“What!! One can’t eat anything after lunch till the next morning’s breakfast”, I said shockingly.
“Yes”, my friend replied.
He had recently moved from Pune to Noida and was hosting a dinner for some of us. During the conversation he told me about his recent experience about a place in Pune, a meditation center, where he along with his whole batch was taken for a period of ten days.
Everybody who knows me and has read ‘Death on Karnataka Express’ is now aware, ‘that I am a big-time foodie’.
He said, “apart from this, one can’t even speak or make any eye contact with anyone for ten continuous days”.
“Were you able to do it?” I ask sheepishly.
“Obviously No! The whole batch was there and we would talk softly and share a giggle or two whenever we got an opportunity”, he said.
He was talking about Vipassana and this was the same meditation technique, which helped Gautama Buddha to attain enlightenment and finally Nirvana. The name of Buddha was enough to get me curious.
For a moment I thought how could one concentrate and meditate when all one would think of is food and on top of that one isn’t allowed to let go of his anguish. It seemed really cruel.
The conversation that night did sow the seed of Vipassana in my mind. I started researching and reading more and more about it. I decided that I would definitely give it a try irrespective of anything. I thought even if I don’t learn a single bit of meditation but still be able to control the urge to speak and try to deviate my mind off food that will be equally satisfying for me. It would turn out to be a step towards self-control and self-discipline.
I did register myself for the course once each in 2016 and 2017 but fate had other plans and it didn’t let me attend it. My father wasn’t too keen on me pursuing this though he strongly recommended daily meditation. He was aware of the chaos that I was going through both in my personal and professional life. I was getting angrier and irater day by day. He said meditation wouldn’t do wonders but it will definitely make you calmer and bring you peace.
My mom was simply worried how her son would manage without food.
My sister was sure that I would run away max by the third day.
My cousins even predicted that by the fifth day I would be sitting under a tree and addressing a small gathering and imparting my kind of ‘gyan’ (knowledge).
I was simply worried how will I remain quiet for ten straight days. My sister had previously challenged me to maintain silence and not utter a single word at least for a day and every time she came out teasingly triumphant.
In august of 2017, I lost my father and there was a lot of intricate clutter that I inherited. The things that followed made me more anxious, unstable, louder and angrier. By Feb 2018 my sugar levels were in the pre-diabetic zone complemented by high cholesterol levels. I was like an active volcano erupting at smallest of things.
I knew if things would continue to go like this they (family and friends) would definitely throw me into an asylum. I decided to take control of things and thought of giving Vipassana a determined try. Without telling anyone in March 2018 I registered for a ten-day course scheduled for July 2018 in Pune.
I carefully chose the location, though I was getting an available slot in my hometown. I wanted to be in a far off place so that the lure of running away didn’t tempt and in a pleasant place as summers in north India can be really excruciating and would have given me another reason to avoid it again.
I got a confirmation email about two weeks before from the date of start of the course. It carried all the information on what all I could carry along with me to the center and the code of conduct to be observed in those ten days and it was categorically mentioned to join only and only if you can strictly abide by them. The whole course including food and accommodation comes at a zero cost. Yeah! It is completely free. All I had to manage was my travel…my hunger and my tongue. I was supposed to reach there on 1st July by 2:00 pm.
I remember mom even tried to sneak in some biscuit packets just in case if I couldn’t control hunger in the night. I knew that for Vipassana to have its proper affect one should do it as told and hence I requested her not to do so.
Inside of Pune Vipassana Center
On 1st July right about 2:00 pm I was standing outside the gate of Pune Vipassana Meditation Center. The first thing, which took me by surprise, was, barbwire was mounted on all the boundary walls of the center. It elevated my nervousness level.
On entry, the registration counters were setup with some volunteers taking care of the formalities. All I could see was elderly people sitting and waiting for their turn to come up. I again doubted, ‘was I doing the right thing? Is it really for me?’
They asked for a print out of my form and ID when my turn came. Vipassana centers are run on donations and hence everybody working there was a volunteer and no employee. The guy at the counter tried to shake my confidence by asking, “Hope you have read the code of conduct and the conditions required to stay here. Remember we won’t let you run away in the middle of the course.”
I replied in a fake confident tone, “Yes, I have gone through everything and I am completely ready for the course”.
On the next counter they took away my mobile phone, wallet and all the jewellery and astrological rings. They reconfirmed with me whether I was carrying any reading and writing material.
I saw some younger people walking in. It brought a little smile to my face. After registration I sat on a chair and started contemplating about my decision because if I had to go away…this was the time.
Did I run away from there or in three days or five days or did I complete the whole journey? For that you have to read the next post…
To be continued…
For all those who are talkative,
For all those who can’t control their hunger,
For all those who are short tempered,
For all those who are willing to change…
It’s not a Goodbye,
But it’s a GOOD BYE.
Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul
Read the Previous post in the Vipassana series here: Under a TREE
Read the next post Vipassana – My Experience here
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