This post is the second part of the two parts that I have written on Vipassana. Part 1: an introduction to the Vipassana in a Q&A format. Part 2 is about my personal experience.
Mysore 27 Nov, 2022
This happened about a week after I came back from my 2nd 10 day Vipassana course – I was re-watching a Korean drama TV Romedy series on Netflix. A favourite among my favourites. I pause the show to receive a video call on my phone from someone close. Few minutes into the call, I was being accused of bad things, an attack on my character describing lack of basic integrity. The lack of integrity was in my relationship with this person. I was silent mostly. This person wasn’t okay with my silent listening too. The call concluded after 57 minutes. After the call, I pressed the play button and continued watching the show that was paused.
A friend who overheard the conversation was very upset. Firstly for not giving it back! Secondly about the ‘unfair & inaccurate’ nature of the accusations made against me. While I agreed with my friend’s judgement, this 50+ minutes phone call of listening did not feel like an effort to me. The transition from phone call to watching TV was seamless. No thinking or reasoning involved. The call caused less strain than the strain caused by a stone thrown into a flowing river. Negligible. Just disappeared.
While I can’t for sure say that my calm response was due to my 10 day Vipassana course & practice, however, it seems like it.
In the past, in similar situations I’ve pretended to be calmer. Pretention is suppression. Anytime I’ve suppressed, it has become a bigger problem.
My first 10 day meditation course happened in 2017 at the Tiruvannamalai Vipassana centre. 5 years later, I was in Dhamma Bodhi, the Gaya Vipassana centre, registering for my 2nd 10 day course.
At the end of this 10 day course in Gaya I realized I missed the technique completely in my first. My first 10 day course had become an ego booster for my meditator / yoga practitioner identity – I successfully completed a 10 day silence course. Anil is the real deal, a real yogi!
Why was I doing this again?
For a break. Break from professional and personal life. Additionally, I was hoping for a couple of bliss experiences too during these sessions. My mind had a lot on its plate with things happening professionally & personally. Add to it my unfulfilled desires about how things should be at home, at work; the projects that I wanted to take up but hadn’t, the places where I wanted to take my family but didn’t, the time I wanted to spend with my parents but couldn’t, the spiritual progress I wanted to make but hadn’t. With these feelings I entered the course at the Gaya Vipassana centre.
No phone usage for 10 days wasn’t a big deal for me. Even no speaking was manageable. But no activity was difficult. I wanted to read books, solve problems, at the least, write. Meditation was the only active activity.
To facilitate communication outside the meditation hall, there were a bunch of notice boards with notices. Each day there were specific instructions. Most of us missed activity / engagement so much that we kept reading those notices again and again. Simple instructions – we read them about 5-6 times every day. There were times where I would laugh looking at people who would reading the same notice the nth time. Later unconsciously I would find myself reading one of them again.
I would walk through the campus. About 500 steps one way. Sometimes I would climb over small walls and practice balanced walking. Other times I would watch the sky.
Mornings were easy. After a 2hr session (430 to 630 am), a breakfast break at 630am. Similarly after a 3hr practice (8 to 11am), a lunch break at 11am. The post lunch session was the most challenging one. 4 hr session with a break at 5 pm with just lemon water. Nothing exciting (in terms of food) to look forward to. While we had a 5 min break after every hour of practice, there wasn’t enough stimulation/ entertainment.
I would be okay after the evening. Just an hour’s session followed by a discourse. These discourses I enjoyed thoroughly. I remember 3 occasions when I felt I should give up my effort. These evening discourses changed my mind. Stories, inspiration, sacrifice and most importantly the Vipassana technique were content of the discourse.
Sleep was amazing. 9 continuous days of deep sleep. Wheather I woke up in the middle of the night or early at 4am, always woke up fresh. It felt like a deep repair, healing and rest that my mind thoroughly enjoyed.
Old students ( students who have done the 10 day previously – like me ) cannot eat meals beyond 12pm. I would mostly be hungry in the evenings. But that didn’t interrupt my sleep.
I was happy with the food provided. Typical North Indian vegetarian meal. The food didn’t include onion/ginger. Milk, tea was provided. Less salty. Usually nutritious. Included 2 fruits, 2 vegetables and pulses/ legumes. On the 5th day and on the 10th day, there were sweets included.
Now, I’ll move to stuff of personal significance. Words may fail to describe certain things that I felt, but let me try.
I was able to practice better in my 2nd than the first. I understood the technique better.
One evening, during the lemon water break, I was walking, my mind was frustrated. I had a headache too. For some reason as I was walking, I stopped and practiced the technique. It was sincere. To some extent it felt like it happened. Those 30 seconds something beautiful and significant happened. It wasn’t a mystical / spiritual experience. But maybe, spiritual in the sense of I saw / understood something deeper about how my body & mind works. This probably repeated 2 more times during those 10 days.
At the intellectual level, I saw the following changes in myself
- I realized nobody’s going to come save me, unless I deserve to be saved. I am responsible for my actions, my problems and my resposnes. A deep sense of responsibility towards my life.
- This responsibility brought in a strong sense of importance to practice, to improve. To clean my mind and body. Since my course, I’ve been practicing atleast 1 hr. I attempt to practice 2 hrs every day ( an hour in morning and an hour in the evening)
- Usually I refrain from insisting on something. For some weird reason I think everyone should try this out. If someone really gets this technique (which I think I got the 2nd time), they would benefit enormously. Anyone who is real close to me, I have gone beyond my usual marketing efforts, to tell more about this and persuade them to give this a try.
- It’s about 15 days since I am out of this course, I see real difference in how I see the world and how I experience it inside.
The Vipassana technique helps one to remove impurities of the mind. When all is removed, the claim is that one experiences pure compassion and love for others. I am yet to experience that. I continue to be selfish most of the times. I also feel anger, irritated and frustrated at times. I continue to have most of my old habit patterns.
I want to be careful about what I write here. Any kind of pretention /exaggeration /understatement is lying. Anything to further my agenda, my ego is countering the very thing.
My biggest claim – I can now say – I have finally turned inwards & started on the path of cleaning my mind.
How will I feel about this in a year’s time? Will I stop practicing & go back to my old habit pattern? Will I be better?
Time will tell. Even if time doesn’t, my spouse will definitely let me know about my pretensions & my ugly ways.
At one of his talks in the later part of J Krishnamurthi’s life, he surprised his audience by saying, “Do you want to know my secret?” Everyone became very alert. Many people in the audience had been coming to listen to him for twenty or thirty years and still failed to grasp the essence of his teaching. Finally, after all these years, the master would give them the key to understanding. “This is my secret,” he said. “I don’t mind what happens.”
The ultimate test would be this. Will one be able to, ever, really, say this?