Vipassana: The Essence of all Meditations

Vipassana is an ancient meditation,  re-discovered, & preached  by Gautama, the Buddha in 2550 B.C.E.  A connoisseur of peace, Buddha transcended the realm of mind,  and attained “nirvana” or “enlightenment”.

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“Vipassana is the essence of all meditations” – Osho.

A curious agnostic, I believe something when I see it from my eyes, feel it in the depths of my soul, figure it out through rational mind. So, I took Vipassana course as a scientific experiment on myself, a challenge to conquer, a test of my extremes.

That’s when I landed in Jaipur!

 Dhamma Thali Vipassana Meditation Center Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

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Located at a distance of 15 Kms from Jaipur airport, the Dhamma Thali Vipassana Meditation Center is easy to reach from station and airport.  A 10-day residential course, a group of dedicated volunteers, veg wholesome meals, the simplicity of 10 days routine is a window to simplicity of the technique.

What is Vipassana? Is it for me?

The word “Vipassana” means to “see things as they are, not as they appear to be” or “to see clearly” in Pali language. I’ve been lucky enough to attend the course thrice. A lot of people ask me if it is for them. Well, put simply, there’re three things that you need to consider if you want to go ahead.

  • An open-scientific mind that is ready to explore a new idea:

My rational mind never agrees with traditions or conventions.. The technique doesn’t require you to do so… The high-point of Vipassana? Equanimous observation of reality, as it is. No visualization or verbalization. No chants, no mantra, and no dress code…No mention of God, soul, or religion…  An open mind is all you need.

Fear not, no one is going to “convert” you ! It ain’t a religion! 🙂

  • Intense curiosity & a sense of respect for meditation and spirituality:

A curiosity for spirituality, life, & mind is how I landed there. So, can you! Don’t go if you want to convert it into another social media debate between your beliefs & Buddhism. It isn’t about Buddhism. It is a technique that came back to India through Mr. S.N. Goenka in 1969, after it vanished from India, few centuries after its re-discovery by Gautama, the Buddha. 

The toughest, yet, most challenging part is adherence to “The Code of Discipline”. A 10-day routine, noble silence, abstinence from liquor, sexual conduct, purely vegetarian meals, starting the day with a wake up bell at 4:15 AM, can get a little intimidating. But the code of discipline is important. It is a part of the whole process

The technique of Vipassana:

Noble Silence: 10 days “moun”: Silence of speech, mind, and body.

A technical summary: Technically, Vipassana is simple. Observe the breath (Anapana)… Become aware of wandering thoughts… Focus back on breath… Slowly, the focus is shifted onto body parts…Equanimous observation of sensations that erupt in each body part… 

The technique becomes challenging when one has to do it more than 10 hours a day, for 10 days, with a light stomach, and a smile on the face. 🙂

The physical discomfort due to posture or continuous sitting is where the path of Vipassana begins! So, if you go, persist till the end, and give it your best shot.

To me personally, a course in Vipassana is a soulful inner journey: 

The first three days are tricky… As thoughts engulf the consciousness… By the fourth day, the burden we call “thoughts”,  begin to shed their weight… Mind is conditioned to be reactive… A student of Vipassana slowly learns to observe, rather than react to action happening outside and inside.  It is almost like the law of Physics: every action has an equal and opposite reaction… No reaction breaks the cycle of thoughts! 

Vipassana is just a blissful journey towards attaining “Bodhi”, or “awakening”. 

If I may say so, Vipassana to me is a  “fresh awakening”, a “rebirth”, a “renaissance of mind”!!!

A click to remember on the last day of Vipassana course!

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Goa 2: The Untameable Mobor beach

I can’t help it. The word “Mobor”  reminds me of a brilliant scene from the super – addictive “The Game of Thrones”: “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor”. An irrelevant trivia I know! 😛

hodor the game of thrones

The day we finally left Palolem, only to return back in 2 days:

It was our fifth day at Palolem beach, South Goa. The idea of the Goan adventure was to explore all the places in 11 days long vacation. But we grew too comfortable & totally cheated on our itinerary.

