- How to get there
- Courses and retreats
- Accommodation, meals and facilities
- Health and safety
- Offering your support to Root Institute
For travel advice please see “How to Get There”
I have no experience with Buddhism or meditation. Can I attend a course?
Yes. There are no pre-requisites to attend our introductory courses. Many students who attend these courses have little or no experience with Buddhism and meditation. Students with previous experience can also join our introductory courses in order to review and contemplate more deeply the essential points of the path.
I have already attended an Introduction to Buddhism course. What can I do now?
For students with previous experience, Root Institute offers intermediate-level courses. Please click here for full details of this year’s intermediate-level programme.
You might also consider attending another introductory course in order to review and contemplate more deeply the essential points of the path. 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.
When is the deadline to register for a course/retreat?
Unless specified in the course/retreat description, there is no specific deadline for registration. Space in the meditation hall is not usually limited, but accommodation is limited during our busiest months of December and January. So please register as soon as you are certain that you will attend.
How should I prepare for my course/retreat?
Once you have registered for the course/retreat and have carefully read the registration confirmation e-mail sent to you, there is nothing else you must do.
Though it is not necessary, some students like to do some preparatory reading. For Introductory Course students we suggest:
- Anything by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, though please note that some of His Holiness’ books are much more advanced than others. The Path to Enlightenment (previously titled Essence of Refined Gold) provides a good overview of the Buddhist path. (Snow Lion Publications)
- How To Meditate by Kathleen McDonald (Wisdom Publications)
- Wisdom Energy by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche (Wisdom Publications)
- for very quick and easy reading: any of the free distribution books by Lama Thubten Yeshe available in print or via download at Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive (www.lamayeshe.com): Essence of Tibetan Buddhism, Becoming Your Own Therapist, Make Your Mind an Ocean, and others
- Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand by Pabongka Rinpoche (Wisdom Publications)
- Spiritual Friends: Meditations by Monks and Nuns of the International Mahayana Institute (Wisdom Publications)
Do you offer yoga courses?
Sometimes we offer daily drop-in mindfulness yoga classes when a teacher is available. Please click here for the latest information. Unfortunately we do not have any recommendation of where else you might study yoga in Bodhgaya.
There is a 45-minute daily optional “stretching" session scheduled into our introductory courses. Because simple yogic and stretching exercises can increase one’s ability to sit comfortably in meditation, we offer this basic instruction during introductory courses whenever a teacher is available.
Your course dates don’t fit with my travel itinerary. Can you recommend another centre where I can take a similar course?
Yes. We have many sister centres throughout the world. Please see www.fpmt.org for the complete list of the 140+ meditation centres and social service projects in 30+ countries. Meditation centres in India and Nepal include:
- Tushita Meditation Centre in Dharamsala, India (www.tushita.info)
- Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre in Delhi, India (www.tmmc.tripod.com)
- Osel Study Group in Goa, India (www.oselgroup.org)
- Choe Khor Sum Ling in Bangalore, India (www.choekhorsumling.org)
- Kopan Monastery near Kathmandu (Boudanath), Nepal (www.kopanmonastery.com)
- Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Centre in Kathmandu (Thamel), Nepal (www.dharmatours.com/hbmc)
- Ganden Yiga Chozin Buddhist Meditation Centre in Pokhara, Nepal (www.pokharabuddhistcentre.com)
What tradition of Buddhism is practiced at Root Institute?
Our teachings, meditations and practices are based on the tradition of Lama Tsong Khapa of Tibet (the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism), as taught to us by our founder Lama Thubten Yeshe, his reincarnation Lama Osel Rinpoche, and our spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche, all of whom are students of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Practioners of all Buddhist schools as well as non-Buddhists of any nationality and any religion are welcome to visit our facilities, stay in our accommodation, study, meditate and retreat here.
Are you affiliated with any larger organisation?
