PRESENT – The Ultimate Moment.
EXPERIENCE – The Ultimate Knowledge.
DEATH – The Ultimate Truth.
Every sane mind, at various levels of their understanding, has pondered upon and realized the above facts. But the problem is whatever we understand or analyze, we do it with our conscious mind, most of the times. And unfortunately, our conscious mind is just a superficial manifestation of various types of understanding a human being has. It’s something which most of the times, if not always, is disconnected from one’s real self.
For ex: When you are asleep and a mosquito bites you, that is registered by your conscious mind, because you have an answer for whether the mosquito bit you or not. But how many times throughout the sleep, you don’t know. Why, because that is out of reach of your conscious mind when you sleep.
The conscious mind is slightly distant from your real, mind and body, self. Hence whenever a real-time situation inculcates any such strong emotion or expression in you, like anger, lust, jealousy, nervousness, stage fear etc., you just crumble and succumb to the situation.
All is Temporary and is just mere Sensations.
And that is where Vipassana comes into the picture. Vipassana teaches you on how to be equidistant and remain in a state of equanimity with any such conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious perceptions of life, keeping one balanced always. This is what I understood, in brief, from my 12 days Vipassana retreat in Dhamma Giri Vipassana International Academy, Igatpuri, India.
Vipassana is a meditative technique of ancient India. But over the period it got diluted and started digressing from its real technique and principles. And eventually, the art got fabricated and faded away. But then arrived a mystic, a seeker, who iterating himself for The Ultimate Nirvana, resurrected this art again and attained a state which is most commonly known as Bodhi.
Bodhi is a state, a state of wisdom, a state of awareness, a state of enlightenment, a state which you acquire and become BUDDHA, like Siddhartha Gautam, who commonly is known as Gautam Buddha.
Vipassana is a 12-day stay program, which ensures you to experience a monk’s life. Out of these 12 days, no talking, no reading, no writing, no music or singing, no eye contact; no killing, including mosquitoes, with an everyday 4am wake up bell is followed for 10 days. Your accommodation is taken care of, your food is taken care of, your basic necessities like electricity, water, bedding and other housekeeping stuff is taken care of. And as you are not supposed to pay for any such facility, you actually tend to either complain less or stay complaint less, adjusting with just the bare minimum and needed stuff. Just like a monk, who survives on alms and remains satisfied. Though the organization accepts donations at the end of the course, still it makes you wonder and fills with sheer reverence for the organizers to run such a grand system on just Donations.
Live by what you need and not by what you want
I hope this is a self-explanatory line, agreed upon by all. The only time when we lack is when we have to implement it.
Conscious mind and its limitations!
Remember – ‘Work like a Bull’, should be the motto of life. Results should only concern when you feel used or cheated because the result or else is just a temporary sensation and nothing else.
Every single result of any kind is just another temporary sensation —Just observe and let it pass.
Stay away from I, me, mine and myself.
But then if we talk of being equanimous from every feeling, aren’t we taking the path of salvation and becoming a Sanyasii[Monk]? Aren’t we doing injustice to the current bonds of family, friends, children etc. amidst which we live? Plus there will be no future generation to see the light if all follow complete saintliness.
That said, one should very clearly understand that Vipassana doesn’t ask one to go immune and renounce the material world. Rather it asks to be in the present, understand the situation and react to it with an unbiased reflex and then move on, without creating any attachment or aversion of any kind.
Being Neutral for the result just experienced.
The schedule is designed so brilliantly that once you complete a period of 12 days you actually understand, why 12 days are needed. And out of which why a full 10 days period of complete noble-silence [Arya maun in a Vipassi’s language] is necessary to understand the art.
The schedule goes like:
4am – Morning wake up bell
4:30am to 6:30am – Morning meditation.
6:30 am to 7:15am – Breakfast
7:15am to 8:00am – Break
8:00am to 11:00am – Meditation.
