My second vipassana meditation experience was truly transformational.
And I intend to do it again soon - it really was that good.
Although comparisons are meaningless in the realms of spirituality and meditation, I feel compelled to pen my thoughts, in order to bring clarity to anyone contemplating a second or even their first vipassana course.
Let's begin with how and why my second vipassana meditation experience was 'better' than the first one.
Some concepts and terminology used for describing the experience might be unfamiliar to readers who haven't done vipassana before, but no reason to worry, as you will find all such terms and concepts explained in detail either later on this page or in subsequent pages.
One thing that stands out is the huge qualitative difference in the focus and concentration between the two.
On our second attempt, I, as well as most others, took the precepts more seriously and followed them diligently.
This itself improved the 'outcome' of the course by a factor of 10.
The word outcome is in quotes because meditation is an ongoing, life-long process - there can't be an outcome in ten days, at least not in the sense of how we understand the word in our daily lives.
To illustrate, one of the course precepts is to maintain Noble Silence at all times - silence of the body, speech and mind during the entire duration of the course!
Last time I did the course, I could only truly maintain the silence of speech. The silence of both body and mind were missing.
Even though not talking to other participants, I couldn't prevent eye contact, and took interest in what other participants were doing.
I now realize how distracting that must have been to my practice.
The constant fodder provided by the eyes was enough for the mind to continue playing its old game of forming opinions and passing judgments.
Inevitably, the process of formation of sanskars or sankharas never ceased, even while meditating in a remote meditation retreat.
Fortunately, this time, all eye contact was completely avoided for the entire 9 days of Noble Silence - in fact I refused to even glance in anyone's general direction.
The absence of 'new' distractions and the resultant mind games was a massive relief. It gave my mind the required space and time to finally settle down.
Without any new sensory input to chew upon, the mind had to make do with old memories, which slowly faded away.
As a result, the quality of the meditation hours improved dramatically.
Clearly, the true observance of Sila was mighty beneficial for the practice.
The other big difference was in my comprehension of theory and concepts.
I believed I had understood them well the first time round, given my 'long background' in meditation (funny how ego always creeps in), but I realized how shallow my understanding was.
During the first course, the theory and concepts had barely registered at a superficial level. I probably grasped about 5% of their meaning then.
And now I can lay claim to understanding about 10% of it all.
(Have a sneaky feeling both these numbers will get revised lower after my next course)
Getting to better understand the why and how sanskars or sankharas are formed, and what we should do to eradicate them, infused vigour into my meditation practice.
Seeing the link between the why and how of what I was doing strengthened my Samadhi.
And finally, I was able to entwine my practice with the daily chores, outside of the meditation hours.
Earlier, thoughts and feelings quickly overwhelmed me as soon as meditation got over, and all awareness and equanimity was lost in an instant.
This time, I could hold Pragya or Panna longer and integrate it into my daily life.
The three aspects of Sila, Samadhi and Panna became clearer. I also got an experiential take at how each one supported the other two in a virtuous circle.
Strengthen Sila and Samadhi and Pragya are strengthened; establish yourself in Pragya and Sila and Samadhi become its offshoots; delve deeper into Samadhi and Sila and Pragya get automatically established.
I moved from merely an intellectual understanding of these three to taking the first step toward internalizing them through direct experience.
It is a long, long journey ahead, but now with better focus and better understanding, I am confident of reaching the final destination.
I wish the same for you.
If you would like to know more or ask some specific questions about the vipassana meditation experience, feel free to leave a comment below or write to me directly.
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