Yes. Root Institute was begun in 1983 by Lama Thubten Yeshe, a highly qualified teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Since Lama Yeshe’s passing away in 1984, his main student Lama Zopa Rinpoche has been the spiritual director of Root Institute and the FPMT (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) of which Root Institute is a member. FPMT is a network of 140+ meditation centres and social service projects dedicated to benefiting others in 30+ countries around the world. For more information about FPMT, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, please see www.fpmt.org.
FPMT Mission Statement: The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) is an organization devoted to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation, and community service. We provide integrated education through which people's minds and hearts can be transformed into their highest potential for the benefit of others, inspired by an attitude of universal responsibility. We are committed to creating harmonious environments and helping all beings develop their full potential of infinite wisdom and compassion. Our organization is based on the Buddhist tradition of Lama Tsong Khapa of Tibet , as taught to us by our founder Lama Thubten Yeshe, and spiritual director, Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
Do I have to be a Buddhist to stay at Root Institute?
No. Anyone of any nationality and any religion is welcome to visit our facilities, stay in our accommodation, study, meditate and retreat here.
Are there “rules” for staying at Root Institute?
Yes. We are a retreat centre, not a guest house, so we do ask all of our guests to observe the following guidelines in order to maintain an atmosphere conducive to inner reflection and meditation:
- Respect all life: do not intentionally kill any living being, even small insects
- Respect others’ property: do not steal or take anything not freely given
- Be honest and straightforward: do not lie or intentionally deceive others
- Be celibate: no sexual activity
- Be alert and mindful: avoid intoxicants such as cigarettes, alcohol and drugs (If necessary, one can smoke outside the main gate).
- Be considerate of others’ silence: no singing or playing music and keep silence in the appropriate areas
- Be considerate of the monks and nuns: dress respectfully (please no shorts above the knee, tank-top shirts, or tight and revealing clothing).
What is the accommodation like? Is it clean and safe?
Root Institute offers the following accommodation options for students attending our courses/retreats and for individuals or groups doing private retreat or simply looking for a peaceful place to stay during their visit to Bodhgaya:
- single rooms and retreat houses with private or common bath
- double rooms with private or common bath
- triple rooms with private bath
- dormitories (3 - 11 beds) with common bath
Yes, Root Institute is very safe and clean. When asked for feedback, it is common for our guests to thank us for the clean, comfortable rooms and the great food. We are a few kilometres outside of town and our land is covered with beautiful trees and flower gardens, so many guests also comment on what a lovely, peaceful oasis Root Institute is compared to the dust and noise of Bodhgaya.
Our property is entirely surrounded by a 10-foot wall and the entrance gate is monitored 24 hours per day by private guards and local police. Though our guests do not report experiencing theft here, we do have a safe where you can lock away your money and small valuables (passport, camera, etc.) if you wish.
Can I share a room with my friends and family?
Between courses/retreats it is possible for friends, family, couples, and men/women to share accommodation. Please note: because we are a retreat centre with resident monks and nuns living here, we do ask our guests to observe celibacy while on Root Institute property.
During courses/retreats, couples and men/women must have separate accommodation. Friends and family of the same gender are strongly encouraged to stay in separate rooms to help support your silence and your focus on the course/retreat.
Are meals available?
Yes. Root Institute serves a delicious blend of Indian, Asian and Western vegetarian meals three times per day. Safe filtered drinking water is available 24 hours per day and morning/afternoon tea is also served. Meal delivery to one’s room is available for students in strict private retreat.
I have food allergies. Will I be able to eat the food at Root Institute?
Some of our dishes contain wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts, soy or other ingredients which may cause allergic reactions in some people. Almost all of our dishes contain at least a small amount of spices, salt and/or sugar. Many times in the past we have tried to provide special diets for our guests with special medical needs and we wish very much that we could offer this service now. However, due to the large number of people we cook for (including our hospital patients who each have their own special diets), as well as the wide variety of food allergies we may be requested to accommodate for our guests, we are unfortunately NOT able to provide for special dietary needs at this time. If you have any concerns with food allergies, please contact us before your arrival at Root Institute. We are happy to provide additional details about our menu so you can determine if our diet can suit your needs.
