Table of Contents
- First, the basics:
- Motivation to explore Vipassana Meditation
- The most important pre-requisite to take this course:
- Meditation Schedule, Food, Environment, and Other Facilities
- Meditation Schedule
- Other Facilities
- The 4 Meditation Techniques You’ll Learn
- 1. Ana Pana
- 2. Vipassana
- 3. Adhitthana
- 4. Mangal Maitri or Metta Bhavana
- Finally, I found a path to walk on: The Dhamma Path
- Benefits I Got During And After Vipassana
- 11th Day Of Vipassana
- Nobody Becomes The Gautama Buddha After Only 10 Days Of Meditation
- Do I Recommend This 10-Day Vipassana Course To You?
- Questions I asked my spiritual teacher during the 10-day course
- Common Questions I got about Vipassana after coming back
- Checklist For Vipassana
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I meditated 10.5 hours a day for 10 days straight. A total of 105 hours.
🚫No talking or physical touch
🚫No eye contact
🚫No reading or writing
🚫No exercise except for casual walking
In this post, I’ll share everything I’ve experienced, about the course, and whether or not I recommend it to you. 👇🏻
First, the basics:
- I enrolled myself in a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat.
- Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation.
- It helps you lead a happier, more balanced life, free from unnecessary suffering.
- It's a universal remedy for universal problems and can be practised alongside any faith.
- This technique, taught by Mr S.N. Goenka, goes back two and a half millennia to the Buddha.
- After receiving training from his teacher (Sayagyi U Ba Khin) for 14 years, Mr Goenka settled in India and began teaching Vipassana in 1969.
- This course is completely free for anyone who’s willing to learn this technique. No hidden fees or charges.
Motivation to explore Vipassana Meditation
I’ve always wanted to understand the word “spirituality”.
People keep telling me that they are “spiritual” when I ask them about their faith and belief system. And, I always question them about what it meant to be “spiritual”. I was never convinced by their answers because “spirituality” is so abstract that you need to experience it on your own to call yourself “spiritual”. There is no one universal way of being “spiritual”.
Another thing on my list of lets-explore-this was “meditation”.
How can people just sit in one place, with their own thoughts, do nothing, and claim that it will bring them enlightenment?
How did Buddha do that? Was it worth it to leave the materialistic world full of comforts and luxuries? Was it worth it leaving his wife and children behind? Was it worth it to renounce the crown and his title as Prince?
(turns out they are true and it was worth it.)
I recently took a solo trip to Goa and one of the people I met on that trip introduced me to Vipassana meditation. The way he explained how they invite you to take a course and experience it on your own instead of listening to unending theories fascinated me and pushed me towards enrolling to the Vipassana course.
Also, I was at a phase where I could finally take 10 days out of my life and do whatever I wanted to.
Simply put, Vipassana was a trip to my inner world. And, I didn’t know it was going to be that beautiful. 🙂
Generally, we go on a trip to enjoy nature, meet strangers and listen to their stories, collect memories, and come back.
But, this trip I went through Vipassana was a total contrast.
I did not go there to enjoy nature even though it was the most beautiful place.
People told me they saw beautiful peacocks in the centre (after the retreat came to an end) but I never saw one because I was completely in my own world, for the very first time, exploring my thoughts and the life I have lived so far.
It was all about listening to my thoughts, observing my feelings, and how they were affecting my body, mind, and the others around me.
It was about conversations I was having with myself.
We give very little time to explore what’s going on inside us and how we’re reacting to things around us. And, Vipassana helps you explore the depths of your body, mind, and your very soul.
The journey was not at all smooth or good or heavenly BUT it was worth it.
Most people (if they do it the right way from Day 1) will realise this truth on Days 9 and 10.
Tips: 1. Do not go to this 10-day vipassana course if you have serious mental health issues and if you think you cannot handle being alone with your own thoughts. Seek professional health before choosing this path. 2. You’ll get the most benefits out of Vipassana only if you go without any expectations. Literally zero expectations. If you heard someone say “it cured my anxiety” and go with the expectation to cure your anxiety, it might not do the same for you. Go with an open mindset to learn the technique and commit yourself to giving 100% to this technique.
The most important pre-requisite to take this course:
Be adjusting and accepting of the place you’re in because it’s going to transform you.
It’s not going to be easy.
Don’t let negative thoughts consume you. And of course, they’ll teach you how not to be consumed by your own thoughts.
Also, be very proud of yourself that you’re on this amazing journey to understand yourself.
Meditation Schedule, Food, Environment, and Other Facilities
So, here's the schedule of a typical day in a 10-day vipassana meditation course:
Please don't let this scare you or doubt if it's worth it.
I’m someone who usually wakes up around 10 AM (and on bad days, 1 PM), starts the day very slowly, and gets into work mode around 2 PM.
I sometimes skip breakfast and have my lunch around 4 PM or 5 PM. Dinner at 9 PM.
I don’t bother to get into bed until 3 AM. And the cycle continues.
This is not at all healthy and could lead to vitamin D deficiency very quickly (I suffer from it) and as a consequence, you’ll eventually suffer from depression or unproductive days or the will to live your life disappears or everything at the same time. No, I’m not exaggerating.
