Vipassana- Meditate your way to peace & bliss

How often we feel as if sinking into a quicksand of never-ending problems resulting in unbearable agony? What of those times when we are virtually pessimism personified? Aren’t there moments of gloom making life woeful & full of misery? Sadly the answer to above questions is yes. This yes makes our lives seem very difficult leading many to a varying state of depression.

There was such a phase in my life around 5, 6 years ago. Nothing was going as I would wish it to be. Professional life had taken some serious jolts with not a clear path visible. The agony in personal life was excruciating as if I had cut open an inseparable part of my whole being. All this had turned me into an irritable angry reactionary person who was a cause of disharmony everywhere he went. It was in this state that somebody told me about a meditation technique which may rid oneself of all the mental pain & provide that elusive peace in life. Vipassana, I was told can be of help. I researched & found that Vipassana is no piece of cake. It is tough & will take a strong resolve to complete it successfully. What’s so tough about it? For one it is a 10 day long retreat wherein all your communication from outside world is cut. One has to take a vow of Noble Silence where one can’t communicate even using gestures except with the asst. teacher or course servers. Plus one has to sit mostly cross-legged for almost around 12 to 13 hours daily for meditation. The more I read the more curious I got & finally enrolled for the camp. That was how I got in touch of this precious technique 5 years ago in 2010. I successfully completed the camp & all that remained there was peace & a calmer self. I didn’t even realize the change. But people around me were positively surprised. All that anger, frustration, attachments, cravings et.al, seemed to have vamoosed giving way to happiness, serenity & joy. With time however the discipline was broken & the practice took a backseat, resulting again in the rise of negatives although to a much lesser degree. I would say whatever practice I had of Vipassana helped me tide over reverses in business & my decisions in life. I was better equipped to handle them this time. It was then that I enrolled myself again for the camp this month which ideally should have been my fifth. Nevertheless I again came out a much calmer person with much peace & a lot of gratitude to Late Sh S N Goenka ji, the teacher who brought this lost technique back to India from Myanmar. I am Practicing it daily for at least 2 hours now which fills me with a lot of positivity.

The technique no doubt is tough. The mind never wants you to be in control. Just as a chain smoker knows smoking to be injurious to health but can’t help smoking because mind doesn’t allow. Vipassana teaches you to tame that flighty fickle mind very effectively. And then lets you understand the law of impermanence not by sermons but through experience. Ascribing the root cause of problems to the external factors is what we naturally do strictly as per the conditioning of our mind. We do not look inwards and plainly refuse to accept the fact that the problem is within us. That the feeling of misery or unhappiness is ours & ours only, that the craving for what we like & aversion for what we don’t along with the attachments, to begin with is essentially the cause of all our problems. That the moment I generate any ill will, animosity or any other negativity, I become restless & agitated losing all my peace. That it is only when WE REACT to an external stimuli, we get disturbed. Through Vipassana as one looks inside, s/He begins to understand this very law of nature & that nothing is permanent. Joyous times also pass away & so do the bad times. That to remain equanimous in all situations will lead us to eternal peace. All this learning is purely experiential & not sermonic. Gradually progressing on this path definitely brings much-needed all-weather happiness. One should note that it can be very challenging physically & mentally especially when you have to sit & focus for long hours. But believe me all that pain dissipates as you progress during the course. Remember “The toughest steel is forged in the hottest fire”. For those unable to sit due to any medical condition, a chair can be requested before the course begins. It is also advisable not to go setting any unreal expectations. The experience is unique to each person. I have deliberately not discussed my experience during meditation so as not to paint any picture for others to seek.

Vipassana also doesn’t imply one to become a dud in life losing all interest in work. Neither it seeks to make one a monk. It teaches to work selflessly without attaching self to the outcome of task. It makes one a person at peace with himself & with a high degree of empathy towards others & the society. Rest everything falls into place. People irrespective of any faith, caste, race or gender can practice Vipassana. It is completely A-Religious. The goal if there has to be one becomes peace, peace inside & peace outside. May all beings be happy. Happy meditating. For further information do visit https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

Advertisements

The Nomadic Soul

Dark are the days which churn sweat of pain inducing misery to be glad,
weak mind in strong shackles with mocking dejection singing in joy,
beaten resolve abandons woeful hope when pessimism breaches citadel of Troy,
It is then the instincts drive sense and the soul longs to be Nomad.

