Day 6: More Learning And Questions
Lord Varuna delivered as promised. Monsoon was to start today and it did. The night reverberated with lightening and thunder. A tree fell outside our quarter. Jamuna and I had been leaving the door open all night so that we get some fresh air but we had to hastily close it. I moved my mattress back to the top of the solid cemented cot by the side of the wall.
Poor Jamuna rambled about the electronic devices at her house and wondered aloud if her husband had remembered to unplug them off the sockets.
I wasn’t going to break my code of silence for an emergency like this.
Jamuna revelled in stories of how the centre was affected from the Chennai flood from last year. “ The pagoda was under water and people who were meditating had to be ferried out”. I shut my eyes and pretended to be asleep through her rambling.
The lightening, thunder, power failure and Jamuna’s story kept me up for more than an hour. Thank you Jamuna, a story like that on a night like this was reassuring indeed.
I tried being equanimous to the thunder and lightening last night, Goenkaji, but failed
The destruction after the night’s rain was very obvious around the centre. There were fallen branches of trees everywhere and the whole place looked drenched and desolate. The ground was wet and there were red muddy footwear marks in the cemented corridors.
Yet, life at the centre went on.
We were woken at 4am and we were all in the Dhamma hall as scheduled at 4.30am. No one mentioned how scary the night was or how sleepless they all were. I had a tough meditating session though. I was unable to sit still because I struggled to find the right pose on my cushion. Only the last half hour of the session was manageable.
I wondered how the adiththana sessions of today would go.
I realized that Goenkaji’s singing of the Pali chants didn’t sound half as bad during my post-breakfast walk, when they played it on the amplifiers in the centre. It was when I was already uncomfortable on my cushion and I had to listen to the audio, when it became a challenge to appreciate the singing. I am learning to be equanimous to his singing too. If I don’t love it neither should I dislike it.
By the time the first adiththana was done, I was aware of the progress I had made. I could be still in one half of my body, my upper body, for the whole hour. Also I was able to observe sensations, objectively without reacting to them. During the hour though, I had this urge to take long, lungful, fulfilling breaths at the end of every ‘scan’ of my body. I made a note to check with the AT if that was expected and ‘normal’.
Today we scanned symmetrical parts of the body
By the time I had completed the second and third adiththana of the day, I realized that my endurance for sitting-still, improved with every sitting. The ‘anichcha’ observation had helped me manage the sharp and dull sensations in my body. I did not have to wipe the sweat off my brow or scratch that odd itch anymore. The need for the deep breathing continued through the day.
My mind though still went from one flickering thought or memory to another especially if I observed something just before the start of a session. Like today, I saw one of the expats stare at two cows that roamed freely in the garden around the meditation hall. During my afternoon adiththana, I recalled that scene. I heard Coldplay and Beyonce in the background. My thoughts went to Sonam Kapoor and I wondered if she really got to meet the handsome Chris Martin when the song was being shot.
At the end of the day, I had a few questions.
1) If all sensations were impermanent (anichcha), then what about ‘real’ manifestations of pain due to disease? I felt a few spasms of pain in my left ear today which typically is a ear infection.
2) The vision of Toast Box that I keep having in connection with my impending trip to Singapore is actually craving? Therefore a Saṅkhāra (Karma)- a thing from the past that I loved to indulge in and therefore cling to? Am I not allowed to enjoy my cup of tea at Toast Box anymore without relishing it? I can, if I stay equanimous to the experience?
3)What about the like or dislike I have for people? Am I supposed to detach / distance myself from the sensation of dislike and just observe the sensation and not own it?
4) What about anger? At what point of my anger, do I observe the sensation and detach myself? Is that even doable?
At the end of the last hour of meditation, I opened my eyes only a slit to see if the AT was ready to play the last audio track from her console. She sat on a raised seat in the front of the hall, facing us, so she can monitor what the rest of us were doing. I saw eight cushions in my line of sight. I noticed that at least six of the peer meditators were moving a limb or a part of their body. I was glad I was not the only one that was restless.
Another significant discourse by Goenkaji this evening. What I learnt from tonight’s talk:
Vipassana is a technique that is non sectarian and universal in nature. It is all about mind over matter. The mental volition or the intention is what of any act is what matters.
A beautiful example Goenkaji shared with us was about the ‘dãna’ or generous philanthropy that every householder is supposed to indulge in. The mental volition of an act of dãna should be to deflate one’s ego and not to inflate it.
If you give and you want people to know you have given, then the purpose of dãna is lost.
Dhamma (The undistorted truth) is hard work and needs a lot of practice and it is life long once it is mastered. It is guaranteed to take misery out of life, Goenkaji promised. He seemed pretty pleased that we had all lasted through Day-6, which according to him was yet another difficult day of the course.