T H E
Edition: 03 | Hemanta Ritu and Shishira Ritu (Nov 2019 â€“ Feb 2020) A time to look back and reflect
B E E T A K E S C A R E
W H I C H
T O T H E
N E C T A R .
H A R M
D R A W S
N O T
F L O W E R F R O M
J E T S U N M A T E N Z I N PA L M O AT A N TA R A SENIOR LIVING, DEHRADUN We were honoured to have Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo share a teaching with us on the 9th of December at Antara, Dehradun. On 12th of December Jetsunma held a Q&A session at The Bodhi Tree at Vana. Here are a few key quotes from her talk that we will strive to keep in mind as we tr y and implement dharma in ever yday life. ‘The ego is dualism encapsulated. There’s me and there’s ever yone else that’s not me. So the original aspiration in Buddhism was to attain nir vana and escape and be freed from samsara. But then it was recognised that were are all at a ver y deep level interconnected. So how can it be that we work for our own personal liberation? Could we really just leave ever yone inside if our house was burning? If we were drowning in a swamp and we make a lot of efforts to get on dr y land and when we get there we look at our family drowning, we say ‘Oh I’m sorr y you’re drowning. I made a lot of efforts so you also make efforts and you can also get out. Bye. And turn around and leave them? How could we do that? The fact that I’m on dr y land is to be able to pull out all the others who are stuck there.’ ‘Nir vana isn’t something that’s out there. Nir vana is the level of awareness in the mind when there is no longer the duality of the self and the other.’ ‘Buddha was against nihilism as well as eternalism. He taught the middle way between the extremes.’
‘The middle way is the way of looking at the ver y nature of the mind. The ver y nature of the mind is beyond the self.’ ‘We think that meditation is going to lead to bliss. But some times it might lead to emotions that are not blissful at all. You never can tell what’s going to happen. As we go deeper into the layers of our consciousness, looking for this ‘me’/’I’ in the centre like a spider in a web, things keep unravelling and changing. You cannot find something at the core or at the middle of it. That is the whole basis of not seeing things as they really are.’ ‘We are creating our own reality from moment to moment. From millennia great yogis have noted that things are not as we perceive it to be. We are creating it moment to moment. We need to realize that not intellectually, but at the heart of it. That is considered to be supreme wisdom.’ ‘There’s no use of having a spiritual belief which collapses in the face of trouble. It should make it stronger. It should be real help and benefit. Other wise what use is it?’ ‘Buddha said mindfulness is one path to liberation. This ability to be aware. We are always aware. We don’t recognise that we are aware. But we do not know that we know. And so meditation is for helping us to recognise those qualities of mind we already have. Its not like we have to develop something we don’t have. We have to recognise what we already have. The ability to be aware is the ability to be conscious. We are always conscious but not conscious of being conscious.’ ‘We have to heal, be healthy within, in order to really accomplish. Egos which are ver y unhappy are always thinking about themselves. A healthy ego isn’t thinking about itself so much.’
LEARNING FROM THE FIRES
The Amazon fires this August were devestating: while forests blazed for days, hundreds of indigenous tribes that had called the rainforest ‘home’ found themselves homeless. The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation’s report confirmed that unsurprisingly, the greenhouse gas emissions from the Amazon fires had a direct impact on climate change. However, this disaster also fuelled many productive discussions in the global community, which extended much beyond questions of the environment. In fact, the event became a platform through which many were able to see the current state of global politics at large, and the shifts within it. Although there has been a lot said about the disaster, we wanted to take time to reflect on it, many months later, through our own Vana lens. This is a lens that is informed by ancient wisdom, Buddhist teachings, and deep, internal reflection. According to Hindu Wisdom, we are in the age of Kalyug: this is a period of ignorance and desolation, and comes with it an inability to deeply understand the natural world and its rhythms.
