10-Day Vipassana Course, India

“The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live”

-Buddha

Before reading about this course, it is advisable to read ‘Vipassana – What? Why? How?‘ in order to understand more easily and clearly.

The 10 day Vipassana course is the beginner’s course taught at Dhamma GiriIgatpuri, Maharashtra, India. The registration can be done online and offline as well. My course was during the Monsoons and the best time in the Western Ghats of India. Picturesque breath taking views of Dhamma Giri and its surrounding areas is no less than a treat for the soul.

I came across it online and to my surprise it has been there for years without many people not even knowing about it! I decided to go for the beginner’s course to learn the actual technique and see for myself what exactly it is and how it works.

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At Dhamma Giri you need to reach one day before the course starts for the registration process. Hundreds of people from all over the World come and queue in for the course. Once the registration process is completed by approx 6:00 pm, everyone is given instructions for the upcoming 10 days.

Overview

You need to carry your own set of clothes and necessary items like medicines, toiletries, bedsheet, blankets etc. Although bedsheet and blankets are also provided for those who could not bring along. However, there are certain strict rules to be followed for the entire duration of the course :

  • No possession of any reading/writing material
  • No sacred/religious stuffs (for chanting, praying etc)
  • No music or any kind of electronic gadgets
  • No communication among fellow students (Noble Silence). However, you are allowed to speak to the Teachers for any query related to the technique and Dhamma workers(Sevak/Sevika) for any problems in accommodation
  • No eye contact with fellow students
  • No telling lies
  • No harming/killing (even insects!)
  • No sexual offence
  • No wasting food
  • No intervening in the opposite gender areas (Female and Male sections are entirely separated)

If you are able to follow these thoroughly only then you are allowed to be a part of the course. Moreover, there is also good reason about why noble silence is observed throughout the course. Will come to that later.

There is a huge gong that rings at the exact timings of the day (punctuality is nailed like anything!). The entire course is FREE of cost! Yes! The accommodation, facilities, food everything. The only fee/investment is that you have to be true to yourself. At the end of the course, if you feel benefited then you may donate something completely at your own will, if at all you feel like. The routine that needs to be followed for the complete course of 10 days –

4:00 am > Wake up Gong

4:30 am  – 6:30 am > Group Meditation

6:30 am – 8:00 am > Breakfast and Bath

8:00 am – 11:00 am > Meditation

11:00 am – 1:00 pm > Lunch and your personal time

1:00 pm – 5:00 pm > Meditation

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm > Tea

6:00 pm – 9:00 pm > Meditation

9:00 pm – 9:30 pm > Q&A with the Teachers

Looks a bit scary isn’t it? But to get the benefits and learn the technique in its pure form, discipline is a must.

Day 1:

The first day was exciting and confusing with all kinds of mixed feelings. The instructions are given in Hindi and English. When settled in the group meditation hall, a sloka in Pali language greets you (by Acharya S.N. Goenka , the founder of the Vipassana Centre).

It is made clear at the beginning itself, that Vipassana is not a religious ritual/practice or dogma or cult or any kind of blind faith. It is a proven science and technique of mind and body. The first thing taught is to just ‘observe’ the breath. The natural free flowing breath, without regulating it or forcing in any way. As mentioned in my previous article, Vipassana is all about seeing things as it is. As Nature has provided. The Universal Law of Nature.

So the first thing is to just observe the breath. Within few minutes you will realize that your mind has already wandered away here and there instead of focusing on the breath. How irritating isn’t it? Your own mind doesn’t listen to you when you tell it to do something, it does its own free will. Your entire body starts to pain for sitting continuously in the same posture.

‘The mind controls us instead of we controlling the mind”

Within few hours you will come across all kinds of thoughts, memories and feelings coming out like a volcano from your inside. These are all the thoughts that have been there buried deep inside from the time you actually have gained sense since childhood.

At this time, some people get annoyed, some become overwhelmed, some cry when not able to take the charge of these thoughts that flow like a river. The solution is simple – you just have to accept and let go!

“Nothing is permanent. Everything arises and passes away – The Universal Law of Nature”

The thoughts, the feelings, the pain everything is impermanent. Towards the end of third day you will be able to focus and observe your breath in a much better way. You feel much relaxed not only at the surface level but from deep within.

Day 2, Day 3 : 

Continuous learning to just observe the breath in its natural free form. The duration increases where you can focus on your respiration without the mind wandering anywhere! That’s the first happy and victorious moment of your inner struggle.

