Mastering the Buddha Nature Within
December 7 to 18, 2014
Not many people have actually heard about Bhutan – Land of the Thunder Dragon, or even know where it is located. For many years this little country about the size of Switzerland has been off limits to foreigners. If you look at a map you will find Bhutan to be east of Nepal at the same latitude, with a tiny piece of India separating the two countries – and the northern edge touching the Himalayas. You must realize that Bhutan is not like any place you are likely to travel to. It really is a sacred land dripping in an ancient wisdom.
Meet Lisa Tully
My travels to India and Asia first began when I was 21. My spiritual awakening however I believe began when at the age of 25, when I spent a year living in the jungles of Bolivia in South America.
A profound experience I am convinced it was the spark that ignited my spiritual growth in this lifetime anyway! Then I found meditation which changed everything. And I mean everything! Leading me to quit my corporate life it was the nectar my soul yearned for.
Then one day after a hypnosis session I heard a deep calling in my heart to go see the Dalai Lama in India. It was like he had sent me a t-mail (telepathic mail!). With two mortgages to pay, living off credit cards (my savings were non-existent), no job to speak of and a desire to get traveling once again I booked a ticket to go see him. And things have never been the same since. As it was this trip that inspired me to set up this spiritual travel company. It was a clear case of divine intervention or more like divine instruction!
When I am not running tours to far off lands I spend as much time as possible on personal retreat and attending Buddhist teachings and initiations to further my own personal practice. I also love to draw from the wealth of other traditions and great masters including Sufism, Hinduism, Christianity and Celtic spirituality to name but a few. All under the close guidance of my beloved teacher Hema Vyas who I have been working closely with for over eight years now.
In addition – I like fund-raising for my beloved monks in India. It was one such project that led me to face my biggest fear of heights and skydive out of a moving plane at 10,000ft!! As a result there is now a Tibetan Buddhist temple in a very poor part of Delhi which is clean and safe for the monks living there.
Constantly working to raise awareness about the Chinese occupation of Tibet I also research and write about the Tibetan struggle for freedom. Click here to have a read! It is this work that has inspired me to study photojournalism so I can be of even more benefit to my displaced friends and others in need.
To have you come join Sheri and me in Bhutan would be a wonderful gift. A gift for us that a beautiful soul like you has chosen and trusted us to bring them to a magical Himalayan kingdom. A gift for you as traveling to sacred places such as Bhutan will open you up in ways you would never have dreamed of. And a gift for the people of Bhutan as they will make new friends, and we will encourage you to bring donations that we know they truly need and appreciate.
Constantly working to raise awareness about the Chinese occupation of Tibet, I also research and write about the Tibetan struggle for freedom. Click here to have a read! It is this work that has inspired me to study photojournalism so I can be of even more benefit to my displaced friends and others in need.
Meet Sheri Rosenthal
My personal adventure began in 1998 when I was going through a challenging time in my life. I realized on some level that I had never been truly happy. Although I changed: husbands (twice), cities (five moves), podiatric practices (three different offices) and friends (should we go there?), I still had no real joy in my life.
A leap of faith was the last resort – I sold my practice, boy-friend (only kidding), and home – and closed the surgical residency program I was director of (yes, that was a pretty big deal and yes, the medical community thought I was nuts).
After leaving behind the world of medicine, I spent nearly 8 years on a transformative spiritual quest. I rolled across the western US in my car, and began to explore the landscape of my inner world. It was a rocky, unforgiving place. (Sometimes, it still is.) But over time, I’ve gained skills + tools to shift my own reality — from the inside out.
My personal exploration and apprenticeship time with don Miguel Ruiz inspired me to write: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Toltec Wisdom, Banish Mind Spam! and to create the How to Forgive eCourse, a heart-opening online program.
This journey is an invitation, from me to you — an opportunity to explore the quality of what you put forth in the world. And, if you’re looking for a chance to escape the ordinary + step into a life of rare adventure — this is the program for you.
