Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Kailash Manasarovar Yatra via Lipulekh Pass (PART 11) - Kailash Parikrama (Kora)

Information about Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar

This part of the blog is about Kailash Parikrama or Kora,which can be covered in 3 days and covers a distance of around 52 kms and is gateway to the valley of Gods. It involves passing
Drolma La at an altitude of 18,500 feet, which is highest pass on the Kailash Kora and represents the most challenging and rewarding point of the Kora. The crossing over this pass represents a transition from the former life to a new one.
Northface of Mount Kailash
Mount Kailash is located in the western part of Tibet known as Ngari at an altitude of 6,638 meters. Mount Kailash is believed to be the most sacred for these religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Bon and Jainism.
Hindus say that Kailash is the throne of Lord Shiva. According to Hinduism, Shiva resides at the summit of the legendary mountain named Kailash, where he sits in a state of perpetual meditation along with his consort, Parvati. For the Hindus, Mount Kailash is the earthly manifestation of Mount Meru, spritual centre of the universe, described as a fantastic 'world pillar' 84,000 miles high, around which all else revolves, its roots in the lowest hell and its summit kissing the heavens. This mountain is believed to have four faces as per Hindu Puranas. Each face symbolizes one particular gem – ruby, gold, crystal and lapis lazuli. This one has four distinct faces, almost aligned with the four directions.

The east face is said to be made of crystal and is associated with the Brahmaputra River. The west face is said to be made of ruby and is associated with the Sutlej River. The south face is said to be made of lapis lazuli and is associated with the Karnali River. The stunning north face of Kailash is said to be made of gold and associated with Indus river.
Westface of Mount Kailash

Many claim that Kailash is the gate to Shambhala or Shangrila "place of silence and peace”, is a mythical paradise spoken of in ancient texts, including the Kalachakra Tantra. According to legend, it is a land where only the pure of heart can live, a place where love and wisdom reigns and where people are immune to suffering, want or old age. The land where no name of suffering can be heard. They caution that only part of the journey is physical; arrival depends on knowing certain mantras and other spiritual techniques.

To Tibetans, it is known as Khang Rinpoche (Precious Jewel of Snow). According to the Tantric Buddhism, Kailash is the residence of the Buddha Demchok, also known as Chakrasamvara, who represents supreme bliss. There are numerous sites in the region associated with Guru Padmasambhava who has practiced Tantra in holy site around Tibet and finally established Buddhism as the main religion of Tibet in the 8th century.

All around Mount Kailash there are signs of a legendary contest for control that involved Milarepa who spent several years here meditating in a cave, and Naro Bönchung, the Bön master. According to Buddhists, Milarepa was victorious in all the various challenges, but despite this Naro Bönchung still argued for a final contest, a straightforward race to the top of the mountain. Mounting his magic drum, Naro Bönchung immediately set out to fly to the summit. Unperturbed by the progress made by his rival, Milarepa rose from his bed at dawn and was carried by a ray of light directly to the summit. Shocked by this feat, Naro Bönchung tumbled off his drum, which skittered down the south face of the mountain, gouging the long slash marking Mt Kailash to this day. Gracious in victory, Milarepa decreed that Bön followers could continue to make their customary anticlockwise circuits of Mt Kailash, and awarded them Bönri as their own holy mountain. That is why Hindu, Buddhist and Jain pilgrims make a clockwise circuit of Mount Kailash and BonPo circumambulate Mount Kailash in the opposite direction.

Orthodox Tibetans do 3 or 13 rounds of the Kailash and the Manasarovar and some of the more pious pilgrims do the sashtanga-danda-pradak-shina (prostration-circuit) of Manasarovar in about 28 days and of Kailash in 15 days. Several Tibetans do the parikrama of Kailash in a single day which is called ningkor. It is believed that one parikrama of the Kailash Peak washes away sins of one life, 10 circuits wash away the sins of one kalpa, and 108 parikramas secure nirvana in this very life. But personally I do not think merely doing it as a ritual or some exercise will bear the merit. I met guides who had done 100s of parikramas but were as conniving as anyone of us. The thought process, the devotion and being aware and receptive will bring the change.

2014 was the Year of the Horse. Going around Mount Kailash (Kora) once during horse year is karmically equivalent to 13 Kora hence making it the most holy year for the parikrama. Horse year comes once in every twelve years meaning thousands of pilgrims will embark on Mount Kailash yatra and pay their homage.
Bons explain Kailash as the mountain of Swastik; the central force of the universe.
Jains refer to Kailash as "Astapada", the holy land where Rishabhdeva attained his spiritual realization.

