Vikramashil Monastery was established around the late 8th and early 9th centuries as one of the largest centres of learning in India. During the dynasties of the Pala and Sena empires – who governed much of northeast India from Bengal – Tibetans maintained a close connection with eastern India, particularly with Vikramashila.
The great Indian figures from whom the four major Tibetan sects derive – Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava for Nyingma sect, Virupa for the Sakya sect, Naropa for the Kagyu sect, and Atisha for the Gelug sect – were all great scholars at Nalanda or its derivative, Vikramashila, and thus it is clear that all the religious orders in the snowy land of Tibet maintain a lineage from them.
Unlike Nalanda, which was built and added to over many centuries, Vikramashila was constructed right from its inception, solely for the purpose of a university/monastery, which attracted students form all over India, Tibet, Kashmir, Indonesia, China, Sri Lanka and Korea, and therefore was far more multicultural than Nalanda, which predominantly drew Indian scholars.
Vikramashila is a very special place and yet is not "on the beaten track" of pilgrimages. Thus, this is a very rare opportunity.
This December we have Annie McGhee, who has extensive knowledge of the place and of doing pilgrimage in general, and is very happy to take a group to this very holy site. In October 2016, she visited Vikramashila with Ladakhi Lama and her article was published in Mandala's online magazine in April 2017. She has lived in Indonesia doing Buddhist research and had papers published for the International Conference of Jambi Studies in Sumatra and the 14 Sakyadhita International Conference for Buddhist Women in Java.
Venerable Thubten Tsewang, Ladakhi Lama, also known as Baling Lama, our dear resident lama who was the attendant of Khunu Lama Rinpoche, one of His Holiness Dalai Lama's teachers and author of In Praise to Bodhichitta, might join as well – we cannot guarantee this, but hopefully he will! We invite you to read a wonderful interview in Mandala Magazine about his memories of Khunu Lama Rinpoche – PDF.
On the site the group will be given important information and led in different meditations and practices relevant to the place. During the first day, there will be a Dharma talk: Being a pilgrim versus being a tourist.
Pilgrimage needs faith. More faith, more happiness. Otherwise, we are just like tourists looking at ruins. Pilgrimage is not just going to holy places and taking pictures. We go to holy places for blessing, so it’s good to do practices at the different holy places.
Bodhgaya is not only the place where the Buddha showed the holy deed of achieving enlightenment under the bodhi tree but also where all the great pandits such as Nagarjuna and Asanga practiced and made so many prayers. Also many great enlightened beings and yogis from Tibet, China, Nepal and other countries came here and made many prayers to benefit us sentient beings so there would be unbelievable, unbelievable benefit for us to purify negative karma and accumulate merit as quickly as possible.
I think you are very fortunate to be able to come to Bodhgaya, where a thousand buddhas will descend, place their holy feet, display holy deeds, and achieve enlightenment. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha is the fourth of the thousand buddhas. The rest of the buddhas will descend here and will also display the twelve deeds, and the holy deed, achieving enlightenment.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
|Sat 16 Dec||Welcome to Root Institute|
|4.00pm||Introduction to Pilgrimage – Talk: Being a pilgrim versus being a tourist|
|Sun 17 Dec|
|4.00am||Leave to Vikramashila|
|12.00pm||Lunch at Bhagalpur|
|1.30pm||Exploration of the area|
|5.30pm||Checking in at Atihi Hotel in Kahalgoan|
|6:00pm||Dinner at Siddhartha Food Plaza|
|Mon 18 Dec|
|8.30am||Pilgrimage to Vikramashila with prayers, meditations and practices|
|6.00pm||Dinner at Siddhartha Food Plaza|
|Tue 19 Dec|
|6.45am||Checking out from Atihi Hotel in Kahalgoan|
|7.30am||Breakfast & exploration Kahalgoan / Sultanganj|
|10:00am||Return to Root Institute|
|6:00pm||Arrive at Root Institute & dinner|
Root Institute is a delightful, semi-monastic meditation centre.
To maintain a condusive, spiritually harmonious atmosphere for inner reflection and meditation, we kindly ask all our students, guests and visitors to observe the following guidelines:
Respect all life: do not intentionally kill any living being, even small insects.
Respect others' property: do not steal or take anything not freely given.
Be honest and straightforward: do not lie or intentionally deceive others.
Be celibate: no sexual activity; this also includes no romantic holding hands, hugging, massages and other physical displays of affection.
Be alert and mindful*: avoid intoxicants such as alcohol, drugs and cigarettes; we encourage you to stop smoking while here, but if this is impossible, you can smoke outside the gates.
Be considerate of others' silence: keep silence in the appropriate areas and at all times during residential courses, especially in the meditation hall (gompa) and dormitories; no singing or playing music and, in general, maintain a quiet demeanour while on the property.
Be considerate of the monks and nuns: dress respectfully; please no shorts above the knee, tank-top shirts, or tight and revealing clothing.
Couples: can stay in the same room for two weeks or less under the celibacy policy.
Please be aware:
* The Bihar state government has passed laws totally prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol in the state, with very severe penalties! Please ensure that you do not carry any alcohol with you in Bihar.
Also, please note that those in service or teaching in FPMT centers and projects do not engage in the practice of Shugden.
Our spiritual programme now runs from beginning of September through to end of April.
On the appropriate dates in the Tibetan calendar year-round, however, we observe the standard pujas of the Gelug tradition and these are drop-in sessions which anyone can attend. If you are in Bodhgaya and would like to come along, please feel welcome to join us for:
Unless otherwise indicated, registration is required for all spiritual programme events except drop-in sessions, Festival of Lights & Merit, and Mahabodhi Stupa events.