Our philosophy

A search for equilibrium, learning and the inner journey are at the heart of Vana. Reflecting on our first few years, we believe that we have achieved something unprecedented in wellbeing.

We strive for equilibrium and wellbeing that is whole, at times by going against the current. Our ambition is to make Vana a place of learning, where all who visit can contribute and share. Vana never intended to exclude; we want all to benefit from our commitment to transform. Vanavasis, team members and friends are invited to walk on the Vana journey with us.

Authentic traditions of wellness, medicine and wisdom have been brought together at Vana with creative thought, deep commitment and personalised support. These exist in spaces that are homage to nature and the sublime. Nourishing cuisine, experiences for all the senses and a kind-hearted team complete the offering that is Vana. Ayurveda, Sowa Rigpa and Yoga have been thoughtfully integrated, yet rooted in their individual authenticity. Vana believes that by aspiring to achieve our best spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual self, we can live life more wholesomely. Know more…


Vana Elements

The Vana logo and name are a homage to nature and the forest. Vana means ‘forest’ in Sanskrit and we take inspiration from its nourishing, nurturing and selfless qualities.

Vana Elements
The common threads woven through Vana are:

  1. Nature (BUTTERFLY)
    Generosity, equanimity, interdependence, compounded existence, impermanence
  2. Spaces (BEE)
    Harmony, coherence, beauty, provocation, community
  3. Team (BRANCHES)
    Effort, selflessness, wisdom, awareness, togetherness
  4. Life at Vana (LEAVES)
    Activity, learning, creativity, joy, just being
  5. Wellness (LOTUS)
    Knowledge, purity, deep roots, empathy, transformation
  6. Cuisine (MANGO)
    Nourishment, healing, inspiration, fun, diversity
  7. You (DOVE)
    Discovery, courage, faith, journey, equilibrium

VANA TREE


BENEFIT TO ALL

Vana exists to serve its Vanavasis, its Team, its growing community of Shishyas, its country and Nature. Everyone with whom our karma intersects and whose wellbeing we enhance in some way, becomes part of the Vana Family. Each of these relationships is different but equally important.  Know more…


VANA TRIBE

Indian wisdom says that this human era is the Kalyug – the degenerate age of downfall. Delusion, greed and confusion characterise this time. But this also presents an opportunity for the fearless seeker. To unravel the mind and transform emotion; the essence of spiritual practice. Some might not have the knowing to articulate this aspiration, but find themselves attracted to places, people or situations that give momentum to their inner journey. Others have the merit or wisdom to conscientiously choose such a path. Vana’s life vision is to be of service and enhance wellbeing and this is what we look for, when we search for a Vana team member. Skills, intelligence, experience and elegance are all desirable. But for us, human qualities and the right intention supersede conventional attributes.

In time, we hope to provide opportunities to Vanavasis and other members of the Vana Family to serve and give of themselves to others, through Vana’s activities.


REVERANCE TO NATURE

Humanity’s abuse of nature is rooted in certain misconceptions. First, that the earth, its resources and the beings on it were made for humans to exploit. Second, that nature must be conquered by science and its intelligence surpassed. Third, the perception that nature is outside of us, not that we are within it. These misconceptions lead to ignorance which breeds greed and ego, manifesting in uncontrolled exploitation and suffering, even within us.

At Vana, our starting point is different. We have always tried to keep our impact as limited as possible, taking from nature as mindfully as possible. We usually fall way short of our own ideal standards but that is not for lack of trying. Behind many of Vana’s stories, in fact at the foundation of its existence, is a reverence to nature. Come to Vana to explore and find out more.



BEHIND VANA

Vana and Vana Foundation manifest the intentions of its founder Veer Singh. We have always believed that the land where our Retreat exists, the place Vana calls home, is blessed. But it is only through countless hours of work and creative energy, matched equally by willpower and focus,that we have come to make a small positive imprint. This is the beginning of Vana’s journey, intertwined intimately with that of Veer’s and his dedicated and well-intentioned team.

Over these first few years our team members continue to uncover Vana’s real purpose while finding their own. Meanwhile Vana evolves from its aspiration to be of service and enhance wellbeing to being of benefit to all sentient beings and even aspiring for their enlightenment. As the Retreat slowly brings in more facets of life into its fold, our foundation aspires to revive Indian wisdom and India’s greatest gift to the world, the Buddha’s teachings.

