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 do retreat here.

What is the important information to note during my stay?

Root Institute is a community made up on nuns, monks and lay practitioners who live in accordance with the five lay Buddhist precepts. We respectfully ask that all guests and visitors also observe these precepts when on the property:

  1. No killing – any living beings (including insects)

  2. No stealing – taking what has not been freely given

  3. No lying

  4. No sexual activity

  5. No intoxicants – including cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana
    Please note: as of April 2016, it is now illegal for alcohol to be kept or consumed in the state of Bihar, with very severe penalties.

There is a designated smoking area outside of Root Institute. For the sake of our clinic patients and school children, we do not permit anyone to smoke by our front gate.

Guests and visitors may be asked to leave the property if the Code of Conduct is breached.

Dress Code

Root Institute is a semi-monastic area. We have monks and nuns living at Root Institute year round and it is important that all lay guests dress respectfully in loose, comfortable clothing (no shorts above the knee, sleeveless shirts or tight and revealing clothes).

It's handy to have shoes that are easy to put on/take off, since you have to remove them each time you enter the Gompa.

Each guest must also complete our medical form at registration. This provides us with important information e.g. travel insurance details, emergency contacts and mental health history. These forms are kept extremely confidential.

What are precepts? Why do I need to live by them at Root Institute?

We are a retreat centre, not a guest house, so we do ask all of our guests to observe the following precepts 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). Please do not walk around shirtless, even if it is a quick dash from the bathroom.

Keeping in mind we are a semi-monastic institute and have a static population of Sangha, it’s important that guests and students are fully clothed when walking between their room and external bathroom. Despite the comfort and personal convenience, bath towels, no matter how large, are not appropriate dress attire in public!

What are the weekly classes at Root Institute and do I need to book?

We have weekly teachings, meditations, pujas and other spiritual activities that come under Drop-in sessions of our spiritual program. Anyone is welcome to attend, even if you are staying at a hotel or guesthouse. While Root does not charge for attending these, you may like to consider giving a donation to help cover expenses such as handouts, Geshe-care and so forth.

For more details, please peruse our events calendar or list of all events in our spiritual program.

What is "karma yoga"? Why do you ask course participants to do it?

Karma Yoga is a Sanskrit term which means "work which is done to benefit others".

During the course we ask every student to do one job while they are here. This will usually take you between 15–20 minutes a day and could be anything from sweeping to recording the teachings, with many possibilities in between (washing dishes, assisting with pilgrimage, photocopying, ringing the gong, etc). We let you know your karma yoga job in the first course session and ask you to be as open and flexible as possible to the job we ask you to do.

We ask everyone to do this because:

  1. Volunteers do much of the work at Root Institute. When more people come up to do a course, there is also more work to be done; more dishes, more cleaning, more administration… So, we hope that each person staying here or doing a course would contribute a little bit to the Centre by doing a small daily chore. If everyone in the course helps just for 15–20 minutes daily that adds up as a great help and the whole community can function well.

  2. If one has an attitude of wanting to help, serve and benefit others that create a positive, happy state of mind. If one does the karma yoga with this attitude, one does not only benefit other people in the Centre but also makes oneself happy and content!

  3. One can also bring what one has learned during the meditation sessions into the karma yoga. One can try to be aware, mindful and simply observe the present moment. Mindfulness is like extended awareness; one is also aware of one’s motivations; whether the action is beneficial or harmful. We are not supposed to have meditation as something separate from the rest of our life but to integrate meditation with our everyday life. In this way meditation supports our life and is much more than just a method to relax. Of course, this is extremely difficult. Normally we remember to stay in the present moment and observe our mind just for a short moment, but slowly one can learn! So, karma yoga can be done as one type of meditation, "karma yoga meditation". If you gradually learn how to do that, no matter what you do (even going to toilet!) can be a spiritual practice, which at the end helps not only you but all around you!

Can I join a course later or leave earlier than scheduled?

No, students are not allowed to arrive late or depart early from a course or retreat. We require each person to be committed completely and attend every session.

Travel bookings cannot be cited as a reason for early departure. Please arrange to leave on your train/plane/bus the day after your course/retreat finishes.

I have been having emotional problems recently. Do you think that your introductory course might help me gain balance and perspective in my life?

This is a very difficult and subjective question to answer. The nature of mind and emotions are extremely important topics in Buddhist philosophy and will be covered in some detail on the introductory courses.

You will learn how Buddhism discerns the workings of the mind, including the problems we all deal with, which can be summarized as delusions based on desire, hatred and ignorance.

In the meditation sessions, you will have time to investigate the relevance of these Buddhist perspectives to your own experience, learn techniques to deal with negativity and increase peace, happiness and compassion in your daily life.

But students are cautioned from thinking of this course as being a "cure" for all the troubles of our everyday lives. Be realistic; this is a great start but by no means the end of all our worries. Please be aware our courses and retreats are not intended to be therapy. Teachers and staff are not trained psychotherapists. Our courses and the practice of meditation should NOT be considered as a substitute for professional counselling or prescribed medication.

