Tag Archives: meditation

Vipassana experience at Dhamma Arunachala

Standard

There was a book on the mountain Arunachala I read while I was a school student.  I was enamoured by its description, history and Ramana Maharishi.    I did my first Vipassana course about 5 years back at Dhamma Setu, Chennai.   I wanted to do it at Dhamma Arunachala (Tiruvannamalai) this time, for the sheer magic of the mountain and the Maharishi, I have so read about.  Last month I looked up at my kids school holidays and told myself if there was a 10 day program around this time, I would definitely go.  I checked online and bingo, there it was, perfectly matching those dates. So I applied about 20 days earlier.  However, I got no official confirmation until the evening of the previous day the program  was to start.

 

The experience :

There are 5 basic precepts one needs to follow strictly during the course – no speaking lies, abstain from killing, no sexual contact, no intoxicants, no taking whats not given. This is quite the easy part.  There is no communication allowed, through the course.  Mobile phones are switched off and handed over in the beginning.  No eye contact or communication is encouraged with fellow students.  Men and women quarters and dining area is separate. For old students (those who have taken a 10 day course atleast once before )  3 additional precepts to be followed – no meals after 11 am in the morning, no bodily decorations, ornaments etc and no luxurious or high beds .  The last meal at 11 am was one thing I was a bit skeptical about handling, but I set in comfortably from day 1 to this new routine.

The first three days Aana Paana meditation is taught, as a precursor,  to help focus and set the base before Vipassana technique begins.   During this time, there is more clarity as well as ups and downs. Every emotion sort of overplays until the mind settles down.  I witnessed significant reduction in thoughts (from say trillion to million may be 🙂 ) as days progressed.   Vipassana starts on day 4.   As Goenkaji explains, it is like doing a surgical operation of your mind.  As you go deeper and deeper you cut across more and more layers.

This time my experience was different from the last.   I kept witnessing images of random people and creatures from time to time.  I tried to not get involved with any of these, except a golden snake I saw on day 2 that seemed to tell that it wasn’t going to harm me.  Somehow couldn’t shrug that image easily and it kept crossing my mind every now and then.   The teacher , Ruth (foreigner) rightly pointed out the idea should simply be to watch whatever comes up and not get involved.   Watching the various sensations equanimously is pretty much the gist.  Sensation like ants crawling over different parts was new to me this time and kept showing up often.

By day 7 practice became intense .  I witnessed  free flow every now and then in certain parts but never as a whole.  That did not bother me.  I clearly felt much lighter from the 6th day.  9th day however, I was more looking forward to getting back and did not focus. 10th day was breezy.  Noble silence rule was broken and we could talk in the quarters.  On the 10th day night I experienced a very strong high and happy feeling like I was almost floating.  It felt wonderful.  Apart from the first 2 days I did not sleep well any other day.  Even during the breaks I barely rested.  However, I never felt sleepy nor tired.

On day 11 after breakfast I made my way back home with a fellow Vipassana student who generously offered to give me a ride.

So am back now lighter, better and determined to practice regularly.

For those considering to do this program, one must  understand it is not a retreat.  By far, it might be one of the most  challenging acts, you might have encountered.  To constantly watch one’s mind also means  to deal with the monsters  we have created in our minds.   At the end of the program one will experience a certain relief, restoration and feel purified, but all of this only if one put’s in determined efforts.  There are bound to be times, when we feel like running away, but the secret is to hold on.

The day schedule starts at 4 am and is packed till 9.30 pm.  Two breaks in between for breakfast and lunch and 5 to 10 minute break between sessions.  Sitting through atleast 10 hours a day will be challenging but possible.   One can ask for extra cushions or chairs if there is heavy discomfort.  Goenkaji’s discourses in the evening will be a treat to hear.  One may agree or disagree, either way, its absolutely fine.   One may consult the teacher about any questions on the technique during scheduled hours.   Also there are Dhamma Sevaks (volunteers) whom one can talk to for any help in terms of facilities.

To know about what is Vipassana and how to apply, please refer this site : dhamma.org

Travel :

I boarded a Super Deluxe point to point bus from Chennai to Tiruvannamalai from CMBT.   Travel time was exactly 4 hours .  (There are barely any AC buses from chennai ).  Ideal to leave early morning.  Got down at Periyar Padhai (Tiruvannamalai bus stand is still further away and no need to travel all the way there and return)  and took an auto to Ramanashram.  Being a week day, it was quiet and I did a soulful meditation for a brief while, then looked around the place, enjoyed the sight of a posing peacock on top of His Samadhi room.

 

There are just two buses – Surya and Krishna buses one can board outside Ramanashram to Kizh Vanagambadi where the center is located.  They  are not very  frequent.  I  enquired at a tender coconut shop across the road and they asked me to wait for one hour.  As I made myself comfortable, I was approached by another person who apparently was from Bengaluru and travelling to the same place.  He wanted to know if we could share an auto to the place.  So enjoyed a chatty auto ride for about 8 to 9 kms until we reached the venue.

