Posts Tagged ‘ vipassana ’

Hyderabad and Back to Pune

The rest of my vacation was lovely. I took a bus to Hyderabad to meet Ritesh, Indro and RG. Ritesh was transferred there for his job, RG works there, and Indro is going to one of the top business schools. It’s a two-year program stuffed into a year. I have great friends. RG took a few days off work, Ritesh took a day off work to escort me around. It was great. Hyderabad is a big city, huge in fact. I don’t know how most tourists would get around. On day one we went to the Ramoji Film City. It’s really a city for film. If I had ever been to LA Universal Studios I imagine it would look like something similar. The cool thing was that on my way back to Pune, the Tamil movie I saw was all shot there and I recognized so many different scenes. I’m not usually that kind of person who shouts, “I’ve been there,” or “I know where that is,” but somehow seeing those things in India in a Tamil movie, I got a little excited. Speaking of Tamil movies, they’re awesome, in a Bollywood (Tollywood) way. There is always a hero with super strength (as in many Bollywood movies) but the dance numbers are so much more intricate. I thoroughly enjoyed both movies I watched on the busses.
On day two, RG took me to the Qutb Shahi Tombs and the Golkonda Fort. There is so much history in Hyderabad. I really enjoyed the Fort. It was inhabited from the 1500s to 1700s. They even engineered the entrance with an echo system so you could hear a clap at the top of the whole fort. There was art and culture, a Muslim prince who married a Hindu commoner. It was finally taken over by the ruler of Delhi. I’m missing many important pieces, but I’ll look it up in the free time I don’t have and try to piece some more together. In the evening we saw a sound and light show at the fort. Basically they lit up different parts of the fort while the audience listened to the story of the fort. It was nice.
For dinner we went to a famous Hyderabad restaurant where we all started sucking in air because the food was so spicy. Apparently Hyderabad food is really spicy. It was a bit intense. It was Ritesh’s birthday so we went for some yummy ice cream afterwards too. It reminded me a bit of Cold Stone. We don’t have such places in Pune.
The next day I got to go around with Ritesh. RG planned our trip so we went to the Salar Jung museum. It is comprised of a collection of the family that traveled and picked up trinkets and cultural items from all over the world. This museum, more so than others, was a little hard to digest because there were so many people, and they were all so loud. It’s funny that Americans are so quiet in museums, but this was the other extreme. There was even a man who shooed people along if they were taking too long in one of the rooms. It was a little much for my last day, and I find the arrangement of Indian museums a bit confusing. Not to say it’s wrong, but the way it’s laid out seems haphazard and there aren’t really labels that really explain the pieces. I really enjoyed one room that had Indian contemporary art. It was beautiful.
From there, I did the unthinkable. We met RG for lunch; more specifically we went to the “second best” biriyani place in Hyderabad, Shadab. I ate mutton. When in Rome…
After that Ritesh and I headed to Charminar and Jama Masjid. Both were beautiful structures. The Charminar is set up in an intersection, and when you go to the first landing (the second is closed because a family committed suicide a few years ago) you can see the four intersecting lanes. It’s pretty incredible. We even got a mini tour by an uncle who worked for the heritage site. At the masjid we also got a mini tour, but when it came time to enter, one uncle said, “go pray to God,” while pointing at the mat outside for women, and another uncle took Ritesh in for a tour.
We spent some time and I bought payal. Payal are silver anklets that many Indian women wear. They’re super pretty. Most of them make sounds because of the little balls on them, but that somehow didn’t work with me. So, in the middle of Hyderabad, Ritesh found the perfect ones for me. Apparently I’m having a girl moment. I didn’t go shopping, didn’t intend to, that would be too girly.
We had to rush back home so I could catch my bus. Indro challenged me to see if Vipassana really worked. Last time when we all took a bus I made sure that we were there 10 minutes beforehand. I stressed myself and everyone else out (at least in my head). They kept telling me to calm down, not to worry, the bus wouln’t leave without us, it would be late, etc. I didn’t believe them. Ritesh’s roommates left the key with the watchman. The watchman wasn’t there. Then when we found him, he gave the wrong keys, then he couldn’t find the right keys, then we took another few minutes to finish packing up my stuff. When we were ready to leave Indro came with his car to get us there. Then we got stuck in traffic in several places. Ritesh called the company to let them know we were on our way. Not only did I not panic at all, but we were late, and I still didn’t panic. I felt very accomplished. I wasn’t even the last person to arrive. It was a great vacation.
I spoke to my father while I was there. I told him how it was so nice to see friends who I hadn’t seen in such a long time. It seemed weird to be telling him that, when he’s so far away and I haven’t seen him in months, and some of my friends in almost a year (a month from now will mark a year since I’ve been home again). I’ve been here long enough now where I can say I haven’t seen good friends in a long time. Strange, and makes me smile and also give a mini sad face. Anyway, it was a great vacation. Much needed. At work people say I look rested. I needed rest. I also covered two new states and big vacation spots. Two years in I’m almost a sixth of the way done with all the places I want to go.

Yesterday was Erin’s birthday. Happy Birthday Erin! Sorry for missing another one.

The cold has come. It gets to the low 50s at night. For here, it’s freezing. Again I’m facing the ridicule of my friends – “How are you cold?” I don’t know, but it’s freezing at night. Freezing at night means that you don’t turn on the fan (or keep it really low), the windows stay closed and you put on a real blanket as opposed to a cotton sheet. During the day it stays hot though, reaching the 80s, sometimes the upper 80s. It must do something to your body to face such extremes ever day. It’s also dengue season. While traveling, I took my fancy bug spray with DDT in it. At a certain point I weighed the benefits of putting a harmful chemical on my body with getting dengue. The harmful chemical won. In Pondi I even got a mini rash on my legs for the day. The chemical still won. An acquaintance of mine in Bombay got dengue and was in the hospital and then bed rest for five weeks. I’ll still take a small leg rash over that.