But, this timetable I followed during the retreat helped me reset my circadian rhythm, improved my mood tremendously, found the meaning and the will to live my life instead of giving in to constant suicidal thoughts, and provided me with a strong morning and evening routine which I follow even after the course ended.
Every day, during your course, they’ll wake you up at 4 AM through loud gongs (not irritating) and someone known as “dhamma sevak” (who’s there to help you and take care of all meditators throughout the course) will make sure you are up by 4 AM and ready by 4.30 AM.
Initially, I thought waking up at 4 AM would be really difficult because, as you saw, I’m not at all a morning person.
I thought I would be groggy and irritated due to lack of sleep but boy was I wrong!
The place was so calm and welcoming that I started waking up right on time from Day 2, with a mood so refreshing and calming, that I surprised myself and I always looked forward to starting each day with more enthusiasm than the other day. Sometimes, I didn’t even need an alarm because my body was awake before the alarm rang.
You might be wondering, with all the rules of no talking, no touching, or no phones, it could become monotonous and boring following the same schedule, sitting for 10+ hours, every single day for 10 days straight.
At least, not from my experience.
I am a single child and lived most of my adult life with no social life.
So, being left alone with my own thoughts was a piece of cake. It was like going back to my roots after years.
However, the same might not be true for others.
Also, my thoughts are generally interesting and I do a lot of thought experiments. Something I inherently learned because I was a science student all my life (and got a master's degree in it) until I discovered marketing.
In fact, I came up with an outline to write a novel during this retreat.
For others, the no talking and no phones part could become a difficult hurdle to overcome in the first few days. But, once you do it’s worth it.
One more thing that helped me wake up every day was the part where I get to learn a new technique and implement it. You see, learning meditation is boring only when you don’t get to experiment with it as much as your heart desires. In this course, you’ll have plenty of time to experiment with all the meditation techniques they teach you and you’ll discover the truth behind these techniques on your own. And that is why Vipassana is so powerful. Because it’s not just a theory. In fact, 90% of it is practical.
Tip: Make sure you take an analog clock to put an alarm since phones or other digital devices are not allowed or might be distracting your time in the centre.
All who attend a Vipassana course must undertake the following 5 precepts for the duration of the course:
- to abstain from killing any being;
- to abstain from stealing;
- to abstain from all sexual activity;
- to abstain from telling lies;
- to abstain from all intoxicants.
Since the very first precept is to abstain from killing any being, you’ll only be served pure vegetarian food.
Ever heard of “heavenly food”?
That’s how everything tasted in the Vipassana course. Maybe because there was no Netflix or no other things distracting me, I was able to completely immerse myself in the experience of eating and savouring something so tasty.
The food reminded me of my mom every single day. I was able to taste the love and the care with which the food was made. And no, I’m not exaggerating this part. No, my writer’s brain isn’t playing tricks or trying hard to paint a beautiful picture. However, I’m trying really hard not to sound too unrealistic and this is the best I could do. 😁
If you went through the timetable given above, you might have noticed that there’s no dinner involved. Yep, only breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Believe me, you won’t go hungry to bed. In fact, you’ll rarely be hungry.
Since I took this course in South India, most of the meals were simple South Indian food like rice, dal, sambhar, curries that include brinjal, ivy gourd, ladies finger, etc., And of course, pickles.
However, I think a few items are common in every Vipassana meditation centre:
Morning Breakfast 6.30 AM:
- 1 main breakfast item like poha, dosa, idly, vada, dhokla, etc. (depending on which part of India you’re taking this course from)
- Sometimes fruits
- Raagi Malt
- Tea and Milk with Jaggery (no sugar at all)
- Hot water during winters
Afternoon Lunch at 11 AM:
- 1 main curry like ladies finger, ivy gourd, brinjal, etc.
- 1 dal item
- Fruits and/or Dates
- 1-2 different types of deep-fried crackers (papads, etc)
- Hot water during winters
Snacks at 5.30 PM:
- Either Puffed rice or Popcorn
- Raagi Malt
- Tea or Milk with Jaggery
- Hot water during winters
Also, I haven’t seen them repeat any breakfast or lunch item (the main one) even once during the whole 10-day course. We always had something new to look forward to.
Like I said, no dinner after 5.30 PM.
I thought there would be restrictions on how much quantity one should eat, but turns out, there are no such restrictions.
You can eat as much as you want.
However, it is highly recommended not to overeat and eat only until you’re 80% full.
This will help you be more active and avoid the sleepy state which we usually go through after having a happy meal.
Most of the food items range from not spicy to mildly spicy. There are a few items that are spicy. Especially in South Indian centres (cuz we’re suckers for spicy food) but I highly recommend you not to opt for spicy food like pickles. It will make you uncomfortable during meditation and you’ll barely be able to concentrate for the rest of the day.
One of the things you should keep in mind while eating food:
Know that you’re able to enjoy that delicious meal because someone generously donated to the centre. When you enroll to the course, they clearly reject any kind of money you’d want to give before completing the course. This is because they want to help you let go of the ego you carry within yourself.
After completing the course, people donate money as much as they want to so that future meditators can get the same benefits as old students did.
When you keep this in mind and have your food, you’ll let go of your ego instead of complaining about the food and not waste even one grain of rice.
