Vipassana

Vipassana  विपश्यना  is एक विशेष तरीके से देखना

Vipassana, seeing things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for all ills, an Art of Living!! Unfortunately, this knowledge disappeared for many centuries from India. SN Goenka learnt this technique in Burma, where it had survived in a pure form; and brought it back to India. It is now taught at various Vipassana centers all over the world.

This technique in the Theravada Buddhism tradition involves concentration on the body or its sensations, and the insight that this provides. In Vipassana , or insight meditation, the practitioner consciously explores the body and mind. The goal is to be साक्षी an observer with complete equanimity and stay away from being भोगी an indulgent participant, buffeted by your experiences. One works towards going beyond attachments and angst, for the final experience of Impermanence: understanding that all experiences, all attachments, all anger: finally, अनित्य है, नश्वर है !!!

Vipassana enables self-purification by self-observation. One begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate the mind (आनापान meditation). Then, with sharpened awareness, one proceeds to observe the changing nature of body and mind and experiences the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and egolessness. This truth-realization by direct experience results in mental purification.

I went for a 10 days’ retreat to Igatpuri to learn and practice Vipassana meditation. During these 10 days, the meditator must observe आर्य मौन Noble Silence: no communication at all with anyone. No talk, no phones, no gestures or expressions at all: total withdrawal from all things external. You try & establish a deep rapport with what is happening inside you : observe, meditate, reflect, think!! You wake up at 4 am and are up till 930 pm: in this 12 hours are earmarked for meditation and 5 hours are intermittent breaks for daily ablutions, washing, eating, and walking exercise, if you so desire. Tough and serious work. Intense concentration. Introspection. Plumbing the innermost depths. All in grand isolation.

Many friends questioned me & pinched me to write about my Vipassana experience. I was very, very hesitant. Vipassana is so  experiential that I really wondered how will I be able to explain someone, who has not been through that experience, as to how I felt!! Imagine meeting someone who has never eaten a mango in his life. He asks you to describe : how does a mango taste? Can you explain that in words? will he ever get what you are trying to convey? You can describe the color, smell , look, size: all external parameters. But the flavor, the taste? To understand that, your friend has to eat the mango himself!!! Nevertheless, I will attempt here to describe some of the external dimensions which really impressed me.

giri

As administrators, the Vipassana Dhammagiri, Igatpuri folks take the cake. You need to register online. The confirmation comes to you in mail. When your reach the venue, accommodation allocation happens effortlessly. And that evening there is a precourse talk, just to make you aware of the timings and locations and then the course starts. Someone in this batch asked how will we know what to do when. The answer was disarmingly simple: “When the bell rings, if you are in your room: go to the Dhamma hall (Meditation Hall). If you are in the Dhamma hall, go to your room. That is all!!!”

Simplicity and frugality typifies it all. Residential areas are functional but complete. Water Coolers and Toilets are provided all over the campus. Dining area is clean and well maintained. In silence you go in a que: there are clean thalis and spoons, food is spread out, you help yourself. The food was simple but tasty. Not once was anything inadequate or not available on time. Seamless administration!!

Every meditation session begins with an audio recording of Goenkaji, where he instructs what we have to do today. And then the rest of the day you sit & practice what has been told. If there are queries you can reach out to the live teacher during the breaks. All other times you practice what was instructed. In the evening, the last session is a video recorded lecture of Goenka where he takes stock of what we did today, what are the bases for it, and what will we do tomorrow. In these sessions, I realized they have brought down the meditation technique to a matter of science; with perfect  timelines and predictability. That is why Goenka is able to speak specifically to the 3rd day experience, 5th day experience and what are you going through on 7th day etc. Human experience is indeed common!!!

Goenkaji is an amazing speaker. He brings to life even a dry and dull subject like Dhamma or Religion. He talks of Shuddha Dharma, something which is much more fundamental to the human condition, beyond any of the isms like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity or Islam. Using simple day to day examples Goenka builds on his theme of Shuddha Dharma and exhorts you to give it a try. He quotes from nearly every religion and every major saint to support his thesis of the universality of pure Dharma.

Per Goenkaji, Dharma is like the universal laws of nature: applicable to all, without exception. Pure knowledge. Not theory nor intellectual argumentation;  ना वाणी विलास, ना बुद्धि विलास, just experiential knowledge प्रज्ञा. Beyond all the religions and isms is this प्रज्ञा Pragya which is nothing other than प्रत्यक्ष ज्ञान something which you experience.  I will illustrate this with an example from Goenkaji’s own discourse. 

Knowledge can be of 3 types: श्रुत प्रज्ञा Shrut Pragya; चिंतन प्रज्ञा Chintan Pragya & भाविक प्रज्ञा Bhavik Pragya. Shrut is what is reported, what you have heard. Chintan is what you understand intellectually. Bhavik is what you learn by experience. Think of a person who hears of a new restaurant which reportedly gives excellent food. He reaches that place and sees the menu card which describes all types of exotic dishes. All this is Shrut Pragya. He then looks around and sees others eating with great gusto. Smells the lovely flavours. Sees the expressions of satisfaction on others’ faces. So he feels this is indeed a good restaurant. This is Chintan Pragya. But when he orders the food, gets it delivered to his table, samples it, and experiences himself that indeed the food is very good: that is Bhavik Pragya. Vipassana invites you to the journey of Bhavik Pragya. For sure it will change your life, the way you think!!