Vipassana for Kids

            Today we took the kids to the Vipassana center. We only took three of them, Chapel, Ishwar, and Prakash. Ganesh wasn’t allowed to come because he does too much maasti and we weren’t sure how he would react. It was a little sad to pick them up while the three were all dressed in nicer jeans and t-shirts and Ganesh was in his normal shorts, knowing he wasn’t invited. He didn’t try to come. We hopped into Arjun’s car, which we borrowed because Manoj’s is getting serviced (it really needed it, it doesn’t have shocks – one of many things that need fixing up). They jumped in the car, Ishwar asking if he could sit in the front. I got to sit with the other two in the back.

            We were one of the first to arrive and I was nervous that there wouldn’t be anyone else. The place quickly filled up with kids; it looked like they were from all backgrounds. We took a little walk around the grounds with them after we signed them up, Ishwar grabbing my hand, not in a scared way, just endearing. When we got back to the sign in desk, children were filling up the area and they were finally swept away by other kids after a woman told them to go make friends. After a few minutes of pushing they got up and by the time they were 20 feet away from us, Prakash had his arm around some other kids shoulders and Chapel was walking next to the boy’s older brother. The “parents” had to watch a little video on Vipassana. The main woman directing everyone asked if everyone spoke Marathi, looked at me, I said no, and she asked about Hindi. For what it was worth, I said yes. We watched the video, and then another one after that. After some folks were interested in speaking to us to figure out what organization we were from – asked some of the usual questions. One man came up to the car as we were leaving to ask what we do. He said the boys spoke really well and were very well behaved. We left them to go home. I think I must have asked Manoj a million times if they were going to be ok. There was nothing for us to do, so we went home.

            It’s funny. We take the kids out all the time. The first time we took them in our car we didn’t even know their parents. We made sure that we met them after that. Prakash’s dad called while they were there asking what time they’d come back and where they had gone. We don’t have any written permission from the parents, we don’t have anyone’s phone number except for Prakash’s dad who I’m not sure if we’ve ever met. We don’t know if it’s because I’m a foreigner taking them, or if they just like and trust us. This would never be possible in the US. I love that it’s a little more relaxed out here. No one questions us why we’re doing this. We do it because we love them, that’s all. I guess it goes back that here there’s more possibilities that you can just do something nice without any alternative motives. I’m not saying that you can’t do that in the US, but here, people don’t question you as much; no one here has asked what we’re getting from them. They take it as it is, and that’s nice.

Indian Yom Kippur

Why is my roommate amazing? We were on our way home and there was an older man who seemed like he was struggling to walk. We waited for a moment (we were in the car) and he was having trouble breathing; if he was drunk we were going to leave, if not we would help. Manoj got out of the car to see what was wrong. Apparently he was working but then went to the hospital and didn’t have enough money for full treatment and they asked him to leave with partial treatment. He was trying to get to the bus station by foot. He showed signs of an asthma attack. He needed to get home which was around 4 hours from Pune. We dropped him at the bus stop and as we were telling the bus driver that he wasn’t well and asking him to look after him, he proceeded to kick him off the bus. His excuse was what if something happens to him on the way, who would take responsibility? He didn’t want to be responsible. Both of us were shocked. He finally agreed that if someone would watch over him on the bus he would take him. We spoke to one man on the bus who said ok but when we put the old man back on the bus, he was immediately kicked off again. Manoj and I were in awe at people’s inability to be nice to be someone. We argued with them for a while and called the man a bad man, the bus driver obtuse. I argued that they shouldn’t take anyone on the bus. What if something happened to him? It was awful. The old man felt bad. We put him on another bus and walked away. We didn’t say anything that time but when the bus pulled off he wasn’t on it. Apparently he vomited. We tried to get him on another bus but he said he would take the train at 10pm. Were we swindled? We don’t know. But we did it with good intentions and Manoj fought for him the whole time. I don’t know many people who would do that. It was valiant.
That same day I did a full day meditation at the Vipassana center about 10 km from my house. It wasn’t the same. I found it very difficult but a part of the teachings include not getting frustrated with obstacles. I have to accept them. What was very beneficial from the day was that I found out they have kids classes the first Sunday of every month. Next week we’re bringing a few of our kids and I’m brining some of work kids as well. I’m very excited for this.
Other goings on…I went to a conservative Jewish temple for Yom Kippur tonight. It was kind of by accident and very much for the experience. My friend Daniel invited me and I accepted. It was interested. I don’t think I’ve been to a synagogue since my Bat Mitzva and I would rarely identify myself as Jewish. I usually explain how in my blood I’m Jewish but don’t do anything Jewish. Anyway, it was interesting. Everyone was in white. I was in a maroon skirt with a green shirt. Everyone was very nice. It was also a Safardic Conservative temple. I went to an Ashkenazi Reform temple. When I went back in the evening for the blowing of the shofar I met Daniel’s mother. After the service I got to speak about his grandmother whom I also met. Daniel’s grandmother goes on my list of amazing people who I’ve met in my life. When she was 16 years in Burma, during the second world war, she was coming home from school and told her grandmother that she saw silver falling from the sky. They were bombs. With her sister and grandmother, they walked from Burma to Assam in India. At that time it was all one country. Her uncle and cousins were taken captive by the Japanese and then released once the war was over. Her two cousins were two of the first children of Israel after the war. They were children of the state. She walked at the age of 16 from Burma! I’m completely amazed.


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 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
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.