Saturday, May 11, 2019

Accommodation and Food Facilities at Vipassana Meditation Gorai Pagoda Center, Mumbai.

Let me confess something upfront.

Before actually starting but after making my final decision of attending the course at the Dhamma Pattana Meditation Center inside the Global Vipassana Pagoda Gorai, Mumbai, I had painted a vague image in my mind (yeah, the worst possible) of the room that was to be allotted.

According to my image, the accommodation room was a one cot dormitory type bed in a congested space already haunted by a couple of creepy crawly creatures (read cockroaches and lizards) and a dirty smelly bathroom with cobwebs here and there that I would dread entering into everyday.

After all, what does one possibly get for FREE, in this day and age?

Oh, yes! Did I tell you… the course is absolutely free of charge run completely voluntarily, sustaining on the donations made by the students.

And so, I wondered of the kind of rooms and food they would provide – about how clean and spacious would the rooms be, would the accommodation for Vipassana be single or double sharing,  would the bathroom be attached or common sharing, will the food – quality and quantity both - be satisfactory enough and keep the engine of my stomach happy?

DHAMMA PATTANA VIPASSANA MEDITATION CENTER, PAGODA GORAI: HOW IS THE ACCOMMODATION ROOM LIKE?


After a brief scanning of my documents at the Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Pagoda residential quarters, I was allotted room no. 2 which was towards the far end of the ground floor, diametrically opposite the dining hall.

Stepping in, just one glance around the room,
and the picture I had painted in my mind vanished in thin air,
nowhere to be found again!


Residential quarters for students of  Vipassana meditation course Gorai , Mumbai
Enveloped in greenery all around is the residential quarter
for the students of Vipassana meditation course at Gorai center in Mumbai
- My home for 10 days.
Residential quarters for students of the Global Vipassana Gorai Pagoda meditation course, Mumbai


What is the room allotted at Dhamma Pattana Vipassana meditation center in Gorai Pagoda, Mumbai like?


The rooms have just about everything one wouldn't generally expect for free, and though pretty basic, is more of a warm homely room than any random hotel room.

They are not very of course but spacious enough to comfortably accommodate one person, the bed neatly done with two pillows and one coverlet provided.

The bathrooms are attached and pretty clean too.

Besides all the basic amenities, the rooms come equipped with a super cool air conditioner AND yes, it works.

Accomodation room at Global Vipassana Gorai Pagoda, Mumbai
This picture is sourced - but this is more or less how my room looked like...
you get the picture, right?

You are allotted single occupancy (unless you have a problem with being alone and request for double sharing), not to be shared with anyone else which is what one would really expect from a course like Vipassana where one is to observe absolute noble silence for a period of 10 days.

I was impressed - there wasn't a single creepy crawly anywhere in the room, no cobwebs and no mosquitoes to trouble either!

My room was easily the second best thing (after the short conversation with the lady I had previously met in the boat) to have kickstarted my Day Zero of Vipassana meditaion course on an encouraging note.

Garden area outside the residence - Vipassana meditation center Gorai Pagoda, Mumbai
The beautiful garden connecting the residence area -
the only place outside where students are allowed to wander during the break between the meditation sessions.
Beyond the Dhamma Pattana residential quarters - Global Vipassana Gorai Pagoda, Mumbai
Overlooking the residential quarters and the garden, is the imposing Pagoda
where the sacred relics of Buddha are enshrined at the top.

HOW IS THE FOOD AT DHAMMA PATTANA VIPASSANA MEDITATION CENTER , GORAI - PAGODA, MUMBAI:


Same was true with the food and if I may add, with the food, the management took the notch even higher.

We had meals 3 times a day – the breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Dining hall - Global Vipassana Gorai Pagoda, Mumbai
This is the dining hall where we sat facing the wall so as to minimize any eye contact or facial gestures.
Picture credit: Kavita Sajnani.

The food is fresh and hygienic - adding to the overall experience with the course.

The best part – it is offered lavishly, whole heartedly and generously to all the students present.

My food sojourn began as soon as I arrived, on the introduction desk itself, on the zero day when I was kindly offered lunch.

At 5 in the evening on the same day, we had a light breakfast of steaming hot idlis and sambhar along with tea / coffee. 

However, on the main course days, evening tea time is a light affair with the platter constituting only of hot and cold beverages like tea, coffee, milk and nimbu paani (lemon water), a plethora of fruits and roasted puffed rice – this was our regular menu for the next 10 days at this hour of the day.

Consequently, as the days progressed, I realized that food here is not just any regular run off the mill thing but is really something to talk home about.

This was especially true for the morning breakfast and lunch meals which constituted of a different menu every single day.

Lunch consisted of 2 / 3 sabjis (different every day), dal or kadhi, plain rice, pulao / jeera rice, atleast two different types of rotis like phulkas and paratha, boiled veggie salad, raw veggie salad, curd … phew! – it was a royal thali befitting the sophisticated palate of a king!