The idea to explore was lying in deep slumber…Like the beach itself…

There’s something about the stillness of the beach which captivates human mind. A sense of stillness of thoughts… A sense of calmness… A sense of awe for the grandeur of mother nature… This feeling takes over the senses, and the compulsive need to see it all on a trip loses its significance… 

Palolem Beach Canacona South Goa

But we did it! Next leg of the journey towards the North Goa:

Sense prevailed. We finally came out of the reverie, hired a car for the next day (Rs. 1200). And embarked on the north Goa adventure. On-route, we took a de-tour towards a high-end, not-so-crowded beach, the Mobor, Cavelossim beach. I’m glad we did it!

Mobor, Cavelossim is a high-end beach, offers private beaches & adventure sports:

Mobor, Cavelossim, a 30 Km long Southern Goa beach strip, is a high-end beach, shared between luxurious hotels and resorts, Leela Palace Hotel and Holiday Inn Resort. For someone who’s on a luxurious trip, Mobor beach is the place to book. Do it now!

Mobor Beach South Goa

The clear waters, soft golden sand, and  silence brings a sense of calm, complemented with a sense of high for the adventure sports: water skiing, windsurfing, sailing, parasailing, jet skiing, boating, and so on.

A tryst with swimming at Mobor!

I live in Punjab, North India – a region far away from oceans and shores. One can imagine the sense of pride I felt when I thought I could swim against the waves, just like any other local Goan or a foreigner.

Only, I couldn’t do it! The ocean fiercely intimidates. It is untameable. It is wild. So, it arouses curiosity. It dares you, with a wicked smirk on its face. The ocean knows it – deep down, you’re a coward. Especially, when you come face to face with your biggest fear: drowning.

If Palolem is gentle beach, owing to its crescent shape and unique location, Mobor is a monster. The waves are huge during the high tide ! But my natural curiosity pushed me to risk a plunge into the waves.

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Luckily, a local restaurant owner and an experienced local swimmer saw my dilemma, and offered help. He, along with a drunk-merry Russian couple, showed me how to swim against the waves.

Mobor Beach South Goa
A friendly Egret eating fish from my hand!

Slowly, he taught the technique of jumping into the crest of the wave, and then ride on the wave’s momentum. It was awesome! I felt invincible! And the very next wave caught me off-guard. Due to bad timing, it hit me hard & I was left dumbfounded, gasping for air on the white sandy shore. 😛

Mobor Cavelossim

The high point of the beach is less crowd. In India, it means less garbage too! As mojor part of the beach is shared by the luxurious hotels, the beach is not crowded by casual tourists. A memorable day of Goa trip, The untameable Mobor, Cavelossim, is a tale to remember!

Copyright © [Meru]. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khalil Gibran: A poet par excellence

It was a usual day in the library. For the first time in life, I finally knew what I yearned for: knowledge & a place where there’s plenty of it: university’s library.

A.C. Joshi Library, located in the Panjab university, is not for the casual students. It is a “respite for soul” place for the curious ones. The ones who want to know it all. The ones with insatiable hunger for more!

Though I was a post-graduate student at that time, the name “Khalil Gibran” (or Kahlil Gibran) didn’t ring any bells. But the word “Lebanese” poet aroused some curiosity, and that’s how I opened the first page.

khalil gibran

And then I couldn’t put it down for a moment – read it while eating, in the class, in the hostel common room, almost everywhere. There it was, one of the most enchantingly romantic works one could read, “The Broken Wings: Khalil Gibran“.