When we reflect on the disaster through this lens, we can see how development driven by greed in the name of ‘progress’ or ‘growth’ is not only depleting our natural resources, but also threatening our existence. This is further exacerbated by a sense of separateness from the world that many humans may feel. The bubble we live in becomes our world and thus we inherit its hollowness, while not being able to see connections between ourselves and others, humankind and nature. To counter this struggle, we can revisit the words of the Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, who said: “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.” Turning to ancient wisdom reminds us that we are all entwined in an endless chain of cause and effect. When we apply this knowledge to our own lives, we start to see how an event, even if occurring thousands of kilometres away, is a reflection of our actions. The disaster is not a surprise that has arisen out of nowhere: several causes and conditions, many of which are in our control, have given rise to it. But there is hope, and while we cannot afford further destruction, we must also retain some optimism, or what Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche has called ‘human braver y’. In his book Shambhala: the sacred path of the Warrior, he states: “The essence of warriorship or the essence of human braver y, is not refusing to give up on anyone or anything. We can never say that we are simply falling to pieces or that anyone else is, and we can never say that about the world either. Within our lifetime there will be great problems in the world, but let us make sure that within our life time no disasters happen. We can prevent them. It is up to us.” What this quote tells us is that as humans, we are bound to face obstacles. However, while we cannot control ever ything, awareness of our actions, and how they are linked to a larger cycle of karma is important. Therefore, we must recognise that the earth lies within us – it is not a separate entity, but ultimately a projection of our internal world and a product of our actions, however irrelevant they may seem. Written by Meher Varma & Neha Negi. WORK CITED 1. Shambhala: the sacred path of the Warrior, Chögyam Trungpa 2. https://portal.fiocruz.br/en/foundation
MUSINGS OF A THOUGHTBIRD O n Va n a , L i f e a n d M o t h e r h o o d
Tara Singh Vachani - founder of Antara Senior Living and a Vana Board Member - talks to us about ageing, motherhood and her sibling Veer Singh’s earliest vision for Vana, on Vana Sansar’s podcast. “Vana used to feel like a step parent to me… but now it feels like an older person in my family…. It’s the one place I don’t have to worr y about caring for myself; its done for me. That’s what I associate with an elder.” “A lot of our peers are just in constant need of stimulation and engagement… they are afraid of being alone.” [On her first ever retreat at Vana] “Single women are fantastic with how they approach life and changes.” “Your children are not representations of you… we have to equip them to go out in to the world” [On Motherhood]. “Earlier, wellness for me was all about my blood tests being okay, and my weight being okay… I never used to ask myself: how am I actually feeling? Am I feeling energetic? [On wellness and lessons from Vana].
The full recording will be available on our Podcast channel in early 2020
â€œVana is in the earth, as sense of truth and life, a journey only just started, of love, hope and light.â€? - Tara Singh Vachani January 4 th, 2014
WELLNESS TIPS FOR THE SEASON According to traditional Ayur vedic medicine, we are transitioning from Hemant Ritu to Shishira Ritu. In Hemanta, typically a mild accumulation of the Vata and Kapha dosha occurs. In addition, the â€˜digestive fireâ€™ is typically augmented, and if to an optimal degree, this creates an internal balance. The approaching season - the Shishira Ritu - is marked by an accumulation of the Vata and Kapha doshas. As the air is dr y, and the temperatures drop, it is important that the foods we consume are nourishing and our internal digestive fires are carefully maintained.
FOR HEMANTA RITU Vata Constitution 1. Avoid exposure to wind and cold breeze 2. Add a little ghee to dals and vegetables 3. Use mustard oil for body massages
Pitta Constitution 1. Include good fats, like olive and coconut oil, in your daily diet 2. Regular oil massage with coconut oil will help
Kapha Constitution 1. Avoid exposure to wind and cold breeze 2. Choose to exercise in the morning 3. Cook with sesame oil for extra nourishment
DIY SKIN CARE Vata: Mash a banana and mix with yogurt or milk. Apply to the face for 15-20 minutes, and wash with warm water. This mask will ensure hydration and prevent dr yness. Pitta: Apply aloe vera gel to the face daily. This will pacify any skin-related stress, and create a nice, natural glow. Kapha: mix turmeric and honey to create a light paste. Apply to the skin, and wash off with warm water after 15-20 minutes. This will keep the skin supple and smooth.
FOR SHISHIRA RITU Vata Constitution 1. Choose foods that have predominantly sweet, sour and salty tastes. Avoid spicy foods 2. Add ghee to whatever foods you can: lentils and vegetables 3. Choose mustard oil for massages
Pitta Constitution 1. Choose foods that are predominantly savour y 2. Include more fats in your diet and avoid spicy foods, which can further increase the digestive fire 3. Use coconut oil for massage
Kapha Constitution 1. Include sesame seed oil in food preparations 2. Reduce sweet, sour and salty foods; choose bitter, astringent and spicy foods (in moderation)
VANA CUISINE CURRIED WATER CHESTNUT SOUP Enjoy this soup to welcome in the early winter. This seasonal vegetable has immense benefits, while being ver y low in calories: water chestnuts promote weight loss and contain tons of antioxidants, which can reduce the risk of disease.
