The first time I heard about Vipassana, my reaction was just about what any average young boy would have had: "Meditation! That's for the oldies. "But somehow or the other, it remained in my head. Curious to know more, I managed to get some more information and decided to try it out. Some people did discourage me but the seed was sown.
I came to Dhamma Giri for a course and completed it. I emphasise the word "completed" because an addict is a waster, a useless mass of flesh, who is no good to anyone, not even to himself. Now me, for example, I would start many things with good intentions but my addiction would just not let me complete anything. Sooner or later I would get fed up, bored and quit whatever work I had undertaken, causing a lot of tension to everyone around me. So, in that sense, completing my first course was like a rebirth for my self-confidence.
During the course, I had a lot of time for reflection, reflection on the past, but most importantly, reflection on the technique of meditation. It appeared easy until I actually started doing it. It is hard work. But it brought home a few truths to me: that craving, aversion, and ego are dukkha (suffering). I felt that the technique was specially made for me. I was suffering from these defilements and I did not even know it.
My problem was Drug Addiction. If you analyse, it boils down to one main fact; mental craving. The physical craving comes much later. In fact, the mental craving remains even long after the cold turkey (drug withdrawal) is through. Now this is where Vipassana comes in, teaching you how to deal with these problems when they arise. Furthermore, the discourses in the evening helped to clear out any ambiguity. All in all, after completion of the course, I really felt that now I have something, not only to fight this craving for intoxicants, but even to build a more cordial atmosphere around myself in daily life.
Coming back home, things were really good for some time. I found myself more relaxed, and that is a state of mind not a posture. But still it was not the end of my drug career. I was not doing it every day now, my use had become occasional. The mental craving was still there and at times I would succumb to it. At this point, I knew that this was my weakness and I resolved to do something about it (the second step of the Narcotics Anonymous Programme).
I came back to do another course and spent a long time within the confines of Dhamma Giri; growing in Dhamma, doing courses and seeing the other side of life. Believe me, it is much more beautiful (but again that is craving). As I started understanding more about Dhamma, I started applying it more and more in my life. But I was still far away from the goal I had set for myself, and that was a complete abstinence from intoxicants. During my stay there, I would go home sometimes to take a break, but back home it was the same story again.
This craving or love-hate relationship with intoxicants is a very deep rooted defilement of the mind. The sooner a person realises this, the better. For from my experience, I can say one thing; there is a very thin line separating having and not having intoxicants, and I have one understanding now: that it is entirely up to me. Today I am leading a regular life in Bombay, I have a job, I work six days a week, a side of life which I had never seen earlier but which I really enjoy. I get a sense of satisfaction, a sense of achievement, which is topped off with a sitting at the end of the day.
Lastly, I would like to say that Vipassana teaches you one thing. You have to fight your own battles. The only help given to you, and what a help it is, are the two weapons of Anapana (awareness of breath) and Vipassana (awareness of body sensations). The rest depends on how good your strategy is. No excuses are allowed because the weapons are always with you. And if the teaching is adhered to sincerely and diligently, no one can fail, because Vipassana is truly the art of living.
How Vipassana helped me get rid of drugs
-By Praveen Ramakrishnan
My introduction into Vipassana was by sheer fate. Even today, it amazes me that such a fickle minded person could change and develop a strong sense of will power.
On admission into college at the age of fifteen (1978), I was led into the world of narcotics, first by mild intoxicants and then, as one finds dissatisfaction in milder forms of pleasure, I moved on to the use of heroin and its derivatives. This habit of mine started initially just for the thrill of it, but I began to realise that I could do nothing without the assistance of the drug. I tried many a time to reason with myself, but since I lacked will power, I could never face the fact that I was a drug addict.
Soon the matter came to be known by my near and dear ones. I lost face in society, and even after trying to quit this habit, I was drawn to this drug because of an emptiness which no amount of reasoning would help.
Soon the hospital trips started. I was detoxified many a time but the effect would last for a maximum period of a month. Then there would be a relapse. The counselling from the doctors, who were purely commercially motivated, had stopped having the mild impact it had once made on me. My studies started faltering. The peace at home was destroyed. Soon, even my own family members were against me. Fortunately, they had not given up on me entirely. My life became intolerable.
