Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Bodh Gaya and Vipassana- The Grand Finale

Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya
The contrasts between Gaya and Bodh Gaya situated hardly 30 mins away are exhilarating. Unlike other pilgrim towns that I have visited, there was a marked difference in what I felt in Gaya. It wasn't the thousands thronging the station, the streets and the by-lanes for the "Pind-daan" during "Pitru Paksh" at Gaya that was bothering me. There was an eerie sense of negativity and restlessness in that town which was probably explained by understanding the reference to Gaya as being blessed by Vishnu but overpowered by the curses of Sita. " According to the Ramayana, at one point of time Falgu was one of the major rivers of India.
Pind-daan at Falgu
But its fate changed when Lord Ram visited Gaya with wife Sita for
 pinddaan during pitripaksha. While Ram and brother Lakshman were away, to fetch pinddaan material, suddenly an akashvani (celestial announcement) happened, stating that this was the best time to offer pinddaanHonouring the akashvani, Sita performed the pinddaan keeping the Falgu, a Brahmin, a cow, tulsi (holy basil) and a banyan tree (vat) as witnesses. When the two brothers returned, she told them she had performed the ritual on hearing the akashvani. But when she looked at her witnesses, except for the banyan tree none of the others testified that Sita had indeed performed pinddaanThis upset Sita and she cursed the other 4. She cursed Phalgu river that it would be dried on the top (geographically explained to be a subterranean stream), the cow that it would no longer be worshipped from the front, the fire that whatever came in contact with it would be destroyed and the Gaya Brahmins that they would never be satisfied but blessed Akshay vatam that it would remain evergreen. " That atmosphere hence is what happens when you lie. All that changes to a peace within when one enters Bodh Gaya-no wonder for its pristine beauty and serenity that this place was chosen by Buddha to meditate and finally seek Enlightenment.It was here that he discovered that suffering will disappear if we know ourselves. Rediscovered by Buddha himself, Vipassana is nothing else but an insight that cuts through conventional perception to perceive mind and matter as they actually are: impermanent, unsatisfactory, and impersonal.

Vipassana center @ Bodh Gaya
In order to see things the way they are, one ought to have a "beginners mind". Almost as if you are born again into a different place, one has to detach from the world- no communication (10 days of noble silence), no books, no newspapers, no mobiles, no notepad to evoke memories or put down what you feel. Whatever happens in the moment is important and needs to be accepted the way it is- irrespective of the sensation it evokes, the moment is transient and will pass. Attach yourself to a happy moment and you invite misery when it doesn't happen again when you expect it too. Attach yourself to a sad moment and you are perennially miserable missing out the umpteen worthy moments that passed by. In the course of practicing Vipassana, one leads the life of a Bhikshu- surviving on the alms of others.
Bhikshunis @ Bodh Gaya
Imagine every single expense of your stay not being paid by you. Imagine you being served by ex-students of Vipassana who in real life are much highly placed than you are. It is this humility in the life of a Bhikshu that helps us to accept the truth in every moment. Most other forms of meditation involve focusing  your attention on an object or chanting a hymn and temporarily experiencing a sense of calm by suppressing your feelings. But the feelings return when the object of association disappears. In Vipassana, you concentrate on your sensations. the human body experiences umpteen sensations at any given point and each one is just as transient as the other. If our mind is fixated on experiencing a particular sensation, then that part becomes a blind spot- far away from the true nature of sensation that exists there. If not, its a free flow akin to life that has so many experiences to offer. Of course the mind is not quiet or stable when you start doing this- you will be overwhelmed by what comes back as memories, shocked to find out the truth, miserable at what you have done so far so much so that you would want to run away. But that's where Vipassana is different- by making you bring up feelings, thoughts, emotions- it makes you deal with it rather than suppress it. And once you accept the truth, it rises like a bubble from within and disappears from the top of your mast, never to return back and haunt you. 10 days of pure magic worked by you  on you. The addict from Mexico, the cynic from Slovenia, the spiritual from Texas, the prankster from Ireland, the smitten from Australia and the love hurt from India- all had the same childlike smile and seemed to have understood each other for ages without uttering a word. No time before had I loved walking barefoot, no time before had I worried about a sheath of broken glass or soft grass ahead. Not just for speeches, I knew what it was to love life.
Bliss in meditation

Rewind to Oct 2013- in the backdrop of a painful divorce, I had made a great friend. Absolutely unabashed in his approach, he can make cynics take note of everything positive that happens around. For some strange reason, though I started with how unfair things were with me in my marriage - that part that which is true but convenient to speak, I opened up to him about all that I couldn't deal on my own, what I could have done better to save my marriage. He never judged me and for the few moments he did, he more than made it up by admitting to it. Months passed and I knew it was love. But just the thought of falling in it made me shiver. I had been battling a hundred demons inside, one of them convincing me that I was probably too egotistical to sustain a relationship. Six years with a  guy who is now happily married to another classmate and one and half years with a guy who will eventually be happily married, can even make the staunch romantics sit up and wonder what's wrong in your head. Also people are nice to victims. As soon as victims stop getting victimized and fight back, all that sympathy-empathy disappears. And if you happen to be a divorcee who is coming back to life and is in love, God save you from getting stereotyped as a class A whatever. Sept 2014 and Vipassana comes to my rescue- it's the ultimate realization - in common parlance, "shit happens" (shit = events in life + people) and even if it does, learn from it, move on and "Carpe Diem" (seize the moment my friend). So Elizabeth Gilbert after completing her meditation in Kolkata went all the way to Bali where she found love once again. All I had to do post Vipassana was make a quick phone call to Delhi. And since then, boy !!! Has my life been rolling !!! :) :)
Continue reading Bodh Gaya and Vipassana- The Grand Finale

Friday, February 20, 2015


Bodh Gaya and Vipassana- Part 2- The journey

I love train journeys. I can't help but draw parallels with life itself. Isn't life a one way train ticket- you get on board with some who will eventually leave you half way to catch a super fast express forward, others who meet you on the way making every moment enjoyable but making no promises of where they plan to break the journey. Some who get on your nerves and to avoid them, you request the TT to change your seat. But if too many people happen to get on your nerves, the TT would probably stop entertaining your requests and point out that the problem perhaps lies with you. In a journey, you are at your best in the beginning. When you start getting comfortable with seeing familiar faces, you start seeking permanence and wish you see them everyday. You start believing that meeting them was perhaps the purpose of your journey which it is not. You become vulnerable and they also get to see you at your worst. Everything is ephemeral and people you wanted to hold on to sometimes need to leave you behind. They would head for the same destination anyway but may be not on the same train that you picked. And when they bid farewell- they could either be grateful for the moments they spent with you and cherish them for life or scar you citing your vulnerabilities as the reason they rejected you as a co-passenger. It's up to you to realize that there's nothing sad in accepting that we are on our own always. That's the thing about love, life and train journeys- no matter how long they last and where they take you, they are always worth it. And this belief awaited to be strengthened as I completed my 14 hour train journey from Cuttack to Gaya.

Coming up next: Last Part: It's not just Elizabeth Gilbert who found love after meditation. It's not an epic ending. Just a prologue to an eventful start.

Continue reading Bodh Gaya and Vipassana- Part 2- The journey