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Eckhart Tolle in Rishikesh

Next February, from the 16th to the 24th, Eckhart Tolle is giving a retreat in Rishikesh in North India.

 For those not familiar with Eckhart Tolle, his book The Power of Now (1997) is a luminously clear statement of "the sacrament of the present moment." As a book it has proved attractive to many more than the usual suspects. Personally I'd say Eckhart's the only person on the satsang circuit who could possibly have the makings of a world-class teacher. Recently at Sannyas News we heard tapes from a retreat Eckhart gave in Canada last autumn which had the same power to alter your basic sense of perception as Osho's last guided No-Mind meditations.

And, if you haven't been there, Rishikesh is a jewel. Rishikesh is where the Ganges, huge but still with the freshness of a mountain stream, bursts out of the Himalayas. It isn't really a town so much as an area of woods, coves and white-sand beaches, dotted with an assortment of Indian ashrams. Traditionally a sadhu stronghold, all the pilgrimages to the most sacred places in the high Himalayas- to the source of the Ganges, to Badrinath, to the Valley of Flowers- start from Rishikesh. There are still totally untouched stretches of the old pilgrim trail following the Ganges upstream.

ShantiMayi's ashram is there, at Laxman Jhula, above the gorge where the Ganges finally breaks free of the mountains. When I was there in '99 she gave satsang daily and at least half the people there were sannyasins. Each winter Andrew Cohen comes to give a retreat, this year it's from February 1 - 16, and is followed by three days of public satsangs. This Februrary would be a perfect time to see Rishikesh- by the look of things, if you leave it much longer it's going to turn, like Ramana's Tiruvanamalai, into an Indian version of Byron Bay.

Details of Eckhart's retreat are on his website. www.namastepublishing.com/sessions It costs 580 dollars which would seem, by anyone's standards, distinctly pricey. However a note assures us that 50% of the proceeds "will be donated to various Indian charities."

To get to Rishikesh take the Shatabdi Express from New Delhi railway station. It takes 4 hours to reach Hardwar, from where Rishikesh is easily available by a variety of transport. Should you be arriving in Delhi for the first time take a pre-paid taxi from the airport to Pahar Ganj. This is opposite New Delhi railway station and is the area of cheap tourist hotels and restaurants. Sannyasins from Samdarshi's ashram used to stay at the Metropolis at the far end.