I had been to Vipassana meditation at Igatpuri, Maharashtra. The course duration is 10 days. Not suprisingly, it has been the 10 most exciting days of my life. What an experience! Vipassana is basically based on the teachings of Gotama Buddha, the discoverer of the famous Middly Way. Buddha definately has been the greatest scientist ever! He went to the depths of mind, matter and much beyond to find the real cause of misery, disease and purpose of life. After exploring the whole mind matter phenomena, he figured out a brilliant way to get out of misery, disease etc of any kind. Though the explanation would sound like another theory or philosophy, the enlightened One asks us to not believe anything he says. He only asks us to observe ourself and directly experience everything rather than accept things on an intellectual level. In fact, this is Path of Gyana (Knowledge) in which one knows only what one has experienced and anything else he does not know.So, discard all God, religion, ritual, rite or belief of any kind and enter Vipassana.

One has to observe a Code of Discipline. To put it briefly, one must not speak, steal, lie or indulge in any sexual misconduct. These are considered to be the foudation stones to start exploration of the Truth within. The next step is to make the mind more sharp and concentrated so that it is possible to gain control over the mind and focus it on any particular part of the body and also keep it away from any thoughts. Once this has been established, the actual process of vipassana starts which does the job of purification of the mind. This exactly was the teaching of Buddha known as

  • Sila - Morality, the foundation stone
  • Samadhi - Control over the mind
  • Pannya - Purification of the mind by wisdom and insight

The idea behind not speaking, in fact not even having eye contact with anyone is to keep the mind away from thoughts as much as possible. One will realise this during Samadhi. The moment one has communication with anyone the mind gets some material to start thinking. The daily time table that one needs to follow everyday is as follows

4:00 a.m.---------------------Morning wake-up bell

4:30-6:30 a.m.----------------Meditate in the hall or your own room

6:30-8:00 a.m.----------------Breakfast break

8:00-9:00 a.m.----------------GROUP MEDITATION IN THE HALL

9:00-11:00 a.m.---------------Meditate in the hall or your own room

11:00-12:00 noon--------------Lunch break

12noon-1:00 p.m.--------------Rest and interviews with the teacher

1:00-2:30 p.m.----------------Meditate in the hall or your own room

2:30-3:30 p.m.----------------GROUP MEDITATION IN THE HALL

3:30-5:00 p.m.----------------Meditate in the hall or your own room

5:00-6:00 p.m.----------------Tea break

6:00-7:00 p.m.----------------GROUP MEDITATION IN THE HALL

7:00-8:15 p.m.----------------Teacher's Discourse in the hall

8:15-9:00 p.m.----------------GROUP MEDITATION IN THE HALL

9:00-9:30 p.m.----------------Question time in the hall

9:30 p.m.---------------------Retire to your own room--Lights out

My experience
The purpose of Vipassana is to experience "Everything is Anichya (Impermanent)". Again, one has to experience this and not just accept it on an intellectual level.

Day 1: The first 3 days deal with control over the mind. One should practice AnnaPanna, a technique which involves focusing on the area of the nostril from where air enters and leaves. Basically, focus on respiration. On Day 1, i found that i am hardly able to concentrate or focus. In fact, out of 10 hours, I must have observed my breath for hardly an hour! This is because the mind is constantly wandering away. But, one should not feel frustrated or angry about this. Just accept the reality of this moment that my mind has wandered away and get the mind back to the job observing breath.

Day 2:
On day 2, the mind becomes much more aware of the breath and now one should try to feel sensations all over the passage of the nostril and area above the upper lip. A sensation can be anything like heat, cold, itching, pain, sweating, vibration etc etc. By the end of this day, I found sensations all over the above said area.

Day 3:
On day 3, one should try to feel sensations ONLY on the area above the upper lip and below the nostril. The reason for decreasing the area to the sharpen the mind. The lesser the area the mind is made to focus on, the more sharper and more sensitive it becomes. By the end of this day, I was able to observe sensations on this area. Again, it is always important to just observe the sensations objectively and not react to them. Also, in case one does not feel any sensations, then focus on breath.

Day 4:
Vipassana starts. One must focus the mind on every little part of the body and try to feel sensations on each and every part about say 2 inches or so. Move the attention from head to toe in a cyclic manner. One must try to feel sensations all over the body. Just observe these sensations objectively without reacting to them. For one to not react to these sensations, it is necessary that one maintains equanimity of the mind. By the end of this day, I could feel sensations on about three fourth of my entire body.

Day 5:
From this day, there are no new techniques as such but there are these periods of 1 hour meditations throughout the day where one is not supposed to move. Just remain as is, no matter how much pain, discomfort one experiences. Now, this is the most important part. These meditations are also called Adhistana (determination). I personally feel it is extremely necessary to follow this because this is the only time one can experience impermanence. The logic is that if everything is actually impermanent then even the pain, discomfort is impermanent. But over and above all, one has to maintain perfect equanimity and not react to the sensations. I did sit for all the 1 hour meditations without moving. But all the sittings on this day was nothing less than hell. There was soooooooooooo much pain in my legs that i felt it was impossible to not react and obviously, i was reacting to the pain. I was in complete misery.

Day 6,7,8:
Days 6,7 and first half of the eighth day was almost the same. There was so much physical pain that i have never ever experienced before. But still i did sit through all the misery without moving a limb. During all these days i was trying to maintain equanimity of the mind. Actually, this is extremely important. What actually happens is that when the body experiences pain the sense organs notify that there is a sensation of pain. Now, the habit pattern of the mind is such that instead of just acknowledging the notification it reacts to it by feeling pain. The next instant this feeling multiplies and then there are 100 such sensations and reactions. The next instant it again multiplies and there are 1000 such reactions. Eventually, in a short span of time, due to reaction one feels almost intolerable pain. If one is just able to observe the pain without reacting which is done by maintaing equanimity of the mind then there is no multiplication but just notification of pain and the results are unbelievable.

From moment to moment, I was maintaing equanimity of the mind and the experience of impermanence was inevitable. Here is what happened. For about 1 second, i felt a sensation of pain on my right leg. I observed it and found some strong sensations on the forehead in between the eyebrows. I observed those sensations and they eventually passed away and i found that the pain too had vanished. Then again after about 10 seconds, I felt pain on the right leg, again strong pulling sensations on the forehead and while i observed it pass away, the pain had vanished. This cycle repeated for the whole hour. It was almost like there was no pain. It just came and went, came and went. This was the moment of experience, Everything is Anichya(Impermanent)... Everything is changing. From now on, for all the following days, I hardly felt any pain. Believe me, this experience that everything is changing is an absolute eye opener. On an intellectual level, one can never understand.

Day 9,10:
By now, i was able to experience sensations all over the body. The fact that there are sensations indicates that something is changing which establishes that everything is changing. Now while moving the attention over the body, i found certain areas where there were gross/strong sensations. Focussing on these areas, various emotions like ego, anger, hatred, jealously etc started to surface. Again, the idea is to remain equanimous and just observe. It becomes quite painful at times but its all for the good. I found myself a lot lighter.

It is not like in 10 days one will be enlightened. There are hell lot of emotions and deep rooted complexes that need to come out after which ones mind will be completely purified. I definately have a long long way to go but at least established on what needs to be done.

I would recommend everyone to go and give this technique a try. Its really worth it. But, whenever one plans to go please go with the attitude of complete submission to the technique or else it will just be a painful and miserable experience serving no purpose.

There is way too much information that I feel like giving in this post but I will split it up over a series of posts i guess or else this post would become very long.