If you’re interested in learning more about Buddhism via a spiritual getaway, you’ll know that Asia is the place to go.
For many of us, the reason we travel goes deeper than just filling a photo album with memories of the incredible sights we saw, the exotic things we tasted or even the amazing people we met along the way. More and more of us are looking for experiences that broaden our outlook and change who we are for the better, whether these experiences are based on discovering the undiscovered, challenging ourselves or even exploring our spirituality.
According to Buddhist tradition, Gautama Buddha or ‘the awakened one’ lived and taught in the eastern subcontinent between the 6th and 4th centuries BC, helping his followers reach enlightenment and the ultimate goal of ‘nirvana’.
Today, Buddhism is practiced by an estimated 7% of the world’s population, or around 500 million people. This number has grown from 138 million in 1910 thanks to the religion’s increasing worldwide popularity during the 20th and 21st centuries.
If you’re interested in learning more about Buddhism via a spiritual getaway, you’ll already know that Asia is the place to go. China has the world’s highest concentration of Buddhists: around 244 million people or 18% of the country’s population. Buddhism is also popular in India, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Burma, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia and Russia.
Mindfulness, meditation and yoga are key to the Buddhist way of life. Head to one of these retreats to hone your practice.
The Middle Way Meditation Retreat in north-eastern Thailand is a compound surrounded by lush tropical forest, waterfalls and walking trails. It boasts wooden bungalow accommodation, indoor and outdoor meditation spaces and dhammakaya meditation based on Tibetan Buddhist teachings.
Yoga Nepal in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley offers daily yoga and meditation classes with experienced instructors, teachings from Tibetan Buddhist scholars, vegetarian catering and the chance to visit nearby holy sites, temples and monasteries.
Ananda in the Himalayas is set on an estate in the foothills of the Himalayas in India, with views over the Ganges and the nearby temple villages of Rishikesh and Haridwar. The retreat features a spa, gardens, several meditation and yoga pavilions and luxurious accommodation. It offers private guided meditation, Buddhist teachings and yogic breathing sessions.
Buddha tells his monks to live as ‘islands unto themselves’ by renouncing conventional life and becoming monastic. Visit one of these monasteries to observe the monks’ devotion to the ‘three jewels’ of Buddha, Dharma (teachings) and Sangha (community).
Thikse Monastery, India – Founded in the mid-15th century, this 12-story structure sits on top of a hill at an altitude of 3,600 metres in India’s Indus Valley and is home to 60 Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Gelug sect. Visit in October to November when the Gustor Ritual Festival is held, which features sacred dances, a trade fair and morning prayers with chanting. There are hotels and restaurants in the nearby town of Thiksey and it costs 20 rupees to enter the monastery.
Xuankong Temple, China – Aptly nicknamed the Hanging Monastery, this temple sits on a cliff 75 metres above the ground in China’s Shanxi province. Dangling on a sheer precipice, in 2010 Time magazine named it one of the world’s top 10 ‘most odd dangerous buildings’. Built more than 1500 years ago, this monastery is also unique for its combination of influences from three traditional Chinese religions: Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism.
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