Thursday 31 July 2014

Bodhi Zendo - Abide where there is no abiding

This is not a resort or tourist attraction; but for those looking for a non-religious spiritual get-away, Bodhizendo offers three day meditation course every first Thursday of the month. You can stay here at any time of the year if you follow the monastic order. Bodhizendo was set up by Fr.AMA Samy, a Jesuit priest, an independent Zen master, combining the Hinduism, Christianity and Zen Buddhism. The center offers bread and board for a meager Rs.350/- per person per day. The rooms are basic and neatly furnished; the best housekeeping we have ever seen. The entire center runs on eco-friendly solar heating with a very minimalist approach. A very well landscaped center garden and zen garden surrounded by deep valleys and lush greenery including a vegetable garden. While staying here, me wet many interesting and people from around the world who all have one common goal- to live a meaningful life. 

To reach here from Coimbatore, you need to take a bus to Palani (3hrs) and board another bus heading towards Kodaikanal (2hrs) and get down at Perumalmalai, 12km before Kodaikanal, through the winding road, which makes the bus a vomit comet. A 30min walk from Perumalmalai junction through St. Joseph's Farm will take you to Bodhizendo.
The nearest railway station is Kodai Road but easily accessible is Dindigul Junction. From Perumalmalai, you can go to Dindigul (2hrs) and Madurai(3hrs) via Vatalagundu. Another option is Thekkady via Vatalagundu-Theni-Cumbum-Kumily (4hrs,Rs.55) Locals say there is a route from Kodai to Munnar via Kilavarai with 7km walk if you get permissions from the TN Forest Department. There is a private bus (Rs 750, 5hrs) from Kodai to Munnar via Bodhinayakanoor which starts only if they enough passengers. The easiest way to reach southern part of TamilNadu or Kerala from here is to take a train from Madurai or Dindigul. There are many trains to Chennai and Bangalore from Dindigul. If you are travelling to Cochin or Coimbatore, take a bus to Palani and proceed further. Dindigul and Palani are in two different directions from Perumalmalai and takes less than 3hrs by bus.

The schedule is as follows :

5:30 am : Wake up gong
6-7 am : Formal Zazen (sitting meditation)
7-8 am : Breakfast
8-9:30 am: Samu/Seva
9:30 am : Coffee/Tea
10:30 - 12 noon : Silence
12-12:30 : Free zazen
12:30 - 1:30 pm : Lunch
1:30 - 4 pm: Silence
4 pm : Coffee/Tea
5:30 onward Silence
6 - 7 pm : Formal Zazen
7 - 8 pm : Dinner
8-8:30 pm : Free zazen 

Samu/seva is expected from everyone for 90min a day. During mini-sesshin (3days) and long sesshin (6days) there will be longer hours of zazen- 7hrs with breaks in between. You need to spend at least 3days to settle into this quiet experience of soul-searching. We spent close to five weeks here including a long sesshin in June. Any time is ideal time to visit the place but from December to May the house usually is full. It is not necessary to come during the sesshin, other times are equally useful and worthy. At the time of our visit the master was present and he left to Europe for 3 months. 

If you want to work on yourself, spend a few days here. You may go back with a different worldview.

This is the practice of Shikantaza: just sitting, just observing, just being here and now, with no seeking and no goals. It is the intimacy with oneself and with the world. This is the Zazen of intimacy.
From the book:  Zen heart,  Zen Mind
The teachings of zen master AMA Samy

Sunday 2 February 2014

Anjana Vidyakendra- a rural school to make a difference


After a year long backpacking trips through rural India, 
 we have come back to Bangalore, but rural Bangalore. We are working as primary school teachers at a rural (halli) school. The location is at Tattanoor, 20km away from Whitefield and 15km from Sarjapura. The school is 7km from Ayurvedagram, which is around 13km from Hope Farm junction, Whitefield. Other route is from Sarjapura which is closer to Silk Board.  

Teach for a Lunch:
Please visit us on a saturday. You can bring your family too. You can engage a class- be it a topic from syllabus or out-of-syllabus. Bring your puzzles/games/skills. 
Have lunch with us and return in the afternoon. Or just come to our school to meet our enthusiastic children. They slide down from the library after taking a book to read. They walk barefoot on the courtyard cow dung (gobar) flooring - antibacterial and a natural insect repellent. Our students draw kolams on this floor in different geometric patterns that they learned in their Mathematics class. Did you know the kolams were put in front of the house to keep the ants at the door step?

A rocking amphi-theater with a honge tree at the center. A 'play-station' loaded with sports and recreation. Mouth-watering nutrition meals. It would be nice for your kids to know what they have in plenty and what they are deprived of :-) - see more details on the website. Ab
out the name,  school is named after Hanuman's mother. Channa Raju and his wife Uma started this school to provide education to the girls in this area - so that at least they can postpone the eventuality of child marriage (15 or 16 they get married off). 

At Anjana Vidyakendra, we use methods from Arvind GuptaSudarshan KannaKhan Academy and Teachers of India - more suitable for rural children who may not have access to projector and digital classes.  We make toys from scrap materials. We play games with left hand. We made puzzles out of food packages.
We have a science exhibition in February saturday and with that we wind up from Anjana for this academic year.