To tell you, I had lost this post a long time ago. Digital world has its own miracles, I don’t know how it showed up again. And now when it has. I will try to re-write it, after so many years, this experience that still lingers somewhere in my head. This experience kept becoming solid long after it passed by me. My understanding of time, physical space and eye did see a change. I couldn’t have gathered it while it was happening. Even though it became adventurous but what Vipassana said, accumulated deeper.
I wrote this on 1ST February 2007. It sure was a tender age and I will keep it the way it was then.
Well, I don’t know why and how it happens as it did yesterday evening. I wanted to write about my experience at vipassna. All about what I and udi did in last five days of our stay. Oh! No… Nights.
It was in a far-off village outside Delhi. There were the Aravallis, making their presence felt and slowly crowing us from all directions. When our hair started playing among selves in the village wind, when we had started smelling rice and wheat mixed with the smell of dry dung’s of buffalo and cow, We knew we were nearing the centre.
It felt great reaching there, we had passed long line of trees as if they were there to salute us. Colour green was overpowering every other colour. We were already at peace.
As we entered the compound, Udit Joshi, with a pride of an owl told me, not to even think that he will come and speak to me in the coming ten days, and so shall I do. He was the king of humour. I nodded, we won’t talk I said.
Arrival, first visuals
The place was huge and had many quarters. A huge kitchen, the main dhamma or meditation hall, wide lanes to walk. At every corner and curve of the lane there were boards telling us “to be disciplined and observe silence”, “One must walk alone”, “do not hurt any insect” along with the arrows directing us for the places we needed to go. There were big fields full of flowers, plants and trees just to see, we cannot go there, touch or lie down on earth hiding ourselves. They were the home and playground for thousands of birds that chirped all day long and thus were the only testimonial that we were still on earth.
My room had a single bed, and one wooden chair. Walls were old. There was one thing that really fascinated me was the amount of witnessing I could see on these walls, of how depressing some people must have been. For whom the days had become unending. like in prison walls you see many vertical lines, here were ten according to the number of days that you have to spend, each vertical line denoting one day and was cut horizontally, some had written dates, some number of days in ascending order and others in descending. In the nights that came as I slept there days after days, it never felt I was in a meditational land.
There were five precpts that we were told the evening we had arrived.
Girls had a different compound but ate together.
to not speak
First five days
Well, for the first five days I was as focused in my sadhana as any of the big sadhus, saints and seekers were; who walked the same path as I did, daily. I was patient and happy. Happy in only seeing. I never counted my days to tell you even though lines of my room made me remember my days for a moment. It felt hard for the first three days, getting up at four and how, with an irritating bell first thing in the morning or for few middle of the night at four after meridian, sitting for twelve hours in a dark room, listening to a sound which seems neither music nor vocals, an unending loop of ever descending energy that seemed unending. The food was so delicious that I feel it still every time I remember it, but it was less, lesser for udit Joshi, he was trying his level best to ignore me, but in ignoring me he was simple uncomfortable. Days passed slowly, I walked a lot watching the fields, few plants I befriended, I understood the sun and its light, where its shade fell, birds so many that they were the only reason we felt on earth.
It was January, if I haven’t told you yet. January in Delhi more so around outer part where land saw cows and bulls grazing around Aravalis. It was damn cold. And felt impossible to get up at four. But once one got up and somehow walked like a bear to the meditation hall, It turned out to be the finest hour to meditate, even though many used to start snoring, I enjoyed the magic blue coming out of darkness of that hour in that hall. The birds, fog, cold, it was all blue and humans were quiet.
five days later
Unable to bear it any longer Udit Joshi came running to my room destabilising every rule in the book, and huffing, he was fat!! How are you? Why aren’t you speaking to me? Did you know Pakistan won the test match.
That’s why they say choose your company well, I said, what! India lost. The last five days will change not just the course of Vipassna but will make me understand much more that I am today.
There were a few villagers, farmers, tractor and truck drivers who had enrolled in the course, they had started cursing themselves out loud by the fifth morning. They had imagined a feast for free, good food and sleep but neither sleep happened, food was meagre and not even allowed to speak, they could not handle the torture and found each other as company to grin and grim over their holy unholy situation. I imagine they were relieved the next day.
From that day, I and Udit started sharing our experiences, and tried understanding other seekers and their journey. Udit could not bear hunger, as food was only served once a day at 11 A.M. He used to save some food for the night and was saving every fruit or sweet that he had gotten since the first day for the night. He stole all the candles he found to light it in the night, where he and I wrote stories about days here and men whom from now onwards we are going to interview.
We were not allowed to talk, read or write, to never make any gestures, actions through eyes or hands. We were ordered to walk alone. And to walk looking down so as not to kill any ant or insect. It was too cold to get up at four and to walk in bare invisibility with heavy clothes, thick gloves and socks which I consequently wore for five days. I had no guts to challenge water at any time but I did confront it and won on the 6th day. There were times even I had slept in the morning time and I know many supported me as I could hear snoring, loud farting, one or two in every direction between four thirty to six in the morning, it was a mystery to me if the farters were eating more than we? Really it was very hard for flower like kids as we are!
The mystery of the bell beater
In the following after first I and the bell beater had grown apart from each other. I somehow started disliking him, he lived in the room next door, and used to come and wake me up even before four, beating the brass bell like in front of a buffalo until I don’t stand and open my door watching his little face amidst morning fog. I also tried to tell him to just ring it once, that will be enough, to giving a written note asking him to go wake up other remaining 22 people as they lived far and in different blocks. In following days, our eyes met and it seemd he started enjoying my irritation. It was added on when my request to bring somethings from outside went unacknowledged. I had only ordered a cloth soap.
