Vana Foundation draws from Vana’s vision to be of service and enhance wellbeing. We will express intent and manifest ideas through Vana Foundation that are inclusive and far reaching, going well beyond the boundaries of our home in Dehradun. The foundation’s mission will be to focus on the areas of spiritual wisdom, traditional farming and rural life, and reviving Indian culture for all. Its activities shall aspire to benefit everyone, with special focus on India and the youth.
Our first initiatives are underway. Vidyaloke, an effort to revive Indian wisdom in contemporary India, began in 2017 in New Delhi with an inaugural private teaching and public talk spread over three days, from one of the most sublime teachers of this era, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. After Vidyaloke’s Inaugural series, we also organised Guru Shishya Teachings and Public Talk in Mumbai with His Holiness in the same year. Teachings, talks and virtual engagement are being mapped for its existing and future Shishyas.
India, will one day, be remembered as the land where the most sublime wisdom arose. Wisdom which elucidates the preciousness of human rebirth and its spiritual potential. Wisdom that established the profound teachings on shunyata and pratityasamutpada. In this land where the Buddha Shakyamuni walked, there flourished a tradition of study, contemplation and practice, rooted in discipline and courage.
Our wisdom and traditions went east to flourish, forming the foundation of several Asian cultures. While in India, they were conquered, diluted, broken or mentally exiled, creating a vacuum in our own identity. Millennia ago, sages prophesised that the greatest misfortune of this degenerate era will be the elusiveness of true wisdom. That the mind would be trapped by obscuration, overwhelmed by habit and unaware of its own ignorance.
Vidyaloke means wisdom and light. Our vision is to revive Indian Wisdom in contemporary India. Not as a spiritual organisation or movement or philosophy – but as a facilitator for those seeking the greatest living teachers of ancient Indian wisdom. Through teachings, talks, interactions and virtual resources we aspire to provide shishyas the opportunity to study and learn from the greatest teachers of our time. Drawing from the teachings of the Buddha Shakyamuni and from sacred sutras and texts, we will focus on wisdom that is authentic, revered and at least 2000 years old.
The Buddha was born a prince, named Siddhartha Gautama. As a young man, he chose to find a solution to suffering for the benefit of all beings. He studied, contemplated and practiced inexhaustibly till he reached enlightenment. He then taught the truth in many ways to suit the capacities of all beings. His wisdom and life became an inextricable part of India’s wisdom, beyond the notions of form, space and time.
While the wisdom of India subtly found its way into the fabric of everyday life, there is a palpable need to revive the tradition of its study and practice. We live in an era marked by uncertainty, negative emotions and false views. We fall prey to the seduction of savvy imports plagiarised from our own wisdom traditions. We allow ourselves to become trapped in blind devotion born out of desperation or greed. We despair in the apparent pointlessness and fatality of our existence, causing suffering to ourselves and others. Seeking to go beyond such phenomena, Vidyaloke is an Indian Wisdom initiative for the curious, the confused, the courageous, the committed, the ordinary, the extraordinary and the romantic.
Vidyaloke will only make teaching requests to gurus with lineage, accountable to a legacy and with the highest levels of personal practice and accomplishment. Beyond the opportunities that Vidyaloke provides, each shishya must chart out a journey. While each shishya’s journey might be unique, it is essential to know that the mind deludes itself, projecting what it wishes to see, think and feel. There is no replacing the guru to point out the truth, to pull the rug from underneath one’s feet and to do what books cannot do. This understanding is the basis of the guru-shishya parampara and must provoke a careful search of whom we might see as our guide. All wisdom traditions also stress the importance of sangha, to help encourage our practice and efface egocentrism. It is our hope that through Vidyaloke, shishyas find their own sangha and the support that it provides.
We believe in living a full and eclectic life but ask interested shishyas to have genuine commitment to their own journey and practice. This includes study before teachings, attending activities in their entirety and putting in effort afterwards. It is said that selfless devotion to all sentient beings is the only way to find happiness for oneself, therefore genuine motivation to benefit others is highly encouraged.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is Vidyaloke’s first torchbearer, for which we will be forever indebted. His boundless compassion, concern for India and her legacy, motivate him to give us his invaluable time. For more than 1500 years, the Buddha’s teachings have been preserved and practiced by the highest scholars, practitioners and teachers to India’s east. Perhaps it is India’s karma, that it is once again a point of confluence for the greatest living teachers of ancient wisdom.
Vidyaloke believes it must focus on the relatively young. Private Teachings are intended for those between 16 and 40 years of age, however Public Talks and other Vidyaloke formats are open to all ages. While one’s spiritual journey is independent of age, we feel there is a heightened need to spiritually nourish India’s youth.
Our ambition is to organise teachings and talks with increasing frequency and in different places across India. Vidyaloke will eventually need to be supported by shishyas themselves, as part of their own evolving journey and in service to those making new beginnings.
