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Frequently Asked Questions
Please take a look and see if your questions have already been answered.
Frequently Asked Topics
|What to Bring||Location and Travel Information|
|Weather/When to Visit||Accommodation in McLeod Ganj|
|Accommodation at Tushita||Meals at Tushita|
|Health & Safety||Donation Policy|
And see below for other frequently asked questions:
Courses – General
What is Tushita’s donation policy?
Tushita Meditation Centre operates entirely on the basis of donations, most of which come from people attending our courses and retreats. We have calculated the minimum amount that Tushita needs to cover our costs on our residential courses (including all meals, accommodation and administrative expenses for the full duration of the course) and ask that students help us by giving at least this minimum amount.
As a guideline, we would normally ask for a minimum of 6,000 Indian Rupees (Euro 85, US$ 90) for a 10-day residential course, staying in a large dormitory. This minimum amount differs depending on type of room and duration of the course. Of course, extra donations to help Tushita are always welcome!
If you are comfortable with this and would like to proceed with your registration, please fill out the relevant registration form. We will then reply with more specific information.
No deposit is required for an Introduction to Buddhism course and it isn’t possible to reserve a particular kind of room in advance by making an early payment (see how our room allocation system works here).
For Intermediate Level courses: We do ask for an advance deposit to secure your place since they run parallel to Introduction courses and we have to be sure about how many people will attend so that we can allocate rooms accordingly, but we’ll send you more information about this when we confirm your place on the course.
For Indian Citizens: All donations made to Tushita by Indian Citizens are exempted under section 80G(2)(a)(iv) of the Income Tax Act, 1961. This means that 50% of your donation amount will be eligible for tax exemptions, subject to a limit of 10% of your adjusted gross total income. Tax Exemption is not useful for foreign nationals as it is not valid in other countries. A copy of the 80G certificate is available here.
How many people take part in your courses?
It’s difficult to say for sure how many people will come for particular course dates… numbers depend greatly on the weather, the season, who is teaching the course, the International political and economic climate, whether or not His Holiness the Dalai Lama is teaching just before or after the course… so many factors.
However, it’s guaranteed that you won’t be alone – student numbers on our Introduction to Buddhism courses have risen sharply in the last few years and nowadays we have to start a Waiting List for most of our Introduction to Buddhism courses at least a few weeks before the course starts.
Our smallest Introduction course of the year tends to be the first one in February (because it’s cold!) with sometimes 50 students. Our biggest ever Introduction course had 108 students. So, you can expect a number of participants somewhere between 50 and 108! The average overall number of students on an Introduction to Buddhism course in 2015 was 80.
Our Intermediate Level courses and Group Retreats are much smaller since students on them are required to have some prior experience within Buddhist Philosophy, and we usually host them in one of our smaller meditation halls, where we have to limit numbers. On our group retreats, we usually have around 15 – 30 students.
However, in recent years our intermediate courses have become very popular and are often fully booked months before the course starts. We sometimes have 50 enthusiastic students squeezed into one of our smaller gompas.
Please don’t write just to ask if there is space on a course. Unless it’s clearly indicated on our home and registration page that there is a waiting list, there almost certainly will be space and you’ll save time by just sending us the relevant registration form. All our registration forms can be found at the bottom of the relevant course information page.
When is the deadline to register for a course?
Check-in for the course starts at 1pm on the first day; there is no specific deadline for registration before this.
However, space in the meditation hall, and especially our accommodation, is limited, particularly during our traditional peak season of April – June (and in the last few years the monsoon months of July – September have been very busy too).
In general, our advice for any course or retreat is that you register as soon as you are certain that you would like to attend. Naturally, registrations tend to come in faster in the weeks before a course will begin. Our Introduction to Buddhism courses have become extremely busy in the last few years and it is possible that a waiting list may be put in place, so we do advise you to register early.
Other courses or retreats may have pre-requisites which would require more advance notice.
General advice: Don’t leave it until the last minute!
Please don’t write just to ask if there is space on a course, there almost certainly will be and you’ll save time by just sending us the relevant registration form. All our registration forms can be found at the bottom of the relevant course information page.
What is the waiting list and how does it work?
Our Introduction to Buddhism courses are very popular and for most courses we have to start a waiting list. This may be 1 week or even 6 weeks before the course starts.
If we start a waiting list this will be very clearly indicated on our homepage and the registration page. Instead of asking us if there is still space available and to save yourself and us time and effort, please fill out the registration form on our website.
You can just register for one course at a time.
When our website shows that there is a waiting list for a course what does this mean?
It means that we cannot guarantee that you will have a place on this course!
- Only consider registering for the waiting list if you are already in this area and are certain that you are happy to take a chance.
- Do not register if you are still abroad or in far away places in India – you may spend much money, time and effort getting here and be very disappointed if you don’t get a spot on the course.
- If you will be in India for a while or are an Indian citizen please register for a future course that doesn’t yet have a waiting list, so your spot is guaranteed.
If you are registered on the waiting list please come to Tushita by 1 pm on check-in day when introductory talk begins. Bring all your things and be ready to attend the course in case you get a spot. Please read carefully all the information on our website concerning this course, especially the retreat environment and rules of discipline.