The seed of Vana was sown in Veer’s mind through his deep interest and respect for farming, traditional wisdom and nature. Spheres that we continue to nurture within Vana and beyond through Vana Foundation. We aspire to put the Indian farmer at the heart of India’s society once again, to make India the beacon of light for spiritual wisdom and to provoke a rebirth of some of its most meaningful and elegant traditions.

Behind Vana is the generosity, guidance and blessings of its founding family, nature and the sublime Gurus whose kindness are a motivation to Veer and the Vana Team.

Vana has unflinchingly set course on a path less travelled, yet far reaching and necessary for these times.


WAY FORWARD

As Vana crossed its third birthday, we began to conceptualise a fuller palette of activity for the Retreat that would express Vana’s vision more holistically. Wellness has been our centrepiece, with cuisine, aesthetics, nature, music, art and human effort wrapped around it.  Now, we wish to evolve to a new paradigm, where wisdom is both the foundation and the fruit, co-existing together with wellness, learning and giving.

The inner journey is the most challenging but essential aspect of one’s journey to greater wellbeing. In fact, it is beyond wellbeing, outside any definable references. As Vana, we cannot contrive someone’s journey beyond a point, but we can create opportunities through teachings, techniques, environment, people and resources. These must be rooted in the deepest wisdom traditions and offered only in their most authentic and undiluted form.  Know more…



VANA AS A CANVAS

The year 2017 saw three firsts for Vana; our first Short Retreat, our first Vana School and our first Vana Foundation Workshop.

Short Retreats at Vana will always be based around a key aspect of Indian Wisdom and will usually be led by a Master. The purpose of a Short Retreat would be to deepen spiritual practice for both beginners and intermediates. They are available to a greater spectrum of people given their duration of only a few days and their modest fees. Short Retreats must be attended in their entirety and be approached with dedication and focus. Wellness treatments and usual retreat activities are not offered to those on a Short Retreat and cuisine arranged specifically. We usually call those attending them Shishyas, which means ‘students’ in Sanskrit. These retreats also provide an opportunity to meet a wonderful diversity of people with the common intent to learn and deepen their understanding. Short Retreats are open to existing Vanavasis, Vana Foundation and Vidyaloke Shishyas and their genuine nominees, and must be signed up to in advance. We hope to offer them a few times times each year and Vanavasis may include a Short Retreat as part of a longer retreat.

The Vana School for Young Vanavasis in August 2017, marked the completion of a long-standing project, to create an opportunity for children and young people to benefit from Vana’s intention and work. It also marked the beginning of a new journey and plan to host the Vana School each year with improvements each time.

Accompanied by their parents, the Vana School shall open Vana to the age group of 0 to 15 for a curated retreat replete with activities, learning, authentic experiences and fun. Each element and space of Vana is transformed and our team is reinforced by external facilitators that bring in new areas of expertise. Our aspiration is to offer the Vana School for a defined period of time every summer.

In July 2017, we also hosted our first workshop for Vana Foundation to support its efforts in social, emotional and ethical learning. Vana seemed the perfect canvas for people, ideas and knowledge to come together, to think creatively and develop positive motivations. Vana is a place for the individual journey amidst the collective journey. The ability to serve an ever far-reaching purpose, by using parts of Vana as a space for respectful learning and exchange, is also part of Vana’s ambition.

Each year various artists and musicians come through Vana’s doors, fleetingly or for residencies. This adds to Vana’s creative energy. Vanavasis benefit from these encounters and often wish to participate or learn more. Vana will therefore have its own art studio and also a music recording studio. May great minds and great artists forever cross paths at Vana and may it be a refuge for creativity!

Vana is not only our offering to the world but also home to our vision and mission. Various new initiatives are springing forth here through ideation and collaboration amongst the Vana and Vana Foundation Teams. These include Vidyaloke, Vanaveda, Vana Krishi, Vanapurna, Vana Lifestyle and more, all of whom call our Retreat their home, laboratory and place of inspiration.


ALL ENTER AS EQUALS

Vana is a refuge for all beings. Harmony, nourishment and wellbeing are here for all on the Vana journey and the ultimate truth lies in perceiving all beings, people, plants and animals as equal. We hope you too share our feeling of equanimity for all. From this philosophy arises a sentiment that Vana is a leveller, where material differences are left outside, and people connect to each other and nature without hindrance. When we become truly aware, we recognise our interdependence.