There will be opportunities to ask questions to clarify any difficulties you may be having in understanding the philosophical points raised, but teachers cannot extensively counsel students on personal difficulties they might be experiencing.

Also, if you have been experiencing severe emotional problems, this may not be the right time to take part in a course that introduces such new and challenging ideas.

Meditation can also access new awareness of physical and mental experiences that can be unsettling, particularly if you have a history of emotional instability. In which case, for the safety and comfort of yourself and all the students and teachers on the course, we ask that you honestly question whether this course would be appropriate for you at this time. If you feel that it would be a healthy decision to join the course, we ask that you inform Root Institute management of any concerns or psychological history when registering, so that we can offer appropriate support should it be needed. We have a medical for the purpose that must be filled out with as much detail as possible.

To learn about Buddhism is to learn about yourself; how your mind works and how this affects your life. It’s up to you to apply this wisdom!

How should I prepare for my course?

Please complete all your business in town (travel arrangements, e-mails, phone calls, etc.) before the first session begins.

In order to keep the atmosphere conducive to inner reflection and spiritual pursuit, during the course you will also be asked to not leave Root Institute property, to attend all sessions, be punctual for each session, maintain silence and to leave your mobile phone / laptop / MP3 player, etc. in our secure safe to help support your silence and focus on the course. More information about this basic code can be read here. (link to spiritual program page/discipline)

Please make sure that you are in good physical and mental health before you join a course. We are not medical professionals and will not be able to take care of you if you are sick. We must be responsible given that we cater to a large number of people in a shared environment, so we strongly request you not join the course if you are feeling unwell.

In our section on being here, you will found information about what to bring and seasonal weather information.

Though it is not required, some students like to do some preparatory reading. We suggest the following texts for you. 

  • 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: 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)

My partner/friend and I are joining the course together. Do you have any advice for us?

Our general advice would be to have a sense of joining the course as an individual; of focusing on your own experience for the duration of the course rather than as one half of a couple.

As well as having separate rooms and of course being asked to abide by our guidelines of behaviour in a Dharma environment regarding celibacy and maintaining silence, you will also be asked to avoid any physical contact, to sit apart in the meditation hall and at meal times, to have separate karma yoga jobs and discussion groups. This is intended as a support for your silence and ability to allow your own personal process to evolve.

We encourage you to discuss your approach to the discipline before you start the course and to make a commitment to maintain distance during it so that you don’t influence each other too much, or feel offended when your partner doesn’t speak to you for 10 days! If so, it’s our experience that you’ll find it an enriching experience, both for yourself and for your relationship.

Can I stay at Root Institute before or after my course?

Root Institute is open all year round for guests to take advantage of our peaceful spiritual atmosphere. We do not run a spiritual program between the summer months of May to August. Please remember that we are not a guesthouse and therefore require all residents to abide by our guidelines of behaviour.

If you are staying with us while another course or retreat is on you will need to respect the environmental needs at that time ie. Silence at meal times, meditation hall reserved for course participants only, not talking to course participants when you are a non-course guest, no socialising in public areas and so forth.

I have no experience with Buddhism or meditation. Can I attend an introductory course?

Yes, you are most welcome to attend our introductory course. There are also many other events and retreats that may interest you. Don’t hesitate to contact our Spiritual Program Coordinator if you have questions.

Can I stay at Root if I'm not attending a course or retreat?

Yes, you’re welcome to stay at Root and internalise our peaceful spiritual environment even if you do not intend to join our programme. We will give preference to students but dormitory spaces are generally available throughout our busy season.

We do require non-course guests to abide by our precepts as well. It is important to understand that Root Institute is not a guesthouse.

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 bathroom
  • double rooms with private or common bathroom
  • triple rooms with private bathroom
  • dormitories (3–11 beds) with common bathroom

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

What if I am arriving outside of reception hours? Can Root Institute pick me up?

Root Institute does not arrange transport but we can give you the contact details for reliable travel agents in Bodhgaya. Office hours are 9-12noon and 1.15-5pm. Guests who arrive outside of these times will find their room keys with our gate guards. The on duty guard will accompany you to your room. Inside your room you will find a welcome folder of information, allowing you to become familiar with Root Institute and what it has to offer.

What if I need to cancel my booking?

If you have booked but will not be able to make it, please cancel your booking. This allows us to offer the space to others who would like to visit the centre.

What if I’m on a budget?

Root Institute is a charitable trust (not-for-profit) and the recommended donation for accommodation and meals have been calculated to ensure we cover all expenses. For this reason we do not give discounts.

We know travelling can be expensive and everyone tries to maintain their budget accordingly. Our dormitory accommodation is readily available as a budget option.

If you wish to stay in Bodhgaya for a longer period and take advantage of the opportunity for service and practice, you may like to consider volunteering with us. There is a minimum of 3 months. We often have places available in our dharma centre as well as our three social service projectsShakyamuni Health Care Clinic, Maitreya School, and Tara Children’s Project. The latter two projects involve working with children and it’s especially important that volunteers keep to at least three months, preferably six.

If you find yourself in extreme and unexpected financial difficulties and unable to make a donation before the course begins, please speak with our Spiritual Program Coordinator. We do not wish to prevent anyone from benefiting from the dharma.