The peck of light beckoning hope with the roamer to become nature clad,
when breaking hollow social fetters to embrace woods is the only ploy,
cautious soul senses  glimpses of liberty where gloom destroy,
It is then the instincts drive sense and the soul transforms to being Nomad

Traversing hills covering miles, in sweet pain, the rover laughs like mad,
driven by confidence thrills and bliss merge, ecstasy and mirth redeploy,
peaks of mountains, sounds of rivulets, chirping birds unleash unbound joy,
It is then the instincts prove right for the soul is a joyous Nomad.

Bright are the days which churn sweat of peace inducing serenity to be glad,
strong mind in broken shackles with cheering harmony singing in joy,
winning resolve embraces hope when optimism secures citadel of Troy,
Ah, the ideal realm shapes only when the instincts are forthright and soul a Nomad.

Call Of The Mountains

Before I begin a warning. Mountaineering is a tough sport. People have died doing that. Take it up only after due consideration. But the lure of the mountains is too strong. People like me cannot ignore it for long. This is the reason why I had been contemplating on taking up mountaineering as a sport for some time. I was a beginner and had little information about this sport. All I possessed, was a deep passion for the mountains and wilderness. A thorough research led me to find the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling, India as the oldest and among the best Mountaineering institutes in the world. I was convinced and thus applied for the basic course in November’12 at HMI. And so began an adventure which would end on a happy as well as on a sad note.

HMI Darjeeling, India

HMI Darjeeling, India

It was on 17th of November last year that I reported at HMI. I was allotted the hostel as well as the other basic necessary items as bed sheets, a spoon and a glass etc. Overall 60 students joined the course. As expected all were from different backgrounds. Almost 40% were the personnel from the defense forces, sent by their respective units, 10 odds were students from Nagaland sponsored by the Assam rifles all fit and fine, as always. Rest were civilians like me. I must admit that I was not at my fittest best at 73 KG’s and with lack of any significant physical activity for the last 8 years, when I had left the Indian Military Academy. Anyhow the course began on the 18th as scheduled. It was to consist of three Major phases and a lighter 4th phase. The 1st Phase was to be completed at HMI and included physical training, yoga, classes on mountaineering etc. The 2nd Phase was to be the toughest one when the course would trek up the mountains to reach the Base Camp at 14,600 feet at Chowri Khang in north Sikkim. The 3rd Phase would involve ice craft, including glacier walk and ice climbing among other things. It also included coming back to HMI. The 4th phase includes written test and outdoor climbing practice and closing ceremony of the course.

It was on the 18th that the phase 1 began with the morning PET. We ran for 5 Km’s criss crossing the hills of Darjeeling. The push ups, sit ups and other exercises were common. I felt great after the morning exercises. It was rejuvenating. The course was then divided into groups or ropes as they say in mountaineering. After breakfast we had to attend different classes on mountain craft, equipments, Himalayas, medical problems at high altitude, the rope knots etc. All these classes were held during the 1st phase in due course. In the evenings we used to watch short movies on mountaineering and rock climbing, I must say highly inspiring.

Mountaineering Equipment

Mountaineering Equipment

The mountaineering equipment was issued on the second day. The day followed the same routine with an exception of morning Yoga after jogging. The third day introduced us to the art of rock climbing when we were taken to the rock climbing area of the HMI. Now this craft was out of the world and I thoroughly enjoyed rock climbing and rappelling (including long sling) over a period of next 4 days.

I also did the indoor and outdoor wall climbing in the premises of HMI. It was a liberating experience. You have to overpower your inhibitions and fears alike and once you do that it’s exhilarating and gives a natural boost to your confidence.

Rock Climbing Area, HMI

Rock Climbing Area, HMI

To prepare us for the tough trek, we were also made to walk for at least 5 km’s with the heavy load of around 25 kg’s. It was excruciating and it continued for 3 days. I now realize that it was the most logical thing to do before advancing on the trek as it psychologically prepared us for what was coming.

Soon enough phase one was over and we packed our equipment,  all set to reach the base camp at Chowri Khang, Sikkim. We had all heard about it being the toughest trek in India especially with a back-load of 25 Kg’s. It is said that Everest base camp is slightly easier to reach than the HMI’s base camp. Some of the students were asked to go back as their BP was much above the normal. Anyhow we reached Yoksum in Sikkim by bus, from where we would enter the Kanchendzonga National Park. There we pitched in a tent and rested for the night. Next 3 days were going to be the toughest and most challenging of the life so far.