11:00am to 12:30pm – Lunch
12:30pm to 2:00pm – Break
2:00pm to 5:30pm – Meditation
5:30pm to 6:00pm – Evening snacks
6:00pm to 6:30pm – Break
6:30pm to 7:30pm – Meditation
7:30pm to 8:30pm – Discourse [S.N.Goenka’s recorded discourse]
8:30pm to 9:30pm – Meditation followed by a questionnaire session with the teacher.
9:30pm to 4am – Lights out.
The food is mostly kept light, less salt and more fiber, to keep you active and awake while long meditating hours. Owing to the rigorous schedule there were many who couldn’t relate much and left the process mid-way. I don’t want to share my daily insights and experiences during the retreat as the internet is filled with such detailing. My intention is to share my share of understanding developed during the retreat.
Not only this, the meditation technique is devised in such a way that it breaks all the shackles of religion and is open to any, who needs it, without any religious or spiritual constraints of any kind. And not only religion, this technique is categorically designed to cater almost all age groups of any mindset and cultural background. According to S.N.Goenka, he says, “Half of my life is spent in a country [Bhutan] whose 80 percent of population defies the concepts of God and Soul. And now the rest half of my life is being spent in a country [India] where 80 percent of the population strongly believes in the concepts of God and Soul.” Plus he himself has been a successful businessman, understanding the crucial nitty-gritty of the practical world. Making his philosophies and teachings extremely practical and logical, adding that mystical touch for a theist with the required logic and science for an atheist. Though unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to meet the man [S.N.Goenka] as he passed away two years ago. But they run the entire program using his recorded audio/video discourses and instructions. So the program still runs exactly in accordance to Mr. Goenka’s vision and ideologies.
Like many other meditation techniques, Vipassana is also a concentration based meditation technique. But unlike any they haven’t attached the process to any sound, principle or philosophy, keeping it unbiased and neutral exactly like the technique preaches. Their entire approach starts with observing the inhales and exhales to observing the metaphysical state of our human body, where the body, like any other matter, consists of subatomic particles, which is being created and destroyed constantly. So everything in this world is changing constantly, even the body, then why to worry about anything in this temporary world. You are guided through a step by step process where you focus and concentrate on these sensations in different body parts. The observation should cover every single point, as small as a mole of your body, going from the tip of your head to the nail of your leg, including the sensations of the internal body organs like of heart, lungs, stomach etc. The first three days are dedicated to teaching you on how to concentrate, by a process called Anaapaan, where one is made to focus on the sensations during inhaling and exhaling. And then post that the concentration is made more minute by constraining the focus area to concentrate only on your mustache area, above the upper lip and below the nose. Later on, the fourth day, when you develop a slight understanding on how to concentrate, you are taught Vipassana. You are made to focus on the dynamically changing atomic structure of our body parts. You are made to sit for as long as an hour, without any movement, or distraction in one single position. The position can be of your choice. Initially, it all goes fine, maintaining equanimity with every sensation felt. But after some 30-40mins of constant sitting, the numbness followed by deep pain crawls in. The first severe sense of sensation will happen in legs, which bear your constant body pressure. And then the last 15-20 min are the most crucial ones where you actually test yourself on how brilliantly you can avoid the pain and perceive it as a mere temporary sensation with complete equanimity.
And trust me, while practicing the technique there was a time, I guess on the 8th or 9th day when I actually could co-relate to that self-actualization state, where I could see and observe all my sensations from a third person point of view. Detaching and keeping myself at a place, completely away from my real affected inner self. Positions from where I can quantify and analyze my problems neutrally and still not get affected by it. But unfortunately, I only got glimpses of it. Obviously, to reach that perfect state of Buddha, it requires a lot of discipline and dedication.
I would strongly urge all, who even vaguely thought of meditation anytime, to try this experience.
Never be feared!
Be honest with yourself and happiness will follow suit!
SARVA MANGALAM BHAVATU!
The Central Pagoda:
To learn more about Vipassana, visit www.dhamma.org