There were even noodles and pasta on some days.

All the sabjis came in non chilly versions as well taking care of the elderly and people on medication and such needs.

Morning breakfast was another lavish affair coming only second to the lunch – Khakhras (Jeera and Methi), bread, glucose biscuit, and two fruits were the constants in the menu every day. Besides the constants, there was a hot dish like idli, chilla, dhokla, poha and so on, on different days. We even had Mumbai’s quintessential batata vada on the last day!

All in all, the facilities provided at the Vipassana Pagoda Gorai in Mumbai exceeded my wildest imagination and left me all set looking forward to what was in store during the rest of the day.

Timetable for Vipassana Meditation Course:


Keep following the wheel of Dhamma!

This is the timetable we followed during all the ten days of the course. The timetable of the Vipassana meditation course is so designed so as to facilitate best results from the 10 days and is the same followed by everyone, worldwide.

4:00 am Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 am Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher's instructions
11:00-12:00 noon Lunch break
12 noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher's instructions
5:00-6:00 pm Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm Question time in the hall
9:30 pm Retire to your own room -- Lights out!

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Accomodation and Food Facilities at Vipassana Gorai Meditation Center, Mumbai.

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I attended the Vipassana meditation course from 6th March to 16th March 2019 in Mumbai. Since I hadn't taken my phone or camera along during the course, all the pictures that you see in this series are from my subsequent visits to the center. You can read the complete Pagoda Vipassana Meditation blogpost series by clicking on the following links:

Stepping Into Vipassana: The Admission Process (An Introduction)
10 things You Must Pack For Vipassana Meditation: A Checklist!

How to Reach the Global Vipassana Pagoda From Gorai Khadi in Borivli, Mumbai.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

How to Reach the Global Vipassana Pagoda From Gorai Khadi in Borivli, Mumbai.

As already mentioned previously, I had attended the 10 day Vipassana course at Gorai Pagoda in Mumbai.

On the D-day, 6th March 2019, leaving my phone and camera behind, I bid my half-excited, half-anticipatory goodbye to friends and family... for the next 10 days we weren't going to have any communication, in any form whatsoever. I had never been disconnected in such a jarring way from any sense of my home for such a continuous length of time and yet, an action that once terrified me today made my heart bloom in anticipation of what lay ahead of me.

When I finally left the house, it was with a feeling that this was the beginning of a new yatra.

With a spring in my step and the strange little tickle of excitement running down my spine, I reached Gorai Khadi or Gorai Jetty, the ferry point in Borivli West in Mumbai from where the journey to Global Vipassana Pagoda was to begin!


Global Vipassana Pagoda as seen from the Gorai Creek in Mumbai
Come along with me ... to one of Maharashtra's - and the world's - best known symbols of peace and harmony!

*All the pictures you'll see in this series of blogposts on Vipassana are from my subsequent visits to the Pagoda and not from the time when I actually attended the course.

How to reach Gorai Pagoda from Borivli, Mumbai:


To reach the Dhamma Pattana Center situated inside the Global Vipassana complex – the nearest railway station is Borivli. Get down from the western exit and take a BEST bus (Nos. 294 and 247) or a rickshaw towards the Gorai Khadi. The rickshaw will take around 20-25 minutes (3.8 km) and drop you off at the Gorai Creek which is also the ferry point.

Mangroves at the Gorai Creek, Borivli
A thick groove of Mangroves at Gorai Khadi in Borivli west.

NOTE: You need not buy the ferry ticket for Pagoda at this point. Ferry tickets have to be brought once you cross over to the other side (Esselworld jetty) after reaching the destination.

You just need to inform the ferry operators roaming at the spot that you’re going for Vipassana course and take the “Esselworld” boat.


It takes around 25 minutes to reach the other end of the Gorai creek – The Esselworld Jetty.

Armed with my bag of things I had packed for Vipassana, I took a seat in the Esselworld ferry, and soon enough a woman, another Vipassana student took a seat beside me. I barely spoke. Perhaps, a part of me was still coming to terms to what I had finally got myself into… and here she was, this lady, already chatting her heart away!

She was attending the course for the second time, having attended her first only 3 months earlier at Belur. And boy! If she wasn’t upbeat about it!


Esselworld Boat from the Gorai Khadi in Borivli, Mumbai
From the boat ride... Esselworld Ferry towards the Global Vipassana Pagoda.

Has Vipassana helped you in the past 3 months? I asked.

Her eyes, vivid with passion, emulated the gleaming sun and her smile was accompanied by an expression that showed more like ecstacy than any other emotion… It’s magic my dear, it’s changed my life and it will change yours too. Just do it, sincerely.

I couldn’t understand what magic she was talking about and what kind of changes.

And yet, her words were music to my ears! I loved talking to her – her conviction reaffirming my faith of taking the leap, bringing a quiet assurance to my heart, restless with a curious mix of anticipation and elation.