Though Manasarovar has been associated with origin of four rivers, no river originally originates from it. All have radius of 40-50 kms within range of Kailash Manasarovar. Indus Langchen Kambab (Elephant river), The Indus, called the Senge Tsangpo or Lion River in Tibetan, arises from the Lion Spring (Senge Kabab), 45 km north of Mount Kailash. Sutlej is designated as the Langchen Tsangpo, or Elephant River, in Tibetan mythology. In Tibetan mythology, the Brahmaputra is referred to as the Tamchok Tsangpo, or Horse River. The Karnali is Mapcha Tsangpo or Peacock River.

August 6, 2016 (Day 16) - Darchen to Deraphuk (Day 1 of Parikrama)

Day 1 of Parikrama

Today was the first day of Parikrama. It was from Darchen to Deraphuk. We left around 10.15 am from hotel in Darchen to Deraphuk. Total distance is 19 kms and first 7 kms was covered by bus. I didn't take the kitchen staff as porter as they will leave you midway to cook meals. Instead, I decided to go with Nigam porter, which is randomly allotted through a lottery system. The porters on Tibetan side will not carry backpacks heavier than 6 to 7 kgs so make sure that your backpack doesn't weigh more than that. Since the main luggage stays at Darchen and you will get it only after completing parikrama, do make sure that you have eatables, important medicines and sufficient warm clothes. I couldn't carry my tripod due to weight restriction. In hindsight, I regret not carrying it myself.

Beginning of Kailash Parikrama
Me and my porter

West Face of Mount Kailash

On Way to Charan Sparsh

Lottery system for allocation of porters

Starting point of Parikrama

Bus left us at point where parikrama starts. Lottery system and random allocation of porter is done here. I got my lady porter by 11.30 am and her young son accompanied her. Apart from Tashi dalek, all our communication was in sign language and smiles. She was strong and cooperative unlike many male porters who wouldn't accompany corresponding yatris. All she would say is chalo but she could understand what I wanted and her son was smart and quick with taking my pictures on phone. From the starting point of parikrama one can see the Yam Dwar and south face of Mount Kailash but since it was overcast we couldn't see the south face of Mount Kailash.

Yam Dwar

Yam Dwar is situated in Tarboche, which is approximately 30 minutes drive from Darchen. The exact meaning of the Yam Dwar in Hindi is “the gateway to the God of Death”. It is the initial point of circumambulation of Mount Kailash. It is also known as Chorten Kang Ngyi, which means two legged Stupa in Tibet. It is said that, once you have reached here, you are in Kailash and equivalent to have performed the Parikrama. Yama is the deity who brings mortal souls to their onward journey. Symbolically, the Kailash region is likened to the divine world, separate from Earth. To enter this region, one must abandon the mortal self and hence pass through the Yama Dwar.

At Yam Dwar

Tarboche is also site of the popular Saga Dawa festival organised every year in late spring. Just next to it is a sky burial site where, as per tradition of the last ritual, the mortal remains of eighty-four Buddhist saints were fed to the birds of prey. Kora starts at Tarboche. In May in full moon, Sagar Dawa festival takes place. Near Tarboche is first of the four prostration places (Chakstal Gang). From the starting point of parikrama, one can see the Yam Dwar and south face of Mount Kailash also called Dakshina Murthi Shiva but since it was overcast we could not see the south face of Mount Kailash. Little later we entered the Lha Chu valley. Tarboche flag pole (4750m), which is another hour's walk. Tarboche flagpole, is one of the most important aspect of Tibetan spirituality. On “Saga Dawa” Tarboche, which is an impressive and capturing annual festival of Mount Kailash, this giant flagpole which has numerous prayer flags on it is brought down and replaced. This ritual is performed every year on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar to celebrate Sakyamuni's enlightenment.

