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10 Days In A 'Prison' Of My Choosing

01/05/2016 12:49 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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I voluntarily submitted myself to prison for 10 days. I packed one bag with bare necessities and submitted myself, mind and body, to the Dhamma Sikhara Himachal Vipassana Centre.

There I, along with 100 other students, observed noble silence for the period of the course and refrained from reading, writing and any other entertaining activities. The timetable required me to wake up at 4am and meditate till 9pm, with shorts breaks in between for rest and meals.

I found the routine quite easy to get used to--waking up at 4am wasn't as big a challenge as fighting the cold to get out of bed. And off I went to the main Dhamma hall to meditate independently among my peers for two and half hours before the bell for breakfast. And so on and so forth till lunch and so on and so forth till tea and so on and so forth till it was time to turn in for the day. Each day ended with an hour and half of discourse by Mr S N Goenka, to pair practice with theory.

[C]ompletely renouncing the world for 10 days was the easiest part of the course for me.

Maintaining complete silence, verbally and through gestures, as well as completely renouncing the world for 10 days was the easiest part of the course for me. Sitting for hours on end and trying to get my mind to stay focused while my back and knees were in constant pain was the hardest part. After a few days though, when my knee and leg muscles began strengthening, my battle was with the mind only, to get it to concentrate. It still is, even after 10 days.

The course essentially teaches you the art that made Siddhartha Gautama "The Enlightened One". Before the course, I read an article a day, at least, on how to reduce stress and anxiety and how to lead a happier and more fulfilling life, but ended up closing the tabs on my browser without having learnt something that I wasn't already doing. In the same streak, two years ago, I participated in The Landmark Forum--a for-profit course that promises inner transformation. I learnt a lot from the course, no doubt. It struck an instant connection with my intellect and I infused much of the course into my life, until with time its teachings became fuzzy and eventually I lost grip over them like quick sand escapes your fingers.

It was a profound experience spending time with only myself. It made me realize how much we depend on other people for answers...

Vipassana, though, is different. Unique. Because it preaches to practice. The Buddha said the truth is only that which you experience. The Vipassana meditation technique teaches you to experience the truth by teaching you the technique that was used by The Buddha to understand ultimate reality, and the rest is up to you, whether you accept it or reject it. Vipassana means insight and that's exactly what the course is aimed at-- giving you an insight into yourself to help you liberate yourself from misery.

The key is, through meditation, to observe and understand that all shall pass. So will you. So will I.

Living a monk's life, even for a short period of 10 days, was thoroughly liberating. It's the reason I opted for the course in the first place. Little did I know how much more I would get out of it. Little did I know how emotionally turbulent the journey would be and little did I know about the flux of sensations inside of me, which I was made to observe and only observe. It was a profound experience spending time with only myself. It made me realize how much we depend on other people, especially for answers during turbulent times--when the answers are actually within us. It made me realize how much instant-ness we're after, in the form of reactions, answers and appreciation, when sometimes life doesn't grant you the privilege of getting what you want. In the smallest sense, the course has helped me understand that I can be content both through the satiation of my desires and without.

Aristotle said that the ultimate goal for human beings is happiness. Happiness is the end, everything else is a means to that end. Yes, happiness is what all human beings are after. And in order to get that happiness, we do everything that we do--get a job, get married, have kids, eat, drink, smoke. It's all for those rare, momentary and elusive moments of happiness.

I submitted myself to prison because I am yet another individual in search of happiness. I walked out of prison with the knowledge that happiness is momentary, as is sadness and anger. The key is, through meditation, to observe and understand that all shall pass. So will you. So will I.

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