MY VIPASSANA EXPERIENCE – IX

Day 10 (25/04/2015)

Ah, the final day has dawned. What started as a slow and an excruciating experience gradually became more interesting and meaningful with the passing days. As I look back, I am convinced this is one amazing decision I have taken. Suddenly the delusions were exposed – the realization dawned that we look at change to happen only in the outside. So we tend to correct things outside. But we fail to look inwards, inside. Actual change can happen only there, within. Vipassana gave us the other angle – as we progress and look at things inside we realize the cause of our misery it’s 50 % outside and 50 % inside. And with continuous practice one is sure to reach the stage where one becomes aware that misery is generated from within. Whenever one reacts one causes misery. In the course of the 10 days, we were taken symbolically and systematically through the facets of the Triple Gem i.e. in Buddha, in Dhamma and in Sangha – the qualities they stand for. One who traverses through the path of enlightenment is taking refuge in the Buddha. The path in itself is called the Dhamma.  Constant practice alters the practitioner and the stage of goodness one reaches is called the Sangha. And the final result of taking refuge in the Triple Gem is to purify the mind.

In the morning session we were introduced to Metta meditation. Metta bhavana, or loving-kindness meditation, is a method of developing compassion. It is rooted in Buddhist tradition and after Vipassana practice we are expected to close it with Metta Bhavana. While Vipassana is looking inward through a moment-to-moment observation of the body/ mind with awareness, focus and equanimity, Metta is a practice wherein one opens the heart to oneself, others and all of life, thus accentuating the inter-relatedness of all life in this beautiful planet. After Vipassana we were asked to relax (sit quietly with closed eyes and a peaceful mind) before initiating us into Metta meditation. In Metta Meditation we were asked to focus on Metta phrases:

May I be free from all anger, hatred, ill will and animosity…
May I generate love and goodwill, peace and harmony…
May all beings share my peace…
Share my harmony…
Share my merits…
Share my Dhamma…
May all beings feel happy…
Feel peaceful…
Feel liberated…
May all beings be happy, be peaceful, be liberated…

Finally it ends with the Pali phrase “Bhavatu Sabba Managalam” meaning “May there be every blessing”.

This is the only time when we were asked to focus on phrases. Otherwise Vipassana stays clear of visualizations and phrases in a bid to induce focus. According to Vipassana using mental images, using mantras etc are artificial and do not help in clearing the cobwebs at the deeper level. So those who are used to guided visualization meditations, verbalization or mantras may find it difficult to break from that habit. Choosing a particular object to stay focused on makes Metta a concentration practice. We practiced Metta the whole day so that we get enough practice in the technique. The aim of Metta is to share the purity one develops during the practice of Vipassana with the world at large and thereby creating goodwill, harmony and peace.

At 11.00 after the morning session the noble silence ended and we were permitted to talk. The lunch was a noisy, chattering affair. We looked at each other and talked and talked. We went to our fellow meditators and got to know them better. Even after spending 10 days under the same roof without talking and meeting each other’s eye, it seemed there was an underlying camaraderie betwixt us. In between we found time to buy books and CDs that were displayed. We also handed in our donations to the staff detailed for the same.

The next session started at 2.30 and after it ended and we had our tea, we were asked to collect our phones and valuables which we had submitted on the first day to the authorities. After that it was time to get in touch with folks at home. The next session was at 6.00 and so we were left with very little time. Another round of Vipassana and Metta Meditation was followed by the screening of the documentary “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana” a film by Eilona Ariel & Ayelet Menahemi. The winner of the Golden Spire Award at the 1998 San Francisco International Film Festival and the winner of the 1998 NCCD Pass Awards of the American National Council on Crime and Delinquency, it captures brilliantly the path breaking prison reforms undertaken by Kiran Bedi when she held the position of Inspector General of prisons in Tihar Jail. (Dear readers do watch this movie at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkxSyv5R1sg – it will be a life changing experience). Yes, ‘the little woman with a big reputation and an even bigger vision’ Kiran Bedi introduced Vipassana in Tihar Jail, and it came to be the most ambitious project in the history of Indian prisons. Many prisoners experience profound change, came to realize that they can be normal human beings. Incarceration is not the end. There is the possibility of a life with positivism, forgiveness and transformation into a complete human being. The film was so very engrossing and poignant. I wish many more prisons all over the world would weave Vipassana into their systems so that there are no more criminals, only reformed souls. When the sessions for the day ended, we went back to our rooms and were once more huddled in conversation. We sat late into the night and by the time we went to bed it was 2.00 am.

Talk! Imagine how much of chatter goes on in our daily lives and the impact it has on us, even though we scarcely realize it.  The actual physical act of chatter and then the non-stop chatter in the mind! I hope I will be able to be aware and control both kinds of chatter, especially the second kind. And when I hit the bed, my mind played it over and over again like a stuck tape recorder – the ten days’ experience, the people and the place around and most importantly the documentary. Technology is a great distractor too. Gmail, Face Book, Whatsapp – all kept me wide eyed till 4.00 am – and I woke up with not even a wink of sleep. And that was how I went in the closing day morning for the meditation session. After the session another discourse by Acharya Goenka was delayed due to another power outage. After breakfast, when the power supply resumed we watched the discourse rapt in attention. In the discourse Acharyaji once more exhorted us to take in only things that are logical, pragmatic, reasonable and rational. Use this yardstick to review what was learned in the last ten days. Another yardstick is to see if there are tangible benefits by practicing it. And the third yardstick is to ask if it is harmful to others. Then if it is acceptable by all three yardsticks, accept it at the actual level – at the level of practice.

As we bid goodbye to our fellow meditators, we exchanged telephone numbers, email ids and so on. I realized how we came from such diverse cultures but have all been tied to the sacred thread of Dhamma. As I look back, what has enamoured me to this day is that the entire teaching of Vipassana is completely universal. It is absolutely non-sectarian. It never praises one sect and puts down another. It is balanced and equanimous. It is utterly devoid of rites and rituals. The shift through Vipassana is the shift from misery to happiness, from ignorance to wisdom and from bondage to liberation. And this shift being gradual, may not be immediately perceptible. And as I come to the end of the narration of my Vipassana experience I can only gratefully acknowledge this soul for silently gifting the world one of the most powerful and life changing kinds of meditation – Vipassana. I thank and am eternally grateful to that moment when I decided to join the course. I am also indebted to that power if discernment in me that held me captive to Vipassana during the entire course.

Finally, dear reader, I do hope you get a chance to experience the life-changing Vipassana technique.