Parables & Stories from Vipassana

I went for my 4th Vipassana Meditation course in April 2022. What has always fascinated me is the oratory skill of SN Goenkaji & his ability to draw on stories, examples, parables from every religion under the sun, to drive home Vipassana concepts for his audience. Goenkaji does not want us to take anything on face value, on pure faith. He exhorts continuously that we must trust & believe ONLY our experience & sensory inputs. No ideological discussions, but only focus on your own experience. I had written in 2018 on what is vipassana and the underlying concepts. Those interested can check out the old blog at https://vikasshirodkar.blog/2018/11/07/vipassana/

Here I want to recollect some of the great stories & parables I heard which Goenkaji uses to elucidate his points & explain. So here goes:

#1) A rich man was enjoying his sumptuous lunch one day, when a Bhikshu came & cried out begging for alms. The rich man’s daughter-in-law, shouted from inside,” Maharaj, go elsewhere to beg. Here my father-in-law is himself eating stale/बासी food.” The Bhikshu went ahead, but the father-in-law was upset. He called his daughter-in-law and asked her “why did you say बासी भोजन/stale food? Here I am eating the choicest cuisine, rich with fruits & exotic vegetables, garnished with dry fruits. Why did you call it stale/बासी?”

The Daughter-in-law replied,” None of this is due to your own effort or earnings. You are eating off the earnings of your ancestors, you have contributed nothing. So is it not stale?”

My Learning: Have new thoughts and pull your own weight every day, Never live off past legacy.

#2) When Mohammad Paigamber started preaching, not everyone appreciated his teachings. Some were strongly opposed. One such person used to always disrupt Mohammad’s meetings & vitiate the atmosphere. Some of Mohammad’s followers used to feel very bad & they decided to confront the opponents to teach them a lesson. A meeting place was fixed. Soon the debate between the two sides turned acrimonious. When tempers rose further, it came down to physical fighting & a melee ensued.

Mohammad, seeing this, quietly left the place. His supporters sought him out later & asked why did he run away. Mohammad replied,” When the fight started, I saw the Farishtey/Angels flew away and left the room. Hence I too left!!”

My Learning: Peace and friendliness is godly; always stay on that side.

#3) An old woman once came to a Vipassana Camp set up in a rural environment. While coming, she got alongwith a cloth, draw-string bag/बटुवा. In that she was carrying 30 Rs her life’s earnings, an ornament/हार which she had got from her house & a small piece of sweetmeat/बरफी. One day, when she had gone for meditation, she found the bag/बटुवा missing from her residential quarter.

She became highly agitated & started crying loudly, beating her chest, moaning her loss. Others tried to control her & tell her she is disturbing others’ meditation but she was unconsolably crying out aloud. Every camp resident started searching high & low for the bag but it was nowhere to be found. She was wailing loudly about the loss of her money & ornament. So Goenkaji suggested taking a contribution from all. In place of her lost Rs 30, a total collection of 100 Rs was made and put before her. This was significantly more than her loss. But still she wailed & cried. “What about my ornament?” It was an heirloom, I was so attached to it” etc. The collected 100 Rs could have easily enabled her to buy a new ornament. But she continued to cry & repent her loss!

Finally someone saw that, a monkey on a nearby tree had the bag. Monkey had made of with it, seeing the colorful embroidery. The monkey had no use for the 30 Rs or the ornament. But it was merrily enjoying the sweetmeat/बरफी, sitting atop a tree. People chased the monkey with drums and sticks. Finally the monkey dropped the bag & made off with the sweet. The bag with money & ornament were returned to the old woman. Then only she stopped crying & focused on the vipassana teaching!!

My Learning: The concept of मैं/मेरा I & Mine is so deeply entrenched in us, that once it awakens, it does not allow us to look at anything else. Stay away from मैं/मेरा (I & Mine): many doors will open!

#4) There were 2 close friends: one was blind, the other handicapped. They used to beg for food & live together. One day the blind friend had a fever & could not walk. So the handicapped friend told him to rest & said he would go & beg for food & get some for his friend. While moving around the village, at one house, he was offered Kheer (sweet rice gruel). The guy had no utensil to take the kheer in, so he cupped his hands and the Kheer was poured in. He wanted to take the Kheer for his friend, but it started dripping from his cupped hands. So rather than waste it, he drank up the kheer. When he reached home he told his blind friend that he had got kheer, but could not carry it back for his friend since he had no utensil.

The blind friend had never eaten Kheer in his life and asked what is kheer? So the friend tried to explain ” It is white and sweet” The blind person knew what is sweet, but had no concept what is white. The friend told “White is like the crane” The blind friend had not seen a crane. So the friend caught a crane and gave it to the blind friend to feel & “see” what is a crane. The blind friend touched & felt the crane’s body & exclaimed ” I now understand. The kheer is twisted. तेरी खीर टेढ़ी है!!!”

My learning: Perception is important and if you do not perceive holistically, you may go on a total tangent & err terribly.

Trust you enjoyed these stories which have practical wisdom & learnings beyond compare. Next blog, I will tell you some more stories and parables from Vipassana course, which created deep learning for me

Bhavatu Savv Mangalam: vikibaba punter

34 Replies to “Parables & Stories from Vipassana”

  1. Sir, thanks for sharing your experience. I haven’t yet attended any session of Vipassana. But have heard it from you. We do agree with all the teachings thru those small stories but they need to be absorbed consciously. I would like to experience Vipassana at least once.