Tip: Serve yourself food as little as you can in the first round. If you still feel hungry, go for a second round. Don’t over-serve yourself because you might waste food when others could have enjoyed the same.
Ahhh. What can I say?
There are 2 slots in the timetable above where you can ask your spiritual teacher if you have any questions during the course.
One of the questions I asked:
“Why is it that I am able to wake up as early as 4 AM without any grogginess and irritation during this course and not do the same at home?”
“It’s because of the environment you are in. It’s because of the peaceful vibrations around you.”
It’s true. You can sometimes physically feel the peace you’re surrounded by when you’re in one of the Vipassana centres across India.
I did my course in Dhamma Kondanna. It’s located 90 kilometres away from the city and I couldn’t have asked for a better environment. I also went to this course during winter, my favourite season, and it was the perfect time to feel cosy, comfortable, and at peace.
The centre is filled with trees, beautiful flowers, birds, peacocks, squirrels, cute doggos, cats, and snakes (😁). I never spotted a snake though. So, it is advisable not to go roaming after dark hours.
One of the things I distinctively remember is this:
After our breakfast and during the 10-minute breaks we get after meditating for hours in the morning, all of us try and find places where we can get some sun. We were all drawn towards the sun like sunflowers early in the morning, rubbing our hands to trap and feel warmth, and enjoying the greenery surrounding us.
As a ritual, I used to walk and stretch for 15 minutes around the campus every day after lunch.
Tip: I highly recommend taking as much rest as you can during your breaks and doing stretches so that you don’t end up having a sore back due to constant sitting in an upright position. I also used to sleep for 30 to 45 minutes after my lunch. That afternoon nap helped whenever I couldn’t sleep much during the night. However, I don’t recommend naps if it’s just going to make you more sleepy during afternoon meditation hours.
Apart from taking care of your stay and food for 10 days, all at no cost to you, these are other facilities that Vipassana centres provide you:
- A teacher who can clear your doubts every day. 1-hour session in the mornings and half-hour sessions in the evenings.
- Basic necessities like beds, hot water, washrooms, fans, electricity, etc., are all available and are made sure they’re in working condition all the time.
- If something isn’t working, they’ll provide you with a book to lodge complaints and they’re mostly resolved within 24 hours.
- Men and women are separated for the entire course. Separate dining halls for women and men, separate entrances to meditation halls, separate public washrooms, etc.
- If you need any medicines (for cold, fever, etc) during the course, you’re required to talk to the teacher first and only then you’re allowed to put in the request for the medicine in the book they provide.
- If you need an item that needs to be purchased, you can request them through that “complaint” book. The amount will be collected at the end of the course.
Tip: I highly recommend carrying a mosquito net and mosquito repellant cream if you’re planning to do the 10-day course. Almost every Vipassana centre is densely populated with trees and there’s a high chance of having mosquitoes or lizards in your room. Since you’re not allowed to kill any living being during the course, it doesn’t hurt to go prepared.
The 4 Meditation Techniques You’ll Learn
During this 10-day Vipassana course, you’ll not just try and avoid your thoughts but you’ll learn 4 different meditation techniques:
- Ana Pana (pronounced as aana paana)
- Vipassana (the main technique, pronounced vipashna and not vipaasana)
- Mangal Maitri or Metta Bhavana
1. Ana Pana
When kids are born and are in their growing years, they’re mostly given liquid food before getting introduced to solid food.
Because their bodies are still developing and their stomach isn’t quite ready to digest solid food.
The goal of Vipassana meditation is not the concentration of the mind but to purify the mind completely, by eradicating all mental impurities such as anger, hatred, passion, and fear.
In order to learn the vipassana technique, one should first learn how to get their monkey brain under control.
That’s where Ana Pana technique comes into play.
Anapana is the first step in the practice of Vipassana meditation. Anapana means observation of natural, normal respiration, as it comes in and as it goes out. Emphasis on “normal respiration”.
But, why not chant Om or count beads to control your thoughts instead?
Observation of the normal breath is the ideal object for meditation because it is always available and it is completely non-sectarian. Breath is breath. There is no Hindu breath, Muslim breath, or Christian breath.
That is why in Vipassana you use breath as your object to bring your mind and thoughts under control and it helps you to concentrate.
Why should one control their thoughts?
Through Ana Pana, you’ll learn to develop an awareness of the present reality. Life can truly be lived only in the present.
When one observes normal respiration, one begins to understand the nature of the mind. The fleeting and fickle mind becomes very clear.
And, if you cannot live in the present even for a few minutes by observing your breath, how can you ever really do anything with 100% concentration?
What do I mean by “normal respiration/breath”?
When most beginners are asked to concentrate on breathing, they usually tend to regulate it by how much breath they can intake and how much they can let go of it. In Yoga, you might have heard about Pranayama or Kapalbhati. They are breathworks and not natural or normal respiration. In Vipassana, they ask you to concentrate on normal respiration because the rhythm of your respiration has an intimate connection with the negativities of your mind.
Let’s say you have a panic attack. Your breathing becomes faster and faster.
If you’re anxious or angry, it becomes very irregular.
When you’re calm and peaceful, you don’t even notice that you’re actually breathing.
Regulating your breathing through breathwork will not let you form that intimate connection with your mind.