Please be aware that we won’t be able to tell you whether there is a place for you until all confirmed participants are checked in! It’s up to you if you are happy to wait and would like to take the chance of perhaps getting a spot on the course.
Please do not ask us what number you are on the waiting list. We simply don’t know in advance how many people from both confirmed and waiting lists will or will not show up on check-in day. Unfortunately there are often a large number of people who do not turn up on registration day, so your position on the list is irrelevant.
If you registered for the waiting list but then decide not to come, please cancel your registration.
What kind of meditation is practiced at Tushita?
There are various types of meditation in Tibetan Buddhism, and we practice a few of them in our introductory courses.
During all our courses, the 6:45am morning session is generally a mindfulness/shamatha meditation, intended to develop a foundation of quietude and concentration for the rest of the day (focusing on the breath for example) while in the other meditation sessions the students are guided in doing analytical meditations on the topics covered in the previous classes. These could involve visualisation techniques, or the use of mantra recitation as an alternative object of attention.
The 9:30am daily drop-in meditations could be either of the above. All meditations are led by the course teacher or Buddhist practitioners with experience.
Are your courses held in silence?
Yes. Students keep complete silence from the evening of the first day (after dinner) to the morning of the last (after breakfast).
Philosophical Study and Meditation retreats take energy, commitment and discipline. Especially for beginners, being in retreat is not easy and we have to adjust to keeping silence. Tushita aims to provide an environment conducive to self-reflection, and our silence policy is a crucial part of maintaining that environment. In order to best attune yourself to this, please read more about this Retreat Environment here.
There are 2 common misconceptions about silence on retreat:
- Silence does not only mean not speaking, but any form of communication which will distract yourself or others from concentrating on the retreat (extroverted physical expression, gesturing or writing notes to other students, for example).
- Silence on retreat also doesn’t mean the complete absence of noise. This is India, perfect silence is very rare! We’re located in a forested area, so it’s generally peaceful, but you can expect to hear a little noise from the local village, monkeys, delivery trucks etc.
Also, the focus here is on the study of Buddhist Philosophy, which involves lecture-style teaching. The teachers also make time during the teaching sessions for students to ask questions, and participants are allowed to take notes and keep journals related to their experiences on the course. Reading of Dharma books is encouraged. This is in contrast to meditation-only retreats such as Goenka Vipassana.
Through silencing our body and speech, we will become much more aware of the absence of silence in our mind. In working to quieten our mind, we may experience a lot of ups and downs during the retreat. True silence is the quietening of our own minds. Being in an environment where other people are respecting these rules is enormously helpful in maintaining them yourself, but the aim is not to control the outside environment and the behaviour of others, but to develop patience and stillness within ourselves. Therefore, please be gentle in your behaviour and sensitive to fellow course participants and staff.
The only time for communication with other students is a one-hour ‘discussion group’ session in each of the first 6 days. Students are spilt into groups of around 6 – 10 people and asked to discuss points raised during the teachings. All students are required to join these discussion groups. Although it can be difficult to return to silence after this hour, feedback from students at the end of courses consistently tells us that the discussion groups are of great benefit.
Please be aware that silence at all other times is compulsory. For many people, this may be the first time they have ever spent more than a few hours without communicating with others, and it can be a very challenging experience. Body and mind are not used to these very different circumstances and may react with discomfort, restlessness, boredom, doubt, criticism, or fatigue. Preparing yourself by anticipating these reactions, and committing to stick to the discipline of retreat even if they arise can be transformatory.
This is why, in addition to the silence policy described above, we ask you to ensure that you have completed all your outside communications/travel arrangements etc before you arrive for check-in, to put any communication or entertainment devices (phones, cameras, laptops, MP3 players etc) into our safe and not to leave the property for the duration of the course. Students who do not follow these rules will be reminded of them by teachers and staff; if the student has to be reminded a number of times, they will then be asked to leave the course.
You can read more about our rules of discipline here.
Are there guidelines for appropriate behaviour while staying at Tushita?
Yes, you can see more here.
I see that there is a yoga session in the course. Do you also offer yoga courses?
No, we do not offer yoga courses.
There is a 45-minute daily ‘simple stretching’ session scheduled into our introductory courses (whenever a teacher is available), because simple yogic and stretching exercises can increase one’s ability to sit comfortably in meditation, but we are a centre for the study of Buddhist Philosophy & Meditation, not yoga.
What is “Karma Yoga”? Why do you ask course participants to do it?
During the course we ask every student to do one job while they are here. This will usually take you between 15-20 minutes a day and could be anything from cleaning toilets to recording the teachings, with many possibilities in between (washing dishes, sweeping, window cleaning, assisting with office admin…). We allocate these jobs at check-in, and ask you to be as open and flexible as possible to the job we ask you to do.
We ask everyone to do this because:
- Volunteers do much of the work at Tushita. When more people come up to do a course, there is also more work to be done; more dishes, more cleaning… So, we hope that each person staying here or doing a course would contribute a little bit to the Centre by doing a small daily chore. If everyone in the course helps just for 15-20 minutes daily that adds up as a great help and the whole community can function well.
- If one has an attitude of wanting to help, serve and benefit others, that creates a positive, happy state of mind. If one does the karma yoga with this attitude, one does not only benefit other people in the Centre but also makes oneself happy and content!