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  2. Hi VS:

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful pearls of wisdom.

    I have heard a lot about the benefits the participants get through their presence in the Vipassana camps.

    I was not aware that you too are a beneficiary ! Attending such a progam 4 th time in a short span tells a lot about the positive experience you must be getting at these events.

    I am also tempted to think that the clarity and innovations displayed in many of your blogs may have something to do with the effect of these events on your “inner world”!

    Out of the 4 parables, the one that appeals to me the most is :

    Stay away from मैं/मेरा (I & Mine): and many doors will open!

    Perhaps the reason is that it echos with what we are taught day in and day out at the BKs.

    “My bunglow, my car , my success”……often occupies one’s mind so much that it misses out on so many other constructive thoughts that would have brought a much greater level happiness.

    At a more subtle level ,this मैं/मेरा (I & Mine) turns in to the desire for नाम /मान /शान…. (मेरा नाम हो /मेरा मान हो /मेरी शान दिखे)

    When we are influenced heavily by these considerations, the doors to many other possibilities shut out…and we don’t even realise it!

    So thanks again for giving us a ‘peep’ in to the divine mind of Goenkaji through these parables.

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    1. JLS
      thanks for your comments which I always look FW to
      Yes attachment creates many a barrier
      Bhogta Bhav as Goenkjai talks of v/s the Sakshi bhav
      Bhogta bhav keeps you trapped while as a spectator, Drushta, not a Bhogta you are relatively free to choose your response based on your experience and analysis of it

      I am 101% indebted to many influences that have shaped my inner world and made me what I am
      in those influences, my love for English Classics & Literature and all my readings of religions and spirituality have made a major contribution
      In all this patchwork, Goenkaji has a towering influence maninly because he tells “mano mat; jaano”
      his focus is on experiencing and not following someone else only because you like or respect
      Search within the truth of everything that is spoken and follow only if you see it in your own reality

      When I hear Goenkaji, I am reminded of a book I had read when in college
      “If you meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him”
      Goenkaji goes on cautioning us, with all his knowledge and tapas, there is only one man who can be given salvation by Buddha and that is Buddha himself
      he cannot “save” us; we have to walk the path of pragnya and samadhi ourselves
      at the most the leader can guide and point out the path, but the effort has to be ones own

      I get particularly disillusioned with the Ravi Shankars and Jaggi Vasudevs of the world
      good talkers, good pontificators, but after all the buddhi vilas & vaani vilas what is the way FW
      They may have reached the pinnacle of knowledge/pragnya but to others they are teaching dependence and “I know best”
      Each one of needs to finally find and walk our own path
      and only that will liberate us

      This is my inner thinking and since Goenkaji also encourages you to find it yourself, I have great respect for him

      Thoda jyada bol diya, but I know you will not misunderstand
      regards
      vikas

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  3. Nice stories by goenkajis. I have attended 10 days vipassna shibir at इगतपुरी, it was very good experience. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  4. These are teachings of life. Not to be just followed, but absorbed in life too. Most of us know it, but how many put it in practice. Thanks for sharing Vikas. 😌

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  5. Thanks for taking me through your wonderful experience at Vipassana. The stories shared & the moral of the same explained by you goes to show how deeply you are influenced by the teachings of Vipassana. There must be 1000 s of such stories & I remember reading a lot of them are written so well & I wish a entire volume of the same being available. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience in the most wonderful way that you always do.

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    1. Nikhil
      yes indeed
      Mohammad Paigamber, Jesus Christ, our own Tukaram, Jalaram Bapa, Kabir etc etc all taught through stories and parables
      A collection of all these will be a treasure trove
      I think we should start by collating “the Story that influenced me the Most”
      It will really help

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  6. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
    One must experience this at least once a life time. It’s the only gate way for spiritual awakening

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  7. Great stories Vikas. I did the 10 day course in 1997 and felt a great sense of lightness at the end of it. This was at Igatpuri. We listened to the stories by Goenkaji in the evenings and the silence helped in ruminating on the essence of the same.

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  8. Stories are so simple and takes a minute to read but the messages are deep and takes time to sink in since it drives us to reflect on our experiences and value system. Thanks for sharing 🙏

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  9. Dear Vikas,
    I attended in Chennai my Vipassana 10 day days course 2006 to control anger> It is very effective, but meditation I could never pick.
    V.Ramachandran

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  10. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing. Parable “Main” and “Mera” is interesting. One of key theme of Bhagvad Gita is same, drop ‘I”, “Me” and “Mine”. One is nothing and has nothing.

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  11. Thank you so much for the synopsis, VSS. Very well captured. You are inspiring me to attend vipasana. I shall connect with you for the details.

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  12. Good evening Sir. Thank you very much for sharing these wonderful pearls of wisdom that you experienced at tha Vipassana camp. Very enlightening indeed. Similar lessons are there in the Jataka tales and I have enjoyed reading them in my childhood.

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  13. I had heard a lot of stories about Vipassana being an ancient mindfulness meditation technique, and that it involves observing your thoughts and emotions as they are, without judging or dwelling on them. But all the parables quoted by you have an element of “judgement”. Also, your “learnings” at the end of each parable show that you were not mindful and non-judgmental during Vipassana!

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    1. MS
      true I have indeed analyzed and thought out my take aways from each story
      But if I did not do that, what learnings would I imbibe
      Each and every one of us is a closed cosmos
      and I do not think being mindful means not learning from ones experiences

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