Who attends Vipassana Course and Why?

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When I wanted to register for 10-day Vipassana course, I was wondering what kinds of people attend this course. During the first 9 days, we weren’t allowed to speak to anyone so I didn’t get a chance to know the background of by batch mates. On the 10th day after culmination of noble silence, I spoke to a few people in the batch. I was astonished at the diversity of people and their motivation for doing this course. To maintain confidentiality, I will not mention their names in this article. I want the readers to understand and admire the motivation of these participants.

  • An Ophthalmologist with 20 years of experience and currently practicing in Goa. A lot of his friends from medical fraternity have undergone the course and they highly recommended him to attend the course. This doctor wanted more balance and equanimity of his mind
  • A retired bank officer from Kerala came to know about the course recently from his friend and attended the course in Bangalore to explore. He is planning to attend another 10-day course in Nepal this year. His motivation was peace of mind and finding serenity in his life
  • A BPO employee who is moving to Finland next month to pursue MS in Computer Science. His focus was readjusting his life style and come out of the nightmares of working in night shift for 4 years
  • An SAP Consultant, who had had health issues and his primary goal was to regain his health through meditation
  • An investment consultant with a thriving practice in Bangalore; who was there to pursue peace and tranquility. He liked the course and wants to attend another course in March 2015 with his wife
  • A garment factory employee; he had no specific goal. He wanted to experience this course once in his lifetime
  • An IT professional who is currently on a sabbatical and looking for new opportunities. This man wants to come out of depression and his mental demons. He is currently on medication for his depression. I really admire his courage to take action towards changing his life. He has a loving wife and two lovely kids
  • A professor from a reputed Engineering college in Bangalore, his goal was to gain a new perspective to his life and build a better relationship with his wife
  • Business Development Manager of a famous advertisement company, his mentor asked him to attend this course. He wanted to attend this before getting married 🙂  since it’s very difficult to get a 10-day break after marriage. (Oh! boy I am grateful to my wife Anusha)
  • A Government employee from Bellary, he attends this 10-day course every year. This is his 8th course! Mind blowing…
  • An HR Manager of an IT company who is based in Kerala. He wanted to experience this 10-day course from a long time. He is very keen on spirituality and meditation. He is an active volunteer with Ramakrishna mission
  • Manager of a bank, who has gone through a strained relationship with his wife and they have decided to separate officially and waiting for the court settlement. His focus was mental peace and understanding himself through self-observation
  • An IT evangelist with 25 years of stellar track record and patents, currently on the board of a few IT companies in Bangalore. He is also pursuing PhD in Organizational Behavior. His American friend visited him in Bangalore last month and he inspired him to attend this course to undergo serious self-inquiry.

 There were many more like this, NGO workers, retired bank employees, teachers, business owners, working professionals etc.

Why did I attend the course? I know this question is lingering in your mind and let me help you with my answers.

When I heard about this course, the 10-day noble silence and other rules impressed me and created a desire in me to experience the silence for 10 days. I thought this course also helps me become a better listener and do a better job in my coaching practice. Honestly I am reaping more benefits than I anticipated to harvest. I plan to write another article after 21 days to share my experiences (I want the changes to sustain and become second nature before writing that article).

When people contemplate on attending Vipassana, one becomes inquisitive to know what kinds of people attend this program and what do they seek in this program. I hope this article helps them understand and appreciate the diversity of their fellow travelers in the path of self-discovery.

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My Vipassana Course Experience : 10 days of Noble Silence

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I just finished 10-day Vipassana course from 6th Aug to 17th Aug 2014 in Bangalore centre and this article is to provide a brief summary about my experience and inspire others to attend this course 🙂

Vipassana (pronounced Vipashana , is a Pali word) means ‘seeing things as they really are’ not ‘as you would like them to be’.

To keep this article short, I will give a couple of links for you to read and understand the history and course schedule.

About Vipassana : http://www.dhamma.org/en/about/vipassana

Code of Discipline during the course : (Basically you live like a monk for 10 days).

Please remember read the timetable at the end of the page!  http://www.dhamma.org/en/about/code

There were 70 people in our batch (46 men and 24 women). We reported at the venue on 6th Aug 2PM and deposited all our valuables at the centre. Mobile phones were switched off by 5PM. The noble silence began at 7PM on day zero. We all took a vow to follow noble silence for 9 days. Noble silence means no communication with anyone – no talking, no gestures, no eye contact, no sign language and no physical contact with others.

Each day we would get up at 4AM, meditate 10.5 hours every day and 7 hours sleep J very strict and rigorous schedule. S N Goenka’s video discourse was played each night from 7PM to 8.30PM. These are amazing talks where he explains the science of mind and matter, history of the technique and Budha’s wisdom and many other relevant details. These videos are true gems of wisdom! They are also available on YouTube.

On days 1, 2 and 3 we practiced Ana Pana (means breathing in and out in Pali language) meditation technique to become aware of our breathing pattern. I felt a like security guard standing at the door of my nostrils watching every incoming and outgoing breath for 3 full days , 10.5 hours each dayJ. Initially, I was able to focus on my breath for just 2 minutes and suddenly an army of thoughts would hijack my attention and take me to either past movies or future fantasies of my life. It was so frustrating to feel like a slave of my own mind. By 3rd day, the army of thoughts curtailed to few soldiers and I was getting less distracted and more focused on my breath. I felt like a winner on 3rd day!

On 4th day we were taught the Vipassana meditation technique, paying attention to our body sensations and develop equanimity of mind regardless of the type of sensations. The real fun begins on day 4 onwards; we need to be patient and persistent to get there.

Day 5 to Day 9 was totally focused on mastering the Vipassana meditation technique with two simple goals – awareness of breath / body sensations and equanimity of the mind. I made good progress in these 5 days and got a handle on the technique.

The noble silence ended on Day 10 morning (16th Aug) 10AM. Participants were allowed to talk to each other and make telephone calls. A new meditation technique Metta Bhavana (Sharing Compassion and Love) was also taught on that day.

The course was formally ended on 11th day morning (17th August) at 6.30AM and I reached home by 8.30AM J .

A few things I experienced during the course,

  • I felt very tranquil and peaceful all the time
  • I wasn’t feeling hungry and ate 50% of my actual food intake (and still felt high energy)
  • I lost 2KGs body weight in this duration and I become an expert in cross-legged sitting (10.5 hours every day)
  • Our course was funded through donations of other people; it’s a unique experience to eat food that is sponsored by others 🙂 . I felt grateful and was humbled whenever I went to the dining hall
  • I realized most times I was thinking about past or future, these 10 days helped enjoy the present moment and be mindful at all times
  • I learned that we all talk / eat / worry / sleep more than the required amount 🙂
  • My senses became very sharp (specially auditory and kinesthetic)
  • I learned how to be mindful even in the waking hours (awareness of breath and sensations). This is a great way to leverage Vipassana at every moment with open eyes
  • I understood through experience that life is short and every moment is important. Also experienced the law of impermanence is the supreme law of nature (through the meditation technique)

Prescription for participants for daily practice

1) The participants were asked to practice the meditation twice a day

2) In all our waking moments, we were asked to be mindful of our breath and body sensations all the time.

Essentially the course teaches you to be equanimous at all times with the real understanding of the law of impermanence.

 I can write several more pages; since I want people to read this – I will stop now. I promise to write additional short articles on several other aspects of learning during those 10 days.

I strongly recommend everyone to attend this 10-day course at least once in their lifetime. I really loved this and I plan to attend more courses in future 🙂