When I read the book ‘The monk who sold his ferrari’, somewhere I wished that I too get a chance to go on such a spiritual journey. Last year I came to know about Vipassana . Vipassana is a 10 days residential course where they teach you meditation and other techniques to help you know yourself better. Its completely free of cost. I personally believe in meditation a lot and think our mind has infinite power if we can tame it. Like many other people I also thought that going for a 10-day course where you are completely disconnected from the outside world (i.e. no access to cell phone/internet) is next to impossible but deep down I wanted to go for it. 15 days back I was thinking of going for some 4-day meditation course but then a friend of mine insisted that I should go for Vipassana. He assured me 100% satisfaction from Vipassana. Once again that desire to go for Vipassana became stronger and I started researching about Vipassana online. I read almost all the stuff available online related to Vipassana. I read about experiences of different people from different parts of the world and found one common feedback ” ITS WORTH IT” . 90% of the people who went for the course simple loved it and thought it was one of the most wonderful experiences of their life. Its supposed to be very tough. You have to maintain noble silence for 10 days. You cant even look at each other. They want you to be completely with yourself. Initially it sounds like an insane thing to do but you won’t hold the same view after you are done with the course.
So I had made up my mind that I will go for Vipassana. For some reason I was excited about it. I decided that I will do it very sincerely and try to get the best out of it. I somehow had a feeling that it will have a profound effect on me. I was so happy to read other peoples’ experiences that I convinced my dad also to come with me. My dad being a business man thinks he is the busiest person on this earth but when Shweta tries to convince then who can deny so he agreed to come with me . It was very surprising for all our family members to believe that my dad agreed to go for this course and be disconnected from this world for complete 10 days but then everything happens for good.
Vipassana has centers throughout the world. We went to the New Delhi centre which is located in Sohna. This center is 10 years old. You have to report one day before the course starts at around 3 PM. As I entered the center (on April 2, 2008), I was glad to see how beautifully they had made the center. Usually centers are little away from city in a calm place. There was something wonderful about the ambience there. Everybody gets one room each with an attached bathroom. They do believe that cleanliness is next to godliness. Everything was very well managed. Usually people in India don’t expect a center (which is free of cost) to be this clean so it was a pleasant surprise for everybody. I was assigned my room and I happily went and put my stuff there. There is complete segregation of males and females so in 10 days me and my dad never even looked at each other (talking was a distant thing). Noble silence begins at 8 PM on the same day of registration and people want to talk as much as possible from 4 PM (registration time) – 8 PM. They highly recommend that one shouldn’t try to mingle with others during those 4 hours as it will hamper your chances to maintaining noble silence but who listens I talked to almost every female after the noble silence got over because I was curious to know how was their experience with the course.
One of the most important thing about the course is maintaining noble silence i.e. you can’t talk to anybody there not even through signals. Only if its required, you can talk to your teacher and administrator. They kept telling the importance the noble silence but it was sad to see that people don’t realize it . Lot of people don’t realize that it will be for their benefit and end up talking when nobody is looking at them . I told myself that its for my benefit so I never even got that temptation to talk. I think if a talkative girl like me can maintain noble silence then anybody on this earth can . Its just that we feel we can’t. If you tell any girl about noble silence for 10 days then her first reaction would be ” Are you nuts ? Noble silence for 10 days ? Its impossible” But I can tell you from personal experience that once you decide you will be able to do it. The course is no doubt very tough and that’s the reason they ask you again and again if you are mentally prepared to follow the guidelines . Lot of people get scared after reading the code of discipline and decide never to go for it. Before the course begins they ask you to surrender to the technique and its rules (ONLY for 10 days). After 10 days, it will be completely your choice if you want to follow those rules. They believe that in order to get the maximum benefit from the course one should abide by all the rules. This is where most people go wrong. They surrender to the technique just for the heck of it and think they are doing a favor to Vipassana organizers by following the rules. It feels wonderful to see that Vipassana team works so hard and selflessly for people and their only motive is that people get the best out of this course. They have no other incentive at all . I wish everybody understands this and follow the rules very SINCERELY.
At first getting up at 4 am , eating the last meal of the day at 11 am ( don’t read it as 11 pm because you get the last meal at 11 am ) , sitting cross-legged and observing your breath for 10 hours a day seems like the most foolish thing to do on this earth but I assure you that once you give it a shot, you wont feel the same.
On the day of registration as we reached the area near our rooms, it was pretty dark and silent. I found it to be very calm and serene and was enjoying it ,then all of a sudden a voice came from behind “Hey don’t get scared. It should be fine”. I started wondering how differently people can feel about the same thing. From my room’s window I could see peacocks and listen to the chirping of birds.