Trekkers

Trek Begins

Day one of the trek involved a distance of 13 Km’s of hilly terrain towards Bakhim at 9000 feet above mean sea level. We had to cross 4 bridges and only then we would reach Bakhim. I huffed and puffed, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind to reach the 4th bridge. Bakhim was just above the hill. With the resolve to reach the base camp, we all started to scale up. Up till now the trek was only moderately difficult with ups, downs and plains. But now the case was different. It was up, up, up and only up with increasing steepness at every step, the shoulders were falling apart and the steps were getting heavier. It was a test of strength and stamina. But the goal was set and I did not have to give in. Extremely tired but highly motivated I reached Bakhim. It took roughly four and half hours to cover the distance. The whole effort was highly satisfying although we all got a taste of what was to come in the next 3 days.

Bakhim, Sikkim, India

Bakhim, Sikkim, India

At Bakhim we stayed at the Forest Rest House (looked haunted :)) and rested. It was bitterly cold at night and the feather jacket and the sleeping bag were a big support. The next day was also a rest day. Still we were taken further up for acclimatization and brought back. The mess staff was Godsend, always a step ahead and provided us with food and tea at specified times. The ration and other required items had already been sent on yaks and mules. So food was not a problem. At this juncture another fellow student developed sickness and was promptly sent back along with a Sherpa. All the time the instructors repeatedly asked us not to hide any kind of sickness and rightly so.

“Dzongri” or the meeting place of man and the mountain Gods was the next stop for us before the base camp. At 13,300 feet above mean sea level, it was the next challenge. The way was completely steep, the tree line would gradually recede along with the oxygen level and the shoulders were already in pain. To add to it, the weather was cold and damp. All set, we loaded the rucksack at the back and started climbing up the hill which only went from steeper to steepest. Soon enough the thigh muscles were screaming in pain, the shoulders wanted to throw the weight and the lungs gasped for more oxygen. But I moved on. The mind was ruling the body. One step taken is the distance shortened was the mantra. In a state of tiredness but with a strong will power we all continued. On the way we crossed Tsokha and Phedang. The cold was getting intense. The water streams running through the way had completely frozen.

Above the clouds, Dzongari

Above the clouds, Dzongari

Facing and braving these extremities, I finally reached the camp at Dzongari. It was two in the afternoon and this was undoubtedly the most arduous and challenging trek of my life so far. Reaching Dzongri was a delight. I had lunch and settled myself at the tent for the permanent camp was already at full capacity. It was freezing cold and strong chilly winds were blowing at their prime. The water we were using was flowing down an icy stream. Later in the afternoon we were taken further up the mountain for acclimatization and there it was, the world’s third highest peak, Kanchenjunga, the nearest that I could see the peak. This was the moment of my life. Up there we had left the clouds below which seemed like a lake. The raw beauty of mountains was at its prime.

Mount Kanchenjunga

Mount Kanchenjunga

The night was freezing. It was dinner time. But somehow I didn’t feel like eating anything. All of us had been warned of the altitude sickness. Appetite loss is also a sign of this. Was altitude sickness getting me? It was only a thought and I brushed it aside.

Next morning was the final leg of the trek to the Base Camp. It was an altitude gaining trek of 13 Km, where we had to cross the Dzongri La mountain pass at 14,500 feet, climb down to walk through Beak Bakri- The garden of poison and trek up further to reach Chowri Khang, the HMI base camp at 14, 600 feet above mean sea level. I could eat only half of the breakfast and started on with the trek. Soon enough the body was tired. The oxygen level was getting down drastically. But we all continued. Mountains after mountains we crossed finally reaching the Dzongri La pass. It was at its highest best given our physical condition. Simply sheer Raw Mountain.

Dzongari La Pass

After Dzongari La Pass

Still we continued taking it step by step and reaching the top in time. Getting down was no easy task at all. The pressure on the knees was killing. Finally we got down and then started on to descend another mountain after some distance. It was the narrowest of paths and a small mistake would have taken any of us to sure death in deep gorge sideways. But we managed to reach safely at Beak Bakri and rested for some time. The final approach to base camp turned out to be the toughest of all. It seemed near there, yet so far. The shoulders were giving in, the lungs were not satisfied, and the feet refusing to move, the leg muscles falling apart; yet the base camp was the motivation. I continued. One step at a time and then there it was, the base camp, the destination. I had done it. I was most happy to watch and step in the HMI base camp.