That is why it’s recommended to observe natural respiration (instead of breathwork or chanting Om or counting beads) so you can eventually eradicate negativities like fear, anxiety, hatred, etc., which is the ultimate goal of Vipassana: purifying your mind.
For the first 3 days of your 10-day Vipassana course, you’ll be taught Ana Pana. It’s nothing but just observing how your breathing happens. How the flow of the air goes in and comes out. You’ll also be asked to observe the sensation that happens just below your nostril area and above your upper lip area.
Tip: If you find yourself not able to concentrate for more than a few seconds, don’t worry, that’s very natural. The only thing you need to do is be aware that your mind is fleeting every few seconds and accept it. Do not question “why it is fleeting” and get frustrated because it is fleeting. Just make sure to pull your mind towards observing your breathing whenever you become self-aware of your thoughts. Do it every single time you think you’re lost in the sea of your thoughts. Instead of pulling it back to your breathing whenever you become aware, if you let go of it and wander or get lost in your own thoughts, you’re not putting enough effort into learning the technique or taking the meditation seriously. The first 3 days are really important if you wish to reap the full benefits of Vipassana meditation by the end of 10 days.
Vipassana means "to see things as they really are”.
It is a proven logical process of mental purification through self-observation.
The practice of Vipassana meditation involves following the principles of Dhamma/Dharma, the universal law of nature. It involves walking on the noble eight-fold path, which is broadly categorised into Sila (Morality), Samadhi (concentration) and Pañña (wisdom, insight).
To learn Vipassana, it is necessary to take a 10-day residential course under the guidance of a qualified teacher.
During the entire duration of the retreat, students remain within the course site having no contact with the outer world.
During this course, students follow a prescribed Code of Discipline. I’ve already laid down the 5 precepts students follow during this course in the Food section.
One of the main rules to follow is practising “noble silence” during the course:
- No talking
- No touching or physical contact
- No eye contact
I cannot stress how important this is to get full benefits out of the Vipassana course.
From my own observation and experience, if you do not follow noble silence, this is what might happen:
- You’ll never be fully able to get your mind under control. If you’re talking with others instead of observing noble silence, you’re only feeding more thoughts to your monkey brain instead of giving it a break.
- You’ll always have surface-level thoughts instead of digging deeper inside yourself. Surface-level thoughts are thoughts like: “What colour dress she’ll be wearing today?”, “What will we discuss today?”, “Oh she was able to feel that sensation during the meditation, but I was not able to. I must be doing something wrong.”
- Because you cannot concentrate, you’ll never understand or dig deeper into why you feel the way you feel. Why do you have anxieties? What’s the root cause of it? And, when you don’t understand the root cause of any problem, you’ll never come up with the right solution for it.
On the 4th day, they’ll teach you this new technique called Vipassana. It is completely different from just observing your breath.
I’m not going to even try and explain what this technique is. Because as I said, it needs to be learned under the guidance of a qualified teacher.
And I’m pretty sure, I’m not a qualified teacher. 😁
So, if you really want to learn this technique, please consider enrolling yourself on a 10-day Vipassana course.
However, I’m going to share my experience of what happened after I learnt this technique:
Since you’ll be rigorously practising meditation by sitting in an upright position for 10+ hours every single day for 10 days, you’ll naturally discover how uncomfortable you’re in your body.
It was the same for me.
On Day 1, I discovered and re-discovered old and new body pains. Especially the pain around my wings and shoulder blades. Eventually, I also discovered the numbness in my thighs and legs.
You have NO f*king idea how painful the first 3 days were.
I questioned myself the most existential questions I could think of:
What’s the point of living in a body that’s so uncomfortable, so unwelcoming, and so painful every moment of my life?
Even if I’m not undergoing rigorous meditation practice, I still feel the body aches. I still crave for hat 1 hour of bliss that comes during a body massage. And then what? I go right back to feeling back pain and neck pains.
What’s the point of living in this body only to feel pain? Will I be ever free from this hell? Every time I think a pain disappeared, I discover a new pain in my body. So, what’s the point of even trying to cure this pain?
This monologue of existential questions went on for 2 days. I even entertained the idea of suicide and ceasing to exist to get away from these pains. They were that intense.
On Day 3, I was about to give up. I couldn’t take the pain anymore.
I was going to ask the dhamma sevak (helper) to provide me with chauki or take wall support instead of sitting in an upright position all by myself.
But before doing that, I promised myself I would wait for 1 more day. Only one day.
So, I pushed myself to the 4th day and that’s when I learned the actual Vipassana technique.
That’s what I felt on the 4th, 5th, and 6th days.
And the remaining days.
I still remember how I felt on the 5th day.
I suddenly couldn’t recognise my own body.
All the pain I felt the first 3 days were magically gone.
Wtf just happened?
I couldn’t stop questioning this very question for the next 3 days when I discovered I could actually cure my body pains by simply practising this meditation technique.
Nah, my mind is just playing tricks.
But how can I deny this truth which I’m currently experiencing? The whole point of Vipassana is “to see things as they really are”. And I am experiencing the truth. If I deny this truth, I would be lying to myself. I finally realized I could actually live in a body without any pain and experience the bliss of a healthy body, mind, and soul.
So yeah, at the end of the day, the technique will work. In unexpected ways.
I never went to this course with the expectation to cure my back pains or any mental health issues I might have.