The waters beneath, ruffled as our boat made its way towards the Pagoda, refracting the passing moments in the glimmer of the scalding sun.


View of the Pagoda from Gorai Khadi ferry in Borivli, Mumbai


Far away in the distance, unaware and oblivious to all such mortal distractions, glittered the gilded structure of the Global Vipassana Pagoda - a golden beacon of silence and peace, with its central finger like conical structure, containing the relics of the Buddha, tapering upwards 99 m (the height of a 30 storey building) towards the ever expanding sky making it the largest free standing dome in the world.

Mumbai, my home, suddenly seemed a million miles away.

Disembarking at the Esselworld Jetty and Getting to the Pagoda:


Gates of the Global Vipassana Pagoda, Gorai Mumbai
A few steps after disembarking at the Esselworld Jetty, comes the first gate of the Pagoda.

We disembarked at the Esselworld Jetty, the other end of the Gorai Khadi and made our way towards the Pagoda. There were 2 more students in the boat besides me and the lady I had just met, taking the total count to 4. As soon as we entered the gate of the Pagoda, two men representing the Pagoda welcomed all of us warmly.


Way to the Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Center Global Pagoda, Mumbai
The road to the Pagoda goes through a very peaceful hike of about 2 kms.

Here, we were guided to purchase the tickets for the ferry which cost us Rs. 25 each. Free car service was provided which took us to the Dhamma Pattana Vipassana center, this was to be our residence for the next 10 days.

Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Center Global Pagoda, Mumbai
Welcome to the Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Center - my home for the next 10 days!

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Tips and other helpful information:


The frequency of the Esselworld ferries (which also goes to the Global Vipassana Pagoda) is about 30 minutes and the last ferry leaves from the Gorai Khadi at Borivli towards the Global Vipassana Pagoda at 5.25 pm.

How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda from Thane and other areas?

The Global Vipassana Pagoda in Gorai is well connected by State Transport Buses from Thane, Navi Mumbai & Mumbai cities.

From Bhayender Station (W) MBMT (Mira Bhayandar Municipal Transport ) Bus No. 4 is available for Global Vipassana Pagoda. Timings are 6.30 am to 6 .45 pm. Fare from Bhayandar Stn to Global Pagoda is Rs. 13.

How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda from other Malad?

From Malad Station West, take BEST Bus No. 272 to Malad Marve, from Malad Marve, take the Esselworld Ferry service. Fare is Rs. 25 one way.


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How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda, Gorai Mumbai


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I attended the Vipassana meditation course from 6th March to 16th March 2019 in Mumbai. You can read the complete Pagoda Vipassana Meditation blogpost series by clicking on the following links:

Stepping Into Vipassana: The Admission Process (An Introduction)
10 things You Must Pack For Vipassana Meditation: A Checklist!





Friday, April 26, 2019

10 things You Must Pack For Vipassana Meditation: A Checklist!

I prefer travelling light – give me a small cloth bag and I’ll happily set all my stuff in... my stuff, which is already very basic to start with.

So when it came to packing things for the 10 day course in Vipassana, matters were no different. All I had with me was a small bag with only the basic required necessities inside - most of which came mentioned in their confirmatory email.

By the time the course ended and now when I write this article, I realized, the basic necessities is all that one would really need, ever, especially in a course like Vipassana. Our wants and wishes and desires, if any, don’t merit a space here.

Even if you’re used to travelling luxuriously, it’s best not to indulge in them for these 10 days.

After all, Vipassana is something that is meant to take us away from the wants of this materialistic world and put us in touch of that basic core that resides within.

Here’s a list of the things I had in my bag when I stepped out of my house towards the Gorai Pagoda, Vipassana center and as far as I know, this checklist is all you’d need to have you covered for

''What to Bring for your stay at Vipassana'':

What to pack for Vipassana: The only checklist you'll ever need!


1. ALARM CLOCK:

No forgetting this little piece of technology, alarm clock. It’s really a life saver because you won’t be having your mobile phones along with you, remember!?

Particularly because you've to get up as early as 4 in the morning everyday and after quick nap times during the day.

So when you are packing your bag, let the alarm clock be the first thing that goes into your bag. 

Though there’s a gong that is rung at the stroke of 4 in the morning everyday and the sevaks-sevikas ring a bell right outside your door in a bid to wake you up from your beauty sleep but still if one is not used to getting up that early in the morning by themselves, the alarm clock is a real friend in need.

2. PHOTO IDENTITY DOCUMENT AND A PRINT OUT OF THE CONFIRMATION FORM:

Carry a photo identity document like Pan card, Passport, Adhar card, etc.and latest passport size photo at the time of registration. Also pack in the print out copy of the confirmation form so that you don’t need to fill it again on arrival at the center.

Foreigners need to bring their passport, Visa documents and 2 passport size photographs.

3. SCARF /SHAWL:

The meditation room has a pretty good A.C. and if you are not a cold weather person, like me, having a scarf and a shawl handy helps to keep you warm and comfortable.

