4th Annual Dharma Yatra
Nightcap National Park, NSW Australia
by Carol Perry
A long low cloud hangs over the hills. Its resemblance to a nightcap gives the surrounding national park its name. In early October a group of 28 people tread the soft moist earth of the subtropical rainforest. Many of them are newcomers to the dharma and many are long-term practitioners. All love the mix of dharma, sangha and walking meditation in a wild and natural environment. All find that placing one foot after the other day after day for seven days opens the heart and opens the mind.
A day of silence midway through the walk, at the Forest Meditation Centre at “Dharmananda” community; a basic hall, kitchen and kuti or tent accommodation in the simple tradition of the forest monks of Thailand; offers the joy of the only hot shower in days, and a deepening of the silence reaped over the days of just walking.
It is a sense of community that touches people as for one week we are a small tribal sangha exploring the landscape of the forest and our minds. The ancient rainforest trees with buttress roots like elegant skirts are similar to the trees that the Buddha sat under in the forests of northern India. We swim at a waterfall; someone lays spread across the rocks under the falling water. It is hard to see where the body and the rocks begin and end. Out in the elements with the frogs, lizards, birds, vines, mosses, escarpments, gullies and ponds as well as the ticks and leeches, no one complains. It seems like an epic journey of Tolkien proportions in distance, challenge and taking our greed, hatred and delusion into the fire of awareness.
The days are in silence except for meal times. Each morning we do yoga and sit before breakfast, then we pack our lunches, de-camp and set off with a leader who knows the way in the forest.
The tracks have been well researched by Ronny Hickel, instigator of the first Australian yatra (along with his partner Emma), yatra manager, yoga teacher and owner of “Cloud Mountain Homeland” where the walk begins.
There are two cooks and three crew who pack the bags and tents into the truck and take it around to the next camp site where they erect the kitchen tent. Hot chai always awaits the tired and exhilarated walkers. After dinner there is a dharma talk or dharma activity led on alternate nights by Carol Perry and Victor von der Hyde. On days when the distance is not so great and we have more time, we have small group meetings for practice questions or dharma enquiry.
On the final night we celebrate at the Doon Doon saddle flanked by the towering escarpment of the Jerusalem rocks and overlooking Mount Warning; clouds sit low in the valley forming a white lake below pierced by the volcanic core of Mt Doughboy. The next morning we walk down to where we started at “Cloud Mountain Homeland”.