But, I came back with the realization that there is actually a way to find happiness within yourself. You don’t have to introduce external factors to find such unfiltered pure happiness.
Maybe you’ll find this happiness within 10 days.
Maybe it will take you a few more days.
Maybe it will take you months. Or, years. I don’t know.
But, that was my truth. I discovered it after all the efforts I put in to practice meditation. That’s what I experienced.
Unfiltered utter pure bliss.
Without any external factors or intoxicants.
I’m pretty sure it would be groundbreaking for you when you experience it on your own. 🙂
One of the many things Vipassana does is, bring out the impurities in your mind as physical sensations on your body. Sometimes I felt intense pains all over my body. Sometimes, it was just pure bliss. You’ll also be taught how to remain equanimous towards these two opposing feelings during this course.
I have read and practised stoicism before but learning Vipassana was a whole another level of self-awareness.
Tip: Few learn the Vipassana technique within hours. Few might take an extra day or two. If you have doubts regarding the technique, make use of the “doubts session” and ask your teacher during lunch and evening hours. Never delay asking these doubts, no matter how silly you think they are. If you don’t clear your doubts, you’ll only delay your progress.
Adhitthana, meaning strong determination, is the backbone of the ten paramis (qualities to be perfected for full enlightenment).
Many of us start a new year with “resolutions” but we never “resolutely” practice any of those resolutions.
In this 10-day course, one of the techniques you’ll learn is how to be resolute and determined.
During this course, meditators develop adhitthana parami at various levels.
You’ll be asked to sit for three one-hour group meditation sessions daily (8.00 am to 9.00 am, 2.30 pm to 3.30 pm and 6.00 pm to 7.00 pm) with strong adhitthana (determination).
Meaning, you shouldn’t open your eyes or move your hands or legs. You shouldn’t move any part of your body no matter how itchy or scratchy you feel for the whole one-hour.
This helps you purify the mind and develops the quality of adhitthana (resolution and determination).
If you cannot stand by your resolutions and promises which you took at the beginning of the year until the end of the year, then, what’s the point of spending time and coming up with them? Isn’t it just a waste of time?
So, how do we develop the will and determination you require to keep up with your resolutions?
That’s exactly what you learn by practising Adhitthana: to be determined.
If you do not have a strong resolution to complete the 10-day course successfully, you’ll never be able to do that.
If you do not have a strong determination to follow noble silence, you’ll eventually give in to the idea of talking with others.
Tip: You’re asked to be in adhitthana position for a full one-hour. However, if you find yourself moving your body due to unbearable pain or some unavoidable itch, that is okay. In the next one-hour session try to increase the number of minutes you remain in adhitthana position. If you were able to remain without moving your body for 30 minutes in the first session, try to increase it to 40 minutes in the next session and so on until you reach 60 minutes.
4. Mangal Maitri or Metta Bhavana
Mangal Maitri or Metta or Metta Bhavana is the practice of generating vibrations of goodwill and compassion for all beings.
Metta practice is taught on the morning of the 10th day of 10-day Vipassana course.
We comment “thoughts and prayers” when someone posts on social media that they’re sick or they lost a loved one.
Yes, you mean well for them when you type out “thoughts and prayers”. But, question yourself, do you really mean it? Do you do anything to send those positive vibes towards them? When you’re not pure or positive in your own mind, how can you send positive thoughts out into the world?
That’s what is Metta Bhavana.
To practice generating pure compassion for all beings, from the depth of one's mind, filling oneself and the atmosphere around with calming, positive vibrations of purity and compassion.
On an intellectual level, this concept is very easy to understand.
But, to actually put this into practice, takes ages.
That is why it is taught on Day 10.
I’ve also heard from our dhamma sevak that the teacher and dhamma sevaks actually practice metta bhavana for 1 hour after everyone goes back to their rooms.
According to them, this helps spread positive vibrations around us and helps the meditators overcome any difficult situation they might be going through.
Tip: It is recommended for every meditator to practice metta bhavana every day after they come back to their homes. I found the concept to be very abstract and difficult to put into practice in daily life for the first few weeks. However, with regular practice, you might just be able to grab the essence of it. So, keep practising without ignoring it. It plays an important role in truly becoming selfless and leaving your ego behind.
Finally, I found a path to walk on: The Dhamma Path
Till 6th grade, I was a believer in the “God: Creator of this Universe”.
I used to go to temples, almost every Sunday and believed that there was someone who created this whole world and was taking care of us from above.
I started questioning my own belief system and the whole concept of God when I entered 6th grade. Not sure what exactly changed in me or my surroundings but I’m sure it was my formal introduction to the subject called “science”. It taught me to question everything. So, I did.
I did not like the answers I got when I asked different versions of “Where is God? Show me God.”
People called me an atheist.
But, an atheist is a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.
And, that was not me.
I don’t believe there is God.
I also don’t believe that there is no God.
Also, no, I’m not an agnostic.
According to Google dictionary, agnosticism is the view or belief that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural, is unknown or unknowable.
Nope, that’s not me.
I’m what I call a sceptic.
I will patiently wait until someone proves that there is God.
I will patiently wait until someone proves that there is no God.
In other words, I believe in “truth”. And, the truth comes with tangible proof. At least when you experience it on your own.
