October 20-29, 2008 Over 2500 years ago in India, the Buddha found the path to liberate himself and help others to liberate themselves through their own practice. His teachings spread from North India to many other parts of the subcontinent. But by the thirteenth century, Buddhism in India had become virtually extinct. Suppressed by violent dictators, the followers of the Buddha emigrated to Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, Korea, and Japan but in the name of wisdom and compassion they refused to meet violence with violence. In 1956, Dr Ambedkar liberated many Dalits, formerly known as untouchables (the lowest caste in Hinduism), by converting them to Buddhism so that they could be equal to other citizens. Half a million untouchables were converted to Buddhism on one day, but unfortunately Dr. Ambedkar died very soon after this and had no time to train the newly converted Buddhists so that they could grasp the essential teachings of the Buddha. Therefore, today in the birthplace of Buddhism, Hindus and Muslims are numerous, but only a tiny fraction of the population is Buddhist, and many of them have not been able to receive the authentic teachings of the Buddha.
Thay Nhat Hanh’s trip to India is the fruit of many years of preparation by our friends Shantum, Gitu, and a number of concerned social activists, leaders, educators, businesspeople, and intellectuals in India. They wish to bring Thay’s wisdom, gentleness and depth, as well as the Buddha’s message of awakening, back to India. At his advanced age, this could be his last trip to India. We want to address the actual situation of India, sharing the message of transformation and healing with the rich and powerful as well as with the lowest of the low. There will be a half Day of Mindfulness for approximately 400,000 Dalit people in Nagpur. Thay will have the occasion to share with 700 school teachers in Dehra Dun in a 3-day retreat, with 800 medical professionals from all over India, with corporate leaders, as well as Parliamentarians in New Delhi. A large emphasis will be placed on sharing the practice with teenagers, and monastics will take time almost every morning of our trip to visit and make presentations at some thirty elite and government high schools.
The last ten days of the trip, from 20 to 29 October, will be a treat for all of us to be with Thay in a profound, traveling retreat, allowing us to encounter the same atmosphere the Buddha experienced before and after his enlightenment, with buffalo boys and many young children who had offered food to the monk Siddhartha, to experience Deer Park, where the Buddha gave his ﬁrst teachings, and to connect with the energy of peacefulness and stability on Vulture Peak where the Buddha spent a great deal of time and gave many wonderful Dharma talks. Walking in the Buddha’s footsteps and touching this sacred atmosphere may stimulate our own awakening! Thay will also give Dharma talks throughout the ten-day pilgrimage and transmit the Five and Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings.
Shantum, Gitu, and the Ahimsa Trust cannot pay all the traveling expenses for Thay and the delegation of thirty monastics who will join him on the trip. This is why we have organized contribution/donation for the trip. Additionally, to maintain security and fairness, we cannot allow friends not ofﬁcially registered for the trip to join us in any portion of the pilgrimage.
Register to join Thay for the last 10 days in India and offer a ﬁnancial contribution to help Thay and thirty monastics bring the Dharma back to India. Go to www.plumvillage.org or contact Bina Aranha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Sister Chan Khong