, every year spends 10-15 days of silent retreat in Himalayas. He surrenders everything including his laptop and phone and usually spends time in remote locations of Uttarakhand. I met him last in 2012, as we were trekking together to Gaumukh and Tapovan. Later, on the same trip he spent his silent retreat in Munshiyari (Kumaon).

He is not alone, at least amongst my acquaintances; there are lots of people who undergo this type of withdrawal process, cutting back usual life and giving up all habits including cigarettes and coffee. Another friend of mine, Philip, an Austrian yogi, who undergoes Vipassana meditation whenever he comes to India. He also suggested me lots of time to go for it, but somehow for many reasons, I couldn't. It is a conscious effort not to undergo this type of seclusion, perhaps because of my books and diary that I can't leave without. However, it is no uncommon these days when aspirants go to Yoga retreat, but totally cut off from the usual world, without communication. This type of queer withdrawal process invites curiosity.

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So, why people want to to withdraw from the usual life? What is the motive or is there any motive at all? For bourgeois, usual people, who spend their time engaging themselves in tangible life struggles; this type of withdrawal seems strange, rather peculiar. They think it is only for hermits, but the question is, is it necessary to be a hermit to reach a peaceful state of mind.

Ancient Tibetan Yogis retreat and its modern consequences


Ancient Tibetan yogis performed silent retreats for years when they lived in small caves without minimum food. Even in today Tibetan yogis who wish to perform silent retreat take permission from their masters and go for retreat. For them it is extremely important part of their monk-hood as it gives awareness about duality of existence. Meditation in silent retreat for long time helps them to understand body and mind as a single entity. There are examples when Lamas underwent years of silent retreat without touch of human contacts.

chopta trek camp
Retreat at Chopta
Originally this type of solo retreat is known as 'Lerung', a part of Tibetan Buddhism that is believed to create awareness of the existence and stop the mind rushing about in an aimless (even a purposeful) stream of thoughts.

Urban silent retreats and yoga schools


Following the path of ancient Tibetan yogis, silent and solo retreats are becoming popular these days, especially amongst Westerners. The heavy life and daily frictions of professional and personal life create a self-hypnosis construction when a person sees things that appears, and life small and big judgments are based on those appearances.

Retreat center at Tara Mandala
In a solo retreat, a person looks down closely how the mind works. It is actually the breaking down this false construction of “me” within and see what is real inside. It is of course not an easy course of action because the years of impressions created on the mind lead the individual in according the resultant force of all those impressions. So, many people take frequent solo retreat and continue the meditation techniques in their daily life to break the “construction”.

The idea of detach from everyone, without any sort of electronic device is unfathomable to many, but things work in a different way in silent retreats where a person face to face with himself or herself.

Indian Silent Retreat centers


Vipassana Meditation Center in Dharamkot

Vipassana Meditation centers spread throughout India but I liked Dharamkot center because of its natural peaceful surroundings, dense wood and Dhauladhar Mountain on the back. The center is as usual like others where you are given a room with a mattress, and blanket. You are not allowed to talk to anybody, even not to look directly at women in the center. Minimum of vegetarian food, 10 -12 hours of meditation practice every day and sleep. You can talk to the master though once if you have any question. Many people don't prefer to talk and keep silent for 12 days. You can't take your electronic gadgets, books, notebook anything with you.

Tushita Meditation Center, Dharamkot

Aspirants, who sometimes feel too tough to lead Vipassana, can register themselves in Tushita Meditation Center, adjacent to Vipassana in Dharamkot. The center stresses on silence but there is no strict rule. So, you can carry your notepad, books but not mobile phone or laptop. There is even a small place where aspirant can smoke cigarettes if he or she wishes.

Yogoda Satsanga Society, Dwarahat

Paramahansa Yogananda founded this society in 1917 in the lap of pristine Uttarakhand valley. The center is probably the best place for Kriya Yoga and understanding the philosophy of life. The atmosphere is fascinating with surrounding green valleys and silence.

Mayavati Ashram, Lohaghat

advaitya ashram mayawati lohaghat
Advaitya Ashram, Lohaghat
Best known as Advaita Ashram, situated at an altitude of 1940 m, 9km from the town of Lohaghat (Uttarakhand), this Ashram and surrounding area is simply spectacular. This small monastery is a branch of Ramkrishna Mission, which governs by the principle of monism (advaitya) where no idol is worshiped. The guest house is neat and clean with plenty of silence.

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