Vipassana means being witness of thyself. There remains no doer, what is left is just the doing.
Vipassana means seeing things as they really are. It is one of the world’s most popular Meditation Techniques. It was supposedly taught by Gautama Buddha himself in India somewhere around 2500 years ago. S.N.Goenka, however, is the modern curator and the founder of Dhamma centres. It is one of the most structured and regimented courses of meditation where they teach how to observe certain aspects that guide you to live a more fulfilling life. Vipassana literally translates into ‘clear-seeing’, observing the sensations of your body objectively and without any prejudice.
Eg: Learn to observe objectively whatever is happening. If someone is angry and tries to hide his anger to swallow it, then it’s suppression. But by observing the anger, you will find that it automatically passes away. You become free from the anger if you learn how to observe it objectively.
The Dhamma centres are completely donation based with not a single penny charged for it and are normally located at remote locations that provide an ideal place to meditate, away from the honking vehicles and the buzz of factories. The sound of the sweet breeze rustling through the leaves of neem and pipal trees throughout the day is heard along with various bird sounds.
Now, how did I end up here? What came into my mind when I decided to go for such an experience even when I knew there’s no talking, no eye contact, no actions, no physical contact, no reading, no music, no writing, no electronic devices!?
I opted for a 10-day silent meditation retreat somewhere in December – a perfect weather to rejuvenate yourself. Till then, I had no idea what I was in for as I didn’t fuss much to do any research beforehand. I was excited as it would be amazing to disconnect from the so- called world, take a break from everything including my social life, relax and experience meditation. Till that day I could never meditate as I am a quite playful personality and sitting at a place and doing nothing always seemed to be a task, hence I took up this course as a challenge.
On the scheduled day my parents came to drop me at the centre, wondering how I would survive for 11 long days. They felt it’s not my cup of tea and I definitely won’t survive for the entire tenure. After completing the registration procedure, each one of us was allotted a single occupancy room and that very night we were asked to take vows about not conversing with anyone for the next 10 days, which seemed impossible to do, but definitely thrilling!
The schedule was handed over to us and here’s how it looked like:
4:00 AM – Wake up bell
4:30 am to 6:30 am– Meditation in hall
6:30 am to 8:00 am- Breakfast and Refresh
8:00 am to 11:00 am – Group Meditation in hall
11:00 am to 12:00 pm– Lunch
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm– Rest and Queries with Teachers
1:00 pm to 5:00 pm – Group Meditation in Hall
5:00 pm to 6:00 pm – Tea Break
6:00 pm to 9:00 pm- Discourse and Meditation in the Hall with Goenka’s speech.
9:00 pm to 10:00 pm– Issues to be solved with teachers
10:00 pm – Lights out
12 hours in a day.. Oh Gosh!!
Looking at it, I too got sure about what my parents were worried about.
However, what struck me was the challenge I had given myself.
On that very night when I was fast asleep, I sensed some insect around me and I told myself that that’s what jungles are all aboit. I was wondering how those sages used to spend their entire lives at distinguished places.
This thought woke me up and what I saw next to my bed was a scorpio and that night I screamed the loudest and had shaken the whole centre with it.
The care taker soon rushed to my room and I begged to go back home.
The care taker heard me out. His words till date ring in my ears- “If your fear is larger than the Scorpio, that’s something to worry about!”
He gave me the courage I had been looking for and made me more determined to face the challenges.
The next morning, on Day 1 of the course, I woke up with all the enthusiasm in the world. I reached the venue at 4:30 am sharp. It began with Annapana- a breathing technique. In this technique we were taught to put aside our thoughts and focus on the breath. One should be able to feel the air going inside and out of the nose. One has to focus intensely in order to feel the touch of the air. It seemed easy but it was challenging, especially for the hyperactive person that I am. I immediately noticed that the more the thoughts were negative, the harder it was for me to survive and concentrate. I learnt that the only solution is learning to maintain peace of mind. I had to focus on my breath.
We were asked to work on this for 3 more days.
After that came the body. You have to start from the top of the head and then minute by minute, you are asked to reach the feet. During this time, you have to focus all your attention to each part of your body. You have to be aware of the sensations. Once a sensation arises, you have to observe it for a while and then you have to move on. You are not allowed to be attached to any of the feelings (whatever they are positive or negative),
By doing so,you eradicate all your bad thoughts and bad energy which has been accumulating within yourself. It can also happen that a sensation can bring up particular thoughts of your past. You cannot react to them, you can only observe them. If you react to them, you generate other negative energy which won’t help you feel better.
I kept asking myself, “What am I doing here and what is happening to me?”
I went to the tuitor; I discussed with her about the chaos in my mind and the urge of wanting to quit; but she wouldn’t let me leave the course and go.
During the last days, on one hand, I was totally engrossed into it and on the other hand, I could not focus in the meditation activities as I was super excited to be home again back with family.
The clock seemed to turn slowly for me. Finally, on the last day The Noble Silence was over and it was amazing to hear my own voice. We could speak with each other internally and share experiences. It was inspiring and interesting, coming back (partially) to the reality of the world after such a long time.
On the very last day, after the breakfast, the course was over and we could get back to our cellphones. The first thing I did was called Mom and as soon as I heard her voice, the tears rolled down my eyes and I literally had no words. I wanted to tell so much but no words felt appropriate.
All I wanted was her to understand my silence and that’s what happened. My Mom’s first words were “Beta, we missed you”.
I felt so proud of my family, since it was not only a challenge for me, but also for them.
In no time I saw my entire family there at the centre to take me home.
It was indeed a rejuvenating experience as after all this silence and self awareness, when you see your loved ones around, there is nothing more you can ask for.
Few Astonishing Takeaways from S.N.GOENKA:
“We have to learn to see things as they are. We have to be objective and accept whatever happens around us. We have to learn that there is nothing permanent in life and we must be able to detach ourselves from all the emotions and feelings. On the other hand, we need to observe them in order to act properly, by developing a sense of equanimity. Nothing is permanent, that’s life.”
“Anger, happiness, love, sadness and any other kind of sensations are not forever. They come and go. We cannot be attached to something which will soon disappear. It is the attachment which makes us miserable. It is the attachment which makes our minds unbalanced.”
“The thing that hurts you the most in life is your own untamed mind. The thing that can help you the most in life is a disciplined mind. When the wild mind is untamed, it can be very harmful. If we learn to tame our minds, it helps us back by reducing our suffering and misery.”
“Everything is mutating in life, continuously. It is an experience which teaches you how to die and how to live.”
Above all, MIND IS A POWERFUL TOOL