One day, out of the blue, one of my father's close friends who had taken a ten day course of Vipassana, convinced my father that a course or two would help me, and even if it failed, I would have nothing to lose. So in March 1983, I made a trip to the hospital and was detoxified for the last time. Then my journey to Dhamma Giri started.
I was brought to Dhamma Giri against my wishes, and the first impression of this place was of an open jail with closed boundaries.
The camp was conducted by an Assistant Teacher, and on entry into the place, I was treated like a VIP, and was led to the teacher. The teacher made sure that I was relieved of all my money, and told me that under no circumstances would I be allowed to leave the camp before the completion of the course. A Dhamma worker was assigned for my welfare. I checked-in and the journey started.
The course began as usual with Anapana. Since my mind was not used to even the mildest forms of concentration without any external help, I found it extremely difficult. I thought about running away on the first day, but knew that without any money, I would not get very far. Therefore I decided to stay, with a little compulsion from the Dhamma worker. The love shown by him was one of the turning factors. Though he was only a year or two older than me, the maturity and the wisdom he possessed was far beyond my comprehension. I tried to make him angry, but he would not change his outlook towards me. This further encouraged me, and as usual, Vipassana was taught on the fourth day. Initially, I would not adhere to the rule of adhitthana(strong determination) but on the ninth day I decided to give it a try. I managed to sit through the torture of a whole hour without changing my posture, and that somehow opened my outlook. I decided that if this pain could be tolerated for an hour, then in the same manner, I would be able to give up drugs, though the task was not an easy one.
Some rules of the camp were amended for my convenience. The rules of noble silence and seriousness were waived. Also, I was served dinner, which was to my benefit, since I was physically quite weak.
After I got out of the camp, my first thought was to go to Bombay to have a mild dose of the drug. But on my arrival, I found that my craving was reduced. I decided to put it off for a day. The day turned into two, and then day by day I found out that I could do without the drug. I have been free of drugs for the last six years, and the craving for the drug is no longer there.
I returned to Dhamma Giri in 1986, and served and sat courses for nine months, which helped me to further strengthen my foundation in life, and to improve my practice.
In conclusion, the pains which were brought on during every withdrawal process, which made me succumb to the drug, were finally eliminated with the help of Vipassana. Now, I feel that I am a socially useful and normal human being.
A personal communication
-By Mr. Sridhar
Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Sridhar and I am a drug addict. It is entirely by the grace of God and the help I received from the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous that I am clean today.
I am sharing with you my painful experience as an addict and my joyful experience of Vipassana meditation. I have been looking forward to this wonderful opportunity of sharing my experience in person, but due to unavoidable circumstances I have not been able to do so. However, I am grateful to you all, and in particular to Dr Chokhani, for giving me this opportunity to present a paper.
To describe my past briefly, I started using drugs when I was in college. Initially it was the thing that I always searched for. There was always a vacuum within me and drugs would fill that vacuum. As days progressed, I started depending on drugs more and more, and then came the time when I was hooked. I had discontinued my studies after graduation and lost about 18 different jobs. My bank balance and social standing were gone. I became a social leper, a burden to my family, an embarrassment to my friends. I tried hospitals, acupuncture, yoga, transcendental meditation, religious centres, geographical changes, psychiatrists and three girl friends. It was in the year 1984, after suffering for 11 years, that I found the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous, and since then I am away from drugs.
As I realised late in life that I had wasted enough time as an addict, I wanted to make up for it all at once, with a career, money, education etc. I therefore attended various seminars on personality development and courses of such type. Though I benefited from these, the emptiness within me persisted. So my friends who were addicts suggested that I do the ten-day Vipassana course. I did it with utmost honesty.
The major problems faced by me in life were the things that I learnt to face here. I shall be brief on a few points:
Never in my life had I any semblance of patience. I wanted things to happen my way, and I wanted them to happen right now. Here for the first time I sat in a place for ten hours together without moving. The thought of it itself was frightening. When I confessed to my teacher on the third day that it is not possible for me to sit in one place for long hours, he reminded me that I was sitting in one position for nine months when I was born. I had done it then and I could do it again, he said. This changed my whole attitude and I sat with ease for the rest of the days.
