Tushita (meaning ‘Place of Joy’) Meditation Centre is located in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. Aside from the daily disruption of an adorable troop of monkeys, this spiritual retreat is hidden from the hustle and bustle of crazy Indian street life. The grounds of Tushita are a perfect space to further understand and practise Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. And where better to broaden the mind than nearby the seat (in exile) of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama?
One course that they offer throughout the year is a 10 day ‘Introduction to Buddhism’ residential retreat, favoured by people from all across the world. Unlike the more intense Vipassana retreats across India, this one allows for windows of communication throughout the course. So, although they stress that silence is necessary and important, there is a one hour discussion group for the first 7 days. Alongside this, two teachings are given each day about Buddhism, and three sessions of guided meditation allow time to open, challenge and calm the mind. The last two days are set aside for meditation only, to put in to practise everything that is learnt from the first half.
A stunning Gompa (meditation hall) decorated with brightly coloured hand-painted Buddha’s and Tibetan scripture is home for the 10 days at Tushita. A gong would ring 5 minutes before each session, allowing freedom from the claws of time. During breaks there is a beautiful garden space, a library stocked full of spiritual books and two tracks leading to the main gates which can be enjoyed. It was encouraged to keep a personal diary to jot down dreams, thoughts and of course make notes from the course. It must be mentioned that meals are not only delicious and nutritious, but plentiful – their insanely tasty homemade peanut butter stole the attention of the group on every level, and made avoiding eye-contact so much easier.
As somebody that had had no experience with either Buddhism or meditation, I can say this course is extremely well designed. My main attraction was the silence – could I maintain it for 10 days and what would I gain/learn, I wondered? The option of joining in an hourly discussion each day was appreciated. For most, it seemed like a necessary release, and for others, observation was enough. Our Dharma teacher, Jimi, taught with humour, patience and incredible understanding of the subject. No doubt living as a monk for 15 years deepened his personal grasp of Buddhism.
Enjoying the meditation sessions came as a shock to me. These were a mix of Shamatya (one-point focus), analytical and mindfulness meditation. Guided by the wonderful Maya, I felt she opened the doors to meditation in a gentle, ‘accessible by all’ kind of way. It certainly takes patience and an open mind, but in return it delivers a sense of calm and realisation of how much our thoughts often take control of our mind, and how habituated they can be from years of conditioning.
Above all else this course offers an escape from the mayhem of the 21st century. No phones meant freedom from social media. An absence of cameras meant monkeys were observed in detail and with pure joy. Silence as a rule took awkwardness away from the want to be quiet and alone, without feeling anti-social or rude. Books could be read uninterrupted. The present moment seemed to last longer, and the voice in my head had space to think.
To end on a quote for those sceptical of Buddhist philosophy, meditation and everything that comes with it:
“Buddhism is neither the strange tradition of some foreign lands, nor a method to flee from one’s responsibilities, nor a collection of dry words in books and libraries. Buddhism is to solely be understood as a means to overcome mental suffering and to accomplish one’s own and other’s ‘well-being”.
– Geshe Rabten.
This is just a short review of the course at Tushita Meditation Centre. If anyone is interested in more details of the course or of my experience, please do get in touch.