- Fly over eight of the ten tallest peaks in the world including Mt. Everest
- See the 108 Chortens or stupas built for the Gross National Happiness of Bhutan
- Travel across the valleys of Bhutan and bear witness to it being one of the ten most important bio-diversity hot spots in the world
- Hike to the Chimmi Lhakang also known as the Divine Madman’s temple and a famous pilgrimage site for childless couples
- Enjoy some of the best Tantric art in Bhutan
- Visit the stunning Punakha Dzong – the most magnificent architectural masterpiece in the kingdom nestled between two rivers
- Hike in the Black Mountains National Park to witness the beauty of the rare Black Neck Cranes, a symbol of peace for the Bhutanese
- Visit Rinpung Dzong the religious headquarters of Bhutan and also where “Little Buddha” was filmed
- Attend the Druk Wangyal Festival with its sacred folk & mask dances that depict the story the famous Buddhist saint Milarepa who attained enlightenment in one lifetime
- Explore the capital of Bhutan, Thimpu. The only capital city in the world with no traffic lights!
- Attend a prayer ceremony with monks, have lunch with them after followed by a teaching on Buddhism by a high level lama
- Hike to the famous Takstang (the Tiger’s Nest) temple situated on a cliff edge it is where Guru Rinpoche meditated for 3 years, 3 months & 3 days. We will do work with his mantra at this sacred spot with the intention of awakening our own Buddha nature
- Two nights in the stunning 5 star Zhiwa Ling Hotel at the end of our trip to nourish ourselves on all levels!
- Make friends for life with the other people you sojourn with to this magical Land of the Thunder Dragon
11 Day Tour Itinerary
Dec 4 – 6 Bangkok Most folks will be leaving December 4th or 5th and will meet in Bangkok December 6th in the evening. Depending on where you live, you may need to leave on December 4th to make the flight to Bangkok. Those arriving on the 6th will stay overnight at the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel (approximately $170.00 USD for a double room – we can match you with a roommate) near the new Bangkok airport (BKK) and wake up early for our flight on Druk airlines to Paro, Bhutan at 7:00 am.
Dec 7 – Bangkok to Paro (altitude: 7,400 feet) We’ll gather in the hotel lobby in the early morning and, as a group, proceed to the airport to check in with Druk Air. If we are lucky, we’ll have glorious views of the snow capped Himalayas. On its way to Paro, Druk Air flies over eight of the ten tallest peaks of the world including Mt. Everest and Kanchenjunga. The remarkable and steep descent into the Paro Valley is an awe-inspiring beginning to our adventure. Already you can feel the pace of life slow down. After visa formalities and collection of baggage, at the airport exit door, we’ll meet our guide and the driver.
We begin our adventure in Bhutan with a drive through the valley, past small farming villages to visit the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong (the fortress of Victorious Bhutanese), built in 1647 to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over the Tibetan invaders led by Mongolian warlord, Gushri Khan in 1644. On a clear day, Mt. Jumolhari (24,000 ft), Bhutan’s most sacred mountain peaks that marks the border between Bhutan and Tibet, can be seen from here. After Drukyal Dzong, we’ll check into our hotel where we’ll spend the first night. \
After lunch, we’ll have an orientation meeting and trip briefing. Later in the afternoon, we will visit the Rinpung Dzong (the full name of the Paro Dzong), which means “the fortress of the heap of jewels.” This complex houses the administrative and religious headquarters for the Paro district. A part of Bernardo Bertolucci’s movie, “Little Buddha,” was filmed inside this dzong. We will then have the rest of the afternoon relax and connect as a group.