A take on spiritual love, with its purity intact, The Broken Wings is like an intense lyric, the depths of which are unfathomable to a mortal being. Here’s an excerpt from the text:

“Every young man remembers his first love and tries to recapture that strange hour, the memory of which changes his deepest feeling and makes him so happy in spite of all the bitterness of its mystery…

Today, after many years have passed, I’ve nothing left out of that beautiful dream except painful memories flapping like invisible wings around me, filling the depths of my heart with sorrow, and bringing tears to my eyes; and my beloved, beautiful Selma, is dead and nothing is left to commemorate her except my broken heart and tomb surrounded by cypress trees. That tomb and this heart are all that is left to bear witness of Selma.

The silence that guards the tomb does not reveal God’s secret in the obscurity of the coffin, and the rustling of the branches whose roots suck the body’s elements do not tell the mysteries of the grave, by the agonized sighs of my heart announce to the living the drama which love, beauty, and death have performed. “

The tragedy of love is beautifully captured in the masterpiece. But love’s not the only facet of Gibran’s work. Another classic, “The Prophet“, discusses practical answers to spiritual & philosophical aspects of daily life. Matters of marriage, death, talking, children, giving, etc. are touched upon with soft-soothing words, showing his creative genius in the poetic form.

Here’s an excerpt from “On Talking” by Khalil Gibran:

On Talking

“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips,
And sound is a diversion and a pastime.
And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.
For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly…

There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.
The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape… “

Life with Puppies and More!

Finally, she is home. My first puppy! It took 29 years of wishing at Birthdays & shooting stars to finally bring home a pup of my own.

Labrador retriever

 I wished for a pup ever since I’ve existed. Mind you, it all started with an over-barking pom doggy! I can’t believe that I remember the pup & the parrot as a pictographic memory till today.

Puppies

That happened in New Delhi, India in 1988. In 1991, my family shifted to one of the most peaceful towns in India,  Nangal. Located in the foot-hills of Shivalik Hills, a chain of the Himalayan range, & lined by the beautiful Satluj river from two sides, the picturesque city is popular for one of the highest gravity dams in Asia, The Bhakra Nangal Dam & is a renowned national wetland
 Naya Nangal, Punjab

The river-side city, with its idyllic setting, and township’s character, is a world in itself – just like the “Hogwarts world” of the Harry Potter series! Explains our “Harry Potter” mania in 10th grade – I literally finished off the book during my final dreaded mathematics exam. ( No, not all Indian kids master mathematics – some like me, prefer to lead life in appreciation of beauty of nature & novels).

Our small colony, called as ‘the doctor’s colony”, had a lot of kids to hang out with, along with a lot more puppies. The house where we shifted was vacant for a long time. Any guesses how many lil paws greeted me on the first day in the town? A litter of 10 wonderful puppies!  😀

A dream come true home for me indeed –  in the dream come true town of Nangal. Over the years, me & my friends reared up a lot of street pups, got a few vaccinated, fed them, played with them. I even kidnapped them & moved them to my home, in case the female doggy gave birth in some other house. 😍

The poor female dog lived in eternal confusion on where her pups are whenever she used to go on a hunt. It is amazing that I got along more with pups, than I ever got with prople. That doesn’t make me anti-social – I did get along with kids my age. 😉

Last month, after much consideration, and persuation, I finally brought home a beautiful female Labrador pup. We call her “Daisy”, though she doesn’t behave like a fragile flower as of now.

Labrador Retriever

She is a “wooly mammoth” who eats, chews, & later on poops everything that comes in front of her – stones, cow dung, clothes, newspaper, leave, sticks, pendrive, leaves – did I mention leaves already? – and so on.

For now, the only time she looks like a “Daisy” is when she sleeps!!! 😊😀😄  Let’s hope for teething- free times ahead,  when your pup will not try to bite you off. 😃

The Guest House by Rumi: Sufism

The first glimpse of Sufism

I remember it. My first glimpse of Sufism. An unusual book was lying on the table, with the name “Bulleh Shah” printed on it. The name struck a chord. Just like the name “Rumi” did later on. Bit by bit, poem by poem, the love for his poetry solidified into supreme devotion, and a new gate opened for me – the golden gate of Sufi ecstasy!