That’s why I was always drawn towards exploring the real meaning behind “spirituality”.
The Sanskrit word Dharma (which is spelt Dhamma in the Pāli language) originally meant “the law of nature” or “the truth.”
In the Dhamma path and in Vipassana, one of the rules is to NOT accept anything but the truth. The truth you personally experienced through your own experiments. You shouldn’t accept Vipassana as the ultimate meditation technique just because Gautama Buddha said so or just because I say so.
You should conclude it on your own after strictly following the path that is laid for you.
Since I had no “belief system” during my teenage years until recently (I’m now in my late 20’s), I’ve experimented with human feelings, emotions, and relationships on my own without really considering how I might be hurting others.
I’ve broken trust and friendships in the name of “experiences” and “understanding” feelings.
Weird, I know.
But that was the path I chose back then because nothing else made sense to me.
Now, I clearly know what is wrong, what is right, and what might be hurting others when I act or behave in a certain way.
It might be very easy or obvious for you to understand or resonate with when someone says “Cheating on someone hurts them deeply. It will affect their future relationships.”
But that statement had a totally opposite effect on me.
I ask, “Why? Emotions and feelings are really abstract. You might not experience a situation the same way I do. How do you know if it truly affects them?” and I used to try and justify it with “Almost everyone believes that you grow through difficult situations. Isn’t getting cheated on one of the most difficult situations you could ever be in? So why not gift someone that difficult situation so they can grow stronger?”
It sounds psycho. I know and I agree. And, it could be. Idk.
But, for someone like me, I could never really relate to others’ experiences or pain or pleasures until and unless I experienced them myself.
For some reason, I always understood these difficult intangible emotions and feelings only when I experienced the undeniable truth behind those statements.
However, after I found the Dhamma Path, a lot of doors opened for me. It made me realize what it actually means to hurt other people through words and actions. How it becomes a “knot” in our life. How it leads to more negativities in ours and others’ lives.
I still try to follow the 5 precepts as much as I can in my daily life:
✅ to abstain from killing any being — I turned vegetarian in November 2022. I also don’t kill any mosquito or any insect knowingly.
✅ to abstain from stealing — I don’t steal. There is no need, really. However, I need to go deeper into this and explore the spiritual meaning behind “stealing”.
🚫 to abstain from all sexual activity — Well, this is not possible for obvious reasons, lol.
✅ to abstain from telling lies — I try to be as honest as I can be in my personal and professional life. I try not to hurt anyone while telling a truth.
🚫 to abstain from all intoxicants — Haha. That’s funny. But, I’m trying my best.
It’s not humanly possible to follow all 5 precepts until you renounce a householder’s life and become a monk or a nun.
And, I don’t plan to become a nun anytime soon. 🙂 So it’s okay if someone doesn’t strictly follow all 5 precepts while trying to walk on the Dhamma path.
Benefits I Got During And After Vipassana
One of my new year’s resolutions for 2023 is to practice Vipassana meditation every day for 2 hours. One hour in the morning and one hour at night.
So, here are a few benefits I got during and after Vipassana:
- It helped me find the dhamma path, the right path to walk on. I don’t like any -isms. So, I won’t say I’m into Buddhism just because I found truth in the Dhamma path. It’s a belief system that I would incorporate into my daily life as much as I can. This path allows me to avoid unnecessary hurt and negativities and helps me lead a peaceful, happy life.
- I understand the cravings my mind and body go through. I also understood how to be detached from these cravings instead of giving in to them. I understood how to be equanimous and objective when it comes to materialistic cravings.
- One of the biggest benefits I got through Vipassana: curing my 20+ years of back pains through meditation. All these years I thought that body pains were natural. I thought it was natural to have them and go through them on a daily basis, and I even believed that they would only increase as we age. A big resounding NO! No, you don’t have to live a physically painful life. You can actually find bliss within your body and cure all your pains through Vipassana. That is what I experienced and that is what I believe to be true.
- This 10-day course helped me create a sustainable morning and evening routine. I especially love how my mornings start. I’m generally in a good mood since I started practising 2 hours of meditation daily.
- Vipassana helped me to truly understand this statement: “In order to be happy, stop moving your goalpost.” So, what happens after you achieve a $10,000 per month salary? You desire a $20,000 per month salary. And what happens after that? You’re stuck in a never-ending loop where you’re never satisfied with your goals even after you achieve them. True happiness resides within you. This might sound so generic but there’s a reason why even The Buddha claims that happiness is within you, not in the outside materialistic world.
I’ll keep updating this list as and when I unlock new benefits. 🙂
11th Day Of Vipassana
Well, I was kinda dreading the idea of going back to the “real” world, my “daily life”.
You know what?
The popular assumption among people who haven’t tried Vipassana yet is that they think that avoiding phones and living without any contact with another person for 10 days are going to be the most difficult.
Nah, not according to me. Those 10 days were like a walk in the park.
The real test begins AFTER you come out of Vipassana.
The real world will test you and your patience every step of the way until you burst out in anger or cry yourself to bed. It’s because you’ve experienced how beautiful life could be without all this negativity around you. It’s because you also realize you’re helpless when it comes to removing ALL the negativities in your life. It physically hurts you to realize that there is a happy life on the other side of the fence but you’re going to spend, rather you’re made to choose to spend, the rest of your life on THIS side of the fence.