In any case, do carry a scarf to wrap yourself in.

I carried my scarf to the meditation room at all the times. Snuggling myself in it, helped me focus better on the meditation.

A coverlet / shawl comes in quite handy too. On the 4th and 5th day, I developed a sore throat and a mild temperature due to which I experienced discomfort owing to the chill of the AC in the meditation hall. Since I didn’t have a shawl with me, I took the coverlet provided in my accommodation room into the meditation hall and laid it around my body for the much needed warmth.

4. WATER BOTTLE / THERMOS:

You’ll need a water bottle to fill up during the break hours and carry you through the day and night. Hot water is available only during the meal times in the dining hall, so a thermos comes in handy in case you need to stack some hot water with you.

5. BODY CARE AND TOILETRIES:

Soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, face wash, shampoo – take them all along with you in the required quantities.

But if you do forget, like I did, you need not worry at all. The kind folks at the center are always there to provide you the things you need. You just have to to write it down on a paper (‘write it’ because of the noble silence observed and there is no talking amongst each other) and the things will be delivered to you right at your doorstep!

To all the women out there – carry your sanitary napkins as required. 

6. MEDICINES:

Take along an adequate supply of all medicines you are taking to last you for all the 10 days of the course.

7. MASSAGE TOOLS FOR BODY PAIN:

Your back and various other unknown parts in your body are going to hurt, really bad.

While the center does take full care of your comfort during meditation by providing cushions, pillows, a seating mat, and an added backrest if you may so need, but you can still take some additional massage tools like pain relieving massage balms / sprays along to soothe and relax your tired muscles.

I didn’t have any of these massaging tools with me – could’ve done with an Iodex rub on the back on the second and third day!

8. 4 PAIRS OF COMFORTABLE CLOTHING:

Carry very comfortable, loose clothing like pyjamas, kurtas, salwars and  palazzos… leggings will also do but tight clothing of any kind is still better avoided. At all times, remember the clothing should be modest to keep away from physical distraction between the genders.

9. CURIOSITY TO LEARN:

Not everything you’ll be packing in can be seen with your eyes. In fact, most of the things will be intangible. Like curiosity.

You’ll need a healthy dose of curiosity, playfulness, and open mindedness to take in whatever is being taught at the center.

Let the 10 days happen to you. So that, at the end of the course, you can decide for yourself if this is something that really resonates with you.

10. SINCERITY AND DETERMINATION:

Last but not the least, in the list of intangibles that need to be checked, are sincerity and determination.

Without these two, the ten days will seem like a freaking mountain put in your way; with these two, every mountain will be conquerable!

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Additional tips for students who wish to pursue the course:

1. Laundry service: is available at a nominal charge.

2. Medical issues: Applicants with any serious illness and pregnant women with any complications should take their Doctors advice to join the course. 

3. Lock: You can take a lock along but I didn’t use it after the first day since I wasn’t carrying any valuables as it is!

4. In the case, you forget anything: You need not worry! Inform the management at the center in writing and they will have you covered.

5. Things you CANNOT take along with you:

You will need to deposit following items with management during the course which are returned on the tenth day of the course – 

          - Cell phones & other personal electronic devices which will be returned to you on the 10th day of the course, one day before you leave for home.
          - Reading/writing material, musical instruments
          - Personal food items, tobacco in any form, non-prescribed drugs 
          - Scented toiletries or perfumes, religious or spiritual objects 
          - Jewelry or other unnecessary valuables.

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Have you attended a course in Vipassana meditation?
Is there anything you carried along with you besides the ones already mentioned above?
Write them down in the comments section!


Monday, April 22, 2019

6 Stunning And 'Can’t-Miss' European Destinations to Visit This Summer

“Europe is always a good idea!”

Isn’t it?

With so many diverse cities, all offering something distinct, Europe is a kaleidoscopic spectacle! With the best of arts, architecture, culture and cuisines, there is at least one city that resonates with every person who visits Europe.

From magnificent museums, splendid castles to vibrant nightlife and fascinating food scene, a travel plan to Europe can get anyone excited.  Especially, in summers when people plan to visit the exotic destinations that Europe has in store for them.

However, Europe is large, and you may not be able to cover all destinations. But, there are some destinations here that are remarkable,and thus a can’t miss.

1. Malaga, Spain.


Malaga

Malaga, a port city in Southern Spain,is known for its transformation over the years. Earlier, a small transit place, it now brims with youthful vigour. With spectacular art galleries, museums and vibrant yellow sand beaches, this place is both artsy and exuberant. A visit here will thus, be both enriching and entertaining for you!

2. Dubrovnik, Croatia.


Lovrijenac fortress, a filming site for Game of Thrones

A city in Southern Croatia, Dubrovnik is known for its medieval architecture. Known as ‘pearl of the Adriatic,’it stands at the front of the sea, offering mesmerizing coasts to its visitors to revel. There are plenty of things here that can make you fall in love with it in a short period.