Now our first day begins and everybody gets up at 4 am (weird huh ?). For the first three days you have to observe and concentrate on your breathing. Almost everybody feels initially that they cant concentrate and their mind wanders everytime they try to observe their breathing and that’s the reality. By the third day, everybody is able to concentrate better than before and for the next 7 days they make you practice the main Vipassana technique. It’s indeed painful. Your legs and body ache a lot since you have to sit for so long. Almost everyday one gets a feeling “Why have I come here ? Don’t I have any other job than just looking at my breathing ?” and one literally feels like running away. My dad told me that he felt like jumping from the boundary wall and run away everyday till the fourth day. They used to ring a bell to signal the meditators that the session has got over. Lot of people used to feel the urge to ring the bell by themselves to end the meditation session I felt a lot of pain and discomfort like everybody else but as other mentioned you have to hold on to it. By the fourth day my pain began to diminish and I started to enjoy the course more. One thing that was common in those 10 days was that I was doing it very sincerely and peacefully because I wanted to feel the joy which others who did it sincerely felt. By the fifth day I started to look forward to it more. Initially I had many questions and conflicts in my mind. We all have some beliefs and when someone tells you about something contradictory then you find it uncomfortable to digest it till you understand the logic behind it and your mind accepts it. With each day I realized that all my doubts were getting cleared.
There used to be three big breaks in a day. I used to go for a brisk walk during all the three breaks. No wonder everybody after the course asked me if I was preparing for some Olympic meet . There was something special in the air there that I never used to feel tired there though I used to walk a lot . I used to be happy there for no reason. Such places are supposed to have lot of positive energy and I could feel it there. It was surprising that I never thought about my work there I used to miss my home and family a lot and was looking forward to go home but at the same time was enjoying each and every day there. I was very inspired by the servers(sevika) there. They used to serve the meditators selflessly with so much of love and compassion that one can see that compassion in their eyes.
Finally the last day arrived. By then I had started feeling what they call as “peace of mind” , real peace of mind. I was full of joy because I felt I have found something which I have been looking for so long. I was happy like anything. Probably everybody could see that happiness on my face. I felt free from all worries. Again and again I felt thankful to that friend of mine who asked me to go for this course and I was equally thankful to the Vipassana people for giving me this Joy. I started thinking how it will help so many of my friends and relatives who have everything but not peace of mind. Now it was time to talk to rest of the people to learn about their experiences. Can you imagine how girls would behave when they are allowed to talk after 10 days ??? All the girls just wanted to speak and nobody wanted to listen. In the cafeteria you could see all the girls just speaking. We realized that though everybody was silent but still we all were observing each other specially each others’ dresses in those 10 days but that’s girls . One girl said to another “Thank God, today you are not dressed up like one AUNTIJI/BEHENJI ” and she replied “Look at your pajama, it seems you haven’t washed it ever”. It was all in fun and we all laughed a lot. One girl came to me and said ” You know I could keep noble silence just because of you. I was so motivated by you” . Another girl said to the girl standing next to her “You know I was maintaining silence till 7th day then I saw you talking so I thought if this girl can talk then why not me. So I decided that I will talk for 10 minutes a day ” . You have all kind of people around you and its completely up to you whom you want to follow. I found one thing that in a 1 hr session, after like 45 minutes few people would open their eyes to see if others are doing it sincerely and if they see that couple of people have left the room already or not doing it sincerely then they take the liberty to do the same. So when one is doing good, he is inspiring others to do the same and when one is doing bad then he is again encouraging others to do the same. Everybody was very happy on the last day. How much each one of us got from this course depended on how much efforts one put in there BUT everybody got SOMETHING Couple of people came and told me and they were motivated to see me peaceful and sincere all the time. There were girls from Russia, Portugal, California and Singapore also. One Russian girl came to me and said ” In the initial days I used to feel tired after the meditation but then I would see you walking briskly with a smile on your face and I would feel full of energy again” . One 17 yrs old girl used to sit next to me in the meditation hall and she told me “Everytime I used to lose interest in meditation I used to open my eyes and find you doing it sincerely with serenity on your face and would get back to my meditation again with vigor”. One girl probably 10 years elder to me came and hugged me after the meditation. We had never talked before in our lives. I felt she wanted to say something. She didn’t say much but took my number so that we can keep in touch. Next day I got a call from her and she told me ” I want to say something. Till the end of the first say I was so restless and was not able to concentrate. Then I found you doing it so peacefully and sincerely and I was so motivated that all my restlessness was gone and I could do my course really well. I will be thankful to you throughout my life for helping me silently. I could find something which I have been looking for so long. Thank you so much” . I know it looks like a movie with so many things happening with me. My point here is not to boast about how I motivated others but to show how by being sincere and peaceful we not only do good for ourselves but for MANY OTHERS. If you ask me from where I got the inspiration to do it sincerely then I would say “From the people who have successfully done it before”.