Beyond Tarboche, the valley narrows down at an area called Sershong. After passing through a series of ruined Chörtens and a number of long mani (prayer) walls, the trail reaches a small bridge across the Lha-chu. The bridge is directly below Chuku Monastery. Chuku Monastery (4820m), founded in the 13th century by Götsangpa Gompo Pel, a Kagyupa-order master, is perched high on the hillside, a steep 15-minute hike above the valley. From the Chuku bridge, it's about 3 hrs walk to Deraphuk Monastery. One can see North Face of Mount Kaialsh from Diraphuk Monastary. Three lesser mountains are arrayed in front of Mount Kailash: Chana Dorje (Vajrapani) to the west, Jampelyang (Manjushri) to the east and Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara) in the centre.
North Face of Mount Kailash as seen from Deraphuk

Due to my ongoing illness, my health was not in great shape and I was breathing heavily although the first day is not that tough. I was amongst the last to reach Deraphuk by 4 pm. Most of the people were on ponies and few were on foot. Along the way, we got glimpses of rivulets, magnificent rocks with inscriptions of Buddhist mantras on them. I saw glimpse of West face of mount Kailash shrouded in clouds and then the first clear view of North face of Mount Kailash and I couldn't control my tears and bowed down in deep gratitude. Deraphuk literally means  Cave of the female Yak horns". It gives the closest view of Mount Kailash (North face).

As I reached Deraphuk, I saw few people going further towards Charan Sparsh as we had got permission for it. Since I was too tired and exhausted, I sat near our hut with tea and Parle G. As I kept gazing at Mount Kailash, I felt a strong bolt of energy running through me and at that moment I knew I had to gather strength and reach Charan Sparsh. I told myself that this was a pilgrimage, a homage to my father and how could I leave it mid way. I was already late and clouds were looming above. Deraphuk is at an altitude of around 16700 feet and Charan sparsh goes upto 17800 feet covering distance of around 3 to 4 kms over uneven boulders and rocks. Some people gave up in the middle but I persisted. ONe thinks that one has reached Kailash but you still haven't. As you see Kailash more closer, you feel invigorated. I was dehydrated and exhausted but when I finally reached, I could not control my emotions. I wailed and wailed. Touching Mount Kailash was a defining moment of the Yatra. I could feel my father's spirit smiling from up above. I felt papa was there putting his hand on my head and blessing me. I took water from there, did some pooja and came back to Deraphuk. Basic accommodation is provided at Deraphuk. It was cold and windy. We didn't get permission to go to Ashthapad.

Charan Sparsh
As I was tired, I retired to bed after having dinner only to be woken up at 8pm by impending medical emergency. One of our young female yatris was feeling unwell. She was not feeling well since morning but didn't tell. She was having symptoms of HACE (High altitude cerebral edema), which is life threatening. She was drowsy, nauseous and had projectile vomiting and couldn't walk in straight line without falling. Her oxygen saturation was around 65-70. My worst fears came true. So I had to go into doctor mode and treat her and make her descend down to Taklakot to save her life. Thanks to our liaison officer, our medical kit was not with us. It felt so exasperating. I thankfully had dexona injection with me. I gave her oxygen, injection and other medicines. Someone had portable oxygen and we gave her some puffs. I told my LO that we immediately need to descend her to lower altitude. It was raining outside and permission needs to be taken from MEA to facilitate the evacuation, which takes time. All the yatris were around her giving her support and courage.

Another problem was our guide who said there is no need for evacuation and that is when little knowledge becomes dangerous.I put my foot forward that she needs to be evacuated otherwise she might not survive. Her situation was becoming worse and her drowsiness was increasing. Finally she was evacuated. Thankfully we were on our first day of parikrama and it was possible to evacuate her by car. She descended from 16500 feet to around 12000 feet, which was also not safe but she couldn't go beyond Taklakot. Her situation dramatically improved and I thanked Lord Shiva and my dad for giving me strength and opportunity to help someone.I was so tired and worn out and was thinking tomorrow is the toughest day and how will I do it. It was already 10.30 pm and we had to leave by 6.30 am tomorrow covering 24 kms and Dolma la at around 18500 feet.

Half an hour after I slept, I was woken up again and informed that another young male yatri was not responding. Another medical emergency. Another young guy had symptoms of HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema), low saturation, cough with frothy sputum .After whatever medicines were available, I took a call that both needed to be evacuated. Our Liaison officer made a Call to MEA and thankfully there was a dirt road from there to Taklakot. It was raining heavily and our guide was full of tantrums unwillingly to arrange a vehicle. After much chaos, a vehicle was arranged and both were descended to lower altitudes along with the portable oxygen. It was so exhausting and it was already 1 am. Tomorrow was a long day of crossing Drolma La covering around 25 kms. I prayed to Lord Shiva to give me strength for the coming day. Finally I dozed off. I woke at 3 am to pee and was bedazzled by the sight of milky way adorning north face of Mount Kailash. At that moment I was transfixed and rued why I didn't have my tripod on me. Also I was extremely tired of happenings of night and went back to sleep for the long day ahead.