From walking Dubrovnik walls to catch spectacular views of the city, to wandering the pretty streets of its old town, you will be spellbound by Dubrovnik’s charm. When in the city, you can check out Stradun, a filming location for Star Wars Episode IX, Lovrijenac fortress, a filming site for Game of Thrones. A cable car ride can also give you an aerial view of the city. 

3. Interlaken, Switzerland.


Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken is breathtakingly beautiful with its stunning landscapes. Flanked by glacier-fed lakes Thun and Brienz, it is home to the majestic peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.

Not just picturesque, Interlaken is also an adventurer’s paradise. A host of activities like hiking, skiing,canyoning can be done here. There is a small, charming village with alpine gardens and historical castles here for you to explore. 

4. Santorini, Greece.


Santorini Greece

Santorini with gorgeous sunsets and mesmerizing white houses overlooking the sea is a perfect romantic getaway. Set in the Greek Islands, visiting this destination in summer means you can enjoy hiking and swimming here to the fullest. Cave hotels, pretty cliffs also make exploring this city an experience that will stay with you even longer.

When in Santorini, a jaunt on a boat to get a tour of the island is a must, you can also explore the Akrotiri Lighthouse, which is an enchanting point in the city.  

5. Gothenburg, Sweden.


Gothenburg, Sweden

An important seaport, Gothenburg is a major city in Sweden. With Dutch style canals and leafy boulevards, this destination can be a nature lover’s delight. Gothenburg also has a garden society that offers more than 16,000  species of plants to appreciate the beauty of nature. 

Here in this city, you can enjoy a safari through the rainforests of Universeum; enjoy adventurous rides at Liseberg, a famous amusement park here; and eat mouth-watering pastries and cinnamon buns at Haga, a beautiful neighbourhood in Gothenburg. 

You can get lazy absorbing the beauty of the Magical islands here, along with enjoying some seafood, for which Gothenburg is particularly lauded. 

6. Budapest, Hungary.


Budapest Hungary Night Photo

Budapest, the Paris of the East is the capital city of Hungary. Cosmopolitan and youthful, this destination is one of the most beautiful towns in Europe. From royal palace and castle district, Budapest abounds with architectural marvels. Adding to this, the natural thermal springs here are a perfect way for you to rejuvenate yourself for your trip ahead.  

With a world-class musical scene and vibrant nightlife, this place is also an alive and fun place.With an excellent reputation for its wonderful food and wines, it ensures you an impressive culinary experience.    


Have A Tension-Free Travel Experience:


Travelling to new destinations such as these European cities is sure exciting, but several travel-related challenges can often be a spoiler. Unexpected problems like losing your luggage or passport, cancelled flights etc. can cause you much loss and worry.

Moreover, any kind of medical emergency in a destination like Europe will not just be worrisome but can also cause a huge dent in your pocket. However, international travel insurance can cover you against all such unpredictable predicaments. 

You can easily buy international travel insurance online. Through such a policy, you can avail various coverages like reimbursement for cancelled flights, baggage lost or delayed cover among many other benefits.

Insurers like Tata AIG General Insurance offer many coverages like medical benefits up to $5 lac in case of medical emergencies, duplicate or new passport in case it gets lost, reimbursement for bounced hotel and airline bookings among many others. All these will save you from many worries ensuring that you can enjoy your trip until the end.

So, pick your favourite European destination, explore it and make memories of a lifetime!

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About the Author:

Meera Dewaan is an aspiring writer, literature geek and author. She has several journals, articles and papers to her name. Writing is her passion. She writes about mostly all genres.



Friday, April 19, 2019

Stepping Into Vipassana: The Admission Process (An Introduction)

Sometimes you need to take a break from everyone and spend time alone,
to experience, appreciate and love yourself.

― Robert Tew.

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It’s been close to a month since the completion of my 10 day course in Vipassana and looking back now, I feel amazed (actually, somewhat amused) at the sequence of events that led me to mustering up the courage of taking it up – and from taking it up I mean not just doing the course for those 10 days but also, more so, about the period where I, in fact, felt the urge to fill up the form, then contemplating on whether this was something I could really do, and then taking that final step – of actually doing it!

How / Where Did It All Start?


So, it all started with one random email that I received exactly during this time, one year back. The email was from Vipassana’s PR executive inviting me to visit the Global Vipassana Pagoda in Gorai, one of the seven wonders of Maharashtra, and a symbol of peace and harmony.

Having visited the Pagoda already once, thanks to no one else but my father, I was intrigued by the invitation and though I put it in the backburner for sometime later, the invite never did go out of my mind.

As they say, life is a journey.

And, the things we feel (having completed the course now, I will just call them as Guruji called it… sensations) as a result of the ‘unknown, unseen, outside forces’ operating in our life --- these sensations are nothing but roadmaps in our journey towards a better, healthier, happy life and when acknowledged, recognized and seen, as they are, for what they are, we are propelled to taking the necessary action to expand our boundaries and step out of our comfort zones for our own higher good.

