Nepali Times
Life Times
Bliss in ten days


Vispassana meditation is one of the most popular courses pilgrims taken in Nepal. Light and quite rooms are enough for concentration.

The assurance of a calm and peaceful mind and the ability to better handle life's ups and downs have Nepalis and foreigners flocking to meditation retreats around the country.

Those seeking a spiritual experience in Nepal have increased significantly over the last ten years, and meditation tourism is now nearly on par with trekking. Last year, nine percent of all tourist arrivals to Nepal were for pilgrimage purposes compared to 11 per cent for trekking.

A substantial portion of pilgrims came to attend meditation and yoga courses at ashrams and monasteries in Nepal. Among the most popular is Vipassana meditation, even though it involves a strict, ten-day schedule that includes meditating ten hours a day and abstaining from talking.

Angelique van Leeuwen (pic, right), a 38-year-old writer and photographer from Holland, completed a ten-day course in August. "It was tough but do-able," she says, "my mind was on 24/7 overdrive, and Vipassana was intense, but the technique made me more focused, I feel more calm."

Angelique van Leeuwen from Holland completed a ten-day course of meditation.
With the celebrations and indulgences of Dasain and Tihar behind them, a lot of Nepalis are also joining the courses to detoxify their minds and bodies. Roop Jyoti, a Vipassana meditation guru, says the technique teaches people how not to get upset in life.

"People are looking for peace of mind," Jyoti explains, "after you sit through a course you can deal with your anger and fear and emotions in a better way, it cleans your mind of all the impurities, and also makes you physically healthy."

Vipassana is an ancient meditation technique taught and practiced by the Buddha 2,500 years ago, and it was revived and popularised in India in 1969. There are now Vipassana mediation centres in 25 countries, and in Nepal they are in Lumbini, Pokhara, Birganj, Chitwan, Surkhet, and Kathmandu.

During a course, students are taught a breathing technique called anapana before progressing to Vipassana which literally means 'to see things as they really are'. The aim is to develop a calm and equanimous mind by observing the breath and sensations in the body to subdue craving and aversion.

Last year, nine percent of all tourist arrivals to Nepal were for pilgrimage purposes compared to 11 per cent for trekking.
But with a demanding daily schedule that includes rising at 4am and ten hours of seated meditation, Vipassana is not for the faint hearted or weak willed. There are five 'sila' (moral rules) which students must follow: not to kill, lie, steal, undertake sexual misconduct or consume intoxicants.

They must also abstain from making eye-contact, reading or writing and, perhaps the most difficult for some, maintain noble silence, only talking about the technique with teachers.

Despite the intensity of the sessions, the number of people attending Vipassana courses has grown in the Kapan centre alone from 2,500 people three years ago to nearly 5,000 last year. When the centre started in 1981, most of those taking the course were Buddhists, now all religions and nationalities take part.

"People in their 80s are coming, teenagers, medical doctors, and professionals, males and females, it is very diverse," Jyoti says.

After reading about Vipassana in a newspaper 15 years ago, Nanda Kumar Sharma felt compelled to enroll. Since then the 44-year-old has completed nine more courses and is currently a volunteer administrator at the centre.
"At the time I was feeling nervous and my mind was very stressed," says Sharma, who meditates daily to better manage stress and attends a ten-day course nearly every year.

Where to meditate

Eight meditation centres in Nepal offer 10, 20, 30 and 45-day, and children's courses.
Cost: By donation, food and accommodation included.
Contact: Jyoti Bhawan, Kantipath +977 1 4250581

Seven and ten-day introductory Tibetan Buddhism and meditation courses run monthly March-October at Kopan Monastery, Kathmandu. Other courses available.
Cost: $80/$110 including food and accommodation.
Contact: + 977 1 4821268,

Weekend introductory Tibetan Buddhist courses and retreats in
Kaski District, Pokhara.
Cost: Rs 4,500 including food and accommodation.
Contact: +977 61 462923, +977 9846397646

Weekly introductory meditation classes in Mahayana Buddhism and guided meditation classes at Hotel Himalaya Yoga, Thamel, Kathmandu.
Cost: Some free classes, weekly courses Rs 1,000
Contact: +977 1 4700852, +977 9803254704

See also:
Now, meditation tourism, DORJI TSERING SHERPA in KASKI
Once is not enough for Dhamma Pokhara's vipassana courses

Meditating in 'Mandu, IRENE PERONI
Spiritual retreats are still one of Nepal's main tourist draws

Navel-gazing in Nepal, SALIL SUBEDI

1. Tashi Lama
Very inspiring article on Vipassana meditation in Nepal. So these thoughts appeared in my mind. 

Like these great Buddhist saints from India: Nagarjuna, Asanga, Chandra Kirti, Dhidanga, Arya Deva, Dharma Kriti, Basu Bhandu, Shantidev, and Buddha Palith, they are the once who kept the roots of Buddhist teaching in India in 4th, 5th to 7th century, which later spread and flourished in Tibet in late 7th century, and it is now famous world wide. They are all great wise Brahmins from India. What I meant to say here is that: I am optimistic that if the majority of Brahmins or Bahuns in Nepal converts into Buddhism, Nepal would surely become a paradise on this earth. At present, there are some wise Bahuns who opened their eyes and are now following Buddha's path, I hope more will follow the suit and Nepal truly will become a zone of peace!