So, yeah, on the 11th day, I got a glimpse of it.
I was already realizing how vulnerable I have become and how careful I have to be in order to deal with the outside world. How I need to make sure I don’t overwhelm myself by putting too much of myself out there into the world.
But, since then, I’ve come a long way and I can assure you that those 10 days shaped me into a better human than the last 25+ years of my life.
I am glad I was able to gift this experience to myself. 🙂
I also decided to do at least one 10-day course every 3 months or 6 months in 2023.
I’m also excited to become “Dhamma Sevak” this year so I can give back to the community of Vipassana meditators and help them find the bliss they deserve so much. 🙂
Tip: You’ll find yourself losing all the subtleness and sensitivity you’ve acquired during these 10 days in just 1 day of getting exposed to the real world. I’m not joking. Does it mean the last 10 days weren’t of any use? Not at all. You’ll now face the world with more tools in your pocket and with more mental clarity than ever before. 🙂 It feels like you’ve stumbled upon a secret that you want to share with the world so others can join you in experiencing the same. (That’s what I’m currently doing through this long-ass blog post).
Nobody Becomes The Gautama Buddha After Only 10 Days Of Meditation
It doesn’t make sense.
People expect to resolve their life-long miseries, ailments, and negativities after meditating for only 10 days.
Nope, that’s not how it works.
If it worked like that, then there would be more Buddhas in this world. 😁
You don’t become Gautama Buddha after only 10 days of meditation.
This 10-day Vipassana course “trains” you to eventually find peace and be free from all miseries that life throws at you.
You need to put everything you’ve learned during these 10 days into practice and do it consistently when you come back to the “real” world.
Only then, you will see the fruits of your efforts.
I highly recommend people continue meditating every day for at least 2 hours. One hour in the morning and one hour at night. There might be days when you won’t be able to concentrate for more than 10 minutes and that’s okay. The important thing is to show up and keep the promise you made to yourself. Be disciplined and determined enough to keep your resolutions.
Don’t expect miracles to happen in a short period of time. Whoever says otherwise is just lying to you.
Do I Recommend This 10-Day Vipassana Course To You?
Yes, I highly recommend it! Here’s why:
- You’ll gain a new perspective on life, death, understanding and dealing with difficult emotions, and it also helps you become more disciplined.
- If you believe in God and are currently struggling with your faith, allowing yourself to explore Vipassana and Dhamma might help you in ways you never knew.
- If you don’t believe in God and are not feeling grounded, Vipassana will definitely help you with that.
- If you’ve never explored spirituality and meditation before, no better way to start than with Vipassana.
- If you’ve already explored other ways of meditating, you might have to unlearn a lot of things while taking this course but it would be all worth it at the end of the day.
- If you’re suffering from burnout, anxiety, fear of missing out, etc., then this is the medicine you’re looking for.
No, I don’t recommend Vipassana at all. Here’s why:
- You’re suffering from undiagnosed mental health issues and only a professional could help you to treat them.
- You need someone to talk with, someone to listen to you so you can feel “heard”, someone you can confess to. If so, Vipassana is not for you. Since you won’t be talking to anyone (other than the teacher) and no one is allowed to talk to you, you might feel lonelier than ever. Seek therapy and talk to friends if you need someone around you.
- You’ve clinical depression or going through serious problems in your life right now. Now is not the time to do the journey to your inner world. You need all the support you can get from the external world. So, make sure you surround yourself with people who care for you and indulge yourself in self-care activities to get out of the serious depression phase. Guided meditation is recommended.
- You’re going there to “enjoy” or to “escape” thinking it would bring you nothing but peace. You’re wrong. You’ll go through a lot before you achieve that peaceful state of mind. Unless you’re ready to go through the whole thing, don’t go to Vipassana to “enjoy” or to “escape”.
To be honest, from my experience, Vipassana is more beneficial when you feel ready to explore your inner world and when you feel you can go through this journey all on your own without any external help.
If you feel ready, do not hesitate even for a bit.
If you don’t feel ready, seek therapy and ask a professional to get a good understanding of your mental state. You’ll know in your heart when you feel ready to do the journey into your inner-world.
Questions I asked my spiritual teacher during the 10-day course
Please note that all the answers are para-phrased to the best of my knowledge since I wasn’t allowed to take any writing material to the 10-day course.
1. Is every thought a bad thought? What if I’m thinking about an idea I wanted to implement after getting back home while meditating?
No, not every thought is a bad thought. Scientists keep thinking all the time even when they’re doing serious work. That doesn’t mean they’re doing bad thinking. It’s just how they work and operate. However, while meditating the ideal way is to not have any thoughts at all and bring our concentration to the flow of our natural respiration.
2. While meditating, I’m aware of my breath and I’m also aware of my thoughts. How is it possible? Is this okay to do meditation this way? Or, should I completely stop thinking about the other thoughts?
Looks like you’re simultaneously doing 2 things. Remember how we let the TV run as background noise when we do some other work on the side? In this scenario, your thoughts are acting like background noise while concentrating on your breath. Is it the ideal way to do meditation? No. The ideal way is to switch off the background noise and only concentrate on your natural breath. However, this is an intermediate or the “middle ground” way to do meditation. The next step for you to do is put effort into switching off that background noise.
