It was excitement, curiosity and even a sense of longing to be there. I had heard so much about it, and yet had made it a point not to do any research, reading, talking or questioning before I went there. I am a sucker for first hand experiences, you see. First hand experience it is, in every sense of the word. And I think the term describes perfectly the principle, philosophy, technique and everything there is about Vipassana.
Almost everybody I met before going gasped at the overwhelming next-to-impossibility of being silent and completely disconnected from real and virtual world for 10 days straight. Everybody, who hadn’t been there, that is. I knew that wouldn’t be a big deal for me, although I am not really known for my quietness. I thought a couple of other things like getting up really early in the morning (4 am!) would be challenging as I am one of those not-so-morning-persons who can count number of sun-rises seen on their fingers. Then there was weather, peak winter in North India, not exactly the most pleasant weather of all. Guess what, these things didn’t even matter enough to get noticed.
I noticed something else. Unmistakable. In my face. Too big and clear to be shrugged off. I had somehow this feeling that my “mind” (mann as called in Hindi/Sanskrit) was relatively in control. I am no saint and have no delusional ideas about myself, yet I thought I was capable of being “in charge” of my mind to the necessary extent. Left to my own devices, I saw that the mann was running the whole show, with or without my consent (of course the idea of I, me, my also underwent a huge shift). The mind was an independent entity, naughty, evil, in fact, dragging me into loops of unwanted, unnecessary thoughts and daring me to stop if I could! I saw that not a single thought was in my ‘control’. If meditation/enlightenment is about taming the mind, I have lifetimes to walk towards that goal.
But the good thing is that I ‘saw’ that. In its purity, nakedness, if you will. And realized that it’s a war, not in the normal sense of being “against” something but a war in the sense of knowing. I also realized that the enemy (for the lack of a better word) is quite strong and well-equipped.
Another good thing is that I realized there is a way. A way on which thousands of men and women have walked ahead of us. By turning within.
If I really have to sum up this beautiful experience in one best thing about it, that would be its total emphasis on “doing” than talking about spirituality. I simply loved the way the whole course has been designed. It leaves absolutely no space for intellectual stimulation that generally quenches the thirst superficially for a while and deviates the seeker from the real stuff. It is easier done than said, as a dear friend of mine puts it.
Well, it isn’t really easy, to be honest. When you are alone and silent, you find your biggest fears, guilts and feelings in the similar league stare at you 24 by 7 and you have no place to run and hide, like you do in ordinary life by switching the TV/internet/phone on, or talking, or reading, basically distracting yourself. So the only option you have is to see them in the eye and deal with them, there is no escape. It is really amazing and paradoxical that everyone (including me) is so afraid of being in their own company while the world is seemingly brimming with narcissistic tendencies in the today’s age of “selfies” and stuff like that.
What is it we are running away from? What is it we are seeking?
I am all for going into space and invading Mars etc. but it is stunning to know how little we know about this person we live with, day and night, that we call our “self”. The one we seem to live for, love, pamper and be so defensive about. Billions and billions of things are going on “within” the self at so many levels that we don’t have the slightest inkling of. The magnitude of ignorance about the beloved self, mostly because of being constantly tuned outward and almost never inward is mind blowing.
We do hope that one day our lives would be in perfect order and then we would have time to stop and think about existential questions (questions that are gnawing at us deep within, if we lose the sense of numbness put over them). But well, who are we kidding? That is never going to happen. I feel, one needs to stop, take a step back once in while, and really “see” things as they are. Really seeing things as they are is what Vipassana all about.
So glad and grateful I could have the opportunity and fortune to do that… even if for a while!
Originally published at Speaking Tree
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