The Great Journey Within

Mind and Matter

One who has the aspiration to study, does maybe a masters degree, and then perhaps a post-graduate course in some further specialization. Mostly such courses have some highly competitive entrance exams. People finishing any course successfully may end up with the dream job of their choice. Or sometimes they may face disappointment in seeing that their peers in their earlier days, who had been working instead of studying, are much better off, and are actually in a relatively senior position. Or sometimes find out that by the time they've finished the course, their specialization is no longer in much demand... some may go on to do further research, make amazing discoveries and get awards, etc. ...anything is possible depending on the interest and circumstances of the person. Whether to study further or not is a never-ending debate and everyone has his or her own opinions.

But there is one course, for which the immensity of its value is indisputable. For this course, there is no entrance exam, and the only requirement is that one is a human being; whether one is a prodigal genius to intellectually challenged, multi-billionaire to desperately poor, sanyasi to terrorist... is completely immaterial. One might have read a plethora of books and articles and acquired a whole lot of theoretical knowledge already, or might be completely ignorant about the subject, all this doesn't matter.

I've been a computer programmer and, like most programmers, have always been fascinated with technology... a winding toy, electric trains, robotics, computer software ... whatever I came across... I would try to find out how it worked, its underlying mechanism. Of course I've always wondered how the greatest technology imaginable, the human body, was 'programmed'. Once I came to know about the Vipasana Meditation Research Center, I had no second thoughts on deciding to register as a student for the course. But 10 days is a long time for anyone's schedule esp. a working individual, and it took considerable planning before I could finally arrange for the time off.

What is below is a mix of my own thoughts along with what I learnt from the course The Art of Living - Vipasana Meditation. These are of course just my own perspectives, more authoritative information is found at the website, which contains comprehensive information about Vipasana... what it is all about, the schedules and venues (all around the world), contact information, etc.

Clearing some misconceptions

* Do not expect any dramatic changes instantly... (though there have been examples where some had dramatic results) The course is like a seed of a massive tree, the seed planted is very small to start with, and only if YOU (nobody else!) take care of it over time, it will become a massive tree.

* After completion of the course, its not very likely that you will feel like renouncing the world and going to the forest, this message is proof that I haven't done that (yet ;-) )

* It is not just for old people who have retired and feel they have nothing else to do than sit and philosophize about life. A large percentage of the attendees were in their 20s, though up to 60 - 70 year olds were present too (so age no bar!) After all it's about the Art of Living, and not the Art of How One Should Have Lived.

* It's not just for people who are stressed out or depressed, it's even for people who are currently happy and peaceful and living normal lives.

* You don't have to believe something because somebody says it is so; you can actually experience the truth yourself.

* Meditation is not a state of unconsciousness or going into a deep coma type of situation even if your house is on fire and there are a dozen ambulances and fire brigade trucks screaming their sirens off outside. It is a state of awareness, and you will know even if someone knocks lightly on the door; you can chose whether you want to pay attention to it or not.

What it is about

Man has explored the other side of the moon, and examined the tiniest of protons and neutrons, all using hi-tech equipment spending millions of dollars. But not many actually journey into themselves, to examine the truth of their own existence. And for this great journey, the only instrument needed is the mind. The course showed me the way to face the truth, the reality in which I live, at a deeper level than I was familiar with. If you've watched the movie Matrix, it's kind of like coming out of the Matrix (analogy not to be considered too seriously :-) ) The 10 days is only the beginning, the rest depends on whether the student follows it consistently or not.

There is no point in giving a detailed account of my actual experiences. Even the teachers don't tell you what you should be experiencing each day, as this could become some kind of suggestive psychology. At the end of the day, there is an explanation of what had happened during the day. There is a Code of Silence; students are not allowed to discuss what each other felt, since some may feel experiences later or earlier than others.

This particular technique of meditation, originating in India and rediscovered by the Buddha, does not involve focusing your mind on any imaginary object such as a light or a lotus or a deity, and does not involve any verbalizations. It involves focusing on nothing but the truth - bare scientific facts of nature .

