10 days Vipassana: a taste of a monk’s life
It has been almost a year I did the course and started this post. Finally the post is up.
I told my mother about doing the course she told me that she had heard about it. Then I asked why didn’t she tell me about it? She didn’t have any answer. I am pretty sure she might have felt I would become a Sanyasi/Monk.
Thanks to the India’s only Olympic Gold medalist – Abinav Bindra. I first heard about the course in his book “A Shot At History”.
Before going into my experience let me answer some basic questions.
What is Vipassana??
Vipassana the art of self observation and purification is a technique taught by Siddharth Gowthama. The enlightened one got Nippana and became a Buddha after discovering this technique. It is a simple technique of meditation which deals with the reality and truth. It has been tried and tested to various audience from children to prisoners in Tihar jail.
Why did I plan to do Vipassana?
Superficially on the surface level may be some people thought I was happy i.e. “living the life”, but internally I knew what the truth was. I tried all things that gave me the so-called adrenalin rush and made me happy, but they were just for a few moments. I wanted to find the answer to eternal happiness, not a single misery in my life. I was so bogged down by the society, I thought it was full of conformists just running after money to secure a peaceful future. Very rarely I used to find people living in the present moment. In fact I was also living in the future, I was always bothered what will I be after 5 years or 10 years. I never bothered to just live in present which was in my control.
Unlike people around me I decided I will not take a conventional job which is again a rat race and decided to find answers for my question. So after finishing my graduation I got into a job which had lots of flexibility, I decided I would do all that I always wanted to do, still couldn’t find the answers to my question. I wanted to find the “truth about life”.
Since childhood I thought my family too always wanted some answers so they tried different methods praying to different gods (being Hindu), Rekhi, Art of Living, Pranic Healing etc. Fortunately or unfortunately I was also into all these but they never answered my questions. So I thought as I have tried lots of things then why not Vipassana, lets give it a shot.
10 days of experience with reality/truth:
Code of conduct for the course:
1) No contact with the outside world. (Easy for me as I liked hiking I wanted to be alone, especially when we want to work with our own mind.)
2) Observe noble silence. Noble silence is not to talk to your fellow students nor expressing oneself using hand signals, just no eye contact too.
3) No electronics, books, notepads and pens literally no entertainment. For a person like me whose day begins and ends in front of a laptop, it was hard.
|4:00 am||Morning wake-up bell|
|4:30-6:30||Meditate in the hall or in your room|
|8-9:00||Group meditation in the hall|
|9-11:00||Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions|
|12-1 pm||Rest and interviews with the teacher|
|1-2:30||Meditate in the hall or in your room|
|2:30-3:30||Group meditation in the hall|
|3:30-5||Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions|
|6-7||Group meditation in the hall|
|7-8:15||Teacher’s Discourse in the hall|
|8:15-9||Group meditation in the hall|
|9-9:30||Question time in the hall|
|9:30 pm||Retire to your own room–Lights out|
The first thing one would observe was no DINNER and only VEG. For first few days it was hard for me. Being a fitness freak I used to eat 5 times and chicken every day. My mom asked me how would I live without the protein food for 10 days, I just said one thing even if they give grass I would eat. I was mentally prepared for it.
Second thing is 12hrs of meditation and wake up at 4:00 am. Before the course my day usually started between 9-10 am and ended between 1-2am. 12 hrs of sitting position for a novice fitness freak (a guy with little flexibility) was really going to be tough.
10 days experience:
They made us read the rules and read the code of conduct 3-4 times. At the end they had a small note, if you are not prepared for all these then this is the time to go back, once the course starts its highly impossible.
1st day – Discovering the wild mild
We were asked to observe our breathing coming in and going out. Simple task the mind has to do just one task. I realized in an hour’s sitting I rarely could observe my breathing for 10 minutes combined together. The topics in my mind were so diverse that they switched between each other like musical chairs. They were never-ending chain of thoughts. A bit dejected at the end of the day but after listening to Goenka ji’s discourse gathered my courage and was prepared for the next day.
