My Unusual Vipassana Meditation Retreat in a Vipassana Centre

by WriterArtist

My first Vipassana retreat was an eye opener, it transformed my way of looking at things, events and the meaning of life.

I thank this cosmos, the universe, Buddha, its Sangha, my teacher S N Goenka and the associate teachers of Vipassana and Dhamma meditation for giving me the opportunity of attending the Vipassana meditation retreat in a lone Vipassana centre.

It is said that millions of people are born and they die but they do not get the chance of encountering pure “Dhamma”. A person who seeks to walk in this path should have a seed or “parami” of virtuousness and benevolence to walk in this rare, unique and the only path to enlightenment.

My Vipassana retreat in a silent Vipassana centre of meditation of total solitude was an awakening of the soul and the answer to many queries that haunted me throughout my otherwise peaceful childhood.

This is a tribute to Buddha who found this lost path for the benefit of many.

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I have tried to explain a complex technique which is best understood only when learnt from an authorized Vipassana centre. By no means you should try to use it as Do-it yourself manual.

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My Idea of Life

I was used to accusing Nature/Almighty or anyone of my misfortunes, but Vipassana gave me the reasons of my sufferings. It provided the answers of queries that I sought for. It answered questions like why am I born and why am I here on earth. Why do I encounter bad and how to cope with it?

The Law of Nature

The Directives of Universe or Cosmos

 

The spirit wanders from one existence to another without stopping. With a continuous supply of our actions “Karma” which will bear fruits in either the same existence or in the future, the stream of life goes on.

The cosmos and the nature of universe is infinitely precise, you cannot hide anything from it. You might have succeeded in cheating authorities, law and made fools of people around you but nothing can be hidden from it. If you think that you have managed to escape the law after committing a sin, you are wrong; your deeds will bear the fruits in this or future existences.

 

My First Encounter with Dhamma

 

I remember and can recall my younger days in a school. I recall reading a chapter in my class-book in fourth or fifth standard. If I remember correctly it read Buddha at last found the solution to his miseries and a way to end miseries of millions of people that were to follow him in that life and later generations. 

He sat on the foot of the Bodhi tree, expressing the gratitude to the tree who had given him the cover and protection while he meditated and everyone else who had helped him in the difficult path of attaining “Nibbana” the enlightenment. There I sat in the classroom thinking, how a person can attain enlightenment by sitting cross-legged under a tree, how strange is this method - not engaging in any spiritual discourse, customs and traditions.

I just kept thinking about it with disbelief, there was no worshipping and no customs to be followed in this path, no mention of Bhakti that is very deeply installed in Hinduism. 

What is taught in Vipassana Meditation Retreat in a Vipassana Centre?

 

I was very skeptic about this event, how did Buddha ever get the freedom without blessings of any Guru, as there is a common belief in Hinduism that you should get recommendation, “krupa” of a Guru to attain “Moksha” – the Enlightenment.

I did not understand at that time the enlightened Buddha had the protection, blessing and support of the entire universe and the deities because he was the ever curious, the ultimate spiritual scientist who was on a mission to find out a solution to end the miseries of the world  in not only his current birth but many past births . Before he attained enlightenment he was known as “Bodhisatva”, afterwards as “Tathagat” – the Enlightened one.

Years afterwards, my chattering mind could find answers to many questions in this path of spirituality in a Vipassana centre. The technique is very action oriented. It is a technique to silence the chattering mind and involve it in a fruitful method of self contemplation. By meditating and sitting silently in solitude we are not vegetating, neither are we running away from the problems and vicissitudes of life, we are nurturing the mind and learning how to use the mind positively.

We are all the time feeding this body but always forgetting the supreme mind which also requires nourishments and healing. There is an intimate, very close connection between body and mind which is an amalgamation of the energy and the matter. To have a healthy mind, you should have a healthy body and vice-versa. 

What are thoughts?

What is mind?

 

Are mind and brain same?

Why do mind and body co-exist?

Can you see the mind or the thoughts? 

Where do you think does our mind reside?

Is it residing in the brain, is mind the brain? 

What is thoughts of the mind?

How can the mind think?

Buddha referred mind as “Chitta”, it definitely is not brain.

I must admit that I cannot give the answers to these questions precisely but I will try to explain these concepts. Most of the time we confuse mind with brain. Mind is not the physical aspect of brain. Mind is analogous to life and a tower of brilliance that manifests itself with the generation of thoughts. Thoughts are waves, energy patterns and very unique.

I can take my mind to any part of the body.

How is that you will ask?

I can take my mind to the various body parts through sensations. Wherever there is life in the body, I can feel through those sensations, I can sense them though my mind. Can my mind go beyond the body? Oh yes, my mind jumps in the space through thoughts. So you see the mind is very powerful, within second maybe faster than speed of light it jumps from one place to another.

 It is not easy to understand why mind is not brain. You will slowly start appreciating what mind is when you meditate. With regular practice of Vipassana you can start feeling sensations all over the body and remain equanimous. But you see the sharpness and the penetrating power of mind is still not unleashed. It is only when you reach the deepest state of "Bhanga" that you understand the ephemeral state of mind and matter.

Can you control the body with the mind?

 

External organs and some of the body system apparently seem as if they can be controlled through mind .Though mind can control many part of body like legs, arms, eyes, it cannot however control lungs, kidneys, blood circulation and many other vital functions of the body. Then who is in charge of the body, who controls it? Terrific question – the answer is nobody …… hard to digest?

Well, it is very clear that we cannot dictate many of the body functions, neither is the Almighty controlling all this. You can call it law of nature perhaps; if that helps.  If there is any supreme power, clearly it has more important things to do than keep watch on us.