 

About the centre – Dhamma Arunachala :

This is a recent center.  So its work in progress in some ways.  It is created in a eco sustainable kind of environment, with bio gas, solar panels, water purifiers, etc.   One is expected to take back any plastics we may bring, like bottles and not leave them there.   I understand car parking facility is available in the premise towards the male quarters.

Food is one significant aspect.   It is fully vegan and millet and whole grains based foods.  More like a typical village diet.  It was challenging for me, as no comfort food like idli, dosa, roti, white rice, curd etc was in sight all through the program.  But it is definitely a healthy sattvic spread.

The center is quite touched by nature with variety of birds , butterflies, insects and many other creatures.   The pagoda cells are quite large and comfortable.   The meditation hall and the room does feel warm.  The mosquito net in the room, especially prevents free air flow.   The quarter has decent basic facilities.  Room is on sharing basis, depending on the number of registrants.  This applies to old students as well.

Things to carry : Clothes, 2 bedsheets, pillow covers, torch, anti bite cream (if you are sensitive), umbrella, flipflops, Id proof, photograph, toothbrush, paste, soap, washing detergent.

————————

Personally, I felt handheld right from the time I left my home till I got back.   It is an experience am happy to have invested in and will cherish forever.

Peacock at Ramanashram

Pagoda

Ramana Samadhi

.

Advertisements

My first Vipassana experience

Standard

I have been contemplating on writing about my first vipassana experience for a while now. However with a subject so deep, I felt I wasn’t qualified enough (still do) and feared that I may possibly not do complete justice to what it really is. So, with this humble submission and with a prelude that this is subjective and based on my limited experience I wish to share this unique experience.

Doing a Vipassana course was always a ‘good to do’ and on the back of my mind for several years. But last year I was overcome with a feeling of ‘must do now’.  So, I had applied online for a 10 day course in December last year. My simple objective was ‘only’ to explore. I was not under any kind of stress at any levels at that point and personally feel that that frame of mind worked out perfectly to explore.

 

There are various precepts that one has to undertake during the tenure of the course like no telling lies, no stealing, no physical contact, no speaking to each other, no mobile phones, etc all of which did not seem like a big deal to me. But watching the mind factor was a challenge I was dreading.

 

The whole course is to learn the technique of vipassana meditation that was practiced by Gautama the Buddha eventually leading him to enlightenment. The technique as such is fairly simple but involves a lot of effort. Shri.Goenka’s voice booming through the hall is all that one really needs to tune into. The first few days were challenging. But it was the challenge that got me through. Meditation starts from 5 am upwards and there is about 10 hours of meditation one does in a day with breaks in between. For a starter, it seemed a lot in the beginning. Also the schedules (like practically finishing your last meal for the day by 12 am….though ofcourse there are tea sessions ‘only for the first timers’ at 5 pm) were a little rattling initially.   I informed our mentor, on the first day, that I was prone to acidity related issues if I do not eat in regular intervals, but she insisted that I do not preempt anything and go with the flow. The first day was tough but from the second day, I had nothing to complain on this aspect. Seriously it was amazing, for someone like me who had been facing chronic health issues on this ever since my first pregnancy, it was revelationary.   I guess it may have had to do with the energies or the vibes around.


Once I got into the grind there was no going back. Sitting for long hours for one, was a very tough bit.   But, the sheer challenge of watching myself , got me going.   I went through various physical and emotional changes as the days progressed. The energies, the flow, everything so different.

 

The first few days start with Anapana meditation and gradually shifts to the Vipassana technique. I benefitted much from the Anapana meditation. The vipassana technique was tough for me. I can only say I have somewhat scraped through the elementary schooling process and have a whole path ahead to master it. It involves immense dedication and serious discipline. At the end of the road, it is an experience that could only leave you for the better.

 

There were moments when I experienced a very clear understanding that I was beyond my body, my thoughts….and it was possible to just watch everything go by as if you were not a part of it.   The self goes beyond.   Similarly there were a few other scattered realizations…and as I say it, though it was only during certain moments, it was something to experience!  

 

There is a lot that Shri. Goenka during his discourses talks about DHAMMA – the law of nature. To me it seemed like the indisputable truth in life.   I enjoyed the evening video discourses by Shri. Goenkaji thoroughly. The thoughts completely struck a chord with me. It was like, I just had to hear it from him. There are some phrases and words which stuck like glue – like being equanimous, the sankaaras we create for ourselves, etc, etc. But these are things that one should feel and find for himself.

 

So here I stop , and if you wish to explore or learn more about this, do look up this site :

http://www.dhamma.org/

This experience is completely about you…an opportunity to explore your own self further. It has nothing to do with religions or laid down beliefs, but only the TRUTH as you see it for yourself.