|Reaching the centre|
Due to my avid love for mountains, I always wanted to do Vipassana at the Dharamkot center. Since I had already done my Buddhism course at Tushita Center at Dharamkot last year in 2016, I knew the area. Since the course gets booked in advance, I remember staying awake until 12 one night in early September to reserve my seat in the course. In fact, I had registered for the course last year also, which I couldn’t attend somehow. That’s why everyone expected me to bail this year as well. But little did I know what lay ahead.
The 10-day Course is an introductory course to Vipassana Meditation, which is 10 full days of meditation ending the morning of the 11th day by 7:30 am.
Vipassana means to see things as they really are. An insight into the true nature of reality. It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.
Why I went for Vipassana
Somewhere in life, all of us lose touch with reality and become robotic beings going about our daily lives. I know I did. Anger, happiness, joy, sadness all sit huddled next to each other and we are always ready to react quickly at the slightest of things in life. It’s as if you lose touch with your real self. That’s how it came to pass for me as I found myself at the crossroads of my life with overwhelming emotions, anger, and I realized that something had to change in my life. Although I had taken a few other meditation courses, I had always been intrigued by Vipassana. It seemed more like a challenge that I wanted to face. I knew that it was unlike mountaineering and had its own challenges. Merely sitting for hours at a stretch and meditating was something that had been alien to me. But before I signed up, I knew I could do it. I would be able to last 11 days of intense meditation, silence and come out with a better understanding of myself. At the end of the course, by digging into my psyche, I was able to realize that joy that we feel in our daily lives is impermanent. True happiness waits further away along the shores of our soul’s realm. It could never be purchased, but only be experienced through self inquiry and awareness.
- to abstain from killing any being;
- to abstain from stealing;
- to abstain from all sexual activity;
- to abstain from telling lies;
- to abstain from all intoxicants.
|My small room|
The first three days of meditation are Anapana Meditation, which means mindfulness of breathing followed by observing sensations around and below the nose area. From 6.30 am until 8 am, I had free time. During this time, I would have breakfast followed by shower. Breakfast used to be wholesome with tea, cereal, fruits, etc. We were supposed to wash our utensils after each meal. It was quite striking to see such a large group of people (meditators) dining together without a word or gesture being exchanged with anyone. Vipassana meditation is free for all and in the end you may make a donation. I earnestly appreciated the selfless service of volunteers during the course.
From fourth day onwards, one is taught Vipassana meditation, in which one experiences and observes bodily sensations, both good and bad and merely observes them without having aversion or craving. It focuses on maintaining an equanimous state of mind and observing life unfold as a detached self. It puts great emphasis on having an inner discourse devoid of rituals and mantras. It talks about having deep compassion for all beings and understanding the nature of misery, which is attachment. Anicca or impermanence means that everything shall pass and nothing remains forever. By watching our gross and subtle sensations come and go, we delve deeper into the phenomenon of anicca and can incorporate it in our daily lives. During long hours of meditation, my whole life flashed in front of me. I relived all moments of anger, tears, frustration, loss, happiness, hidden fears, aspirations, and dreams. And yet as I finished my course, I found this deep sense of calmness, that indescribable happiness, that quiet mind and overflowing joy and abundance. Vipassana starts with observing sensations in each body part and as you progress, you do multiple body scans and observe different sensations as detached self with equanimous state of mind.
On morning of day 12, I left to face the real world and seeing my husband waiting at gate smiling made me realize how his absence made me aware of his everlasting presence. Because without his support and encouragement, I would have pushed it to some other year. We sat on a bench in solitude and I shared my experiences with him after which we went to our favourite cafe in Mcleod Ganj to savour some hot tea and homemade bread.
- We are slaves of our mind and like a computer program, our reactions are preset.
- Vipassana taught me to observe as detached self and with equanimous state and then how so ever will I react will not be an unconscious predetermined response.
- Happiness is not outside.
- There is no end to craving and the real journey is within.
- Helped me in quieting my inner turbulence and anger.
- No one else could do it for me. I had to make efforts. Not to forget the body aches and numbness.
- This too shall pass, the bad and the good.
- Enjoy every moment in the fact that it is ephemeral. Love without attachments and clinging.
- I could sit through traffic and honking without excessive cursing.
- Take what works for you.
What did not work for me
- There is no emphasis on posture or breathing.
- We are asked to stop taking all non prescription medicine and stop any previous spiritual practices during the course.
- I felt drowsy, bored and lethargic due to long hours of meditation.
- The course did not include any physical yoga.
- Not allowing assimilation of other practices, rituals or mantras.
- Teachers are not equipped enough to clear doubts.
- After sometime, lectures become tedious and repetitive with over emphasis on the fact that Vipassana is the best technique.
- Ending of course was too abrupt. Not a word from teacher on course completion. Only relying on Goenka’s lectures.
- Not exactly non-sectarian as claimed during the course. There is a lot of Buddhist influence in techniques.
- I didn’t like complete segregation of men and women.
|Leaving the Centre after completing course|
|Before leaving the centre|
Be well and thanks for reading.
Link: Himachal Vipassana Centre