Next part of blog will be about day 2 and 3 of Kailash Parikrama.

  • Never take kitchen staff as your porter even if they speak Hindi because they will abandon you mid-way and move on to reach the campsite towards end to cook food, which would leave you without your luggage and supplies towards the end.
  • Most of the porters assigned are Tibetan who speak neither Hindi or English, so most of the communication is done in sign language. Make sure your luggage does not exceed 6-7 kgs at the most and tell them to walk with you.
  • Take plastic bottles to carry Manasarovar jal and jal from Kailash. Take M-Seal and tape/adhesive with you to secure the bottle cap.
  • Female porters are more kind and considerate and would walk along with you. Don't forget to tip your porters adequately as they help you in such adverse conditions.
  • Always keep your common medical bag with you. 
  • Hydrate adequately and carry Diamox and portable oxygen, if required. 
  • For your parikrama lasting 3 days, do not forget to carry energy bars, medicines, warm clothes, rain gear in your day pack.

IMPORTANT ADVICE: We should be blessed that we are chosen for this yatra and it is our responsibility to not litter and keep Devbhoomi clean. Carry your plastic wraps that you use with you and dispose them later. Try to clean the trail. Tell your porter not to litter. Gutka and chips packets lie everywhere. Particularly distressing was to see shores of Manasarovar littered with used underwear packets, ghee packets, used sanitary napkins etc. It was distressing and abominable. A place, which is so pious to us must be respected by all of us and deserves a conscious effort by all yatris to lead a cleaning drive as and when possible. Don't forget to do your bit, even if others are not doing it. 

To be continued..
Click here to read previous part of Yatra

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Vipassana Meditation Retreat Course - My 10 days of Experience in Silence

Four years back when my sister did her 10-day Vipassana course, I looked at her with disdain and thought how could she waste her 10 days doing nothing but meditating. I told her if I ever were to get these many days, I would rather go on a trek than spend time on Vipassana in silence and isolation.

Fast forward to November 2017, I have now completed my 10-day Vipassana course and I can’t help but chuckle at the idea of saying ‘no’ to anything else in life. For those of you who don’t know what this is;  it’s 10 days of meditation close to 11 hours a day, and one is not allowed to speak, make eye contact, read, write, listen to music, sing, exercise, or indulge in any form of entertainment  (no phones,book,diary etc). Women and men are segregated and first meditation begins at 4.30 in morning! I am sure many of you will be way! I too was few years back until I decided to go. Hope my experience will give you an insight and information about Vipassana Meditation Course.

Reaching the centre
As I left the Vipassana center at Dharamkot (Dharamshala, India) on the morning of Nov. 12th, Gautam (my husband) was walking up the mountain trail to receive me. His eyes lit up as he came closer to welcome me back in the real world and as we walked back to where he was staying, I felt as if I was shuttling between 2 worlds. Back in the balcony of our room overlooking the valley and McLeod Ganj, we sipped hot tea and he asked me about my last 11 days. And so it began..

The centre

Due to my avid love for mountains, I always wanted to do Vipassana at the Dharamkot center. Since I had already done my Buddhism course at Tushita Center at Dharamkot last year in 2016, I knew the area. Since the course gets booked in advance, I remember staying awake until 12 one night in early September to reserve my seat in the course. In fact, I had registered for the course last year also, which I couldn’t attend somehow. That’s why everyone expected me to bail this year as well. But little did I know what lay ahead.

The 10-day Course is an introductory course to Vipassana Meditation, which is 10 full days of meditation ending the morning of the 11th day by 7:30 am.

Vipassana means to see things as they really are. An insight into the true nature of reality. It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.

Why I went for Vipassana
Somewhere in life, all of us lose touch with reality and become robotic beings going about our daily lives. I know I did. Anger, happiness, joy, sadness all sit huddled next to each other and we are always ready to react quickly at the slightest of things in life. It’s as if you lose touch with your real self. That’s how it came to pass for me as I found myself at the crossroads of my life with overwhelming emotions, anger, and I realized that something had to change in my life. Although I had taken a few other meditation courses, I had always been intrigued by Vipassana. It seemed more like a challenge that I wanted to face. I knew that it was unlike mountaineering and had its own challenges. Merely sitting for hours at a stretch and meditating was something that had been alien to me. But before I signed up, I knew I could do it. I would be able to last 11 days of intense meditation, silence and come out with a better understanding of myself. At the end of the course, by digging into my psyche, I was able to realize that joy that we feel in our daily lives is impermanent. True happiness waits further away along the shores of our soul’s realm. It could never be purchased, but only be experienced through self inquiry and awareness.