- One can also bring what one has learned during the meditation sessions into the karma yoga. One can try to be aware, mindful and simply observe the present moment. Mindfulness is like extended awareness; one is also aware of ones motivations; whether the action is beneficial or harmful. We are not supposed to have meditation as something separate from the rest of our life but to integrate meditation with our everyday life. In this way meditation supports our life and is much more than just a method to relax. Of course, this is extremely difficult. Normally we remember to stay in the present moment and observe our mind just for a short moment, but slowly one can learn! So, karma yoga can be done as one type of meditation, “karma yoga meditation”. If you gradually learn how to do that, no matter what you do (even going to toilet!) can be a spiritual practice, which at the end helps not only you but all around you!
Do you offer Vipassana courses?
No. Vipassana is a generic name for different techniques of insight meditation, which are practiced at Tushita (among other techniques), but the term Vipassana has in recent years become synonymous with meditation centres and 10-day courses established by Mr S.N. Goenka. Although we’re very happy to recommend these courses, it is not what you’ll find at Tushita. The focus of our courses is the study of Buddhist Philosophy.
If you’re interested in studying Vipassana as taught by Goenka please visit their International site at www.dhamma.org (international). There is a Goenka Vipassana centre next door to Tushita, offering 10-day courses which start on the 1st & 15th of the month, from April to November. For more information on this centre please visit www.sikhara.dhamma.org
Do you offer longer courses?
Most of our courses are 10-days in duration. For comprehensive information on all the courses we are currently able to offer, please see our fully updated schedule here. Please don’t email us to ask if we have any other courses; we keep this calendar fully updated – everything we have scheduled will be on this page!
For a longer and more in-depth Lam Rim (‘Graduated Path to Enlightenment’) course we highly recommend the 1-month course at Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal in November/December www.kopanmonastery.com.
For other centres and places of interest in the area, see LINKS.
Do you offer shorter courses?
Most of our courses are 10 days in length, but we are sometimes able to offer shorter courses, you can see more info here. For comprehensive information on all the courses we are currently able to offer, please see our fully updated schedule here. Please don’t email us to ask if we have any other courses; we keep this calendar fully updated – everything we have scheduled will be on this page!
If you are coming to this area just for a short visit please feel welcome to visit Tushita and enjoy its peaceful forest setting, inspiring meditation halls and excellent library. See DROP-IN SESSIONS for more information.
For recommendations for other Dharma activities in the area please see LINKS.
Who are the teachers?
Our courses are taught by experienced Western teachers, often monks or nuns in the Tibetan tradition.
Very occasionally we are fortunate enough to have Tibetan Lamas and Geshes (Tibetan equivalent to a professor in Buddhist philosophy, you need to undergo at least 15-20 years of traditional studies to be able to earn this title) as guest teachers for our introductory courses, but in general, you can expect to meet one of our teachers listed here.
Do you have a refund policy?
Yes, if you decide to leave our 10-day Introduction to Buddhism course within the first full day of the course (that is, before 1pm on the first full day), we will refund the REMAINING part of the total cost.
There is no refund for shorter courses, intermediate courses or group retreats.
Why do you ask for a non-refundable / non-transferable (to different course or person) deposit for your Intermediate courses and Group Retreats?
Our goal at Tushita is to make the Buddhist Dharma as accessible as possible. This has always included an easy registration system for our students. Nowadays most people encounter Tushita via our website, and since registration didn’t require any further commitment until now, in recent years we have had an increasing problem with no-shows on check-in day – that is, people who have registered for a course not turning up, and not letting us know in advance.
We have tried to stay flexible, but with limited places and larger and larger student numbers this problem has become unworkable. By 2013 – 14, up to 50% of the students registered weren’t showing up to the course/retreat and many of those who did cancel in advance, only did so a day or two beforehand. This sadly results in unnecessary confusion and a lot of extra work for us (particularly as we often have 2 courses running in parallel), and long waiting lists and uncertainty for our students.
Therefore, our only option has been to formalise registration by attaching a requirement of a non-refundable deposit. At the moment, we only have this system in place for Intermediate courses and Group Retreats. Introduction to Buddhism courses remain unaffected for the time being.
Our motivation behind this policy is not at all about money, but rather using money as a tool for motivating students to be decisive and committed. This is why there is the proviso of the deposit being NON-REFUNDABLE / NON-TRANSFERABLE. Therefore, please only register if you are at least very confident that you want to, and WILL BE ABLE TO join us at 1pm on the first day of the course or retreat.
And so, the new registration system for Intermediate courses and Group Retreats works like this:
1. Assess how confident you are that you will be able to join this course. If you feel very confident about it, then…
2. Fill out the appropriate registration form.
3. Shortly after we receive your registration form, we’ll send you an email. If you meet the other criteria for acceptance onto the course or retreat, we’ll include information about how to make the non-refundable / non-transferable (to different course or person) deposit, including how much it is. The amount required is different for different courses (but as a guide, approximately 2000 INR / $35 USD for 9-day course).
4. We’ll ask you to make that deposit asap. Your place on the course or retreat will not be confirmed until that we receive notification that you have paid the deposit. If you do not make the deposit, your name will not be added to the registration list and a place will not be kept for you. If you later decide or realise that you cannot join the course, no refund of this deposit will be given.