My attitude had been that everybody should tolerate whatever I do and I will not tolerate even the slightest discomfort; physical, mental or emotional. During the ten days I had the best opportunity to identify and accept the feeling as it was.
This was very alien to me. I got in touch with myself. For the first time in my life I met Mr Me, from whom I have been trying to run away. Now, though I do not claim to be a paragon of virtue, I am much more practical in life when it comes to accepting (others and myself), and fairly patient. I am also very much aware when I am backsliding.
I had never woken up before 8 a.m. in the morning. As an addict I used to get up anywhere between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and sleep at 2 a.m. or afterwards. Discipline and regularity were unknown to me. After doing this course, though it may appear trivial to many, I have initiated regular habits of getting up early and sleeping at a fixed time. Once I stick to this schedule, everything else falls into place automatically.
The spiritual principles advocated by the institution and practised by the followers appealed to me a lot. I do try and put it in practice to the best of my ability every day.
To me this ten day course of Vipassana was a very memorable experience, and I intend continuing the programme of meditation and the principles for the rest of my life. If there is anybody who has a problem with drugs or alcohol and who is doing this course, my request to him is give it an honest try. It works.
Heroin experience overcome through Vipassana meditation
The journey to Vipassana via heroin was a long one, however, a very interesting and rewarding one.
It all started when I left school and joined college for which I really wasn't fit. Not many students at that age are mature enough to handle that amount of freedom suddenly bestowed upon them. I certainly wasn't.
In this college environment there were new friends and new things to experiment, with which were unthought of at school. We were exposed to co-education, there was skipping lectures, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and many other temptations. Experiences narrated by senior students fascinated most of the junior students. My friends and I experimented with these and I thought I was having a nice time, saying to myself that I was enjoying college life. Later I realised this was not true. During our experiments, we discovered heroin or smack or Brown Sugar. It was all right for the first week but when we stopped taking it, we realised that we were already addicted. Our bodies couldn't bear not having heroin. I didn't know what to do except to keep taking it in order to keep my body normal. This experiment was at the cost of my education and two years of my youth.
For two years, I was in complete misery: so was my family, and others who cared for me. My family tried everything, doctors, psychiatrists, temples, shrines, priests, holy people, etc. I was also hospitalised, but all was in vain. I was addicted to heroin physically and mentally.
During this quest of mine, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. S. N. Goenka, but at that time the meeting did not have much impact on me, as I was more interested in other things and thought that this was just another idea my family had adopted to help me get rid of my vice. During my meeting with Mr. Goenka, he told me that I should have control over my mind; this I knew I did not have. He told me that he taught people Anapana and Vipassana meditation which helped them to have control over their minds, and if I wanted to learn this I could come for a course. However, I did not attend a course at that time.
Seven months later, I was hospitalised and the doctors recommended that I go to a rehabilitation centre in Bombay. This idea did not appeal to me. Actually I just wanted to have another dose of heroin but supervision was very strict and I had no alternative but to start the treatment.
While in the hospital I started reading a book on philosophy. I was fascinated by the description of what a healthy mind could do, and I decided I would rather learn meditation than go to the rehabilitation centre. I remembered my meeting with Mr. Goenka. I discussed with my family and doctors, and they gave me permission to go in the month of March 1983. Before enrolling for the course I had my last dose of heroin outside the gates of Dhamma Giri but as the course started I decided to give the technique a fair trial.
If soap is soap, it will do its job; likewise Vipassana did its job and I felt that once again I was free. With a new determination, I went back home and did not meet any of my old acquaintances. This was a great help.
There is a phrase: "Once a junkie, always a junkie." Looking at me, some of my friends started to believe that this may not be true. A few came to Dhamma Giri and derived a lot of benefit. The very same rehabilitation centre where I was to go, invited me to deliver a talk. I was also invited to speak at the hospital. Many came to try Vipassana and all benefited. I am now nearly four years clean and am helping in my family business. The same family that used to think I was a liability now thinks I am an asset. A few of my family members have also attended Vipassana courses; and today Vipassana continues to help me in my work.
Though the journey into Vipassana was a very long and strenuous one, the fruits have been more than positive.