So, who is a Sufi ?

Is he the one immersed in deep meditative silence? Or is he the one whirling in a divine ecstasy? Or perhaps the one whose dance has solidified into a deep silence?

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As waves upon my head the circling curl,
So in the sacred dance weave ye and whirl.
Dance then, O heart, a whirling circle be.
Burn this flame - is not the candle he? 
- Rumi

A Sufi can be just anybody: a wanderer, a saint, a beggar, a poet, an ascetic. He can easily fit into any of these categories. Or he can transcended all these mind-imposed categories & move into the realm of nothingness.

“The Guest House” by Rumi is a stroke of genius, an enchanting lyric, a masterpiece that started a life-long addiction to Rumi and his works.

The Guesthouse by Mewlava Jallaludin Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
 Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
 As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
 Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
 who violently sweep your house
 empty of its furniture,
 still treat each guest honorably.
 He may be clearing you out
 for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Note: The image has been sourced from the Internet. No infringement intended. 

Life Runs A Full Circle

 Bits And Pieces,
Of You And Me.

A Loveless Scar Here,
An Innocent Blush There.

Autumn Of A Withering Leaf,
Decayed Now, In Full Bloom Once.

Only Hope, A Warm Casket –
A Wintery Sheet Of Death-Cold Snow.

Reminisces Spring, The Days Gone By,
When Love Was Pure, Promises True.

Life Runs A Full Circle:
Broken And Cherished Fragments,
Of You And Me.

Copyright © [Meru]. All rights reserved.

State Of My Heart: It’s Hollow

Hollow is the shape of the planet,
Hollower, the state of my heart.
Shallow, the world slowly walks by,
Shallower, thy friendly smile.

In a bid to avoid “the hollows”,
I took a thousand vows, –
Friend.Lover.Child.Parent.Sister.
Benumbed, as each vow entangles,
Vacant, the state of the heart.

Let’s not hide, you and I,
Behind the veil of an empty Gaze.
Void is the Space that is Matter.
Vacant is the Touch of your Gaze.

When I seek refuge in the mountain,
“Hollow” is the Note it Plays.
“Silence”, the ound that Echoes,
Lost in a forlorn Haze.

Torpid is the Numbness of Mind,
Estranged, the world idly goes by.
Hollow, the shape of the planet,
Nadir be the Truth of my Fate.

Copyright © [Meru]. All rights reserved.

The Palolem Phenomena!

I love meditation. An intensely curious agnostic, I want to know it all, learn it all, imbibe the facts. At some point, even meditation became an intellectual activity.

Take a deep breath, be in harmony with nature, let go and what not…

But the real “let go” happened the moment I wasn’t trying to “let go” anymore. I was too astonished, too stunned, too happy to “try” something.

Palolem Beach view

For the first time, “I” was just not there anymore ! Or maybe, “I” finally lost its significance.

That “I” we cling on to, became too small a reality in front of such a vast endless ocean.  I became a negligible entity staring at the grand canvass, the creator painted with a master stroke.

Susnet at Palolem beach Goa

 It all started on that laid-back, lazy, hot Palolem beach.

Located in the Southern part of Goa, within 2.5 kms of market town of Chaudi, Canacona, the Palolem Beach was my first glimpse to a “hippy-style lifestyle” (concerns of budget-traveling). 🙂

Indian ocean view, Canacona

Though we started the trip by staying in a “safe” hotel behind the beach, the decision to shift to Palolem beach’s cottages was inevitable – for the compulsive need to stare at the waves was simply irresistible!

On this 10 days long vacation, we literally backpacked, & stayed at Rs 800/ night or less in the beach huts / cottages ( A freelance writer can only afford budget traveling in India 😉 ).

The cool & misty mornings!

The usual day at Palolem beach started at 8 AM. Tea, breakfast (usually the delicious omelette & big tea mugs at Hi-Tide Coco Huts ), staring at the incessant flow of waves,  preceded by a dip in the warm currents of the Indian ocean.