We very much hope that this new system will prove to be beneficial for all concerned.
Courses – Concerns & Advice
Can I join a course later, or leave earlier than scheduled?
No. You can see a typical Introduction to Buddhism course schedule here. At the bottom of this page, you will see that we have written:
Please Note: This schedule highlights different elements of the course structure, but be aware that the course is a cohesive package running from 1pm on Check-In Day to 1pm on Check-Out Day. Late Arrival or Early Departure is not permitted. Please make your travel arrangements accordingly. Thank you!
During our 40 years of experience, we have found that our 10-day “Introduction to Buddhism” program is the most comprehensive and concise structure in which to teach the basic principles of Buddhism and to miss parts of this course would be to undermine what can be absorbed from the course in its entirety.
In addition, it can also be very distracting or distressing for the other students when someone leaves early, being that everyone is required to keep silence and they may not understand why someone has gone.
And on top of all these factors, we have large courses, with many students. Tushita is run by a very small group of extremely busy and hard-working volunteers, and arrival or departure outside our efficient and carefully planned group check-in and check-out sessions is an enormous burden to the staff. Please consider timely arrival and departure the first step on abiding by the course discipline.
English is not my first language. Do you think that I will be able to understand the teachers?
The entire course will be taught in English, but do not worry too much if English is not your first language. On average, more than half of the participants on our courses are not native English speakers. The teachers on the course know this and try to speak clearly and to explain Buddhist terms.
We also have Dharma glossaries in Hebrew, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Indonesian here at Tushita and you can view or download the glossaries in PDF format from our website here.
We also have some books in a few other languages in our library (we also welcome any donations you’d like to make of others!).
You may also find it helpful to read our “Introduction to Buddhism” course materials before you join the course or to listen to some of the audio files on our resources page. Here we have recordings of several of our regular teachers, so you can listen and check your comprehension.
Feedback from former students suggests that if you understand English fairly well, you should be okay.
It is not possible for us to provide translation during the course; if you feel that your English comprehension is not high enough to join one of our courses, you could try taking classes in a Buddhist centre in your home country, or finding teachings on the internet in your language. We have lists of other centres around the world and information about online resources on our links pages.
Can I exercise during the course?
Firstly, we’ve like to remind you that we do NOT run yoga courses. We are a centre for the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy, not a Yoga centre. Many students who come to this area are interested in both, but we want to make it very clear that in our tradition we do not combine yoga and philosophy to the extent that other traditions do, so please do not expect there to to be any instruction or allotted time for these practices.
There is usually a slot for stretching within the schedule of our Introduction courses. Please note that we intentionally do not call this a yoga class, in order to make the distinction very clear: we only want students to be able to stay physically active and flexible enough to be able to make them more comfortable when sitting, in meditation and during class. There is usually a teacher for this stretching class, and we clearly instruct that teacher to keep any postures simple and only for the purpose of counteracting any stiffness from sitting. We prefer that students restrict their exercise time to this period, and to this group activity since personal exercise can be distracting to other students (elaborate yoga positions, etc). For people disinclined to this class, we ask them to practice walking meditation around the property instead.
We ask that students agree not to leave the property during the course, and our property is small, so it is not possible to go for a run. There is a steep staircase within the property which when climbed up and down should provide sufficient exercise, but we will ask that you do not run, as students are focussing on quiet internal reflection (ideally with the body at rest) and raising the cardio-vascular processes are not conducive to this! On the Typical Introduction to Buddhism course schedule, you will see that each day is a full day programme and so doesn’t allow for any personal exercise time, and anyway, you may be surprised at how tired you will be!
Can I smoke while I'm at Tushita?
Tushita is no-smoking zone.
We are part of a wider organisation called the FPMT, which holds the Five Buddhist Precepts as the basis of ethics in FPMT centers. These basic ethical priciples are defined by the FPMT as “not to kill, steal, indulge in sexual misconduct, lie or take intoxicants. Intoxicants include alcohol, narcotics and cigarettes.”
A Dharma environment depends on each member of the community emphasizing Dharma in their own life. To facilitate this, all those visiting or living in the centre are required to live within these basic five precepts.
For smokers attending our courses we have allocated a small area on the edge of our property, at the bottom of a steep staircase, so be prepared to combine your smoking with some exercise!
Please be advised though that the silence policy will still be very much in place in this area and in general we STRONGLY encourage all students to use their time at Tushita as an opportunity to give up smoking. Tobacco agitates the body and mind in such a way that serious meditation is not possible for smokers. Plus – it’s really bad for you!!
A Visa for India: Can you give me information, advice or assistance?
Ah, visas! About the only conclusive information we can give you about visas for India is that if you are a citizen of any country other than India, then you will need to arrange a visa before you get here. Almost without exception, that will be a Tourist Visa.
Other than that, there is nothing definite we can tell you. The length, duration, type and terms of visas to India and/or how complex the application procedure will be are different for different Nationalities, and prone to frequent and unpredictable changes.
For current information which will specifically relate to your Nationality and status, you will have to contact your nearest Indian Embassy or Consulate, which you can locate here:
Tushita can give you no further information or assistance in obtaining your visa.