I would like to take the Eight Mahayana Precepts during my stay. Do your meals contain black foods?
Breakfast and lunch will usually not contain “black foods” (eggs, onions, garlic and radishes). Those dishes which do contain these ingredients will be labelled so you can avoid them.
What other facilities are available?
- Two inspiring meditation halls in a beautiful garden setting
- Excellent library and bookshop of books, videos and audio teachings
- Gift shop (thangkas, malas, silk goods, prayer wheels, prayer flags, high-quality incense, etc.)
- Daily needs shop (toiletries, stationary, snacks, etc.)
- Bicycle rental for quick and easy visits to town
- Laundry service
Are phone and internet available?
Not at Root Institute. These are available in local shops just a short rickshaw/bicycle ride (5 minutes) or walk (20 minutes) away.
What should I bring with me?
Root Institute will provide all bedding (including linen, pillows and blankets), mosquito nets and plates/cups/cutlery. Rooms with private bathroom are also supplied with one complimentary soap and roll of toilet paper.
Please bring everything else you think you will need, including:
- loose, comfortable clothing (please no shorts above the knee, tank-top shirts, or tight and revealing clothing)
- toiletries *
- bath towel
- water bottles (filtered water is available in our dining hall and bottled water is available in our shop) *
- notebook and pens for course notes or journaling *
- insect repellent lotions/sprays, if desired *
- a torch and batteries are useful during power cuts *
- a shawl/blanket for meditating in cool weather is useful (or you can use the blanket from your bed)
- though we will provide you with a few blankets, some people find a sleeping bag useful in the coldest months of December and January when the average low is 10 Celsius.
All of the * items above are available in our shop which also sells snacks, incense, candles and gift items.
Note on availability: toiletries such as shampoo (with and without conditioner), soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, razors and laundry detergent are inexpensive and readily available throughout India . Deodorant is harder to find. Sanitary pads and tampons are available in India , but they are usually of inferior quality to Western versions, so you may want to bring supplies of these items with you to India .
Can I have a letter sent to me at Root Institute?
We can accept letters and small packages for you, but we do not encourage this. Please be aware that post in India , especially in our state of Bihar, is not reliable. It may take only a week to receive international post, or it might take several weeks, months, or it may not ever arrive! Money/credit cards, food, medicine and electronics are likely to be stopped in customs or stolen by thieves, so please be careful with what you send.
Please inform us that you wish to receive post here and then send to:
Bodhgaya, District Gaya
(no specific street name or number required)
What is the weather like in Bodhgaya?
The following lists the average temperature (in Celsius), average high temperature, average low temperature and average rainfall for the area:
- January: 16; 10 – 22; 1cm
- February: 19; 13 – 25; <1cm
- March: 25; 17 – 31; 1cm
- April: 30; 23 – 36; <1cm
- May: 31; 26 – 36; 4cm
- June: 31; 27 – 35; 12cm
- July: 29; 26 – 31; 22cm
- August: 30; 27 – 32; 26cm
- September: 28; 26 – 31; 17cm
- October: 26; 22 – 30; 7cm
- November: 22; 16 – 27; 1cm
- December: 17; 11 – 23; <1cm
Can you recommend a good guesthouse and restaurant in Bodhgaya?
There are dozens of clean and safe budget guest houses, mid-range hotels, and luxury hotels in Bodhgaya. The same is true of restaurants. We do not have any specific guest houses, hotels or restaurants to recommend. Please check your travel guidebook for ideas. Almost everyone staying in the less expensive guest houses arranges accommodation on arrival.
Are there money changers and ATM’s in Bodhgaya?
Yes, there are many moneychangers in town and there is one ATM as the State Bank of India (just a few minutes walk from the Mahabodhi Temple). Please be aware that the ATM often does not function for days at a time, so it is wise to not wait until the last minute to use it.