3. One of the paramis to attain full enlightenment is to not hurt anyone. But, Gautama Buddha left his wife to do meditation under a tree. He promised he would take care of her when they got married. She might have gotten hurt. So, how can we say Siddhartha Guatama actually achieved true enlightenment even though he broke one of the paramis by hurting her?
It is not true that he hurt his wife. In fact, Buddha asked her permission before leaving to meditate for the foreseeable future. Yashodara herself was okay with Buddha when he decided to leave and gave her blessings. However, Yashodara’s father, Suppabuddha, was angry that Siddhartha Gautama left his daughter to meditate. So, he asked Yashodara if she wants him back and if she does, he will make sure to bring Siddhartha back. To that, Yashodara said she is really happy that Siddhartha Gautama left to meditate in order to bring knowledge, peace, and happiness to humanity. So, Suppabuddha was okay with his daughter’s and Siddhartha’s decision.
4. So, let’s say, I really want to achieve full enlightenment. The first parami is to renounce the householder’s life. From your above answer, it seems like we need to convince our family in order to not hurt them so I can walk on the path of enlightenment?
In short, yes. You need to make sure you do everything you can to convince your family and make sure they are not hurt by your decision.
However, there are exceptions now that the world has become a tad bit more difficult.
It is okay to not fully convince your parents (if they do not like the idea of you becoming a nun) if you’re truly set out to do some good in this world by becoming a nun and renouncing a householder’s life.
5. You instructed us not to accept anything at face value except for the truth we experience ourselves. Yet, you ask us to refrain from intoxicants like alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. How will I experience the truth if I don’t consume them? How will I know if they’re actually harmful if I don’t take them and experiment with them on my own?
Him: Okay. So, now if I bring poison in a bottle to you, will you drink it to experience the truth yourself?
Me: Of course not.
Me: Because I know it’s poison and I’ll die if I consume it.
Him: Yes. Alcohol and other intoxicants shouldn’t be consumed for the same reason. “Accept only the truth you experience” doesn’t apply to this materialistic world. It applies to the spiritual world. Meditate and discover the truth on your own. You don’t have to accept that meditation brings you peace or enlightenment just because Buddha says so. But, also accept the irrefutable truth that’s presented to you when you’re questioning things from the materialistic world.
Common Questions I got about Vipassana after coming back
1. What if I cannot sit for hours and hours of meditation?
This is a rigorous training to get you to practice the right way of meditating. Without the prescribed number of hours, it’s impossible to learn it the way it is meant to be within 10 days. In fact, on Day 10 I actually felt 10 days are too less to perfect my training session. I felt like I was just getting started and then the course ended abruptly. You’ll feel the difficulties in the first 3 days and you have to endure to get to the end of the course. I promise it’s going to be worth it. 🙂
2. Can you move your legs during the meditation? What position do I sit in?
Yes, you can stretch your legs if you feel really numb and feel like you cannot take it anymore. Building the endurance muscle is one of the things you’re going to learn during this 10-day course. There is no prescribed position to sit while doing Vipassana. Sit as comfortably as you can in any position you desire. Make sure to optimize your position while meditating so that you don’t move every 5 minutes.
3. Did you cry during the course of 10 days?
Yes, I did and like how! On 3rd day, 8th day, and 9th day. I was for sure going through some transformation and had to face some difficult questions I always had inside me. It made me cry non-stop for almost 30+ minutes. I’m not sad that the experience made me cry. I’m just glad I finally had enough mental space to face these difficult questions I always brushed aside.
Checklist For Vipassana
Don’t wear tight, transparent, revealing or otherwise striking clothing, such as shorts, short skirts, tights, leggings, tank, low-cut or skimpy tops, etc., at the centre. Not cool.
5 dresses for 10 day course. Few centres provide laundry service and few centres don’t. You can wash your clothes during the lunch hours.
Modest and comfortable dresses like punjabi dresses are highly recommended. You can also wear long frocks if you prefer them.
Seasonal items including a raincoat, boots, hat, warm clothing.
Since most centres are densely populated with trees, it’s going to get really cold at night and especially during winters. Make sure to pack extra shawl, monkey caps, woollen gloves and socks.
They provide a simple mattress and a pillow.
A bedsheet and pillow cover to cover the mattress and pillow.
Extra pillows if you need them.
A blanket. During winters, make sure to bring a blanket that is sufficiently warm and cosy.
It is recommended not to bring any scented items during the 10-day course. The strong scent might affect you and the others during meditation.
Soap or Body wash (preferably unscented)
Shaving kit (for men)
Feminine sanitary supplies
Cloth washing items like detergent if you’re planning to wash your clothes
I’m recommending the below items from my personal experience. This will make your experience even more comfortable and peaceful.
Battery-operated clock to put an alarm. Mobile phones or other electronic devices are not allowed inside.
Chargeable Torch for early mornings, evenings, and night meditation
Mosquito Repellant Cream like ODOMOS. 2 small tubes should be enough. Do not ignore this.
An umbrella if it’s rainy season.
Warm jacket for winter season.
Tablets for cold and fever.
Any prescribed medication you’re taking for the entire 10-days.
Have any questions or your own Vipassana experience to share? Comment below! 🙂