We are not recognised by the Indian Government as an educational institution and therefore cannot help you to obtain a student visa, or indeed any other kind of visa. Consequently we cannot provide you with any kind of letter or certification which would make your visa application run more smoothly.
In fact, if you are applying for a Tourist visa, you may endanger your application by stating that you are coming to India to study. Indian Immigration authorities have radically tightened up their screening process in recent years, and they are very strict about ensuring that people on Tourist visas are just here for Tourist purposes.
There’s no conflict whatsoever about taking one of our courses while on a Tourist visa, just be very clear when you are applying for your visa that you are coming to India only to be a Tourist!
I have no experience with Buddhism or meditation. Can I attend an introduction course?
Yes. As long as you are prepared to commit to the discipline of being on a course here (ie. being in silence for 10 days, not using any communication or entertainment devices, not leaving the property for the duration of the course – see more info here), there are no pre-requisites to attend our Introductory courses.
Most students who attend these courses have had little or no contact with Buddhist philosophy/meditation and our Introduction to Buddhism courses are designed with beginners in mind.
However, many students with previous experience also find it very beneficial to join our introductory courses in order to review and contemplate more deeply the essential points of the path.
I’m not a complete newcomer to Buddhism, but I haven’t taken one of your Introduction to Buddhism courses before. Can I join an Intermediate Level Course?
Our first question in reply would be “Why not take an Introduction course?”. Buddhist understanding should not be measured in breadth but depth, and every good student knows that there’s always something new to learn! Although the courses are called “Introduction to Buddhism”, many experienced students also take part (even long-term monastics!) and find them of immense value. Students sometimes repeat the course; when teachings and guided meditations are heard from different teachers, their varied perspectives and styles – combined with your own personal experiences acquired since your last course – can stimulate fresh insights for even the most experienced students. We particularly recommend that you take an Introduction course if you have only learned about Buddhism from books; nothing compares to being taught by an actual teacher.
We often receive registrations for Intermediate Level courses from people who have meditation experience: we must stress that our courses focus on Buddhist Philosophy rather than the deepening of meditation practice and therefore meditation experience alone is not sufficient to qualify a student for one of our Intermediate Level courses. For example, the Vipassana meditation technique (as taught by SN Goenka) is a wonderful practice which we wholeheartedly endorse, but we know from personal experience that the retreats do not provide equivalent philosophical depth to our 10-day “Introduction to Buddhism” courses.
If you have studied a lot within another Buddhist tradition, you will also find a great deal of new information on our courses. Here at Tushita, we follow a traditional presentation of Tibetan Buddhist teaching known as the Lam-Rim (The Graduated Path to Enlightenment). This is a systemized overview of Buddhist Philosophy and students of other traditions may not be familiar with some aspects of it. Buddhist Philosophy investigates many subtle conceptual points: different traditions often use different terminology or translations which may actually conflict with those common in other lineages. Consequently, long-term students of other traditions who have not studied Tibetan Buddhist philosophy before sometimes find our programs more challenging than those who have never studied Buddhism at all.
Therefore, we qualify students as being “Intermediate Level” once they have taken one of our (or our sister centre’s) 10-day Introduction to Buddhism courses or formal equivalent, because our Intermediate level courses assume a solid understanding of the Lam-Rim. It’s our way of making sure that everyone is “on the same page”; of course we try to be flexible, so if having read the above you still feel strongly that an Intermediate Level course would be more suitable for you, then contact us.
I have been having emotional problems recently. Do you think that your introductory course might help me to gain some balance in my life?
This is a very difficult and subjective question to answer. The nature of mind and emotions are extremely important topics in Buddhist philosophy and will be covered in some detail on the introductory course. In the teaching sessions, you will learn about Buddhist perspectives on mind and the problems we all deal with, which can be summarized as delusions based on desire, hatred and ignorance. In the meditation sessions, you will have time to investigate the relevance of these Buddhist perspectives to your own experience and learn techniques to deal with negativity and increase peace, happiness and compassion in your daily life.
But students are cautioned from thinking of this course as being a ‘cure’ for all the troubles of our everyday lives. Be realistic; this is a great start but by no means the end of all our worries. Please be aware that this is a course of instruction, it is not intended to be a therapy retreat and the teachers and staff are not trained psychotherapists. This course / practicing meditation should NOT be considered as a substitute for professional counselling or prescribed medication.
There will be opportunities to ask questions to clarify any difficulties you may be having in understanding the philosophical points raised, but in such large courses (up to 80 people), teachers cannot extensively counsel students on personal difficulties they might be experiencing.
Also, if you have been experiencing severe emotional problems, this may not be the right time to take part in a course that introduces such new and challenging ideas.
Meditation can also access new awareness of physical and mental experiences that can be unsettling, particularly if you have a history of emotional instability. In which case, for the safety and comfort of yourself and all the students and teachers on the course, we ask that you honestly question whether this course would be appropriate for you at this time. If you feel that it would be a healthy decision to join the course, we ask that you inform Tushita management of any concerns or psychological history when registering, so that we can offer appropriate support should it be needed.
To learn about Buddhism is to learn about yourself; how your mind works and how this affects your life. It’s up to you to apply this wisdom!
