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