Can I smoke while I’m at Root Institute?

No, smoking is not permitted on Root Institute grounds. Students may not be permitted to smoke for the duration of some courses and retreats.

Can I have a letter sent to me at Root Institute?

Due to the irregular timing of Indian post we do not recommend you forward your mail or arrange packages or letters to be sent to Root Institute. It can take several weeks for simple parcels to arrive at Root Institute, even when it has been arranged to be couriered.

It can be challenging to send parcels from Bodhgaya to other places in India or internationally. To avoid disappointment, please take all personal belongings with you when you leave. We have had the unfortunate experience of one parcel being refused four times even when it only contained clothing articles!

Are there money changers and ATM’s in Bodhgaya?

Yes, there are many money-changers in town and there are several ATMs (most are a few minutes walk from the Mahabodhi Temple). Please be aware that sometimes the ATMs do not function, so it is wise not to leave accessing them until the last minute.

Beside my course at Root Institute, what else is there to do in Bodhgaya?

While it is famously known for the Mahabodhi Stupa, Bodhgaya has much more to offer. Feel encouraged to stay in Bodhgaya for at least a couple of weeks! Our suggestions include:

  • Meditate, contemplate and people-watch at the Mahabodhi Temple and Bodhi Tree where Buddha attained enlightenment

  • Enjoy a lemon soda by the Bodhgaya marketplace and watch the street crowd come and go according to the time of day

  • 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

  • Attend teachings of visiting lamas at neighbouring monasteries. Every winter the many Buddhist traditions are exemplified by the presence of great lamas. These teachings are usually advertised online and

  • Visit Root Institute's social service projects in Bodhgaya including Shakyamuni Buddha Clinic (on-site clinic and in the villages with our mobile clinic), Maitreya School and Tara Children's Project

  • Take day trips to Vulture’s Peak (Rajgir) where Shakyamuni Buddha gave many important teachings; Mahakala Cave meditated prior to finding the bodhi tree and Sujata Village where he broke his fast before attaining enlightenment; Nalanda Monastic University where many great Indian and Tibetan Buddhist scholars of the past have lived and studied and Gurupada, where the Buddha’s senior disciple Mahakasyapa is said to be waiting in meditative equipoise for the next Buddha of our eon, Maitreya.

  • 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 Gorakhpur), 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 meditation practice.

I would like to make a donation to one of the Root Institute projects. How do I do this?

Via our donate page. Our projects that engage with our local communities survive solely on donations so we welcome your generosity.

Your donation is precious to us. We do our very best to use money in an efficient and productive way so that many, many, more beings can come to Root Institute and receive the great benefits that we are all working so hard to produce.

Through the merits of your offering, may you be able to make good use of this precious life by cultivating your own meditative practice and developing realisations on the path to Enlightenment.

May you enjoy favourable conditions and may generosity be a source of much peace and happiness for all sentient beings.

Where can I study yoga in Bodhgaya?

You can study it with us! Root Institute now offers yoga and meditation retreats. If you have a subdued desire to learn yoga or simply with to continue your practice while integrating it with Buddhism, then don’t hesitate to check out our Spiritual programme section, under Group retreats.

Long term yoga courses are available in Varanasi, Rishikesh, and other places in India. You may find casual yoga lessons in Bodhgaya available by checking cafe/restaurant notice boards in town.

Can I make a request to add my name or dedication to the Root Institute prayer list?

Yes, you are welcome to email us with your dedications. Please include the name, country and reason for dedications, e.g. "Inder Singh, India, who suffered a stroke on 01/04/2016".

Dedications are sometimes given with specific puja sponsorships. Please go to our page about blessings to find out more about sponsoring a puja.

What are the office and library opening hours?

Our office is open every day, 9.00 am–12 noon and 1.15-5.00 pm and manned by our lovely team of volunteer.

If you arrive before 9am or after 5pm our gate-guards and, if needed, on-call officer will assist you in locating your room. If it is not an emergency then we kindly ask for guests and students to enjoy a cup of tea in our peaceful gardens and wait until our office opens.

Our library is very well stocked, renowned for the many texts and sutras available for student use. It is open every day, 9am–6pm.

Are phone and internet services available?

Root Institute does not have internet available for use at this stage. We are working towards offering wi-fi on a public computer but for the time being students and guests are encouraged to visit a local internet cafe.

Our office phone can be used for local Bodhgaya calls but please know that the line is regularly cut. Interstate or international calls are not possible from Root Institute.

Students do not communicate with friends / family during the course, so you won’t need access to these services. As noted in the course/retreat discipline, course/retreat participants do not leave Root Institute property for the entire course/retreat, so please ensure that you have settled all travel arrangements, emails, calls etc BEFORE you come to Root Institute.

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. Centres for Disease Control website 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. Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has a valuable website which offers current information on disease outbreaks, recommendations for travel immunisations/medications, and tips for staying healthy for travellers to South Asia.

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. 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. But is always prudent to be cautious. For example, if a late-night/early morning trip to Gaya is required (to or from Gaya station), a taxi is considered safer than an auto-rickshaw.

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