I settled myself in the hut along with other fellow mountain scholars. We were immediately asked to wear the snow boots(3 kg’s in weight) roam around and not sleep. In lunch also I didn’t feel like taking anything but had dal anyway.

It was icy cold and winds were harsh. It went dark very early around 4.30 pm and we all depended on our torches as had been the case during the entire trek. I took light dinner and despite tiredness, the sleep was not comfortable as I was constantly waking up due to suffocation and breathlessness. Somehow the night passed and it was time for us to climb another mountain, where on top of it we had a lecture on surrounding peaks. There the icy winds produced a kind of mild headache which people say is common at high altitudes. Coming back I did Side Rappelling at a rock nearby.

en-route the Glacier

en-route the Glacier

It was amazing. However the concern was the appetite loss along with puking sensation. The personal hygiene had already gone for a toss and the dirty drinking water didn’t help. (At this point I must mention that we were instructed not to take bath since the very beginning so that we become habitual of such situation in the mountains.) The headache had also started to build up.

Anyhow next day the trek to the glacier began which was around 16000 feet. First we climbed a mountain and then trekked further 4 km’s and literally on a bed of ice to reach the Glacier for the ice walking practice. Now at this point of time the unexpected and the unwanted began to take shape. While walking towards the Glacier, I suffered from severe headache, dizziness, dehydration, energy loss and puking sensation. Still I continued. As soon as I reached the Glacier, I just blacked out and fell down.

Ice Climbing, HMI

Ice Climbing Area, HMI

The altitude sickness had completely taken over me. I was sent back to the base camp along with a Sherpa. The medical assistant did a thorough check-up, gave some medicines and suggested me not to push further as it may lead to severe health problems. It was disappointing to have come so far and only 7 more days to go. But as they say mountain will always be there. You can always come back only if you are healthy and fit. I had no choice but to accept the suggestion of the medical assistant to leave the course. It was heart breaking. By evening, 8 more people reported sick. Next day in sick condition we started back through the same difficult route. An instructor and a Sherpa accompanied us. It was a long march of 25 km’s with load, straight to Bakhim with no stoppage at Dzongri. It was an effort of a life time. We had to reach there before sunset and braving all difficulties we managed to do that. All of us were extremely tired and the knees were almost numb. However the only good thing was the increasing Oxygen level as we trekked down. Next day we started the trek to Yoksum and reached there at noon. From there we hired a cab to Darjeeling which dropped us there at seven in the evening. Next day we completed the formalities and made arrangements to come back home.

This was my tryst at HMI. My weight reduced and I lost almost 3 inches of my waistline during the effort which feels awesome. Although it ended on a sad note when owing to sickness, I had to leave the course midway; I learned many lessons of life. Not to give up in adversity, to sustain in difficult situations and a resulting strong will power is what I have gained out of this experience. I have now resolved to go next time and finish off the work that I couldn’t complete this time.

The Rise

O You glorious one, how befuddled am I at my ignorance,

for it is I who tries to rise from the slumber, nor You.
It is I who strives to climb from the fathomless deeps of the dark, nor You.
And yet It is I who willingly embrace those sinking fissures of the dark!
And You? You, the fireball of immense energy, are forever still, forever shining, forever burning, forever there, equanimous, spreading warmth and hope with sparkling rays.
You do not rise, You never rise!
It is I who wills to rise, from the self inflicted fall into the deep and scary gorges of the dark.

The Ignorant Prisoner

Prisons are frightening. Imagine dwelling in them.  A dark, dingy, filthy arena, filled with gloom and hopelessness soaking in it the cold countless breaths of a helpless existence bearing a torture of ever needling silence and inaction. Visualize a forced seclusion into nothingness with solid iron bars caging the freewheeling spirit-that wretched, despicable, abhorrent living, enduring slurs and stigma unto death. The horrors are unnervingly wordless at best.  None of the majority of the living us would dare to envisage a prison, least of all visualizing a Prison-life. The unconstrained, sovereign ‘La Grande Majorité’ is busy in daily chores, running a marathon against life, breathing fresh stale air, walking distances, creating wealth or just surviving in this free world. Some vouch for the freedom, others take it for granted and almost all adhere to the view that they are enfranchised. Ask them if you are a prisoner and a befuddled, scorned reply is a big no. Tell them that they are Prisoners, and the questioner is despised and laughed at. Who can blame them? The notion of a Prisoner is a creature captive in walls suffering for crimes he committed against humanity! Correct they are in vehemently believing in their seeming physical liberty and sovereignty.