Day 4:

Vipassana – the technique is taught. The focus on your entire body from head to toe. The sensations of all kind whether gross or subtle, slowly and steadily you feel every kinds of sensations in the body.

“The sensations are always present, every second in every cells of our body. We just don’t feel it until any kind of pain”

The focus on the free flow increases and with deeper concentration. The mind becomes calmer and much sharper than it used to be. The entire process is like a deep internal surgery to get all negativity like stress, tension, worry, agitation etc out from oneself. In short, to get out from all miseries.

Day 5 to Day 9:

The extreme pain, discomfort slowly fades away and finally you feel much happier and relaxed. Each day is a test and each reward is much sweeter than the previous day. You realize that you can sit in a single posture continuously for over an hour without even flinching an inch! Mentally and physically you become more aware, alert and calm.

Day 10:

The ultimate day when the vow of silence is finally over! You smile. The people around you smile. And that is the moment you connect and feel only love and compassion towards every being. Hatred, anger all gone! A 10 day retreat to a better version of oneself. To know oneself in a deeper way.

Above I have mentioned that noble silence is a must to learn this technique. This is because –

Firstly, when you communicate verbally new thoughts and actions get created every moment which comes in the way of concentration of the mind.

Secondly, every individual experiences different emotions and feelings. So once you start talking, as per the basic human nature you start comparing automatically – ‘oh, he/she is feeling such gross sensations while am feeling only subtle, that means am missing something‘. No! that is not the case. Everyone experiences certain things differently and so this kind of judgement hampers the process of learning this technique in the correct way.

This day Guruji (Acharya S.N. Goenka) explains how to utilize this technique in our day to day life. How to help and spread this awareness to others who really need this approach for his/her betterment.

There is no criteria or category to share knowledge, show kindness, love and compassion. Personally I feel like every individual whether they feel like they are the luckiest person on Earth or the saddest person, everyone should know and learn this technique for the betterment of oneself. Creating peace and harmony and showing love and compassion is never too much for anyone. There is no limit to it. A little gesture goes a long way.

“However many holy words you read, However many you speak, What good will they do you If you do not act on upon them?”

-Buddha

But just by reading and listening from others never help much. The truth needs to be experience yourself, only then it’s a truth for you at the experiential level.

“Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam”

Be Happy 🙂

 

 

 

Vipassana – What? Why? How?

“You must experience the truth yourself. Only then it becomes a truth for you. Otherwise it is only someone else’s truth” 

 – Acharya S. N. Goenka

When the word Vipassana is uttered, lots of descriptions and myths come to surface due to ignorance. Some are like ‘Isn’t that something by which you can be a Buddhist?’ or ‘That breathing-concentration-exercise, ya I do it everyday along with Yoga’ or ‘you want to become a monk/nun by practicing Vipassana?’ , and the list goes on.

Well, just to remove this dust from the facts – Vipassana is an ancient technique founded in India around more than 2500 years ago by Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha (the enlightened one). Here I would like to explain in very simple words and try to keep it as brief as possible, since this is a vast topic and one can write a lot about it!

What?

Vipassana is the technique by which one concentrates on the mind and body and the sensations that arise and pass away. It is the way to see things as it is – as Nature has provided. Dhamma or the Universal Law of Nature lets us see and feel things as it is. It is important to realize that nothing is permanent. Everything has to pass – the good and the bad too.

Human beings are the most rational and intelligent beings on the Earth. However, people most of the time remain tensed, stressed, unhappy, worried, depressed, etc. Somewhere or the other they look for happiness and contentment outside. But just hold on here! Are you really looking for the most important feelings outside your mind and body? Think again.

Whatever we feel inside – stressed, agitated, excited, satisfied and all other feelings that we feel inside our mind and body are same that we experience and see outside too. This is purely science which explains that when we are happy and content, the sensations in our body changes and so the breath. The sensations are pleasant at this time while the breath is subtle and relaxed.

On the other hand, when we are angry, stressed and depressed, the sensations are totally different and so is the breath. It becomes faster and restless. This makes us react differently making things worse most of the time. What is inside us, the same we see outside too.

Also, have you ever noticed that instead of you controlling the mind, the mind controls you? Try the simple experiment – focus and concentrate on your breath (the natural free flow of your own breath as it is), without thinking anything else. How long could you concentrate? 2 seconds, 5 seconds or 10 seconds? Your mind stays with you on the breath for hardly few seconds and then it wanders off to its own free will here and there. Your own mind doesn’t listen to you! You become agitated and impatient on this behavior of your restless mind. But calm down and relax! Everything has a solution, a practical proven solution. Vipassana it is.