At Vana, each human being is important. We do not conform to political, cultural or social stature or benchmarks. Our guidelines apply to all and our vision, mission and values take precedence over individual beliefs. We encourage Vanavasis to step out of their social personas as they retreat into Vana.


RETREAT RHYTHM

Experience tells us that it takes time to settle into Vana. Getting adequate rest and catching up on sleep is encouraged. Don’t fear missing out, because this slowing down is important. Surrendering to the experience of being at Vana is rewarding; control can be renounced without hesitation.

Our approach to each Vanavasi recognises their uniqueness, with a personalised program, that is open to iteration. While treatments, sessions and activities bring healing, vitality and learning, it is also important not to do too much. One must find time to just be and let things settle.

Shorter retreats allow one to rest and restore depleted energies. After a fortnight, one might achieve tangible wellness benefits and greater awareness. Three weeks onwards, transformation begins and deeper goals can be addressed. Beyond four weeks is when the layers really begin to unravel and wellbeing arises from within. Transformation then takes root with new habits and we find clarity through learning and practice, inspiring action towards greater realisation.



SIX SEASONS

Vana follows the six traditional ritus or seasons – Vasanta (spring), Grishma (summer), Varsha (monsoon), Sharad (autumn), Hemanta (pre-winter) and Shishira (winter). Each brings its own unique character, energy and grace, to which we adapt as best as we can. Our endeavour is to exist in equilibrium within nature. This takes effort but benefits Vanavasis, our team and the Retreat as a whole.

Any opportunity to work on one’s wellbeing is precious. Therefore there is no ideal time to come to Vana other than when one has the time. Experiencing Vana in each season also brings its own joys and pleasures. Our weather in general can be described as being temperate and we do not get North India’s infamous summer temperatures. Even the warmest days are not too hot and evenings are always cool.

The monsoons are the most lush and beautiful time at Vana, the best time to be on retreat as per Indian tradition. They begin in late June and end in early September.

Vana lives and breathes all year round.


Vanavas

Vanavas means to take abode in the forest and those that do are called Vanavasis. Vana draws inspiration from the qualities of a forest—a place that protects, nurtures and nourishes, providing space to discover and flourish.

‘Taking refuge in the forest’ has always been an important act of personal evolution in Indian culture. Retreating from one’s usual material existence allows us time to contemplate and reflect; one is equal to all other beings in the forest. This may mean developing a fresh perspective; for others, it is overcoming a physical hurdle. It is an opportunity to reconnect with oneself or with something greater. The great masters say that to retreat is to simply create a boundary between past and present thought. In other words, to be in the present.


LIFE AT VANA

Vana almost seems a contradiction – a forest touching it on one side, nestled between the city of Dehradun and the hill-station of Mussoorie. Over the years, the outside world has crept nearer to our 20-acre Retreat, and yet just inside its boundaries, one enters a different world. The Retreat’s neutral coloured walls are seen amidst its trees and orchards, with pebbled paths and stone walls cutting through, bamboo gently swaying in places. Vana’s spaces are sometimes vast but always humble, seeking to evoke a sense of wellbeing. Held together by its skilful team, the experiences at Vana reflect its sincere intentions and generosity. Trees, plants, birds, monkeys, butterflies and insects all coexist in peace at Vana. Know more…


LIFE AFTER VANA

Vana can only point to the truth and give you a taste of it. We can provide healing, opportunities to learn and glimpses of a better life. But sustained health and a present mind can only come from personal effort. Working on the mind and the wellbeing of others should also form part of this effort, with some dedication to develop it into a practice. Understanding the dependence of our wellbeing on our mind and the interdependence of our wellbeing on that of others, is vital to our peace and happiness. Results might come slowly but positive imprints can be lasting. Shifting one’s focus away from oneself, to genuinely benefit others, will make this journey easier and more fulfilling.

This is all that you need to know…to ‘take Vana home’.

Vana wishes to be both a journey and a springboard, as do its initiatives. It is not an end in itself. So we  urge you to discover, wander and wonder. At home, in India, elsewhere and back at Vana too. Wellbeing is sometimes found or deepened at the most unexpected of places. Positive motivation, renunciation, awareness and compassion are helpful qualities worth developing on this journey.

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