2nd day – Realizing the truth and accepting
The truth is mind is fickle, rather than reacting to it we were asked to just accept it and come back to observing it. I slowly realized I was able to do it and felt really happy. I was improving in every session. Just waiting for the long hours of concentration without any thought.
3rd day – Introduction to Vipassana
I did my first one hour session with just concentrating on my breathing. But the back and leg pains were getting worse. I was so tempted to take the support of the wall. But later I realized it was a good decision because one has to go through it to understand one’s mind better.
4th day – Usual day where I was trying to practice the technique and observe my state of mind. We were given access to personal pagoda’s for practicing. I just loved to practice alone. No disturbance from others. I also observed the group size was decreasing. One of the guy whom I met at the start was missing. I thought he couldn’t take it. One should have the self-determination to do it. I have read articles about people quitting, it’s a personal choice.
5th day – Adhisthanam – Strong determination
This day we were to be determined to stay at a position for at least one session. Not to move the legs, not to open the eyes and not to lose focus. I had one good session which I could be proud of.
6th day – Torture day
This day is the day when I really felt like coming out of the ashram. I started thinking why did I need this? The old thoughts in my mind started to come out. It is like an old virus being rooted out from the brain. This is an important process, don’t quit here. I wanted to quit but my never say die attitude kept me continuing. I was just pushing myself by saying “No pain No gain” to myself. I was feeling discomfort because of the good experience I had the previous day. I just couldn’t understand why I was not able to replicate the same effect. Interesting thing was Mr. Goenka whose recorded lecture was shown everyday evening discussed about the same thing that day. I was having the greed to produce the same happiness. In fact I should have just observed both the states. “Nothing is constant, everything is going to change” is the soul of the philosophy.
7th day – The day I will not forget. I experienced my best meditation hours I could actually sit for 3hrs straight skipping breaks. Inner peace at its best. I started feeling lonely. I wanted to talk to someone. So I just asked all sort of questions to the teacher. I was happy at the end of the day.
8th day – I was too greedy can’t help it natural human tendency. But recovered from the greed pretty quickly. Just remembered the teachings and got back to observing my mind. I knew the days were coming to an end. I wanted to stay there for some more time but I was also missing home.
9th day – Noble chattering day
The Noble silence is broken and everyone is allowed to speak to each other during the break. There were lots of groups 25-30 years to 70-85 years. Fortunately I got time to interact with most of them, as I wanted to understand the reasons why they came here and what they are feeling now. Everyone had a different story. Older generation people told me that I was really lucky to do this at such a young age. I was like “It’s never too late”. Well this day was interesting because everyone wanted to share their feelings and very few were actually there to listen. I realized 10 days of no speaking is coming out like a Tsunami. Well I enjoyed the feeling. It was definitely hard to concentrate on my meditation sessions as there was too much food to the mind during the chatting.
10th day – Adios Amigo
Last day I was giving hugs and sending off everyone. I loved the way the families were united. I was almost the last person to leave.
How is it after Vipassana?
Well I definitely have a knowledge to understand things better in life. It’s quite hard to practice the technique for long hours in life. It takes immense practice to attain the same experience as that of Vipassana center in daily life. But practice makes man perfect. One should just practice and understand one’s mind better.
Vipassana is for whom?
This is for everyone. One can understand their mind better and I can’t explain the experience, it has to be felt by thyself. Well there are other such techniques which I don’t condemn, I am not here to discuss pros and cons. Try everything and see which one fits you the best. I tried many courses and Vipassana is where I got my answers.
Only do the course if you are ready to abide by the code of conduct and the timetable. The 10 days is quite a rigorous process, you would need to work a lot with your mind.
For people who think it’s just another cult?
Well I am not a big fan of cults, I always diverged myself from cults. This course is not a cult. This course is completely free of charge. The accommodation and food works on donation bases. You should donate only if you have something from the course.
So just give it a try, it doesn’t cost a penny. Try a monk’s life for 10 days.