And so sometime in September last year, when I’d feel the intense heat of one such sensation, this invite came to the fore of my mind and planted a tiny seed called Vipassanā (or Vipaśyanā).

Stepping In An Unknown Territory.


Nourished by curiosity, the seed germinated a little in the month of December 2018, when I filled their online form answering questions ranging from my personal to work profile to the condition of my medical status in a bid to secure admission in one of their 10 day long ‘Executive Course’ to be held in the month of March 2019.

Then, I hadn’t the slightest of clue of what I was entering into, of what the technique of Vipassana was about or how (or if!) these 10 days were going to have any impact on my life. What I did know was that it had something to do with meditation / yoga and that I had to completely be cut off digitally and physically for those 10 days – from everyone I knew.

Almost everything else was unknown… unknown… and yet known, and somewhat familiar in some inexplicable way.

Perhaps, it was this very understanding of stepping into an unknown territory that had captivated my attention in the first place such that I’d filled the form the very first thing in the morning on the day registrations for the March course had opened.

This Journey Is Yours… And It is All Alone.


I asked people in my family if anyone wished to accompany but no one came forward citing one reason or the other, not even my father (who I was secretly hoping would) – this heightened my hesitation a bit but despite the hesitation, I settled on going forward with it, alone.

Around 20 days later after submitting the form, I received an email which came with an added CTA. The CTA required me to confirm my attendance for the course within the next 10 days since there were many people who were waiting in the queue.

The CTA popped open a few questions that loomed right in my face:

What if there's a sudden travel plan popping up at that time?
What if I fall ill or one of my family members?
What if there's an unforeseen unavoidable circumstance
due to which it is impossible to go for the course?

and, the biggest of them all -
Was I really prepared to face this kind of a challenge?

Armed with all my whats and hows, I got down to getting a better idea of what I was entering into, by doing what I have known best – Research and introspection.

Though I am not new to the concept of spirituality, consciousness, energy and awareness - partly due to the impact of the environment of my own upbringing, partly due to my short stint in Brahmakumaris and partly because of my own interest in the field - yet, enrolling for Vipassana meant bundling all the factors together and taking them to an entirely different, a whole new level.

I skimmed through a couple of articles on the internet only to be more intrigued by the experiences that I came across.

Eventually, after trying my best to find some reason to say no and not finding any, on the 8th day, I went ahead with my confirmation.

There was still plenty of time for the course to begin, and there was no way to certainly know if I would be able to attend it or not at this time. Moreover, I didn't want to back out after filling up the form in the first place.

The pile of all my what-if's crumbled down to just one important question - what is the worst that could happen? And for that - I was always free to cancel it at a later stage. 

Goodbye, World.


Just 5 days before the course was to begin, I received a phone call asking me if I was coming. It was decision time and it sent my mind into a frenzy once again: A part of me wanted to go, a part of me resisted.

Don't defer any longer, GO!

... beeped a message from a blogger friend on my phone when I aired my unsure-ty with her and her words gave to the part of me which resisted the much needed motivational boost.

God-sent, she was!

After battling some moments over my yes, no and maybe… I finally confirmed my attendance two days later.

** Looking back, I can't really point a finger as to what really made me go ahead with the confirmation, but there was certainly more than what met the eye - there was this strange pull, a gentle kind of pull, mild, never forceful, but still a pull, that needed to be acknowledged and honored with some healthy action.

This particular moment, the moment when I FINALLY committed to attending the course, that moment ... I was ecstatic! I felt free, the nervous undercurrents disappearing miraculously in thin air and a whiff of fresh air filling up my entire being.

While my brother mulled over his own concerns of my complete disconnectedness and lack of other significant amenities (no mobile, no reading, no writing, no TV and no internet connection), I was already glued to reading the instructions for the course, making a check list of all the items that needed to be packed and of my doubts that had to be cleared with the management. 

The countdown to an exciting adventure, had just... begun!

(... to be continued)


TIPS FOR PEOPLE WHO WISH TO REGISTER FOR THE COURSE:

If you like to register for one of these courses at Gorai Village, Pagoda, Mumbai, here's the link: https://www.dhamma.org/en/schedules/schpattana

Go through the schedule page, and mark the course which you're interested in and take note of when the registration window for it opens.

Register as early as possible to secure your seat without any hassle as queues to register for the course are long.

Be absolutely honest with your answers to avoid being rejected for the course.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

6 Incredible Destinations That Can Be Visited from Split, Croatia.

Split is a coastal town in Croatia and a popular destination for tourists to pick their accommodations in. If you’re visiting Croatia and you’re staying at a hotel in the city, here are six incredible destinations that you can visit via private tours Split, Croatia:

Split, Croatia

1. Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is a forest reserve in central Croatia that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. It is located 243 kilometers from the town of Split, and it will take about 2 hours and 40 minutes by car to get there. However, the trip is incredibly worth it. Plitvice Lakes National Park is known around the world for its sixteen lakes that are interconnected by a series of waterfalls. All of the lakes are filled with clear aquamarine water, and the entire reserve is home to luscious green forests and diverse flora and fauna. During the summer, it’s a beautiful place to visit to go swimming, boating, and hiking.