Beside my course at Root Institute, what else is there to do in Bodhgaya?
Please see your travel guidebook for full details. Our suggestions include:
- Meditate, contemplate and people-watch at the Mahabodhi Temple and Bodhi Tree where Buddha attained Enlightenment
- Explore the many temples in Bodhgaya, each of which are in the architectural style of their home country (including Tibet, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka and more coming all the time); as well as the 25-metre Great Buddha Statue, the 10-metre Maitreya Buddha statue and the archaeological museum
- Visit the many social service projects in Bodhgaya including Root Institute’s Shakyamuni Buddha Community Health Programme (on-site clinic and in the villages with our mobile clinic), Maitreya Project Universal Education School (www.maitreyaeducation.org) and Maitri Charitable Trust (www.fpmt.org/maitri)
- Take day trips to Vulture’s Peak (Rajgir) where Shakyamuni Buddha gave many important teachings; Mahakala Cave where Prince Siddhartha meditated for 6 years and Sujata Village where he broke his fast before attaining enlightenment; and Nalanda Monastic University where many great Indian and Tibetan Buddhist scholars of the past have lived and studied. Bodhgaya and Gaya are also home to many important Hindu holy sites.
- Study the many books, videos and audio teachings in Root Institute’s library
- Make a pilgrimage to the other holy sites of Buddha’s life such as Sarnath where he gave his first teaching (near Varanasi), Lumbini where he was born (just across the Nepal border), Kushinagar where he passed away (near Gorakpur), and others. Visiting these holy sites can take days or weeks depending on your itinerary and is a wonderful way to add meaning and depth to one’s travels and mediation practice!
Where else can I study Buddhism and meditation in Bodhgaya?
The Bodhgaya International Vipassana Meditation Centre and the International Meditation Centre offer instruction in Vipassana meditation, as does the Thai Temple during their annual January Insight Meditation Retreats--please see your travel guidebook for details. During the winter tourist season other Buddhist groups may offer short courses and activities—please look for their posters around town when you arrive.
Where can I study yoga in Bodhgaya?
Usually there are a few yoga teachers offering private or small group yoga instruction during the tourist season. Please look for their posters around town.
Is medical care available in Bodhgaya?
Yes. Medical care (allopathic/Western, homeopathic and ayurvedic) is available here and is very inexpensive by Western standards. There are many doctors in Bodhgaya and Gaya, as well as pharmacies and laboratories which can do stool and blood tests. There are also top-quality medical facilities available in Delhi if you become seriously ill, need surgery, etc.
Basic first aid supplies and medications such paracetamol (aspirin), oral rehydration salts, plasters (Band-aids) and antibiotics are readily available at local pharmacies. If you take prescription medicines, we suggest that you bring enough to last through your trip (in the original bottles and with a copy of your prescription to avoid customs/police problems). If you are planning a long trip to Asia, you might want to consider bringing multi-vitamin supplements with you, as maintaining proper nutrition on the road can be quite challenging. If you wear glasses, you may want to bring an extra pair or at least carry your prescription with you as replacements can be made very cheaply in India .
What travel immunisations/medications do I need for India ?
First-time travellers to India often have many questions about health issues. Unfortunately we are not in a position to make personal recommendations about your medical care. Please consult the following resources for advice:
- Your local travel health clinic
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control website (www.cdc.gov/travel/indianrg.htm) has the latest information on travel vaccinations, disease outbreaks, and general travel health advice for South Asia.
- The health section of your travel guidebook or a travel health guidebook (for example, Lonely Planet publishes a small, inexpensive one).
Are there mosquitoes in Bodhgaya? Do I need to take anti-malaria medication?
The number and type of mosquitoes in Bodhgaya varies throughout the year. Some of these mosquitoes carry diseases such as malaria and Japanese encephalitis, especially during and just after monsoon (July to November). The people at greatest risk of these diseases are those living in low-lying rural farming regions (such as Bodhgaya and many other areas of India ) and travellers to these regions who remain for extended periods of at least several weeks.
