March 26, 2013

Dome Time

On a large parcel of land in a peninsula situated between Mumbai's Gorai Creek and the Arabian Sea, a gigantic dome rises into the sky. Sunlight shimmers off its golden exterior. I wear a long sleeved shirt to avoid any confusion. In 2009, the Global Vipassana Pagoda opened here. The monument to peace and harmony is not yet complete, with the final touches still being applied during my visit.

South Korea may be well known for its hollow plastic treasures, but the Vipassana Pagoda's claim to fame is that it is the largest hollow stone structure in the world. The largest stone dome without supporting pillars ever constructed, the impressive monument rises to an height of almost 100 meters. The exterior design is based on a Buddhist structure in Myanmar, and the pagoda has an expected lifespan of a thousand years.

The centre offers free ten day courses to everyone, and only asks for complete isolation from the pulls of modern day society during that time span in return. Oddly enough, India's largest amusement park is located adjacent to the meditative retreat. I had to share a crowded ferry with hundreds of families headed towards Essel World before I could experience the relative solitude of the monument.

There was a viewing hall inside the great dome, so we could witness the meditation sessions taking place within. Meditation centres always make me a bit uneasy, as I am never completely sure which of its inhabitants are actually sincere about their beliefs, which ones are faking it, and which ones are crazy.


"White, black, or brown, a man is still a man. Whoever defiles his mind becomes miserable." - inscription found on the wall of the pagoda