Pilgrimage: The spiritual traditions of India and Nepal

May 8, 2014

Join Father Tomaso Kane, CSP, and Father Tom Ryan, CSP, for a special study-pilgrimage as we explore the spiritual traditions of India and Nepal Jan. 30-Feb. 19, 2015. We will visit temples, learn of various spiritual traditions and see the intercultural mix of Christianity with many different world religions. This pilgrimage has been specially designed for both spiritual seekers who are interested in learning more about different spiritual practices, and the religiously committed who are interested in the potential for mutual enrichment in the interreligious encounter.

We begin in Delhi as we explore the magnificent Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque, and enjoy a rickshaw tour through the bustling Chandni Chowk bazaar and on to the Red Fort. The next day, we fly in the early morning to Kathmandu (We will apply for our visas on arrival) and will be met by Gregory Sharkey, SJ, who heads the Buddhist Centre at Kathmandu. Greg will join us for three days of travel throughout the region with lectures on Buddhism.

After breakfast, we return to Delhi and drive to Rajastan and the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur; we visit the hillside Amber Fort on elephant and visit many Hindu temples. We then head east to the former royal city of Fatehpur Sikri, one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture, and then proceed to Agra. We begin with an early morning visit to Taj Mahal, one of world’s most famous architectural monuments.

After a day tour, we fly to Varanasi on the Ganges, considered the holiest city of India and the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, which stands on the western bank of the river Ganges, and is one of the most revered Shiva temples. We visit Sarnath, where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon after he attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. Sarnath is also a religious and sacred place for Jains. This evening, we will witness the thousand-year-old Aarti ceremony, during which worshippers pray near the water by the light of candles and lanterns. At sunrise, we take a boat ride on the Ganges, when it is full of pilgrims doing their morning water rituals in the river. We pass the most important ghats/steps leading down to the river and continue on foot to explore the narrow lanes of the Bengali Tola area, one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth.

We then fly to Chennai in the early evening. After breakfast, we celebrate the liturgy at St. Thomas Cathedral, a Roman Catholic basilica built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, over the tomb of St Thomas the Apostle. After Mass we visit Mylapore on the seacoast, the place of the martyrdom of St. Thomas, and visit an Eastern Rite Catholic community in the area. Then we drive to the seashore to Mahabalipuram, the site for several antique sculptural marvels. In this ancient seaside town are found shrines and huge sculptures cut out of rocks more than 1200 years back, examples of Dravidian style of architecture.

After breakfast at the hotel we make our way to Pondicherry, a former French colony on the east coast of South India, then on to Tanjore, a city of temples. We then head toward Shantivanam Ashram, founded in 1950 by Father Jules Monchanin and Dom Henry LeSaux, the pioneers of Indian-Christian dialogue. The ashram community and its work was later led by Dom Bede Griffiths. We will have special programs and worship at the Ashram, a center of contemplative life and dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism. Its peace and quietude will provide us with a supportive environment to review and process together the experiences lived as we conclude our pilgrimage. On the last day we drive to Chennai to fly onwards to the USA.

Dates: Jan. 30-Feb. 19, 2015

Price: $3,500 per person (plus $100 in tips, $1,095 air on Emirates from Dulles International in Washington, D.C. Single supplement is $850) $500 deposit and registration due before Oct. 1, 2014.

Contact: Pat Watson, Paulist Reconciliation Ministries, 3015 Fourth Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20017. 202-269-2550. pwatson.landings@gmail.com