Dec 8 – Punakha (altitude: 4,500 feet) This morning we’ll travel to Punkaha (approx. three hours). The road winds through pine forests and small villages, and passes by Chortens (Stupas) and prayer flags before heading up to Dochula Pass (10,000′). Here we’ll see 108 special Chortens (Stupa) surrounded by thousands of prayer flags, dedicated to the Kingdom’s Peace and Gross National Happiness. The prayer flags on mountain slopes, bridges and high passes, transmit prayers to the Gods and keep up a constant communication with the heavens.
In good weather, one can view the entire range of the Bhutan Himalaya from the pass. We continue our drive through a beautiful Himalayan mountain forest. This is also a good bird-watching area. Bhutan has a stunning 770 bird species, including many that are globally threatened. The country has been identified as one of the ten most important bio-diversity hot spots in the world (those places that together constitute less than two percent of the globe’s surface area but contain more than 50 percent of its biodiversity). Its ecosystem harbors some of the most exotic species of the eastern Himalayas with over 2000 varieties of flowering plants including 50 species of rhododendron.
In the village of Lobesa we’ll enjoy a relatively easy hike to visit Chimmi Lhakhang (Divine Madman). This is a 16th temple dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, who as a favorite saint of the Bhutanese people is known affectionately as “the Divine Madman.” The temple is on a hillside in the middle of rice fields and is famous pilgrimage site for childless couples. This is an easy hike, approx. 45 minutes gradual up to the temple and 30 minutes back to the road.
Dec 9 – Punakha This morning, we’ll enjoy a hike to Khamsum Yuley Namgyal Chorten (Stupa). This is a moderate hike: approx. 1 hour up to the temple and 45 minutes down back to the road. A visit here is a good introduction to Tantric Buddhism in all its complexities. It contains some of the best Tantric art in Bhutan, and a visit there will serve as a balance to the more traditional Buddhist statuary and wall painting visible at the Punakha Dzong.
The shapes and forms of the Tantric statues may surprise most visitors. The terrifying divinities are manifestations of peaceful gods, which assume these forms to subdue evil spirits that are hostile to Buddhist doctrine. The nudity of most of the deities show that this world’s conventions are of no importance on higher planes, and the persons being crushed by the wrathful deities are either spirits hostile to Buddhism or primordial negative concepts such as ignorance, jealousy and anger.
In Tantric Buddhism, numerous statues and paintings are also in the form of sexual union, which represents the union of compassion and wisdom that permits the attainment of sublime state of enlightenment. Later in the day, we will visit the Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1647 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel, the man who unified Bhutan. The Dzong lies between the Po Chu (male river) and the Mo Chu (female river), and is the winter home of the Central Monk Body.
When the Shabdrung arrived in Punakha, he set up a camp at the confluence of the two rivers and that very night had a dream in which he heard the prophecy of Guru Rinpoche. He then built a Dzong on that spot and placed the Rangjung Kharsapani there, the most sacred relic that he brought with him from his monastery in Tibet.
A devastating flash flood in 1994 washed away a major part of the Dzong. His Majesty the King personally supervised the reconstruction of the Dzong, a project that has occupied thousands of skilled craftsmen and builders during the past twelve years. The results of the restoration are amazing. You will be seeing the most magnificent architectural and artistic masterpiece in the Kingdom, just consecrated in an elaborate ceremony in May of 2003.
Dec 10 – Phobjikha (altitude: 9,000 feet) After breakfast, we’ll drive to Phobjikha (approx. three hours) enjoying magnificent views of small villages, terraced fields, diverse forests of exotic Himalayan plants, trees and wildflowers. As we climb higher up and above the cloud the forest gets more beautiful with big 30-40 feet rhododendron trees, and massive hemlock and fir trees. Near the Phobjikha Valley, we’ll see yaks in fields of dwarf bamboo.
The hidden valley of Phobjikha is located in the Black Mountains National Park. Circled by pine and rhododendron covered mountains, this is one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. The rare Black Neck Cranes migrate from Tibet to Bhutan and use the swampy center of this valley as their winter residence from mid November to mid March.