Ingredients Cooking time: 30 mins
Method Serves: 5-6
200 g fresh chestnuts peeled (peeling can be quite an ardurous task! We recommend putting on some music to enjoy the process). 1 medium onion sliced 2 tsp sunflower oil 3 cloves garlic 1 Â˝ tsp curry powder Â˝ tsp turmeric 1 tsp fresh coriander stem chopped 5 cups vegetable stock Salt and pepper to taste Nutritional information per serving Calories 128 | Fat 3 g | Carbohydrate 28 g | Protein 4 g | Fiber 4 g
In a large saucepan on medium heat, add oil, onion and garlic. Cook until onions are fragrant and soft. Add curr y powder and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the chestnuts, vegetable spices, coriander and stock. Cook for 20 minutes until the chestnut are tender and soft. Transfer to blender and blend until smooth. Adjust seasoning and ser ve while hot.
BLACK EYED BEANS AND PUMPKIN STEW This is a hearty meal for the seasonal eater – its full-flavored, satisfying, and visually pleasing. Locally called Lobhia, the black eyed bean carries good amounts of dietar y fiber, and is loaded with B-complex vitamins like folates and thiamine. We recommend dunking some fresh bread in to this stew for extra comfort on winter’s coldest days. Ingredients Cooking time: 30 mins
4 tsp sunflower oil 2 large onion chopped finely 7-8 cloves garlic chopped 2 medium leeks chopped 1 medium celery chopped 1 1/2 cup tomato paste 3-4 sprig thyme 6-8 cherry tomato halves 8-10 shallots peeled halves Salt to taste 2 cup beans black eyed bean cooked 1 cup red pumpkin diced 1 tsp paprika 300 ml vegetable stock or water Nutritional information per serving Calories 263 | Fat 9 g | Carbohydrate 33 g | Protein 10 g | Fiber 2 g
Method In a stockpot on medium heat, sauté onion, garlic, celer y, shallot and leeks for about five minutes. If the mixture sticks, add a bit of water. Stir in paprika and fresh tomato paste. Cook for 1 minute. Add pumpkin, beans, cherr y tomatoes, vegetable stock and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, and cover the pot partially, until pumpkin is tender – this should take about 25 minutes. Season and ser ve while hot.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER An Ornithology Lesson A short description of a few species of birds which are commonly sighted frolicking in the green abundance of Vana.
ORIENTAL MAGPIE-ROBIN The Oriental Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis), commonly known as ‘Dhyal’ or ‘Doyal’, is a small passerine bird from the Muscicapidae family. Commonly sighted in lush forests around Vana, it is also the national bird of Bangladesh.
BLUE BEARDED BEE-EATER The Blue Bearded Bee-Eater (Nyctyornis athertoni) is from the meropidae family. Commonly known as ‘Neelkantha Patranga’ in Hindi, this bird is less social than the other species in its family. The vivid blue feathers on the throat are long, and often fluffed up as the bird perches on a lone branch or in this case, on a wire mesh.
SCARLET MINIVET The Scarlet Minivet (Pericrocotus speciosus), of the passerine family, is often seen in pairs or small groups. Also known as the ‘Pahari Bulalchashm’ in Hindi, this bird is commonly found in our wooded Sal forests that surround Vana. The male has a glistening black head and bright scarlet body and the female is a bright yellow with dark grey head, wings and tail.
INDIAN WHITE EYE An Indian White Eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) is seen fluttering about at Vana. Also known as ‘Baboona’ in Hindi, this small passerine bird is a forager which feeds on nectar, small berries and insects. Its name comes from the distinctive white ring that encircles its eye.
V A N A’ S B O A R D Vana’s board was created by Veer Singh. The individuals that comprise the board span a range of expertise. Together, these individuals are working to improve the Retreat’s ever yday functioning, while keeping the original commitment to sustainability, peace, and equality - the pillars that built Vana - in mind.
Tara Singh Vachani
Tara is the Executive Chairman of Antara Senior Living Limited, which is based in Dehradun. As a Board member, she would like to see Vana become 100% financially sustainable while allowing it to retain the “out of the box thinking that forms its core.” In casual speech, she often compares Vana to an older family member: this metaphor illustrates care, which she finds synonymous with the Retreat.