We feel that personal motivation to develop a more enlightened view and an understanding of our spiritual interdependence might be India’s only avenue to peace and happiness, one that it might someday offer to the world. So as it is written in the Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra, “Go, go beyond, go still further and establish your enlightenment.”
The first ever Siddhartha Festival in Bodhgaya took place in 2016; a milestone moment for India and its wisdom legacy. The festival was attended by close to 700 people from different parts of the world. Over three days, participants attended teachings, musical offerings, devotional prayer workshops, conversations and storytelling from the Buddha’s life. It is our hope that this coming together of Siddhartha Gautama’s legacy with the most wonderful aspects of Indian tradition and culture, was the beginning of personal discovery for many.
Scheduled to take place on alternate years, our team is intimately involved in its creation and organising. The next Siddhartha Festival is scheduled from 16th – 18th November, 2018. Registrations begin in the summer of 2018.
For more information on Siddhartha Festival, please visit their website www.siddharthafestival.in.
Vana sees traditional farming, rooted in wisdom and experience, as one of the most dignified human activities. Agriculture in India once reached a level of sophistication and equilibrium beyond the understanding of modern day science. Seeing the soil as a living entity and nature as a being to revere, Indian culture and wisdom became inextricably interwoven with the land. But India lacked conviction as a new nation. Faced with difficult circumstances after 1947, it buckled under external influence and began to transform its methods of farming. Agriculture in India is similar to most places in the world now, driven by greed, where output is the only goal and destructive consequences considered par for the course.
The benefits to Indian agriculture from what is called the ‘green revolution’ is conveniently misrepresented. The gargantuan increase in water consumption, use of harmful chemicals, soil erosion and cancer in rural societies with declining social wellbeing is mostly overlooked. As is the unfortunate dependence of Indian farmers on the government and many self-serving corporations. A legacy of control and exploitation by middle-men has also continued, creating an ever increasing divide between those that produce food and those that consume it. The once dignified Indian farmer is today at everyone’s mercy, including that of his/her now diminished self-worth.
Vana Krishi endeavours to make a concerted effort to reverse some of the corruption of traditional farming and rural life in India. There is optimism – India has not yet crossed the point of no return as some agricultural societies have. We also have the conviction that only through an enlivened, empowered and vibrant rural society will India regain a sense of equilibrium with itself, nature and humanity.
Beginning with the food needs of our Retreat and our families, we are stitching together a network of farmers to become self-sufficient. This will provide guaranteed consumers to Vana Krishi’s first few hundred farmers. We will focus within our region initially but slowly extend outwards, as we build further networks and enlarge our activity. Our intent is to include almost every type of food and agricultural output in our network, from grains and vegetables to dairy and cotton. We will help farmers with organic certification where possible and supplementary knowledge and resources as needed.
As one of Vana Foundation’s most ambitious projects, Vana Krishi might need a decade to make the smallest dent and 20-30 years before it makes an impact at a large scale. We will need consistent support from our well-wishers, sponsors and the community at large.
Vana Krishi will enable and assist farmers and serve rural Indians in every way that it can. However the fruits of these efforts will reach urban consumers through another of Vana’s initiatives, Vanapurna.
We are also involved with activities such as secular ethics education, independent book projects and more. In Bodhgaya, our team is facilitating the design and implementation of a state of the art lighting project to light the entire Mahabodhi Temple complex, where lives the sacred Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha Shakyamuni attained enlightenment. We wish to participate in India’s culture of food and textiles and to find ways of serving the youth and children, through wisdom and learning. As all of these activities develop and ripen, we will discover more paths on these different, yet syncretic journeys.
Vanavasis and Vana team members are encouraged to participate in all of Vana Foundation’s activities. In fact, if spiritual wisdom is an aspiration, we can only go further by at times breaking out of our usual format and also stepping outside the Retreat. The Siddhartha Festival and Vidyaloke manifest this thought. As do the ‘Short Retreats’ that we have now begun at Vana, focussed entirely on a teacher or subject from the wisdom traditions rather than physical wellbeing. Our hope is to have several such short retreats each year, akin to the traditional and reverential experience of a Gurukul, which can be a potentially sublime and impactful experience. Vana’s first short retreat was led by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche and was indescribably potent and beautiful. These retreats will primarily be organised by Vana Foundation or Vidyaloke.
In essence, the community at large, our Vanavasis and the Team, India and its youth, and Nature, will inspire our efforts and must benefit from what we do. We don’t wish to discriminate based on age, demography, way of life or geography, but we want to focus where the need is most pressing and where our intentions are most appreciated. For Vana Foundation to succeed in making its initiatives flourish, we will need everyone’s support, in all ways. In the end, it is not just a vehicle to benefit others, but ourselves. “You build the road and the road builds you…” once said a friend of Vana.