Buddham Sharanam Gachhammi, Dharmam Sharanam Gachhammi, Sangam Sharanam Gachhammi!   

2. Arun
The teaching in Vipassana Meditation (discussed in this article) has nothing to do whatsoever to convert anyone to a "Buddhist". The teaching is based on the pure science of mind and matter the orthodox teaching of Buddha which is purely "non-sectarian" and can be practiced by any "human being" to purify one's mind. Any mentioning of "sectarian conversion" in the name of the meditation technique is very unfortunate. 

3. Tashi Lama
Arun, it is just my thoughts of affection or dream for Nepal and Nepalese people. I don't mean any conversion blindly or by brainwashing, but by looking into the reason and reality of Nepal's ups and downs in the history. As you know that King Shodhodhana and Queen Maya Devi were Hindus when they gave birth to Prince Siddhartha, Siddhartha later renounced the kingdom and searched for the truth through spiritual path, he followed Hindu ascetics and other teachers but couldn't find the path to liberation from suffering, so then Gautama Buddha founded Buddhism and achieved Buddha-hood. A teaching that is solely based on four Noble truths and eight fold paths, standing firmly on the character of non-violence and on the principle of interdependence. When Nepal was pure Buddhist country during the Licchavi period, it was known as the period of golden era, a paradise on earth and Buddhism flourished well till the start of Malla period and it started declining once the Shankar Acharya set foot in Nepal, he preached and started converting Buddhist into Hinduism, and then when Rana's ruled Nepal, they started forceful conversions into Hinduism, many learned Buddhist Bhishus and Bhikshunis took refuge in Shri Lanka and Thailand, these are the facts from the truths hidden in darkness by radical Hindus of Nepal. So, what good thing happened in Nepal with the dominance of Hindu Kings, leaders and army generals? Nothing and the worse happened when the massacre took place in Narayanhiti palace, which resulted in the mysterious deaths of all the Royal families, moreover the king of Nepal is considered as an emanation or incarnation of God Vishnu, so how dare such an savagely death can happen on the Godly King of Nepal? It might seem that my thoughts are quite extreme, but these extreme thoughts pops out when one sees the true reality of extremes in Nepal's history and it's rulers. 

Unlike any other religion with many dogmas and blind faith, Buddhism is a faith based on reasoning and open mindedness, as you truly understood it as science of mind. However Buddhism is more than just a meditation, it is everything for humanity, deep and vast to understand the truth of everything!

4. Secular

Trust people to turn a simple, illuminating article abbout meditation into a political polemic and an argument for conversion. And we wonder why this country does not move ahead.

5. Tashi Lama
Hello Secular, in this 21st century people won't turn for simplicity as in the past without any reason. As you see my comments as political polemic, I also see it differently from your point of viewing my comments.

I think we don't have to wonder why Nepal is not moving ahead, but we have to look into the reality why Nepal is not moving ahead with all these obstacles and short comings. 

These are the factors which stops Nepal from moving ahead: 
1) All the politicians in Nepal are selfish and narrow minded because of their selfish motive by making political profession as their vessel to earn more money (Khaney bhanro) making money under the table for their selfish needs.
2) For many centuries, the rulers and leaders of Nepal believe in blind faiths, as to gain richness and political power, so they goes to mandir to make sacrificial pujas by splitting the blood of buffalo and goats on the idols of gods, but the end result is that they end up loosing all the powers and richness, king Gyannendra is such an example of believer of blind faith.
3) Bahun spiritual gurus are bent on preaching blind faiths, as for the father of the family, without a son to lit the funeral pyre means no access to heavenly abode (Bhaikunda) So the father without son end up in having many wives without a son. They often pray and talk of Mata Durga, Mata Lakshmi and Mata Saraswati etc, but they treat their female counter parts differently.  Bali puja is all the nonsense of blind faith, ending up in blood bath and suffering of many animals.
4) Majority of educated populace are just brain smart with cold hearts, so they don't want to accept the facts of all these short comings and wrong beliefs in the Nepalese society, which in reality  stops Nepal from moving ahead.

Just realizing bliss for oneself is not enough but to strive and work for blissful Nepal matters more than anything else! 

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)