Sometimes it’s good to look at things from a different perspective…
One thing I love about Cambodia is its incredibly rich spiritual heritage. It’s one of the few places where you can get a felt sense of how the Hindu and Buddhist traditions mixed, merged and eventually diverged. Outside of Nepal, I have not come across another culture that has such a vast treasure of the intertwining of these rich heritages.
I spent a day recently at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, enjoying the cultural offerings.
When she learned that I also teach, she said, “Oh, where did you do your teacher training?”
My mind went blank for a moment (which was a blessing in itself). It was such a bizarre way for me to think of my journey of practicing yoga. I suppose I had been training to be a teacher since my first class 22 years ago, and I have indeed received numerous “certificates” that show in black-and-white that I am qualified to share the practice with others.
But this young woman seemed to have a very different idea of “teacher training.” To her, it evoked images of a program designed to share a skill-set, culminating with a letter of authorization. To me, it represents years of pilgrimage and practice spanning nearly half of my life.
People are often surprised to hear my reply when they ask me if I have recommendations on yoga teacher training courses.
Nepal Yoga Retreat and Pilgrimage, March 2015
Practice or learn yoga and meditation while visiting sacred sites throughought the Kathmandu Valley with masters of yoga and meditation.
Join us for a magical 10 days of practice and pilgrimage through the Kathmandu Valley. We will visit sacred Buddhist sites throughout the Kathmandu Valley and practice daily yoga asana, meditation and teachings from Tibetan Buddhist masters. This is an incredible and rare opportunity to study both yoga and Buddhist philosophy and go deeply into both practices with teacher experienced in both traditions while immersed in the culture that spawned the Buddha.
No, this is not about airport closures and political stand-offs. This is a much more fundamental conflict.
On your way out of Bangkok next time, check out this massive installation at Suvarnabhumi airport. This is a classic Indian story about how we process the experience of life and turn it into nectar. The god Vishnu transforms himself into a turtle to allow the gods and demons to battle it out. As expected, there is no clear winner between good and evil, but simply experience, and character, that results from engaging in the battle.
After all that pilgriming, sometimes it’s nice to sit down to a good wholesome vegetarian meal. Aum Cafe on Assi Ghat is a little haven of fresh salads, juices and creative vegetarian food. My preferred lunch spot on the Ganga!
Continuing on last week’s theme of places to stay and eat in Sarnath, here is my personal favorite: Namo Buddha guesthouse. This is where I stay when I am here.
Run by German born Chris Teich and her husband Nehru, this is a little oasis of calm in dusty Sarnath. she only has 3 proper guest rooms, plus a grass hut on the roof and 2 tents if necessary. Don’t look for luxury here: think cold water bucket baths. But if you plan ahead you can use one of her solar heated hot water bags for a warm bucket bath, and if you wait til the midday sun is blazing, it actually works out well.
She bakes brown bread in a solar powered oven on the roof, and serves it up each morning with home-made jam from local fruits, fresh local peanut butter, and nice hot porridge. Occasionally she also serves a fabulous vegetarian lunch, so stop by to ask if that’s happening. It’s a great place to meet fellow pilgrims–I’ve made some life-long friends at this breakfast table.
Namo Buddha Paying Guest House
SA 10/81 Baraipur, Sarnath, Varanasi 221007
Mobile: 09 935 529 619
I’ll give this to you straight: don’t come to Sarnath looking for creature comforts. This is a sacred power spot, the place where the historical Buddha first turned the wheel of the Dharma, giving his first talk here at Deer Park. You come here for Dharma teachings, or pilgrimage.
My teacher Thrangu Rinpoche has a monastery here, and comes to give teachings every year. So, comfort or not, I come. Out of necessity, I’ve discovered a few secret spots– guesthouses and eateries–to nourish the body while absorbing the highest Vajrayana teachings to nourish the mind.
Here is the first installment in a series I’ll continue next week.
Shiva Guest House serves a nice thali if you let lovely Kalpana Sharma know a day beforehand. She also has several spacious guest rooms in her massive home that she rents for very reasonable fees. Don’t forget to check out her shop on the roof, where she sells handicrafts made by the disadvantaged girls she helps through her NGO. It’s also located a mere 4 minute walk from Vajra Vidya, so it’s very close to Rinpoche’s teachings, in case his guesthouse is full.
Contact details below.
Shiva Guest House
Sa.13/46 M-# Khajuhi, Sarnath, Varanasi 221007
Phone: +91 542 259 5760,
Mobile: 09 454 732 691