In general, it is advisable when in India to sleep under a mosquito net consistently and to wear socks and long pants from dusk onward. (Root Institute’s rooms are supplied with mosquito nets and electric (plug-in oil-based) repellent.) Use of body creams or chemical sprays to prevent mosquito bites is an individual matter; some people like the added protection, others do not like the potential hazards of insecticides.
Root Institute is not able to make a recommendation about your need for travel medicines. We encourage you to consult with your preferred health practitioner for additional information and advice. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a valuable website which offers current information on disease outbreaks, recommendations for travel immunizations/medications, and tips for staying healthy for travellers to South Asia: www.cdc.gov/travel/indianrg.htm. Once you arrive, there are many homeopaths in Bodhgaya who could offer you suggestions for homoeopathic methods for preventing malaria.
Is it safe to travel in India, especially alone?
Personal safety is a common concern for travellers. Our general advice is this: be careful and apply the same common sense in India that you would use at home. Also, watch your bags, secure your room when going out and always carry your passport and valuables in a money belt ON your body and INSIDE your clothing. Be especially watchful in airports, train stations and on public transport. But also relax and enjoy! The vast majority of travellers have no safety problems while travelling in India . For more information on personal safety, please see the safety section of your travel guidebook and talk to other travellers about their experiences and advice.
Is it safe to travel through Bihar State to reach Root Institute?
If you apply common sense, travelling as a Westerner within Bihar is probably just as safe as travelling anywhere else in India . Some travel guides caution tourists about robbery by “dacoits” in Bihar. It should be noted that almost 100% of local crime is among the locals (by locals, to locals). The rare incidents that involve a tourist usually occur when travellers make poor choices to travel on roads late at night or to go trekking alone in isolated areas. Therefore we encourage you to NOT travel by bus/taxi late at night (after 10pm) even between Bodhgaya and Gaya (the closest railway station). There are several Westerners (including young women) who live at Root Institute year-round and make frequent trips on the local trains and buses without any problems, even when travelling alone.
I’d like to make a donation to Root Institute. How can I do this?
Thank you for your wish to support our work! Both the Root Institute Dharma Programme and our social work in the Shakyamuni Buddha Community Health Programme are completely dependent upon our donors’ generosity.
Donating is easy:
- Cash, Traveller’s Cheques
Local or foreign currency can be given to our reception office.
- Credit Card, Cheque or Bank Draft:
Please Click Here for Details
- Bank transfers
These are also possible. Please Contact Us for details.
- Other Methods of Donating
If you would like to donate by a different method, please Contact Us.
I’d like to volunteer at Root Institute. Is this possible?
Thank you very much for your offer of volunteer service at Root Institute! Generally we are in need of long-term volunteers only: office volunteers who can stay for the full tourist season (October - February) and experienced nurses and physiotherapists (needed year-round) who can stay for a minimum of 3 - 6 months in our charitable clinic. Click here for more information about volunteering with us.
If you are unable to commit to this length of time, or are inexperienced in nursing/physiotherapy, you are still welcome to observe our social work in our on-site clinic and in our village health programme on a short-term basis. Please contact Contact Us for more information about observing our social work.
How else can I support the work of Root Institute?
Thank you for this generous wish! Some creative ideas for supporting our work include:
When you attend courses, listen to teachings, or meditate/retreat here, you support the Institute by helping us to fulfil our purpose.
Your prayers and good wishes have power! Please remember Root Institute and the FPMT in your prayers and dedications, including:
- May Root Institute always flourish so it can help sentient beings through Dharma education and social work.
- May FPMT’s spiritual director Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche have perfect health and a very long life, may he continue to teach his many students all around the world for a very long time, and may all his charitable projects flourish, especially the Maitreya Statue Project.
- May all the students, staff and benefactors of Root Institute and all FPMT centres have good health and long lives and quickly become enlightened for the benefit of all sentient beings.