“Meditation brings wisdom, lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads your forward and what hold you back and choose the path that leads to wisdom”

– Buddha

Why?

From the time of his enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama – Buddha wandered from place to place, year after year overflowing with love and compassion, he taught Dhamma to the people in the villages and most of Northern India. The theme in all his addresses was the same – sila (morality), samadhi (control over one’s own mind) and panna (wisdom, insight, purification of the mind by wisdom). He taught a practical technique to help mankind to come out of all suffering and misery and lead a life of peace and happiness.

For all different kinds of feelings that we feel within us especially the negative ones like depression, anger, agitation etc, we find a quick fix to these in the outside world. Example, when we are stressed, we try different stress busters – eat the food that we love, music, dance, reading books, going for a long walk, talking to the loved ones,etc. Yes! it works. But these solutions are just on the surface and help deal with the situation momentarily. But what happens when the same thing happens over and over again?

What if we get a deeper solution to our negative feelings and thoughts? What if we could control our own mind and thoughts for our betterment everyday? Sounds great isn’t it?

It’s very much possible through this practical technique which has been tried and tested by millions of people over thousands of years! It is not a quick fix but a deeper cleanse.

Vipassana is not merely a concentration technique. It is “observation of truth within from moment to moment. You develop your faculty of awareness, your mindfulness. Things keep changing, but you remain aware – this is Vipassana. But if you concentrate only on one object, which may be an imaginary object, then nothing will change. When you are with this imagination, and your mind remains concentrated on it, you are not observing the truth. When you are observing the truth, it is bound to change. It keeps constantly changing, and yet you are aware of it. This is Vipassana.” – as described by Acharya S. N. Goenka. To know more details about this angel who brought back this technique to us in its purest and original form read here.

How?

To achieve something great and deep in life, one has to abide by some rules. In this case they are discipline, being true to yourself and learn the exact technique as it is as taught by the Vipassana Master himself without customizing it a bit for our ease and comfort.

To learn this technique in its truest form, there are Vipassana centres all over the world by Acharya S. N. Goenka. The first learning is necessary to be learned in the centre because of few reasons – let’s take an example. When we need any surgery, we go to hospital, for learning any new course we go to schools and colleges of that particular subject or interest. Similarly for learning Vipassana, we need to learn from the place where the environment is only for Vipassana and nothing else.

To train and tame our mind, we have to concentrate on something. Buddha chose it to be the ‘breath‘ after trying out different things. We can concentrate on any other object like candle flame or chanting in our minds – but in this case the object is outside and mind would concentrate on that ‘something’ else. But ‘breath’ is the only thing that stays with us from our birth till we die. ‘Breath’ is the only thing that’s present with us in the ‘present’ time without any external factors.

Hence, focusing on breath, the natural breath (as it is) as it is coming in and going out, without regulating it a bit is the first step. Simply observe the breath. Every breath that comes in and goes out is never repeated. Every breath is a new one. This observation points to the very important reality of ‘arising and passing’. Nothing is permanent.

Once the focus is stable and our mind is not wandering here and there, we start observing the sensations in our entire body, from head to toe on the surface level. We feel and observe every kind of sensations that arise and pass away – heat, cold, itchy, gross, subtle, pain, pleasant and tons of other sensations that are continuously happening in our body at any given point of time anywhere. Slowly once we feel this, we go a little deeper and feel and observe the sensations inside our body and not merely on the surface level.

Once you understand and grab the technique you realize how impermanent our sensations are. And how directly these are related to our feelings in the real world. This shows and explains us the nature of ‘craving’ and ‘aversion’. How craving for any pleasant sensation leads to clinging to it. Similarly, how we dislike any unpleasant sensation and avoid getting through it. It gets clear how this actually helps in real life to deal with everything happening with us and within us all the time. Once you start practicing Vipassana, every outlook in the real life changes to a positive one and you start feeling the positive change inside you miraculously!

As mentioned in the beginning, the truth is true when you experience it yourself. Only theory will never help in learning Vipassana or any technique for that matter. Only through disciplined practice one can come out of all miseries and sufferings in life which are buried deep inside us without our knowledge.

How I began learning about this technique and the detailed explanation to its basic 10-day course of Vipassana (Igatpuri, India) is penned down here.