Vipassana

After Vipassana I bought a brand new book and over the course of two sittings filled it with fifteen pages of reflection, keepsake memories, and notes about the course and experience. To start off with, I loved the course. It wasn’t difficult in ways I thought it would be, and much more difficult in other ways. In general, I’m very happy I took the course and am considering doing other shorter two – three day courses in the future; there’s a center here in Pune. I’m not really sure where to begin in describing the course. I also don’t want to give too much away. I feel my words won’t do the course justice in certain words; when you read something it is very easy to say that you can do something like this, it’s simple, just do what the writer says. It was intense. Each hour was a struggle within itself. I’m very happy that it was a very intense. Here goes a basic run down of events, leaving out my reflections and observations from the pre-Vipassana part of the trip. At this point it doesn’t seem worth it to include that.
We had to report to the center at 2 but the course didn’t start until 6. We filled out the forms, met some of the other participants and handed over our possessions. We relinquished anything that didn’t include clothes or bathroom materials. Everything else including books, music, phones, and reading, writing, or communication device essentially. The rooms were either single or double rooms consisting of a small table made out of tree branches and a wooden (very hard) bed with two blankets. Bathrooms were shared. It was rustic. At 6:00 we all met in the main hall for the rules, introduction to the program, and to get started. Talking or contact of any sort, including eye contact, smiling, touching, signaling, etc was also prohibited. We could speak to the teacher or the helpers who were people who had participated in the course and have come back to volunteer their services. We were told we were following Shila for the next 10 days, and this was a baseline for practicing Vipassana. Shila means no killing (including spiders and mosquitoes), lying, stealing, sexual misconduct, or intoxicants. From 6:00pm on we took our oath of silence and of diligence.
The schedule each day: 4am wake up, 4:30 – 6:30 meditation, 6:30 – 8:00 breakfast and rest, 8:00 – 11:00 meditation, 11:00 – 2:00 lunch and rest, 2:00 – 5:00 meditation, 5:00 – 6:00 snack and rest, 6:00 – 7:00 meditation, 7:00 – 8:30 discourse (we watched Goenkaji on a television screen give the discourse), 8:30 – 9:00 meditation, 9:30 sleep. It was a lot of silence. The first day consisted of just concentrating on your breath in different ways; the entire course involved observation, no reaction, just recognizing. We narrowed the field of observation so that we would recognize feelings and sensations that we wouldn’t have if we weren’t so focused and concentrated on ourselves. On the fourth day we were introduced to the technique of Vipassana. This involves feeling or recognizing each and every part of your body, piece by piece. The aim of the game is to not feel any cravings or aversions from any feeling or sensation. At one point the parts of the body start tingling (more or less). These feelings more or less represent aversions or cravings that you have in your life, sankaras. These sankaras are the things that make us miserable. If we have some enjoyable experience, we start craving this again, which makes us miserable. Our aversion to something unpleasant also makes us miserable. But if we just observe them, with out these after-feelings, then our miseries can subside. If we concentrate on eradicating new sankaras then our old ones will come up and we can rid ourselves of those. All of the feelings, both bad and good, are impermanent. The law of nature says that everything is impermanent, anicha. Therefore our feelings of craving and aversion are also impermanent. Like I said before, my words cannot do this technique justice.
A lot of it was much easier than I thought it would be, a lot, much harder than I could have imagined. Have you ever tried to sit and do absolutely nothing for an hour? Sitting and concentrating on breathing or thinking about your body can be harder than that. I managed, several times, the whole hour without moving. The pain or uncomfortable feeling of sitting for an hour is a part of the impermanence. The more you can recognize that it’s impermanent and not feel adverse, the better you’re doing. You also have to watch out not to get excited when you feel pleasant sensations as well, because that would also mean craving. Each session ended with a mini chant basically saying may all find real peace, real harmony, real happiness. This is in Pali, the language at the time of Buddha, and you respond by saying sadhu three times, as to say well said and that you wish this for everyone as well. By being happy you spread your happiness to others. There is so much that I’m missing, I know there is. I would highly recommend reading around his website http://www.dhamma.org/. Roam around, read some of his lecture. It’s worth at least learning about. If you like it, cool, if you don’t, at least you’ve learned something new.
A part of Vipassana that I really like is the part of giving, dhamma. This is where you give something without the expectation of something in return. There were many metaphors and stories he used to relate the story and practice of Vipassana. I’m not sure that there’s anyone I would say couldn’t benefit from this at all.
On the afternoon of the 9th day we were allowed to talk. It was a rush of smiles and waterfall of laughter, greetings, and emotions. It felt really good. The images you painted of people in your mind sometimes were right but many times completely misguided. We all thought this was funny and interesting. We all had vivid dreams during the entire time. Myself and one of the other participants had heavy heads and ringing in our ears the entire time. We compared sensations, feelings, struggles, histories, and got to know each other very intimately very fast. It’s hard not to feel a connection with someone you just spent 10 days with, physically and experientially very close, but without saying a word. We hung out for the next two days. I spent most of my time with Moli and others including Angela, Natalia, Silvia, Borris, Jessica, Iris, and Mark. It was an amazing time to be with foreigners as well. It was the first time since being home that I was around so many non-Indians.
Dharmakot, Mcloud Gaunge are mostly full of Israelis, it was very strange. The first day I walked to the Tibetan Children’s Village which was a home for orphaned or given to the home for better opportunities outside of Tibet. It was amazing. The mission was amazing and I would also highly recommend people reading up about the situation there as well. Their website is http://www.tcv.org.in.
Yesterday I spent at work. Some of the teachers noticed that I’ve changed. I don’t see it. I feel quieter. I’ve managed to meditate several times already. You’re supposed to do an hour in the morning, an hour in the evening. I’m not as concentrated or successful as I was at the meditation center, however, so it shall be. No aversions, no cravings.
There is more to say, about the people I met, my trip in general, but I think that’s enough for now. More will come out eventually. For the better, I think the course, and the experience was a positive spark of change in my life.

  1. Ana, this sounds lovely! Hope I get to do it one day. xoxo

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