Journey through the course

Day 0: The overnight bus from Delhi got me into McLeod Ganj early morning around 6 am. Upon reaching, I caught a ride on a rickshaw to Dharamkot where I had breakfast and tea. After whiling away some time, I entered the Vipassana center around 11 am where men and women were segregated. We were then led to our meditation rooms, which seemed more like a cell with only a bed and a table. After putting away my luggage, I wandered around Dharamkot and returned back to the Center at 2 pm for registration and to check in any belongings that were not allowed inside the center. I said goodbye to my phone, food items, diary, books etc. for the next 11 days. For me personally, food was going to be the biggest challenge considering the limited meal options available during the course. The volunteers who help organize the course seemed friendly and so did the other female course mates with whom I interacted. The meditation room, which would be my home for next 11 days made me slightly claustrophobic at first. In evening, we were briefed on rules and regulations and on the principle of noble silence. All who attend Vipassana course must conscientiously undertake the following five precepts for the duration of the course:
  • to abstain from killing any being;
  • to abstain from stealing;
  • to abstain from all sexual activity;
  • to abstain from telling lies;
  • to abstain from all intoxicants.

The Code of Discipline

The foundation of the practice is sīla — moral conduct. Sīla provides a basis for the development of samādhi — concentration of mind; and purification of the mind is achieved through paññā — the wisdom of insight. Noble silence was to be strictly followed and no interaction with anyone was allowed. After 8 pm, the noble silence began and we were to observe it for the entire duration of the course. After having khichdi for dinner, we all retired to our rooms. From 4.30 am the next day, the meditation regime would begin.

Daily Schedule

Day 1-10
This was to be our daily schedule from day 1-10. The toughest thing was to get up at 4 in the morning. You can’t escape the loud gong, which is rung and after that all sevaks (volunteers) come at your doorstep and keep ringing the bell until you wake up. First morning meditation happens from 4.30 to 6.30 am. Designated places in the meditation hall are allotted to all students with males and females segregated. Dharamkot Vipassana Center is surrounded by pine and Deodar (Cedar) trees and sun intermittently shines flirtatiously through the leaves. Since it was early November and beginning of winter, there was slight nip in the air and we would reach the meditation hall bundled in our warm shawls.
My small room
Dharamkot center has lot of monkeys and one girl was bitten by a monkey and I was forced to break my silence to allow the Doctor in me take charge and give her appropriate vaccination.

Lunch is served at 11 am and consists of Rice, Roti, vegetables, daal mildly spiced without onion and garlic. There is no dinner, but puffed rice and tea are given at 5 pm. For old meditators, only lemon water is provided at 5 pm. I thought I wouldn’t be able to manage without regular meals, but as the course progressed, I realized that I did not need that much food. During rarely available free time, I would watch the monkeys create havoc, Sun playing hide and seek, listen to rustling leaves and heaving winds. Since it was chilly in November, we were in our woolens. Laundry facility is also available at nominal charge. If you have any special food requirements, it is not provided. One lady in our batch was pregnant and adequate meals were provided for her. All our meditation and other sessions was started with the sound of the gong, which directed our day instead of our watches. By 9.30 pm, everyone was in their bed.
The first three days of meditation are Anapana Meditation, which means mindfulness of breathing followed by observing sensations around and below the nose area. From 6.30 am until 8 am, I had free time. During this time, I would have breakfast followed by shower. Breakfast used to be wholesome with tea, cereal, fruits, etc. We were supposed to wash our utensils after each meal. It was quite striking to see such a large group of people (meditators) dining together without a word or gesture being exchanged with anyone. Vipassana meditation is free for all and in the end you may make a donation. I earnestly appreciated the selfless service of volunteers during the course.

On some days, the long hours of meditation really become tedious. I wish there was Yoga or some sort of physical exercise available for our aching bodies from long hours of sitting and meditation. I used to really look forward to SN Goenka’s teaching in evenings as it was a welcome detour from long hours of meditation. I used to listen to discourses in English as I found it hard to follow the ones in Hindi. Goenka Ji’s discourses are always focused on having realization through direct experience and not at intellectual level.