How should I prepare for my course?
Please complete all your business in town (travel arrangements, e-mails, phone calls, etc.) before the first session begins. In order to keep the atmosphere conducive to inner reflection and spiritual pursuit, during the course you will also be asked to not leave Tushita property, to attend all sessions, be punctual for each session, maintain silence and to leave your mobile phone / laptop / MP3 player, etc. in our secure safe to help support your silence and focus on the course. More information about this basic code can be read here.
Please make sure that you are in good physical and mental health before you join a course. We are not medical professionals and will not be able to take care of you if you are sick. We must be responsible given that we cater to a large number of people in a shared environment, so we strongly request you not join the course if you are feeling unwell. More information about health & safety can be found here.
Though it is not required, some students like to do some preparatory reading. Click here for a comprehensive recommended reading list. You may also want to take a look at the “Introduction to Buddhism” course materials that are used on most courses, or the Dharma glossaries in several languages.
I have an ongoing medical condition. Is it okay for me to join the course?
In general, if you’re healthy and mobile enough to travel in India, then you’re healthy and mobile enough to join a course! Of course it depends what your condition is and the extent to which it would affect the other students or your ability to participate fully in the course.
For example, please consult a medical professional before you join the course if you have stomach problems or flu-like symptoms and please inform us if you are taking any medication for depression/anxiety etc. In this respect, please make sure that you are in good physical and mental health before you join a course. We are not medical professionals and will not be able to take care of you if you are sick. We must be responsible given that we cater to a large number of people in a shared environment, so we strongly request you not join the course if you are feeling unwell and have not sought medical attention for it.
If you have a problem with mobility, please be aware that India will probably be a challenging place for you in any case, but don’t worry about not being able to sit cross-legged during meditation, it’s no problem to use a chair.
Considering the large number of people we cook for, as well as the very wide variety of food allergies/preferences, we unfortunately are NOT able to provide for special dietary needs. This includes dairy, gluten, lactose and wheat allergies. You can read about our meals here.
You can read more about Health & Safety issues here.
I’m not sure whether to take your course or a 10-day Goenka Vipassana Course. Do you have any advice?
Both courses are excellent, and we are very happy to recommend Vipassana courses (please keep in mind that the following points only apply to Vipassana courses as taught by Goenka, not other forms of Vipassana courses, for example like those you can find in Thailand). The Tushita ‘Introduction to Buddhism’ course and Goenka Vipassana courses are both residential, 10 days in duration, held in silence, and are open to anyone of any religion. However, they are very different from each other in other regards and each may be more suitable to different people at different times. Here are some points to consider:
Emphasis: On the Vipassana course you can expect to learn a meditation technique and have the opportunity to practice it over 10 days of strict silence. Apart from a 90 minute video each evening, there is almost no teaching of the philosophy involved, while the emphasis of Tushita’s course is on explaining Buddhist philosophy, using a few different meditation techniques to help you to absorb and apply this knowledge to your own experiences.
Schedule: Students will find the Tushita schedule lighter than a Vipassana course. In a Vipassana centre, the wake-up time is 4am, and sessions of sitting meditation run pretty much continuously throughout the day from 4:30am up to around 9pm (see their website for the exact schedule). This means that you are sitting for approximately 12 hours a day. At Tushita, the wake-up time is 6am, sessions run from 6:45 to around 9pm and there is a mixture of meditation, teaching, stretching (simple yoga), discussion groups, and a break after lunch for reading, resting or contemplation.
Silence: Vipassana courses are held in ‘Noble Silence’, which as well as not speaking, means avoiding eye contact, not writing and not reading anything other than Vipassana literature. Silence is also observed on Tushita courses, however, you need not avoid eye contact, and there is one discussion group session a day (except in the last 2 days of meditation retreat), where students are divided into groups of 6 – 10 people to discuss what they have learned in the previous day, resuming silence after the session. Also, since our courses involve a lot of information, we actually encourage people to take notes, and we have a well-stocked library from which you are welcome to read any Dharma material.
Availability: Goenka Vipassana centres follow the same schedule and use the same teaching videos in all of their centres all over the world. This continuity is a strength of the Vipassana system, but in this respect it makes no difference whether you take the course in India, your home country or anywhere in between. Although Tushita is part of a wider organisation, few places offer courses like Tushita’s and studying in this environment is a near-unique opportunity.
In short…! If you’re looking for a deep meditation retreat, you may prefer Vipassana; if you’re interested in gaining knowledge about Buddhist philosophy and using your time in India to learn a few techniques to increase balance and harmony in your life, then Tushita may be for you!
My partner/friend and I are joining the course together. Do you have any advice for us?
Our general advice would be to have a sense of joining the course as an individual; of focussing on your own experience for the duration of the course rather than as one half of a couple.
As well as having separate rooms and of course being asked to abide by our basic code of discipline regarding celibacy and maintaining silence, you will also be asked to avoid any physical contact, to sit apart in the meditation hall and at meal times, to have separate karma yoga jobs and discussion groups. This is intended as a support for your silence and ability to allow your own, personal process to evolve.