Karan Singh Chadha
Karan is the founder of Farlap Capital, London. Previously, he was the Head of Principal Investments at ACPI Investments. As a Vana Board Member, his goal is “to tr y to continually preser ve the authenticity and personalised ser vice that Vana offers.” Of his own Vana journey, he says, it “has helped [him] become more mindful and taught [him] that wellness is not limited to one’s physical wellbeing, but is a far deeper concept”.
Gitanjali is the founder of Snehadhara Foundation, an educationist and a social entrepreneur. For her, “Vana is about well being and inner journeys that we want people to make… it is about mindfulness in speech, food, thought and action. She sees her role as “working with the psycho social wellbeing of the employees who are the pillars of the Retreat”.
Mansi is a former litigation lawyer and founder of Mia & J, which makes delicious biscuits. For her Vana is founded on a ‘majestic vision’, which is to be of ser vice to all beings. She describes the grandiosity of this mission as one that steers her to “ask questions, and therefore navigate decision-making by placing the larger good above our own, as the ultimate goal”.
Meher Varma is a Delhi-based brand strategist and writer. She uses her training in anthropology to design research studies and create content for some of India’s top brands. She received her PhD in anthropology from the UCLA in 2015; she is also currently working on a compendium about clothing in India.
A VANAVASI SHARES LJILJANA LAZIC
“Vana is the end of my journey in India.” Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you come from, and what do you do? My name is Ljiljana Lazic. My origin is from one of the European countries or rather, one of the countries which are tr ying to be European. I have a background in business, but the nature of my business is not important. What’s important is that my experiences -- business and not -- are connected with life in India.
When did you first come to India, and what has your relationship with India been like? I am working in India, and have been coming here for almost 30 years for business. People can come to a place to ‘see it,’ but often, they are not open-minded enough. But believe me, I did not come only as a tourist. I am open minded. I am always looking at and for the details. My experience in India has been ver y long and on different levels and not only on the level of wellness, spas, retreat or ashrams. There’s been a lot of experience with the culture and even the tough and hard ways of doing business in India.
Tell us about your relationship with Vana? How has it shaped your life journey? Vana is the only place that I find covers all the parts that are required to keep the body and the mind in good condition. I started my journey, of knowing India through wellness spas, retreats and ashrams. But then I found Vana - this was the end of my search.
What do you mean by that? Vana is the end of my journey in India. When I say India, I mean that in a symbolic way. Why? Because in Vana I found all of what I was looking for in India…. for the last thirty years. You know, ever ybody in the West and East is talking about healthy life, what kind of food to have, what kind of exercise to do, what kind of lifestyle to have, what activities have to be done; they know that the mind must be calm. If we take the broader picture, ever ybody is talking about ecology, ever ybody is talking about environment, and about organic food. But, its mostly talk. Here though, at Vana, it’s the first time where I’ve found this talk put in practice with such awareness. And really, when I came for the first time I was surprised. That’s why for me, this is the end my search for a place where I can spend some quality time with myself and just ‘be’.
NITIN SAWHNEY & ENSEMBLE AT VANA, DECEMBER 14 TH 2019
Dr Nitin Sawhney CBE, together with his ensemble, recreated the music from Sawhney’s album ‘Beyond Skin’ in Vana’s Kila. His musical collaborators included singer, songwriter and composer Nicki Wells; singer/songwriter YVA; flautist, vocalist and percussionist Ashwin Srinivasan; Sufi classical Indian vocalist Dhruv Sangari and pianist and composer Sahil Vasudeva. The performance enthralled the audience as the Kila reverberated with the diversity of multiple musical traditions coming together. We thank everybody who came to Vana to share this special celebration with us.
VEER SINGH ON NITIN SAWHNEY “I grew up trying to learn instruments and have always had great regard and appreciation for music and musicians. But there has only ever been one musician who I’ve ‘followed’, waiting for each new album to come out. The only one whose concert I showed up to two hours early to get a spot at the front. The one musician who I feel can work with any genre of music, with purity, and yet let it speak to other genres in the same song. And maybe one of the very few whose musical talent is equally matched by his political and social philosophy… never afraid to voice what he thinks. When Vana was being built, I would dream of Nitin Sawhney playing in the Kila one day. Thanks to his kindness and generosity of spirit, this dream was realised.” Veer Singh Founder, Vana
LY R I C PA T C H W O R K
Sawhney’s lyrics are deeply memorable. Here are a few that are currently on our lips.