However this notion of freedom in essence is Utopian at best. May it be denied, but prisoners we are -Prisoners of hope, caging the conscience in the longing of desires which may seldom fulfill; Prisoners of despair, tightly chaining the buoyant spirit with tears of lament;  Prisoners of love, fettering the reason with slavish unidirectional pursuit of emotions; Prisoners of hate, cuffing compassion with vengeance and a hurtful zeal; Prisoners of ignorance sending the rationale to deep dungeons; Prisoners of possessed knowledge,  putting bilboes of contempt around innocence; Prisoners of unclear traditions and rituals, shamelessly wearing stocks of blindness to be mocked at by progress; Prisoners of religions, drinking in the opium of the cult, pillorying sanity and bound in the shackles of the fanatic; Prisoners of lust, celebrating the filthiest of the basest cravings of this skeletal human penitentiary; Prisoners of attachments, binding like snakes stupefying, hissing warnings to stop, to prevent exploring and quests; Prisoners of identities, hiding, cloaking, clutching the real, the self, creating multiple us; And prisoners of this mysterious structure of cells, bones and tissues, leashing inside the freest of elements, the soul.

The very existence is manacled in the countless mysteries of the human subconscious, unraveled time and again in the quest of survival. These shackles have the best quality of being abstruse and still setting the direction. The existence takes the fall metamorphosing into a willful happy prisoner.  The willing ignorant prisoner derives pseudo pleasures in every single moment of being enslaved and forever dreads the release from the prison. He fears the liberator. The liberation itself is painful and brings the element of unknown. He longs to prolong the imprisonment, utilizing every resource available to avoid liberation which is the only certainty in life amid uncertainties.

Accepting and realizing that we are prisoners of such latent, basest desires, and acting sincerely to remain unaffected is perhaps the only way we can unleash and unshackle the free spirit, the soul. Perhaps this may put several out of misery, perhaps give a meaning to existence, and perhaps make the final liberation into a joyful process. Tough it is for again a want, a desire is at work metamorphosing the self to a willful ignorant prisoner.

S.U.C.C.E.S.S

How short is the word success! Only seven letters and when they innocently combine, a colossal phenomenon takes shape, an enigma most sought after in this world. With an incredible power to manifest itself in different forms, it has a bitter-sweet strong lure. Right from the first baby steps to giant leaps in life, the motivation is success. Wanting to succeed is human and there is nothing wrong in chasing success. There are two contentions however. One- what are the parameters of success? Two- who defines the parameters of success?

The answer to the first question is rather a simpler one. There are plenty to choose. From short-term to long ones, from material to spiritual, the range of such parameters is vast. Depending on the individual ability, the idea of success can be defined. The second question is the one which has far-reaching consequences. In the larger context of the world it is the society which judges success. Name, fame and wealth are its common and well ingrained parameters. Nothing is wrong if the individual is in sync with them and desires them. Steps will be taken by him to achieve success in such terms by engaging in efforts to make a name or create wealth. The resulting success will be celebrated and failures ostracized.  Nothing is wrong again for the individuals who have a divergent view on success and who have “I give a damn” attitude. They are the brave hearts, the rebels, who create their own sense of success in whatever they may do. Who cares what others think of their actions. They set out on their own paths and seek success on their own terms. The trouble brews with those who have divergent views and yet do not have the heart to undertake what they want to do and comply meekly with what the society wants them to do. Theirs is a story of misery. They may be successful in public eye, internally they suffocate. A sense of hollowness grips them and they simply become flesh and bones walking and working like ‘autobots’ without any zing in life.

The intended point to drive through is to let the individual decide the parameters of success for himself. The first two categories satisfy this hypothesis. It is the individual who sets the measures of success. This may converge or diverge from the viewpoint of the society and which is immaterial. This gives freedom to undertake actions to reach the desired goalposts of success with full zeal and vigor  The third category does everything halfheartedly. It doesn’t serve them well or the society for that matter in the long run for want of quality. Success is no success without a sense of contentment and any person will be content only when he decides what success means to him, what he wants for himself and not be swayed or forced by the prevailing trends in the society. Let your eyes see the success. Let it not be through the judgmental glasses of others which may blind you for eternity.