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founded by S. N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin






My Ten Days with Vipassana

-Personal experiences during the 1986 Conference by Dr. V. B. Athavale

The first time I heard of Vipassana was in December 1986. When Dr Chokhani phoned me, I agreed immediately to attend the conference and the course for 3 reasons:

1) Dr. Chokhani had tactfully fanned my ego by telling me that being a doctor, I would be a special invitee and would not have to fill out the registration form.

2) Having knowledge of Sanskrit, the word "Vipasyana" appeared to be meaningful and attractive-to observe in a special way.

3) Jidnasa: curiosity to know and learn something new also attracted me to join the course.

All of you who were present at the Inauguration of the International Conference will remember the following incident. While Goenkaji was delivering his inaugural address, a person came rushing to the dias with intention of attacking him with blows. However, he remained undisturbed, kept quiet for a few seconds and then started chanting Tera Mangal, Tera Mangal, Tera Mangal Hoya Re (May You Be Happy, May You Be Happy...).

Later on, we learned that this person was insane and was brought by his father with the idea that he might get cured by the spiritual powers of Goenkaji. We have all heard similar stories about Buddha and other saints like Tukaram; however it is a rare opportunity to witness such episodes-one has to experience it to believe it.

Diet: Most of us have the habit of munching frequently throughout the day. Before joining the course, I was aware that we would be having our lunch as usual, but that the evening food would be light. Like many others I tended to overeat during lunch so that I could compensate for the light evening meal. After 2 days I realised that after having lunch I felt sleepy, while an alert mind was essential for proper meditation. Thus I was convinced that the dietary regime followed during the course was ideal for both physical and mental health.

Silence: Though I was apprehensive initially about my ability to control my tongue, within 24 hours I was convinced that the number of thoughts encroaching on the mind are drastically reduced by maintaining silence. This in turn helps one to follow the instructions in a more effective manner.

Posture: Though no particular posture was prescribed, on the first day itself I realised that sitting with knees flexed in one posture, even for five minutes, was a difficult task as my knees started aching. I continued my practice with extended knees. After a few days of practice, I realised that I could sit with knees flexed for longer and longer periods. The only trick which worked was to ignore the aching knees and a determination that if others could sit in a similar posture, why should I not be able to achieve it for longer periods.

Concentration On Natural Breathing: In different types of meditation, different targets are set for fixing the mind: for example pictures of gods, or chanting a mantra like om. As breathing is a natural process and is a constant companion, one does not have to depend on external objects for focusing one's mind. One can continue one's meditation while walking or carrying on one's routine work; for example, while driving one can easily focus on breathing instead of keeping one's mind occupied in useless thoughts.

Concentrating On Body Sensations: Focusing one's mind on small areas of different parts of the body with awareness of the natural body sensations is again convenient because, like respiration, our body is a constant companion. The human body is composed of the same basic constituents as all objects in the universe. Hence, by focusing the mind on any part of the body, realising its intricacies would naturally reveal the mysteries of the Law of Nature. In addition, directing one's mental energy to different organs of the body is one of the ways of improving the health of these organs.

Goenkaji's Discourses: By giving examples from day to day life and stories of saints like the Buddha, the principles of philosophy are imprinted on everyone's mind.

Universal Friendship Meditation: The course ends with a short session on the importance of universal friendship. During this meeting I was reminded of the Inaugural Session. The practical demonstration was given by Goenkaji himself. He considered his attacker as his friend and blessed him.

The entire course was conducted in the peaceful and serene atmosphere of Dhamma Giri. At the end of the course, everyone emerged as a better person and with a changed outlook of life. When I joined the course, I only knew the literal meaning of the word Vipasyana. At the end of the course, I realised that rather than having tons of theoretical knowledge, it is better to have a pinch of experience. The sweet memories still linger on in my mind and have dragged me to the present course. So I am here with you all today.