Its not just something for intellectual entertainment, nothing like a fun break from the daily routine schedule, it is a serious matter. I needed to muster all my open-mindedness, determination, patience and perseverance to go through the full 10 days (after the first three days itself most people really enjoy it, though there were cases where a few people ran away because they couldn't think of controlling their mind). Some people had given up midway just because too much of concentration gave them a headache. They seemed to have missed the point, since this technique of meditation enables one to calm his mind by just being an observer. Concentration becomes a consequence. It involves only an 'effortless effort', and not a strenuous effort.

After the ten days, getting back to reality

The objective of the course is the discovery of truth. At the end of the ten days, among other things, one begins to understand real peace and happiness - irrespective of any circumstances. There will be innumerable side-effects such as increased effectiveness at work, better memory, having a calm mind, ability to cope with pain, etc. but of course these improvements depend on the regularity with which what is taught is continued (like I said, no overnight miracle is likely).

There is a logical explanation for each side-effect mentioned above. The most important result of meditation is a high degree of self-awareness, i.e. living at the present. The mind loses its old habit of always wandering to the past or future. Hence effectiveness at work increases as one is doing something without thinking of something else. Memory increases since we are aware of registering something in our mind while trying to store something in our mind. According to some articles on memory, we forget something because at the point of registering it in our mind we are not aware of it. Hence the memory books/courses teach us to make a conscious effort of memorizing something instead of just taking it for granted that we'll remember it. Similarly the heightened self-awareness acts as foundation to each every one of our day-to-day activities. It cannot be stressed enough that all these results depend on the continuity of practice.

I hope you find/create an opportunity in time sooner or later to attend this course.

- October, 2001

September 2003

As time progressed, I gained a deeper understanding of the technique, and the here I note some of the important insights I have gained.

We clean our houses and we wash our clothes and we take bath every day, we are all very hygenic people. But how many of us really clean our minds every day? That is what this meditation technique is essentially about... self - purification!

One can read a lot of excellent books and gain wisdom. This is all wisdom gained through our intellectual understanding of what somebody has said. But there is another type of wisdom that is much more deeper than this, and that is experiential wisdom. The standard example is sugar... one may read books on the chemical structure of sugar as well as the human nervous system and know all the bio-chemical reactions that take place when a person eats sugar. He may have understood theorotically what is "sweetness". But the understanding of sugar he gets when he experiences its taste is much more deeper than his theorotical and intellectual knowledge. That is what this meditation technique helps in, it enables us to directly experience the Truth within the framework of our own mind. The knowledge gained by our reading books, intellectualization, discussions, etc are all beautiful structures... but experience is the very foundation on which they rest.

What I found is that there is one Truth and every person who realises this adds layers and layers of interpretations over it. Meditation provides an opportunity for you to experience the truth first-hand, without having somebody give you their own interpretation of it to you.

There is this analogy...

Two farmers own wells. The well of the first farmer is dry.
He gets water only when rainfall fills it accidentally and
irregularly. That farmer is insecure and apprehensive; he is
at the mercy of chance. The well of the second farmer is fed
naturally and constantly by an underground stream. That farmer
is relaxed and unworried.

When living from our True Source, we are relaxed and unworried.

This is a means for us to discover this true source, very much there in each of us whether we know it or not. The advantage of knowing about it is that we can live in harmony with it and live a more happy and peaceful life.




Meditation is a word. The thinking process operates by association, and all sorts of ideas are associated with the word 'meditation'. Some of them are probably accurate and others are aren't. Some of them pertain more properly to other systems of meditation and have nothing to do with Vipassana practice.

To search for the truth, it is essential to let go of your opinions.

Meditation is not easy. It takes time and it takes energy. It also takes grit, determination and discipline. It requires a host of personal qualities which we normally regard as unpleasant and which we like to avoid whenever possible. We can sum it all up in the word 'guts'. Meditation takes 'guts'. It is certainly a great deal easier just to kick back and watch television. So why bother? Why waste all that time and energy when you could be out enjoying yourself? Why bother? Simple. Because you are human. And just because of the simple fact that you are human, you find yourself heir to an inherent unsatisfactoriness in life which simple will not go away. You can suppress it from your awareness for a time. You can distract yourself for hours on end, but it always comes back--usually when you least expect it.

Some notes...  (only recommended if you have already taken up the course)