We encourage you to discuss your approach to the discipline before you start the course and to make a commitment to maintain distance during it so that you don’t influence each other too much, or feel offended when your partner doesn’t speak to you for 10 days! If so, it’s our experience that you’ll find it an enriching experience, both for yourself and for your relationship.
Accommodation & Facilities
How does your room allocation system work?
When you register for a course, your name is added to a list. We use the numerical order of this list to allocate rooms at 1pm on the first day of the course, so if you registered several months previously, your name will be amongst the first called out to go through the check-in procedure and be given a wider choice of accommodation.
This system means that early registration gives you a greater chance of getting a single room – so please come on time or expect a dormitory bed!
There will be constant alterations to this list due to cancellations or the inclusion of people with special requirements, so your “Registration Number” is not a fixed thing and is just for our administrative purposes (so please don’t ask us for it!). After many years of running these courses, we have found this system to be the fairest and most efficient.
Depending on how many volunteers we have staying here at the time, we only have between 6 – 10 single rooms, and a very high demand for them. We hope to raise enough money to build a new accommodation block soon, but for now we do our best to make everyone comfortable with our limited resources; we know that most people would prefer a single room, but please do not put us in the position of having to say no by asking for a single room if you don’t really need one.
However, if you are of a mature age (ie, over 50), physically challenged or have medical problems please let us know, and although we cannot guarantee any particular kind of room, we will do our best to accommodate your needs.
Can I stay at Tushita before or after my course?
Tushita does not operate as a guest house and it is not possible to stay here before your course begins since we have a lot of people to prepare for and much to do in the days running up to a course. There are however a huge number of hotels and guest houses nearby, you can see more information here.
Check-in begins at 1pm on the first day of the course, nothing will happen before that so please arrive then. If you arrive earlier you can leave your bag in the dining room and come back at 1pm, but please note that no meals will be provided here before check-in.
It is sometimes possible to stay for a night or two after your course, but we always have a fluctuating program and won’t be able to confirm that until just before, or possibly even during your course. Our current schedule is so full that it is unlikely that we’ll be able to let people stay for more than one night. Again, nearby accommodation is plentiful and flexible, it’s never a problem to find somewhere. If it is possible to stay after the course, a condition may be that we ask you to help us to clean up. Information will be given when you’re here.
The only other way it is possible to stay at Tushita is for established Buddhist practitioners who are undertaking their own strict personal retreat of 10 days or more. You can see more information here.
Can I stay at Tushita if I am not attending a course or retreat?
Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to stay at Tushita unless you are attending one of our courses or retreats. We do not operate as a guesthouse and are not an ashram. It’s helpful to think of Tushita as a Dharma Centre which just runs courses and retreats on the dates listed on our fully updated Calendar of Events.
Courses at Tushita tend to be very popular and these days our courses tend to be at near capacity every time. Due to this we have very limited accommodation space, and so we make our rooms available only for:
- Students participating on our scheduled residential courses or group retreats.
- Experienced meditators doing their own individual STRICT formal Buddhist retreats (of a MINIMUM 10 days duration – see info on our Personal Retreat page here).
If you wish to visit Tushita but don’t have the time to attend one of our Introduction to Buddhism courses or other retreats, then please consider staying nearby where there are a huge number of guesthouses (see Accommodation in McLeod Ganj). You are then welcome to attend our Drop-In Sessions, visit our library or use one of our Gompas in order to meditate by yourself (if available, please ask at the reception office first).
Please be aware that there probably will be courses/retreats running at Tushita during your visit, and so we kindly request visitors to respect the silence and not hang around in the communal areas chatting. Many thanks for your understanding.
Can you recommend a good guesthouse in McLeod Ganj and the surrounding area?
Can I share a room with my friends or family?
Friends and family of the same gender will be accommodated in separate rooms in order to help support silence and focus on the course/retreat.
We are a semi-monastic Buddhist centre with resident nuns and monks. Everyone who stays here must abide by the 5 precepts, which include an agreement to practice celibacy. So couples and men/women must have separate accommodation.
You can see more about the discipline rules for staying at Tushita here.
What are the office and library opening hours?
Monday – Saturday
9:30 – 11:30
a break for lunch, and then…
12.30 – 4.00pm
Are phone and internet services available?
Not at Tushita. Students do not communicate with friends / family during the course, so you won’t need access to these services. As noted in the course/retreat discipline, course/retreat participants do not leave Tushita property for the entire course/retreat, so please ensure that you have settled all travel arrangements, emails, calls etc BEFORE you come to Tushita.
For people who are not involved in our courses, there are available in local shops in the nearby village of Dharamkot (a 5 min walk away) or McLeod Ganj (a 15 to 20 min walk).
Do you provide bedding/meditation cushions?
Our rooms are very simply furnished, with a bed and mattress (you can see more about our accommodation here). Pillows, sheets and pillowcases are provided, as well as two blankets per bed.
We recommend and request that you bring your own sleeping bag. It is usually quite cold here in the mountains at night, even if it’s very hot in the plains of India. If you plan to travel anywhere else in this region it is advisable to have your own sleeping bag anyway.