But it wasn’t a big thing on my mind. I had just had lunch and was taking a walk along an alley when I smelt someone smoking bidi. It was unusual as we were prohibited to use any kind of intoxicant in the premises, so I went searching. A little ahead, a door was half open of a room, I slowly like a tortoise, peeped inside and behind the door, sitting on his haunches I saw the bell beater looking up hiding his smoke.
I gave him the long look, without saying, without smiling and left the scene dramatically faster than I arrived. The same guy within ten minutes came running searching for me in my room, his hands folded like I became the god; pleading for forgiveness, forgetting all the precepts set by the organisation, he spoke, “please don’t tell it to anyone”, I will never be able to work here again, please. I will do whatever you will say. I looked at him, pausing my silence for little over three seconds I said, Okay. Bring me my soap and something good to eat daily for the rest of two days. So the last three days, we called couple of people in our room and spoke for couple of hours. We half- filled two buckets with water and lighted it with three floating candles, and in the light of the winter night we spoke with the people who came to share their life experiences.
The saints we could not call home
There were people from all fields. An old monk who looked lost all the time, he looked as if he had not done any hard work in his life. And he ate like apes; he had one deep utensil in which the server (Mr. Arya) used to pour milk first, then rice, salad, then vegetables, and dal one over other with all love and compassion.
There was a boy named Sanjay. He was a professional farter and thus was named paadu by us. He was so huge that he was not comfortable even in his walk. He walked like a pendulum. He was black and his beard made him look he hasn’t washed himself ever. More so those ten days I don’t think he bothered to get wet even once. With the same shirt, pant and that unfortunate, unlucky blanket which hugged him for all 240 hours. Yes, 240 HOURS!! Probably he must have been faithful to him while attending the nature’s call as well. Oh god! He had the most horrible crown winning fart which we had to hear between four thirty to six almost every morning. I know him so well because udi used to sit right behind him. In his words “the smell was unbearable”.
Then there was a 6feet 5inches tall swamiji as people called him. He always wore white clothes and white shoes. He looked like a white soul might look, moving fast through the dense fog. He was the most serious one. I don’t remember seeing his face.
There were two foreigners as well. One was Mr. Margret Desilva, who looked like an Afghani. He had a face burnt in ice, his trimmed beard made him look trendy and stylish. He wore pathani kurtas and a round himachali cap. He had a strong built and a proud head with ever straight looking eyes. He walked like a king. I noticed him sitting in one posture for hours which was impossible for me to think. I had an urge to speak with him but one night he came near me and asked “kya aap kullu se hain”? I was amazed. “You can talk in Hindi?” I asked, not paying any heed to my question he told me that he lives in keylong, a in himachal, which has an extreme climate. He was a Brazilian. I later told him that my friend is from kullu, not me. By this time udi joined us. He told us he was researching on Buddhism for past few years and that this was his 19th time in Vipassna. As we had forgotten the world, someone came angrily and scolded us for disturbing the peace. He was living in India for past 6 years. That was the night, we never saw him again. He left that course four days earlier. I close my eyes and I remember how he sat. Like a king.
The saint we called home
The second foreigner was Yong ho cho, a South Korean. A man who was so curious to know about everything. Well, we noticed him on the second day of our discourse when we saw him jogging with his hands moving up and down like butterfly wings. He didn’t care about anyone and ran here and there, exercised each day before and after he meditated. He looked like a 25 year young boy who must have come here to know more about Buddha. He was calmest of all. and took time to answer our numerous questions. Yong was always perfect in his answers. He used to take all the time in the world while he narrated many incidents of his life. Well, I noticed him when he was sitting all alone at a place looking down. I was on my walk and as I came near I saw him watching ants walking, strolling, fighting, fucking, working. I sat near him and said “it’s so good to watch them”? It was my first sentence to him which opened the gates of our conversation for rest of the days. He always looked energetic. He sat straight for all 240 hours with focused mind and closed eyes. While on the last night when and udi secretly invited us to come to our room for candle night talks he revealed that he would be turning 50 in couple of days. We were stunned and shocked. He later told us that he never takes sugar. We talked all night even after the candle went off. He looked simple and truthful and had a zest of going to new places and learning new things. In an answer to a question that ‘what would he be doing from now as an average life of a person is 70 or 80’? He said he will not die until he turns 125.
Those 10 days proved a lot and have helped in giving me a wider vision in choosing my path. Vipassna purified my mind and made me focused towards the things I needed to do to excel. These 10 days proved metal. It made udi and I come closer as friends and as individuals. I loved each moment with my best friend. He was the one who introduced me to vipassna.
Vipassna allowed us to rediscover ourselves. We met with every facet of each other and beyond.
To me as I have declared many of the questions that were asked to me from various people, that how were the experience? To me, it was hard, harsh and purifying.
The shortest love story
The course had ended with the last early morning meditation. Everybody seemed happy and spoke with each other. Some left early quietly, keeping their silence. We were done with our breakfast. In that year mobile phones were still expensive and unavailable at large. Udi and I stood in a line to inform our parents. Udi tried twice but couldn’t get through. I walked forward and the moment I lifted my arm to pick up the old receiver, a hand came foreword to pick the same receiver. But checking it in time, she said, I am sorry. I looked at her. She looked at me and the world went quiet, Vippasana flew in moments, the moment I said, not a problem, after you. She called, I called. Her parents were already outside, she sat on the side I stood, and in her ambassador left for ever.
15th January ‘2007