Now, I love swimming, yet, the vastness & mysticism of ocean intimidated me. I just couldn’t go too far from the shore.

There’s this funny incident that happened one afternoon. One day while swimming, I slowly drifted towards a couple, who to my horror were making love right inside the ocean. 😛 ( Not a common sight for an average “decent” Indian). The moment I realized, I chuckled and tried to swim away, only to be sent back towards them by the flow of the current. 😛

The hot, & lazy afternoons!

The lazy, hot, bright afternoon called for a nap on the beach, followed by a refreshing drink.

Foodies that we Punjabis are, the later part of afternoon was spent in “hunting” for a new restaurant to eat, out of 80-100 odd restaurants located on the beach.

I don’t know what vegetarians or the so-called morally prickly vegans eat in Goa, but for me, it was a happy platter of fried fish, fish curry, coconut fish, omelette, prawns, and everything a hardcore spiritual non-vegetarian can gulp in one go.

Evening view at Palolem, like a canvass painted by the creator!

A casual stroll, a walk on the beach is how the day slowly receded into the evening. We literally waited each evening, with a camera in our hands, to capture, again & again, the glory of God in the name of his most beautiful painting – a sunset!

Orange tinge blended into a purplish blue, set against a grayish-blue sky, Goa changed the meaning of a sunset forever in my mind. The staring continued till the orange canvass changed into a star-lit sky. 😃

Palolem sunset

It is after 7PM that the phenomena called Palolem finally comes to life. Dimly lit restaurants, fragrances in the air that allure the appetite, peppy music in the background, the place takes a U-turn as the evening advances into the night.

I still can’t forget the happy faces of laid-back tourists, playing guitar without a care in the world, wearing that super sexy cowboy hat the likes of me only see in Hollywood movies!!!  😛

Now, I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me, Goa took all the tiredness away. Symbolically speaking, the trip took away the constant need to be excited or tensed ( a reality of consumerist society).

The Palolem sang an age old lyric to me – praising nature & its elements, giving a glimpse of harmony which is present in everything except a human mind, singing a melody that only an initiated few can hear. 🙂

Copyright © [Meru]. All rights reserved.

Bereaved Grief: Suicide, a personal moment

We all have our share of moments when we grieve; for the loss of a loved one, for the loss of a dream, or the loss of an identity.

But to be able to pull that final trigger, to bid that final goodbye, to not to hold on to that last shred of hope, is a momentous moment, tragic in its essence, yet final in its completion. 

For what looks like a sudden tragic last-minute whim is but a grand finale of a series of small death-like moments – moments that can make or break us!

In a world full of people, more people, social media connectivity, self-obsessed selfies and check-ins, it is hard to believe that a person can be alienated enough to let go.

But then,

Suicide, is such a personal moment, that any commentary from the outside, is like an arrow drawn from a set of broken fingers. 

Yet,  we humans, the mystical over-thinking beings, are the ones who’re drawn towards it & commit it every day.

Sometimes I think about Kurt, why he pulled that final trigger (if he did at all) ? What was the last thought that shook him to embrace that final annihilation ? Was there not a shred of love/hope left for him to hold on to? With the kind of creative genius he was, did even his art fail to speak to him in the end?

Am I, as a fan, scared to death when I witness his story because somehow the jigsaw puzzles of his life fit into mine ?

To me, a man’s last moment can be surmised in the lines Kurt sang so brilliantly, and with  a bland expression in Nirvana’s The Man Who Sold The World –

” I spoke into his eyes, I thought you died alone, a long long time ago…”

An eccentric genius & a rare charmer that he was, I hope he witnessed the ever-pervasive peace which can only be found in the stillness of death.

“If you die you’re completely happy and your soul somewhere lives on. I’m not afraid of dying. Total peace after death, becoming someone else is the best hope I’ve got.” – Kurt Cobain

Copyright © [Meru]. All rights reserved.