Considered a symbol of peace, black-necked cranes have been revered by Bhutanese people for centuries. Upon arrival in the Valley, we’ll visit the Crane Information Center, run by a non-government nature organization, to learn more about the cranes.
Dec 11 – Phobjikha Black Neck Crane Valley (altitude: 9,000 feet) We’ll spend the morning hiking, walking and seeing these rare and endangered cranes in their natural habitat. Later in the day, we’ll also visit Gantey Gompa, one of the most important private monasteries in the country. Perched atop the ridge overlooking the valley, the Gompa is directed by Gantey Tulku, the ninth reincarnation (a “tulku” is a reincarnate) of Pema Lingpa.
According to the Buddhist tradition and as a mark of their devotion, the cranes circle the monastery three times on their arrival in November and before they fly back to Tibet in March. We may also have a chance to visit with some of the monks who reside in the monastery.
Dec 12 – Return to Wangdi/Punakha After a leisurely breakfast we’ll travel back to Wangdi/Punakha Valley. We may have an opportunity to visit the ruins of the Wangdi Dzong. Built by the nation’s founder, Zhabdrung, in the 17th Century, it was one of the most sacred Dzongs. A devastating fire, suspected to have started from an electric short circuit, destroyed the Dzong in June 2012.
Bhutan had only just submitted Wangdi Dzong for World Heritage List consideration in March 2012. While mourning the loss of one of the architectural wonders of the nation, for the people of Bhutan it was painful reminder of the Buddha teaching of Impermanence. We’ll spend the afternoon at the hotel at leisure.
Dec 13 – Druk Wangyal Festival On December 13th, the heavens descend on earth. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, gods and goddesses, deities and demons, all come together to entertain the people who gather at 10,000 feet Dochula pass. The festival showcases many unique folk and mask dances including the story of Milarepa, one of the most inspiring Buddhist Saints who achieved enlightenment within a lifetime.
The festival was inspired, guided and supported by Her Majesty the Queen Mother in commemoration of His Majesty the Fourth King and the Armed Forces for their bravery and selfless services in protecting the peace, security and sovereignty of our nation. Later in the day, we’ll return to Thimphu, the capital city.
Dec 14 – Thimphu Special Prayer Ceremony (altitude 7,700 feet) After breakfast, we’ll drive to Thimphu – the only capital city in the world with no traffic lights! This morning, we’ll visit “Kuensel Phodrang” to see the world’s largest Buddha statue. It is located on a beautiful hill overlooking the entire Thimphu valley. The hill is covered with magnificent Himalayan blue pine. Then we’ll attend a special prayer ceremony with a Buddhist Lama (teacher) and monks and/or nuns.
The ceremony offers prayers and blessings to benefit all sentient beings. Sharing a simple lunch with the monks and/or nuns who perform the prayer ceremony, we then have a rare chance to receive a special blessing and a brief introductory teaching on Buddhism from the Lama or Chant Master. You may join many elderly people making the Kora (pilgrimage circuit).
We may also visit few interesting handicraft shops, where they sell masks, beautiful hand-woven textiles, carpets, jewelry, Bhutanese wooden products, and other gift items. For the rest of the day, we explore Bhutan’s exotic capital city – a fascinating combination of traditional and contemporary life. A number of options include: the Farmer’s weekend market; the handmade paper factory along with some interesting handicraft shops, where they sell masks, beautiful hand-woven textiles, carpets and jewelry; a chance to see Bhutanese Archery Game – Bhutan’s national sport and an integral part of all festivities; and the Takin Preserve for a chance to see the Takin, Bhutan’s national animal. There are also some very nice short day hikes.
Dec 15 – Thimphu After breakfast, we attend a special prayer ceremony with a Buddhist Lama (teacher) and monks and/or nuns. The ceremony offers prayers and blessings to benefit all sentient beings. Sharing a simple lunch with the monks and/or nuns who perform the prayer ceremony, we then have a rare chance to receive a special blessing and a brief introductory teaching on Buddhism from the Lama or Chant Master. For the rest of the day, we explore Bhutan’s exotic capital city—a fascinating combination of traditional and contemporary life.