If you keep the venom behind your lips A kiss could make you cr y
Ek rang me jeena, jeevan ko Aye jaan-e-tamanna, theek nahi
If Nixon never lied And Martin Luther never died On the flipside On the flipside you can do anything On the flipside, winter, autumn, spring Let the flipside bring a second wind
Inside this lonely place I’m chasing shadows like a wasp in October
I think there’s going to be a backlash against technology You know, I don’t know what’s gonna cause it You know, I’m a, I’m a low-tech man in a high-tech world
The seal of Prophesy Old ones will see visions Young ones will dream dreams Time of change conditions Till nothing as it seems
Tudo o que quiser (Ever ything you want) Tem que entender (You got to understand)
BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS THE WOMEN WHO RULED INDIA ARCHANA GARODIA GUPTA In the move towards writing inclusive histories, Gupta tells the stor y of India through 20 feminist stories. Each narrative honors a preindependent heroine; familiar icons include Rani Lakshmibai, Ahilyabai Holkar, Nur Jahan to Raziya Sultan, Didda and Chand Bibi. One of the most wonderful aspects of this stor ytelling is the non-biased approach the author takes: there is no explicit attempt to cover up flaws or exaggerate character strengths.
BRILLIANT MOON DILGO KHYENTSE RINPOCHE This artful autobiography is based on the insights, memories, and teachings of a great meditation master. Also a film, ‘Brilliant Moon’ is a personal reflection that will speak to anyone who is on a spiritual path, and inevitably - encountering hurdles along the way.
SACRED PLANTS OF INDIA NANDITHA KRISHNA A lesson in dendrology, infused with one in spirituality. This anthology of trees covers those most sacred to India, and makes an argument that combines religious and ecological knowledge, for saving them. We learn for example, how the pipal was integral to Buddha’s enlightenment, and how the ashoka tree was instrumental in the Ramayana.
Vanaveda is the product range used at Vana, which draws from Indian wisdom and Ayur veda. PHILOSOPHY Vanavedaâ€™s range of skin, hair, body and ritual products are created to enhance wellbeing with minimal impact on the environment. In itâ€™s commitment to be as organic as possible, Vanaveda sources all essential oils from India, and attempt to minimise carbon footprint when gathering material. The formulations are then created to align with Ayur vedic wisdom: in each product, careful attention is given to the balance of doshas, and to the seasonal changes both our bodies and the plant cycles around us go through. We consider Vanaveda to be a medium of knowledge; we hope that more people will recognise Vanaveda as an initiative that endorses and exemplifies a holistic concept of wellness.
All Vanaveda products are certified to be Vegan and Cruelty Free by PETA.
SPECIAL VANAVEDA INGREDIENTS One of the aspects that distinguishes Vanaveda from other wellness initiatives is the special ingredients that are incorporated into the formulations. Below is a list of a select few, their special properties, and the Vanaveda products in which they can be found:
Bhringraj: Also known as False Daisy, has properties to pacify vitiated Vata. It also helps prevent dryness of the scalp and controls frizzy hair. Our Vata Shampoo and Conditioner is formulated with bhringraj.
Black Myrobalan: This is a natural astringent that helps counteract vitiated Kapha. It is used in our Kapha Hair Conditioner.
Sal Butter: This is an excellent emollient helps which also contains a natural SPF. Sal Butter is used in all our moisturisers (Vata | Pitta | Kapha) and our Cleansing Bar.
Turmeric: Turmeric helps counteract Pitta. It is an excellent anti inflammatory herb and also acts as a skin protectant. It is used in our Pitta moisturiser.
Pea Protein: Pea Proten has a reconstructive, strengthening, volumising and conditioning properties. It is used in all our shampoos and conditioners (Vata | Pitta | Kapha).
Peach Kernel Oil: This special oil improves skin elasticity and is also an excellent antioxidant. It is used in all our massage oils.
VANA, DEHRADUN, INDIA | RETREAT@VANA.CO.IN | +91 135 3911114
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We are delighted to announce the third edition of Vana Sansar - our literary newsletter. This edition will be accompanied by a podcast, whic...
Published on Dec 23, 2019
We are delighted to announce the third edition of Vana Sansar - our literary newsletter. This edition will be accompanied by a podcast, whic...