Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam
The profundity of life resides in the Spaces between all that manifests itself materially. Because it’s here, in the Spaces, where actual creation happens and the most plausible example could be the DNA. How else could we explain the cosmic diversity between the livings organisms of this planet when all of them are made out of the same basic materials- nucleotides comprising some sugars, amino acids and nitrogenous base and some phosphates. The same underlying materials creating species from as simple as a hydra, to as complex as a human, and yet again (especially in humans) so much of diversity existing between members of the same species.
The answer is spaces.
Spaces between the bits and strands of that DNA. It is the spaces where definitions reside, it is the spaces where seeds of creation get sown. It is the spaces where miracles happens and I am sure the Prophet knew this when he said “Let there be spaces in your togetherness” because he must have known that the real magic, the real essence lies in the spaces.
Meditation is the art and science of reaching those spaces, which oftentimes gets cluttered by the cacophony of daily existence and Buddha some 2500 years ago re-discovered a very ancient technique of meditation called Vipassana which is a Pali world meaning insight, or seeing things as they really are. The meditation cosmos comprises many stars and constellations but Vipassana is probably unique among them because of its simplicity, logicality and austere purity. It is a completely practical course based upon scientific exploration of the the physical and meta-physical layers of existence and delivers purity of mind, eliminations of tensions and negativities to all those who learn and practice it seriously.
A completely non-sectarian and universal remedy for universal ills.
This crown-jewel which was rediscovered by Buddha (as it existed even before him) for the benefit of humanity flourished during his lifetime but gradually started loosing it’s efficacy, got corrupted and in due course of time completely disappeared from the land of its origin.
It disappeared from India but flourished in nearby Burma where it was preserved through centuries in its original form. It was here, in Burma that a leading industrialist in 1955, Mr. S.N. Goenka in search for a cure for his migraine came in contact with a great Vipassana teacher Saya Ghi U Ba Khin and became his disciple, and was so deeply influenced that he learned from his master for many years, eventually getting authorized as a teacher of Vipassana meditation.
In 1969 Mr. Goenka came to India to conduct a course in Mumbai for his ailing mother and the rest is history. It was Saya Ghi U Ba Khin’s wish to reestablish the art of Vipassana living in it’s land of origin and to spread it throughout the world and his dream got realized through his disciple Mr. Goenka who in 1976 established the first Vipassana centre at Igatpuri Maharashtra, near Mumbai and from there it spread throughout the world. 170 centres over 90 countries around the world where more than a hundred thousand people from all faiths, religions and beliefs learn Vipassana in more than 59 languages every year.
And that too completely free of cost.
In 10 day( for first time students) and 20 days/30 days( for old students) residential programs with free boarding and lodging, which is sponsored by old students by way of donations which too is not mandatory.
I participated in my first 10 days Vipassana course last year and the experience was life changing. It was life changing because of the way it is structured and imparted. The mantra is not to focus on sermonizing or fostering Intellectualization but to impart something purely Experiential. And by virtue of what one experiences from 4:30 AM in the morning to 9 PM in the evening, the learning stays. It actually succeeds in imparting those tools to the seeker which help develop awareness and equanimity, required to eradicate ignorance, cravings and aversions and to walk on a path which eventually leads to liberation.
The Vipassana course taught by Mr. Goenka is structured around Buddha’s eight fold path divided into 3 stages of Sila (moral practice), Samadhi( practice of concentration) and Panna (wisdom, development of purifying insight).
The practice of Sila is implemented in the course by making all students take certain vows like abstinence(during course duration) from -stealing, killing, sexual misconduct, false speech, intoxicants etc. For entire 10 days one has to be in noble silence- no speech, no writing, no gadgets of any kind. It makes one uneasy initially because of the hyper- communicative world we are used to, but after a while one becomes comfortable and even euphoric at the prospect of being in a silent world for 10 days.
First four days of the course one practices Anapana meditation which in simple terms is developing concentration of the mind by observing one’s breath. Just being aware of it as it come and goes. It is one of the best awareness building exercises I ever attempted and the experience of doing it in course environments is out of this world.
For the remaining days one practices the Vipassana meditation which is a step-by-step method to develop the power of insight and to advance to a point where intuition of truth becomes possible. It is a technique to observe one’s own reality by making physical sensations the object of one’s attention.
The 10 days at the Vipassana retreat was the best investment I ever made on myself and the sheer purity of intent with which it is conducted, devoid of the prevalent paraphernalia (at such places) of frills, histrionics, charismatic discourses and other gimmicks is really commendable.
Kudos to the great master our beloved Mr. Satya Narayan Goenka who made this possible for millions of people like me. Not only for making this treasure reach us- no matter which country we reside in, but by doing so with a degree of honesty and professionalism which is hard to find in today’s world. Never focusing the spotlight on himself, avoiding all expressions of devotions to him and discouraging his students to sit at his feet or treat him like a fancy Guru.
He was a truly spiritual and evolved soul who exuded purity throughout his life making a mammoth Vipassana edifice for humanity which serves one and all completely free of cost relying only on voluntary donations. I don’t know about other places but at Vipassana centres voluntary actually means voluntary. There is no prejudice against someone who donates a paltry amount and no preferred treatment for anyone donating a generous amount.
I wonder if spaces played a role here as well. What came out after a space of 2500 years was no doubt bound to be such beatific and nonpareil in its power to benefit mankind.
After all the magic, the gods, the creation resides there, in those spaces.
As revered Mr Goenka completes his journey and moves back to the source, I know what he must be saying to all of us.
Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam.
May all Beings be Happy….