2. Krka National Park.

Krka National Park

Krka National Park can be found in southern Croatia, along the Krka River. It is known for several tourist spots, including Skradisnki Buk, a series of waterfalls that cascade one after the other. The tallest of these waterfalls is 39 feet. Aside from Skradisnki Buk, tourists are also intrigued by the Visovac Monastery in the national park, which is located in a tiny island in the middle of a huge lake. Today, this historical Franciscan building has a restaurant where you can dine and a museum where you can find religious relics and artifacts.

Other points of interest inside Krka National Park include the early Croatian fortresses of Trosenj and Necven, the Sibenik Bridge, and Cikola River. Krka National Park is about 85 kilometers from Split, Croatia, which is about a 90-minute car drive.

3. Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Known as the pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is a small coastal city in southern Croatia. Its location gives it great access to the Adriatic Sea, but the view of the water isn’t its only selling point. Dubrovnik is brimming with history and architecture that dates back to the middle ages. As you stroll along Old Town, you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time. In fact, because of its historical architecture, the popular HBO show Game of Thrones has filmed in certain locations around the city. If you’re a fan of the series, you will have a blast recreating scenes in the places where the actors actually shot them. Dubrovnik is a three-hour drive from Split, Croatia. You need to travel about 235 kilometers to get to the city, but the history, architecture, and the chance to recreate Game of Thrones scenes will make it all worth it.

4. Hvar, Hvar Island.

Hvar, Hvar Island, Croatia.

Hvar is an old town in an Adriatic island with the same name. It is about 53 kilometers from Split, Croatia, and you will have to travel for an hour and a half, including a ferry ride, to get here. But if you do travel to this island town, you won’t regret it. It is stunning as an ecotourism destination, but it is also rich in historical significance. When in Hvar, visit St. Stephen’s square, home of the 16th-century cathedral from which it was named after. You should also visit Spanjola Fortress, a hilltop fortress that will give you panoramic views of the town, the island, and the sea. Hvar is also close to other islands in the Adriatic Sea, which makes it a great stop if you want to go island hopping.

5. Bol, Brac Island.

Sailing towards Bol, Brac Island.

Bol is a town in the island of Brac that is most popular for its windsurfing destination, Golden Horn beach. Aside from this white sand beach, you should also hike to Vidova Gora, the highest peak on the island and all of the Adriatic islands, to have the best view of the surrounding natural scenery and the aquamarine water that surrounds it. Or if you want to have a taste delicious local wine, stop by Stina Winery on the island to do so. Bol is a two-hour trip from Split, Croatia. It requires a ferry ride to travel 53.4 kilometers to this town.

6. Blue Cave, Bisevo Island.

Blue Cave is located in the small island of Bisevo in the Adriatic Sea. It got its name from the blue light that illuminates the interior of the cave when sunlight shines through the aquamarine water of the sea and then bounces off its white limestone floors and walls. Its an enchanting experience to explore the cave and something that you shouldn’t miss. Typically, island hopping tours in this area include a boat ride to the cave, but a private tour may give you more time to appreciate this natural wonder.

From interconnected lakes to magical caves, Game of Thrones sets, fortress-like towns, windsurfing, and hiking, Croatia is a tourist destination filled with adventures that are waiting for you to experience. In your next visit to Split, Croatia, partake in these exciting adventures!

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About the Author: Hannah is an avid traveler who is based in New York City and has visited more than 75+ countries. She fell head over heels in love with Croatia during her first visit to Split back in 2010 and has spent just about every summer in the city ever since.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

ISKCON Temple, Jaipur: A Psychedelic Window To The Spiritual World.

Lord Krishna playing flute stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

O adorable Krishna!
let my longing eyes behold thy form.
let my ears hear thy flute.
O healer of all sorrows,
show me Thyself!
~ Unknown.

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I have been a regular visitor to the ISKCON Temple in Jaipur, Rajasthan for almost an entire past decade. Rajasthan being my ancestral state, we make it a point to travel here once at least every year. To say then, that I have a personal affinity for this state, and the Jaipur ISKCON temple wouldn’t be an exaggeration… from being a simple small house many years back, it has been a joy to see the temple gradually evolve to a relatively bigger premise and stand in line along with some of its more famous contemporaries like the ISKCON Temple in Delhi.

During its development, the temple has undergone many a changes as well, the more prominent among them being the coming up of a full fledged guest house for the visiting devotees who wish to stay inside the campus, and the in house Govindas restaurant which serves pure vegetarian fare – and of course, the grand Sri Sri Giridhari Dauji Mandir made entirely from pink stone and decorated with stained glass work celebrating the various avatars of Lord Krishna which opened up earlier this year.