A number of options include: the Farmer’s weekend market; the handmade paper factory along with some interesting handicraft shops, where they sell masks, beautiful hand-woven textiles, carpets and jewelry; a chance to see Bhutanese Archery Game – Bhutan’s national sport and an integral part of all festivities; and the Takin Preserve for a chance to see the Takin, Bhutan’s national animal. There are also some very nice short day hikes. This evening, we will have a farewell dinner of home cooked traditional Bhutanese foods together with a special cultural program of mask dances, folk songs and dances.
Dec 16 – Thimphu/Paro We’ll have the morning free for independent sightseeing, packing, or shopping.After lunch, we’ll return to Paro for our last two nights in Bhutan. Upon arrival in Paro, we will visit the 7th century Kichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred Buddhist temples in Bhutan. It was built in 659 by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet. It holds down the left foot of an ogress so huge that she covers Bhutan and most of eastern Tibet.
Dec 17 – Paro – Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest Hike) After breakfast, we’ll hike to the magical monastery known as Taktsang (the “Tiger’s Nest”). Taktsang is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the Himalayan World. The monastery itself is perched on a granite cliff that drops 2,000 feet to the valley floor.
The name is derived from a legend that Guru Rinpoche flew across the mountains to this spot on the back of a tigress, reaching a cave in which he meditated for three months, converting the people of Paro Valley to Buddhism during his stay. The path starts with a gradual climb through a forest of oak and rhododendron.
After crossing a small stream with two enchanting water-powered prayer wheels, the climb gets steeper arriving at a small chorten surrounded by prayer flags near a teahouse and a spectacular view of Taktsang. That will be our lunch stop. Those who choose can hike further, all the way up, to visit the great temples and others can return after lunch at the teahouse.
Dec 18 – Paro – Bangkok Back to the airport to depart from the Land of the Thunder Dragon and return to Bangkok. Today we leave our hosts and make our way back to the airport and get ready for our flights home. We say our last goodbyes, hugs and kisses as we prepare to take our new dream of heaven back to our lives.
Dec 19 – Bangkok to Home You will arrive back to your home, filled with the magic of Bhutan in your heart.
- All daily meals are included in this program
- Nine nights in charming local hotels
- Two nights in the stunning 5-star luxury Zhiwaling Hotel the last 2 nights of our journey
- All spiritual teachings, meditations and ceremonies with Lisa and Sheri
- All ground transportation in Bhutan
- Your local guides
- Admission fees to the temples and sites are included
- All tips for the drivers and bellboys
- Special blessing prayer ceremony with the Lama
- Your round trip flight from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan on Druk Airlines ($820 value)
Cost does not include:
- Non-included lunches and dinners during your trip to and from Bhutan may need to be paid for in cash so plan accordingly
- You will need to stay over night in Bangkok at the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel coming and going (approx. $170.00 per night)
- Other non-included items would be travel insurance, excess baggage charges & airport taxes, beverages (alcohol, soda), personal items, and souvenir shopping
- Your international round-trip air flight to Bangkok is not included in the cost of the journey
- Tips for the maids (we recommend you leave $1.00 per person per day)
- Tips for your two amazing local guides (we recommend you plan on gifting around $140.00 for both)
Please Note we need approximately two-to-three days to fly to Bhutan and one-to-two days to fly home. Make sure you account for these days in your scheduling of this journey. Anything with the itinerary can change at short notice, especially with the nature of Bhutan, but if that happens we will do our best to substitute something else equally wonderful.
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A limited number of single rooms are available. Early registration is advised to ensure availability.
We are happy to match you with a roommate if possible! A deposit of $800 is needed before August 7, 2014 to secure your booking.
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