Are you practicing any meditation technique?

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What is Vipassana?

Vipassana as taught in a vipassana centre

 

You can call Vipassana meditation as India's most ancient meditation technique that was taught many years ago by Buddha. With the passage of time, it was lost to humanity, and was rediscovered by Gautama the Buddha a little more than 2500 years ago.

The word Vipassana suggests and literally means seeing/observing things, circumstances as they actually are. Without labeling things and without judging them with our incomplete wisdom which is mostly blurred with prejudices and biases accumulated for years in many births, we start observing things objectively. It is also analogous to a technique and a course of action to practice self- purification by self-observation. 

Spiritual Awakening in Vipassana Retreats

 

 In the ten days of Vipassana retreats, a person is taught how to discipline one’s mind. It is neither a ritual, nor a custom. In fact, the mind is taught to become free of the traditions, biases and prejudices to follow the free flow. Do not mistake it to a license of committing misdeeds or another course of rituals. A person undertaking the course begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate or focus his mind towards the incoming and outgoing natural breath. We are told not to tamper the breath, nor associate it with counting numbers or repeating any deity’s name. We have to just observe the natural rhythm of the breath and its pattern without giving it names or generalizing it. It is just pure, pristine breath that we need to focus in.

 

 With a sharpened awareness you proceed to observe the altering nature of body and mind and experience the prevailing fact of impermanence, suffering and ego-lessness. This truth-realization with a direct encounter of mind and body is the foundation of Vipassana, the method of purification. This complete path (called as Dhamma) is an art of living and way to circumvent common difficulties. It has absolutely nothing to do with any custom, tradition or sectarianism. In fact, it can be freely practiced by each and every person, at any time, in any location, without any conflict of belief, ethnicity, race, community or religion. This universal path of Vipassana, Dhamma as taught in a Vipassana centre has proven equally helpful to one and all.

                

Interested in Vipassana?

The origin of Vipassana technique lies sometime around 2000 years ago. It was discovered by Buddha and at present is taught by revered S N Goenka Guruji and the chain of teachers.

Vipassana Meditation Introduction by S.N. Goenka

Updated: 11/25/2014, WriterArtist
 
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WriterArtist on 11/25/2014

Dear Mira - Many times, it is the chain of comments that make the article more interesting. I am glad that you realized how important it is to observe and contemplate. Often we lose the capability of thinking clearly when we get drowned in sorrow or have fits of anger.

Mira on 11/24/2014

Hi Shraddha, I enjoyed reading about Vipassana and your retreat. I also read the comments section, and love your point about reaction. Noawadays people feel the need to react to anything and everything. Sometimes it's worth it to just observe things and people without thinking too much, especially when the trigger is something negative: negative events shown on the news or a hurtful comment, for instance.

WriterArtist on 11/21/2014

@frankbeswick - I see another beautiful explanation of what are thoughts and how mind and brain play a role in bringing it about. Philosophers like Descartes have tried to explain and ancient Vedas have it too.

I find myself dying to share what Buddha in his deep meditative state could do. When he plunged deep he found that "Chitta" (mind) can be broken into 4 parts, each of it has a specific role to play - cognition, reception, perception and reaction.

Goenka explains that if we are able to break the habit-pattern of mind, we can learn to stop reacting. At times we are so overwhelmed with this powerful mind from feelings of anger, hatred, greed and jealousy that we fail to act correctly. This unconscious mind which actually is not so unconscious is active all 24 hours. In Vipassana you can actually observe how powerful and violent it can be.

WriterArtist on 11/21/2014

@VioletteRose - I see a very interesting analogy of how you have explained the difference between mind and brain. I could not have dreamt of such an example.

WriterArtist on 11/21/2014

@frankbeswick - Actually I am a Hindu who is deeply influenced by Buddha's view of life and his teachings. I might have read more Buddhist scriptures than any others. I have even tried to take a dive into the ancient language of 'Pali' which conveys the Buddhist philosophy and "Buddha-Vani" (Buddha's voice). Language does have barriers though, sometimes words cannot express the feelings. The essence of pali can be best understood in pali only because translating it into other language can be difficult without the exact synonyms.

frankbeswick on 11/21/2014

Thoughts are qualia, those qualities/realities that are irreducible to description in material terms, which indicates that they are not material. Mind, I suggest, is not a substance as Descartes thought, but closer to a field, which is a kind of reality not fully understood. It uses the brain as a thinking tool. Hence mind and brain are distinct.

VioletteRose on 11/21/2014

Very interesting article. It really makes sense to believe mind and brain are not the same. Inside my mind, I may have the desire to do many things, but those desires and thoughts are controlled by the brain, most of the times. For instance, a beautiful waterfall can attract your mind, but your brain actually prevents you from jumping into it. So basically, I believe mind is more about desires, thoughts and feelings but brain is more about the intelligence that guide you and help you figure out what can be done and what cannot be done. I really do not know if this is right, but this is what I believe :)

This is really a great article, and very useful. I would love to learn and practice the Vipassana retreats at some point in my life. Thanks for sharing so much of information on this.

frankbeswick on 11/21/2014

Having a Buddhist to write on Wizzley is positive, as you are adding to the Christian material produced by me and others, paganism from Jo and Hinduism from Violet Rose. You are thus augmenting the religious breadth of this site. Keep it up.

I found this article useful, as it is good to read religious material from a participant in a faith, as you get greater depth of insight this way. I have developed a greater grasp of vipassana than I previously had after reading your article.

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