ISKCON Temple, Jaipur, Rajasthan

The temple has taken many years to be built… there was a time when I’d see a part of premises as perpetually ‘under construction’ or so I wondered – what exactly was taking the building of the main temple so long?

Little did I know back then, I would be getting my answer in a few years from now, in 2019 and how!

I recall this incidence from around 3 years back… there was an office right below the “under construction” temple site where one could see a foreigner, often alone, deeply immersed with little pieces of colorful glass scattered all around him. Whenever I passed through his office cum workshop, the room intrigued me, beckoned me. How could it not?! It was an artist’s workshop after all!

Alas, I could never quite give wings to my intrigue by going any nearer or striking a conversation with the person inside but just catching a little glimpse from afar did give me enough to afford this colorful piece of memory today to cherish as my own.

Come January 2019 – and I was in for a beautiful surprise.

The land that I had seen as under construction for so many years long was no longer under construction anymore. What stood on it instead was a magnificent structure resplendent in the glorious art that the Pink city is known for.

After freshening up at the guesthouse just opposite the main temple, I headed to pay my respects and to see the temple, first thing first in the evening and then again the early next morning.

Window to the spiritual world stained glass vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

But it was the morning youthful sun that left me enamored. Ascending slowly beyond the horizon, its peeping light sprinkled a sweet golden glow to the structure.

A burst of colors waited inside as I stood and admired agape at the beauty that stared back at me – large windows about 11 feet high and four feet wide with striking stained glass murals integrated within them. A characteristic more commonly observed in churches and cathedrals, this was the first time I was witnessing glass art of this stature in a temple.

ISKCON temple Srila Prabhupada stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

Shafts of sunlight shone through the stained-glass windows, scattering coloured light all over the chequered floor. The windows were a gleaming brilliance against the early morning sun as against the muted tones of the previous evening. As I made my way around the masterpieces, I gave a silent clap to the Master Artist Mr. Colin Greenwood whose dedication and devotion for many long years was so clearly visible in his exceptional creation in Stained Glass which he had created for the pleasure of His own Master Srila Prabhupada. What was even more laudable was to see the merger of a vision, a vision of bhakti that Srila Prabhupada once dreamt for all of consciousness, with an art form thereby inspiring people towards not just blindly following but actually understanding the beauty of Vedic culture through the paintings.


Door man Vijaya stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, RajasthanDwarpal Jaya stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, RajasthanJust upon entering the gate, are the Two Doorkeepers of Vaikuntha, Jaya and Vijay followed by the Dasa Avatars of Lord Vishnu. It was fascinating to know that the glass, lead and other specialized materials used were sourced from Australia and all the work was carried out by locally trained artists under the supervision of Mr. Greenwood.


Govardhan lila stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

Each window consists of over three thousand pieces of individually cut glass and when seen through the light of the sun, morning as well as evening, literally double up as windows to the Spiritual World!

Narsingh avatar - stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

Walking slowly through the periphery of the temple, I paused at several points, dazzled by the huge colorful windows that soared high towards the distant ceiling. The illustrations took me back to a myriad of stories narrated to me by my grandpa and the lovely memories I treasure in my heart about the times spent listening to them.

Krishna makhan chor stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan
Varah avatar stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur Rajasthan
Vrindavan Forest stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan
Krishna Balram stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan
Shri Ram Chandra avatar stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan
Shri Parsuram Avatar stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan
Kalki avatar stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan
Kaliya Lila stained glass window vedic art - ISKCON Jaipur Rajasthan

I spent a longer time pausing and admiring the Kaliya Lila window,  but it wasn’t the story that had caught my eye, it was the light… light fell here like a high poised sphere creating a mélange of colors that bounced off the window onto the silhouetted floor to paint a muddled reflection.

Beautiful stained glass window reflections vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

It was a beautiful sight, this moment, how to describe it? Everything seemed to be in perfect balance, harmony and unison: The colorful window shrouded in light suffusing the dark floor in life!

Everything around me seemed to stop for those few moments and turn into something entirely different. The silent space suddenly filled with meaning, and the million colorful beams dissolved into a little bubble of wisdom. Just me and those multi-hooded dark serpents, the serpents that create mayhem within, had just been blessed with the dancing footprint of the Lord Himself.

Soon, I moved to the center of the hall and spent a few quiet moments kneeling down before the altar, beneath the deep domed ceiling.

Deities - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

After offering my prayers, as I was walking out of the temple, my eyes fell on the beautiful image of Radha Krishna sitting together on a swing. A beautiful painting dipped in the hues of red, here was love, unadulterated, pure and whole. I thought of the aura when the light illuminates this part of the gallery: Does it make their love come alive? Would it breathe life in their play?

Radha Krishna love stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

There was no way to know that just about now, maybe someday.

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