We have some duvets (quilt / comforter/ dooner) available for rental at 200 rupees for the duration of the course. We have a very heavy monsoon season here with 3 months of wet and damp conditions and it isn’t practical/possible for us to store enough quilts to have one available for everyone. In addition, it isn’t necessary for everyone to have a quilt – in most cases the 2 blankets we provide will be enough, and we do expect most students to bring their own sleeping bag. If you do need a quilt, just inform us at check-in (please don’t email us beforehand about it).
We have plenty of meditation cushions here.
Is there a laundry service at Tushita?
Yes. An inexpensive, good quality laundry service is available here.
Laundry is collected every day except Sunday, and returned the following day. Because of the water shortage in this area at any time of year we ask course participants not to do their own laundry.
More info can be seen here and details about how the laundry service works will be given during the practical information talk after you check-in.
I would like to stay for a longer period in McLeod Ganj and study Buddhism and meditation. Do you have any suggestions?
It is highly recommended to start with an Introduction to Buddhism course. These courses are designed to give you a good basic understanding of the Buddhist Philosophy as well as the large variety of meditations practiced in this tradition. This lays the foundation, allowing you to have a first hand experience of buddhist teachings, the feel of a retreat environment, daily practice, as well as practical advice on how to integrate the philosophy and meditation practices into your daily life. After completing an Introduction course you should be in a much better position to plan further study and retreats, and will be in a much better position to judge what courses/retreats are suitable/appropriate for your level in order to get the most benefit (and not jump into the deep end too quickly).
If you have completed an Introduction to Buddhism course, then have a look at our Intermediate Level courses/retreats or if you simply wish to keep a daily practice going and prefer to meditate in a group then consider attending some of our Drop-In Sessions (which are also open to those who haven’t completed an Introduction course). Also keep an eye on our Calendar of Events for all the retreats/courses/special events happening at Tushita.
There are also many Dharma activities going on in the area around Tushita. We have lots of recommendations in our links section under “Other Buddhist Study Opportunities Nearby”. In particular there are regular teachings being given at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives teachings at his temple several times a year. His Holiness’ teachings (despite being listed on our calendar) do not take place at Tushita, nor do we organise or take bookings for them.
Please note that it is not possible to stay at Tushita unless you are attending one of our residential courses or are on a strict Personal Retreat (i.e. staying before, after or in between courses). There are a huge number of guesthouses in McLeod Ganj, Dharamkot and Bhagsu to suit any budget, where you can stay for as long as you wish and use as a base to attend Drop-In Sessions or non-residential teachings here at Tushita and teachings elsewhere (the Tibetan Library, IBD, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings, etc.). Click here for more information about accommodation in McLeod Ganj.
We wish you the best of luck with your Dharma journey, and look forward to seeing you at Tushita!
Is there anything happening at or around Tushita during the winter?
Winter break (Dec & Jan) – Tushita is closed in these months!
In general, December and especially January are not such good months to come to McLeod Ganj. It can get very cold here, most guest houses do not have heating and with the snow come the power cuts! Many centers have their winter break (the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives still holds classes in December, but not in January) and most of the guest houses and restaurants will be closed.
Most Westerners (and many Tibetans) escape the winter here and go to warmer places, where there are also more Dharma activities (especially in Bodhgaya!). This is the main season for Root Institute, our sister center in Bodhgaya: www.rootinstitute.ngo, or if you wish to escape the cold a little earlier then Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal holds its annual one month Lam-Rim course in November, see here for more information: www.kopanmonastery.com
Where can I study tibetan language / yoga / reiki / tai chi / thangka painting / massage / astrology / cooking etc. in the area?
There are many places in the area offering instruction in all of the above.
We are unable to offer any further advice or recommendations than you will find on these links.
Are there moneychangers and ATM's in McLeod Ganj?
Yes, there are many moneychangers in town and a few ATM’s in McLeod Ganj and lower Dharamsala (20 mins by bus/taxi).
Please be aware that there are many power cuts and other obstacles here and the ATM’s are not guaranteed to be functional at all times, so it is wise to not wait until the last minute to use them.
Please remember that we ask for your donation at the 1pm group check-in, so please be prepared.
Tushita is not an authorised moneychanger, so we cannot change foreign currency or traveller’s cheques, so WE CAN ONLY ACCEPT INDIAN RUPEES.
- Guided Meditation on April 29, 2017 9:30 am
- Movie Day on May 1, 2017 2:00 pm
- Guru Puja on May 5, 2017 6:30 pm
- Introduction to Buddhism on May 9, 2017
- Special Lam Rim Retreat on May 10, 2017
- Medicine Buddha Puja on May 10, 2017
- Introduction to Buddhism on May 29, 2017
- HH the Dalai Lama public teaching on June 5, 2017 6:30 am
- Saka Dawa on June 9, 2017
- The Two Truths on June 14, 2017
Tushita is a centre for the study and practice of Buddhism from the Tibetan Mahayana tradition. We're located in Northern India, in the forested hills above the town of McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala - the seat in exile of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Tushita aims to provide a friendly and conducive environment for people of all nationalities and backgrounds to learn about and put into practice the teachings of the Buddha. With this in mind we offer regular drop-in events and courses on introductory Buddhist philosophy and meditation, as well as intermediate level courses and group retreats for more experienced students.
February to November
Monday - Saturday
9:30 - 11:30am
a break for lunch and then...
12:30 - 4:00pm