For the first three days of the course, I had zillion thoughts buzzing through my head refusing to go, but the best thing was to watch your thoughts come and go and concentrate on your breath. Around 10-12 hours of meditation happens each day and at times, it becomes very hard to sit in the same posture for extended periods of time. Each minute feels like an hour. Chairs and backrests are provided for people who need them. Personally, I wanted to run away and leave the course on the third day as the long hours of meditation seem to never end and the endless thoughts frustrate you. In hindsight, I’m glad that I endeavored to persevere and successfully finished the course. Around 6-7 female students left the course midway. On day 4, I started reading the labels on my shampoo bottles and collecting pebbles. I had read instructions and details outside meditation hall a million times. My mind begged for intellectual stimulation.

From fourth day onwards, one is taught Vipassana meditation, in which one experiences and observes bodily sensations, both good and bad and merely observes them without having aversion or craving. It focuses on maintaining an equanimous state of mind and observing life unfold as a detached self. It puts great emphasis on having an inner discourse devoid of rituals and mantras. It talks about having deep compassion for all beings and understanding the nature of misery, which is attachment. Anicca or impermanence means that everything shall pass and nothing remains forever. By watching our gross and subtle sensations come and go, we delve deeper into the phenomenon of anicca and can incorporate it in our daily lives. During long hours of meditation, my whole life flashed in front of me. I relived all moments of anger, tears, frustration, loss, happiness, hidden fears, aspirations, and dreams. And yet as I finished my course, I found this deep sense of calmness, that indescribable happiness, that quiet mind and overflowing joy and abundance. Vipassana starts with observing sensations in each body part and as you progress, you do multiple body scans and observe different sensations as detached self with equanimous state of mind.

Day 11 : Metta day
This is last day of meditation and the day to meet and greet. Morning meditation happens as usual followed by Metta meditation from 9-10.15 am and after that the noble silence ends. Joyful faces are all around, chatting and sharing their experiences. We got all our stuff back except for mobile phones which we received at 4 pm. I was ecstatic to get back my diary and write about my experiences. One can make voluntary donation of whatever amount one wants or feels. Then special lunch is served followed by meditation and metta chanting “sabka mangal ho”, a prayer for wellness of all beings. At the end of meditation, I was all in tears and left the place with more compassion, awareness and peace, realizing that bitterness towards people, situations would only make me bitter and embracing life without judgement will help me grow as a person. We all chatted till late night and we were full of contentment our faces were brimming with the radiance of inner joy. I slept with sheer joy and gratitude.
Fellow meditators

On morning of
day 12, I left to face the real world and seeing my husband waiting at gate smiling made me realize how his absence made me aware of his everlasting presence. Because without his support and encouragement, I would have pushed it to some other year. We sat on a bench in solitude and I shared my experiences with him after which we went to our favourite cafe in Mcleod Ganj to savour some hot tea and homemade bread.

What worked for me
  • We are slaves of our mind and like a computer program, our reactions are preset.
  • Vipassana taught me to observe as detached self and with equanimous state and then how so ever will I react will not be an unconscious predetermined response. 
  • Happiness is not outside. 
  • There is no end to craving and the real journey is within. 
  • Helped me in quieting my inner turbulence and anger.
  • No one else could do it for me. I had to make efforts. Not to forget the body aches and numbness. 
  • This too shall pass, the bad and the good.
  • Enjoy every moment in the fact that it is ephemeral. Love without attachments and clinging.
  • I could sit through traffic and honking without excessive cursing. 
  • Take what works for you.

                    What did not work for me

                    • There is no emphasis on posture or breathing.
                    • We are asked to stop taking all non prescription medicine and stop any previous spiritual practices during the course.
                    • I felt drowsy, bored and lethargic due to long hours of meditation.
                    • The course did not include any physical yoga.
                    • Not allowing assimilation of other practices, rituals or mantras.
                    • Teachers are not equipped enough to clear doubts.
                    • After sometime, lectures become tedious and repetitive with over emphasis on the fact that Vipassana is the best technique. 
                    • Ending of course was too abrupt. Not a word from teacher on course completion. Only relying on Goenka’s lectures.
                    • Not exactly non-sectarian as claimed during the course. There is a lot of Buddhist influence in techniques. 
                    • I didn't like complete segregation of men and women.

                    Leaving the Centre after completing course

                    Before leaving the centre
                    After all these days of meditation, I realized that sitting silently and doing nothing is not quite easy as it might seem. I would invest time in adjusting my pillow’s position to make it comfortable. Yet, as mind quietened towards the end, I enjoyed it and no longer waited for it to end. I sobbed, cried and deep catharsis took place inside me during the course and I realized the art of living. It is not easy because for the first time, you come face to face with reality and are witness to bitter truths of your life, which you always evaded.

                    Be well and thanks for reading.