Bearing Witness III ; Sojourn to Tamil Nadu India

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Join Ven. Pannavati & Friends on the 2014

“Bearing Witness III” Sojourn to Tamil Nadu, India

Through VIHARA, and The Foundation of His Sacred Majesty, two state recognized, Dalit organized non-profit organizations in India, Dalits in many villages of Tamil Nadu (southern India) are working together to build their communities by providing spiritual, educational and economic development programs. They have asked Venerable Pannavati to assist in creating a unified spiritual community based on Buddhist principles.

Such a role is usually undertaken by a Bhikkhu. It is significant that they wish a contemporary Bhikkhuni (female monk) to lead this effort to indicate their solidarity with the women of their community. Western friends, this is our opportunity to give back to the descendants of original Buddhism, what we have so freely received – for their well-being and happiness.

Retreat cost includes 3 meals/day, transportation in India, lodging and sightseeing excursions. Flexible daily activities include morning meditation, visiting the “untouchable” villages, with time to relax in the late afternoon, evening meditation and fellowship, and free time to enjoy spa services and local culture. We will visit ashrams, sacred sites and see the hidden Buddhist treasures of southern India.

An in-depth yogic training the Buddha practiced until his enlightenment — light and form meditation — will be offered, here, at the foot of the majestic Arunachala sacred mountain.


What type of retreat is this? In the Zen Peacemaker tradition of Master Bernie Glassman, this will be a “bearing witness” compassionate-wisdom retreat. Rather than thinking of an “I” who is doing something for someone, we simply go to India as tourists, following three rules: “Not knowing; Bearing witness to what is there; and Responding skillfully to what we encounter.” This direct way of interacting fuses the “us-them” link and infuses insight that is joyful and powerful in the face of deprivation, rather than seeing it as pitiful. It allows the right compassionate response – in the moment.

That’s it! Don’t worry about heavy or hard work. The Dalit people will work. They want our presence, our love, our touch and sharing. This is the compassion part. We will be offering a special meditation and dharma training with Ven. Pannavati at the foot of the majestic and spiritual Arunachala mountain. The Buddha talked expressly about light and form in meditation, how and why it arises, why it falls away, and how it should be maintained to access deeper states of concentration, awareness, and ultimately insight. Those of you who have already started this training with her will go deeper into practice.

Can you give more details on what we will be doing? Each morning will begin with meditation, then a satisfying breakfast at the beautiful Sparsa Hotel. in Tiruvannamalai. Enjoy a swim, order spa services or visit town until lunch. Afterwards, we’ll visit “untouchable” villages, and return back to the hotel early evening for dinner or  hang out  in Tiru. Shop, visit the internet cafe, experience the wonderful Indian ambiance, culture and ashrams. Afterwards, we’ll come together for evening meditation, fellowship or music and to chronicle the day. Then, you have free time to visit some of the interesting night activities in bustling Thiruvannamalai if you wish, play ping pong, make pottery or enjoy the quiet beauty. We’ll tour the sacred sites and hidden Buddhist treasures of southern India and visit some of the sites of India’s varied spiritual traditions and ashrams. Other activities, impromptu.

What is the cost of the retreat? The cost of the 2 week retreat is $1,500, which includes double occupancy accommodations (single is a $500 surcharge), 3 meals, transportation within India from Chennai airport, tips for translator and driver.

What is the deadline for paying the retreat fee and balanced? $300 deposit is due now. $400 is due by June 15th . A third $400 is due by September 15th, and the final $400 due October 15th The earlier we have everyone’s ticket arrangements, the better. Once reservations are made for the rooms, we must pay whether they are used or not because this is peak season! VISA, MC accepted (add 3%).

What airport should we arrive and depart from in India? Plan to depart the USA to arrive in Chennai (MAA) on November 6th. We will arrange a hotel stay for the group in Tiruvannamalai beginning the night of November 7. If arriving other days, we can help you arrange transportation to Tiruvannamalai.

What type of accommodations can be expected and where will we stay? A beautiful, superior quality hotel,the Sparsa, just off the beaten path. Excellent reputation, extra clean, delicious food,comfort for weary and aging bones, spa services, creative activities, swimming, game room, great Indian ambiance and grounds.. Double occupancy or upgrade to single. I wrestled over whether to reserve such a high end location. But, understand the need for a bit more comfort for Americans after a hard day’s interaction. Quite simply, I want us to be able to be our very best for the villagers. So, enjoy!

The Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989 has not ended the oppression. Hope for Untouchables Lies in Healing and Self-Empowerment.

If you are interested in being part of this memorable experience, send an email  to no later than June 25, 2014.  A memo with further details will be sent in response. 

5 Responses to “Bearing Witness III ; Sojourn to Tamil Nadu India”

  1. Ignorance in the physical concerning Truth and Reality are brought along with them in the discarnate state.

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    from the general view of religion, giving it a category of its own.
    It helps us understand the world and our lives in it in ways that go beyond the physical.

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