On the first day I didn’t know even a single person there but on the the last day I made great friends. On the 11th day just 2 hours before leaving one of my friend’s cell phone and money was stolen. Its written all over the place to take care of your belongings . Its surprising to see that thefts can happen in such places too. That friend stays in the same place as mine so she was supposed to come back home with me and my dad. She was pretty low after this incident. She was already going through a financial crunch. Me and my dad tried our best to make her feel better on our way back home but all in vain. I told her ” When you really want something then the whole universe conspires to help you to achieve it”. I really didn’t want her to go back on a sad note. I somehow thought of her as my younger sister and really wanted her to smile. She was literally obsessed with her cell phone so it was more painful for her . After I dropped her home, I told my dad that I want to gift her a cell phone that day itself since she was leaving for another city the next day. I am blessed to have such parents who have always taught me to bring happiness in others’ life. Instead of asking “Why” , he said ” why not”. I went home and first thing I did was to go and buy a cell phone for her. At no point I wanted her to feel grateful or obliged. I also bought a “good luck” card for her since she was badly looking for a job. I went to her place and left the stuff with her aunt since she wasn’t at home. Somehow it made me very happy to do that for her . After an hour I got a call from her and she had lot of love in her voice. She really wanted me to take the cell phone back but I told her I was much more happier than her by doing so and we did a deal that she will buy me something after she gets a job . After sometime I get the following message from her
“Hi I just wanted to say this has been1 of the sweetest gesture done by anyone. I hate taking anything from anybody but the way you said it, i could feel that you are happy. recently i faced 2 many problems but ur gift reminds me that there are still good things and good ppl left. I shall keep this forever even when this cell wont work becoz whenever I shall be down it will still remind me wht is gud. Hope u get married to one of the best dudes. all your dreams come true. Even if in future we cant be in touch, i shall remember you as epitome of optimism, determination and how to live life. I wont thank you coz that’s too small a word”
I cant express how much joy I felt after this. I was wondering how by doing small gestures we can bring so much happiness in others’ life. Your gesture doesn’t have to have any monetary aspect. Its just about being little thoughtful. You really feel that you get much more happiness in giving than receiving. If you haven’t experienced it then you might say ” Don’t try to be Mother Teresa or Miss Universe”. After Vipassana I really wished that everybody should experience the joy which I was feeling. It was one of best experiences of my life. I have been going through a rough phase for past 1.5 years. Problems are still the same (probably more) but my way of looking at the problems has changed after this course. On the day I came back, I was on the phone the whole day, telling people about my super wonderful experience. I am glad I could convince 8 people (including my mom and grandmother) on that day to join this course. My dad also loved it a lot. He has started sending his employees for this course.
Goenka ji (Founder of Vipassana) mentioned during the course that “When my teacher went for this course he was thinking that he would be fired since he took a 10 days leave without notice but when he reached home there was a promotion letter waiting for him. BUT guys ! all of you shouldn’t expect a promotion letter when you go home now. However some of you might get it ”. Can you guys believe it that when I reached home there were so many great news waiting for me in my mail box. I had never got so many wonderful news in just one day. I truly felt being promoted when I reached home.
- Ever since our childhood, we have been reading and listening that we should know ourselves, we should not have ill feelings, we should not get angry, anger is our worst enemy, we should feel good for others, there should be no animosity but NO ONE told us HOW ? Vipassana tackles the “how” part of it which no one else I know has taught before.
- The process itself is very scientific and logical. Its not associated with any religion, caste, creed. mantra, God It has a universal approach and is applicable to every single being on this earth.
What you can expect from this course
- Peace of mind
- Kind and compassionate heart
- More determination
- Better concentration
- More productivity
A lot of executives and students go for this course to get the above benefits and it works. Anybody can experience all the above benefits given one thing i.e one gives his 100% to it . Its not some magic so you wont see a complete transition in yourself in just 10 days but it will happen gradually as you practice more and more at your place. I m glad that both me and my dad are practicing it sincerely so far. We both have been religiously getting up at 4:30 am (Insane huh ?) I would say I have just got started , may be I have walked 1% on this path BUT I am so happy that I have found this path.
Few things to notice
- You will always feel that you cant manage 10 days in your work life but make up your mind and it will just work out fine. World doesn’t stop if you take a break for 10 days irrespective of what your work is.
- You should be mentally prepared before you go for this course. In order to get the best from this course, you have to give your best
- If you do it SINCERELY then you will find it to be the best thing you have done in your life.
- You will realize that EACH one of us has a sweet and soft self hidden deep down. This course will help you find that beautiful self of yours and others.
- Lot of people have this notion that only depressed people go for such a course but you will realize that its meant for everybody/
- If you go through the code of conduct then it seems like impossible thing to follow but when people of all ages ( 17 years to 95 years ) can do it then why cant you ?
- First few days will be tough but by end of 10 days you will know what you were working for.
- ITS TRULY WORTH IT .
This course made this talkative girl realize that ‘silence is golden’. Not that I talk less now . I very very strongly recommend this course to anybody and everybody specially working people. Life is really beautiful and if you don’t believe me yet then I assure that after you do this course (provided you give your 100%), you will believe me 100%. May all of us be happy because that is what all of us deserve.
Life is Beautiful so smile ….
Related article : http://nipun.charityfocus.org/blog/ar/pilgrimigatpuri/000755.html
Updated (March 2009): I attended another session of Vipassana meditation in Dec 2008 and I still feel it was the best thing I did in my life. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I feel extremely grateful that I got two chances to attend it.