Before leaving for Vipassana, I had written a piece Does God Exist? The answer I got after my Vipassana course is that Yes God-lihood exists…within you. The Good Book tells us: Seek and you shall Find.  Kabir says ‘तेरा साईं तुज्झ में, जागि सकै तो जाग।” What you seek is within you, you need to bring it forth.

Do not be like the person Kabir describes: जिन खोजा तिन पाइया, गहरे पानी पैठ,
                                                                              मैं बपुरा बूडन डरा, रहा किनारे बैठ।

So eat the mango yourself, and experience the taste: vikas

Explore:      http://www.giri.dhamma.org/

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22 Replies to “Vipassana”

  1. Superb piece! one can be as close to the experience of Vipassana as one can be without going there physically!

    i have heard a lot about this place in Igatpuri and was wanting to know more about it..so thanks for sharing your experience

    there is something about such places which is highly creditable ..the selfless seva by the ever helpful , ever ready group of volunteers who make the kind of the place what you have described …with their passion and devotion!

    Some elementary Qs: How many participants at a time? any slots for discussions /experience sharing amongst the participants?

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    1. JLS
      you said it
      the vibrations you feel in such places are just so powerful that even a “spiritual stone” like me is transformed
      the selfless service of the Dhamma sevaks makes one feel so noble and humble

      This time I attended an executive course ( No diffrence at all in content, except a smaller batch with 100% having independent single acco) in this one there were 85 male participants but earlier 2 times there were 600/650 males in one batch. You can only talk to the teacher in the first 10 days and that too at appointed times. NO INTERACTION with other participants for 10 days. Last day at around 5 pm there is Metta Bhava ( Friendship) when you are allowed to speak and share.

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      1. Yes. Batches are for Males and Females. But even if couples go together there is total segregation . So you will stay separately and not meet one another for 10 days. Only on the Metta day you can meet and talk. But even that day: NOT TOUCHING ONE ANOTHER IS ADVISED he he ha ha.
        JLS the model is : no charges at all. . !0 days free stay and food!!!! But the courses run on donations of past students….no one else can contribute. So it is a concept of Feed Forward. You are getting all the facilities because of the generosity n donations of earlier batches. On the last day while leaving you are told: yatha shakti you contribute whatever. Everyone gets a receipt. You can pay by cash, card, cheque. The recipients are also trained to be totally grateful….whether you contribute 100 or 1000 or more. I have seen in earlier batches people pay 100 Rs and some gloating that they paid nothing!!!! No one tells you anything.
        the entire thing is based on self discipline…even on the meditation days if you dont get up on time no one comes to your room to push you out of bed. They play a gong and then discretely sound a small bell. If you still dont go to the Dhamma Hall….it is your call. Same thing for donations. The place is predicated on equanimity and peace. an amazing exp for us in the dog eat dog mode of corporate living

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    1. Kanubhai
      you have never come to our house at Thane
      Pl make it over some day
      we will have a very “spiritual” talk (pun intended)
      any evening is fine
      stay over that night and you can go back next day after bf
      let me know your convenience
      vikas
      vikas

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  2. Vikas sir, well placed words and examples bringing the glimpse of the session, dinning area, the bell, seamless coordination,

    Sir, what’s your feeling after this session. I mean what difference are you experiencing…

    Off course one has to eat the mango to understand the real taste

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    1. Shakespeare valid question: I felt much more at peace with myself. More accepting, more accomodating, less anxious, less stressed. I smile more. I love others around me much more. Lot of issues and knots seem to have got loosened. I hope I have become a better person: subject of course to others feeling and accepting the same. But certainly I feel more cleansed and happy with life and others around me.
      Yes taste the mango: it is sweet!!!!

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  3. Experiencing Vipassana has been on my bucket list but have not been able to make it till now..but after reading your sharing an surely looking forward to attending soonest. Thanks for the detailed information and truly enjoyed the depth of your experience.

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    1. Shikha
      Pl see my reply to Shakespeare Datta above. Will not repeat them here.
      But as an administrator myself ( been in HR for 38 years) it was a huge learning
      As a person I came out richer
      all in all would recommend this to all as a life changing experience
      Bhavatu Savv Mangalam is the Vipassana greeting
      and indeed it is true for me
      I got out of my limited persona
      and I do genuinely and wholeheartedly feel today
      Bhavatu Savv Mangalam: let all beings be happy

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    1. Thanks Ramu. Yes finally ist is experience. But what impressed me also is that we all feel we are unique and different. But it is an inverted U graph… after all the differences, at some point we all converge, the human experience is same, and Vipassana makes it achievable by your own efforts

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  4. Awesome as usual…. You have captured Vipassana experience quite well! I was never able to explain how it felt when people asked… Sab ka Mangal ho!

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    1. Sab ka mangal ho…..I have always been self centered and felt complete within myself….my big learning was the connection to the others and learning that for me to be happy, all around me need to be happy. Will certainly try to be a better human being post this vipassana experience….paramarth me hi swarth hai!!! Bhavatu Savv Mangalam…

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