Its almost 3 years that i attended the first Vipassana meditation course at Igatpuri. I used to maintain a static page but am too lazy to rework that now. Anyway we are not supposed to recount our 10-day meditation experience's so as to not colour other people's (yet-to-happen) experience. But i guess i can talk about other things besides that, especially the part about how not to be a nuisance to others or flaunt your wealth (even the lack of it).

Having practiced meditation (off and on) since childhood this was a completely different experience. Rather I could say its very tough and unlike the regular meditation techniques (like chanting, or the yogic breathing exercises). Its tougher because for 10 days you cannot talk, no music (cant even sing or hum, so really very tough), no cellphone (easy), no tv (easy), no computer /internet (tough) or newspaper (tough). There is a code of discipline to be followed which can be summarised as :

Take great care that your actions do not disturb anyone.
Take no notice of distractions caused by others.


The former was not difficult for me but I was tested on the latter by my dorm-mate. Recounting, on the registration day the volunteer alloting rooms had alloted me a single room (usually given to foreigners and some Indians (dont ask why, you wont like to hear it)) but i wanted the tougher experience and opted for the common dorm. Dorms are a row of rooms each shared by 2 women (men? -i dunno, we are not allowed to go there so only men can tell).

The person I shared the room with was from an affluent family (father was a diamond merchant) and she made sure that all around her (in this case, me) were informed about this via her actions. Where everyone (and i mean everyone, literally) had one piece of luggage + a handbaggage, she came with a porter carrying 2 huge suitcases (the kind we Indians carry when going to work/study/marry in USA ;-)) and a carton (which i later learnt contained Bisleri water, snacks, including chocolates for the entire 11 days). And here i thought we were supposed to follow some discipline.

At this point i must mention that while the code exists, you as an individual are expected to discipline yourself. There is no one to stand over to watch you or police your actions. We spoke to each other on the first day and i had no inkling of what was to follow in the next few days. As much as i tried to ignore her afterwards, her actions were annoying to say the least partly because we shared a room. I still meet people like her in my daily life and maybe they just dont realise how irritating and annoying they can be or do it on purpose. I digress.

Of the 2 huge suitcases, one apparently contained her bedding (I kid you not) . Apparently she needed two warmers (razai), 2 pillows all of which were colour co-ordinated (make that print-matching) with pleated frills and embroidery along the 4 sides, to enable a good nights sleep. Probably they should serve bed tea next, to complete the charming picture. Since it was winter (Igatpuri can get really chilly) I had gotten the window closed but she managed to poke open the window (the metal mesh to keep out mosquitoes was nailed to the wooden frame meant you cannot close it from inside and the dorm was kinda on a hill so to climb the steep surface i had to go and ask a volunteer to get a man to climb it, especially difficult as men are not allowed to enter the women's only area and vice-versa.)

My bed was near the window and come morning (4 am to be precise) i would get up with a severe migrane and sinus problem and after two nights of this i had a raging fever. It looked like i would have to cut short my stay due to ill health. Needless to say it was impossible to meditate and annoying as i was not able to learn anything. On the third day i had had enough and escalated the matter (should have done it on the first day itself) and the teacher gave me permission to talk to her about it, since she did not listen to the volunteers warning on the previous 2 days. After our chat she behaved and i am not even taking her to task for other irritants like snacking at all hours (remember the carton of food and water) of the day and night, stealing food (fruits from the lunch/tea and dinner time, i didnt ask but she prolly felt guilty as i walked in on her and told me they didnt provide enough food ... duh, its a buffet system so gimme a break, will ya), talking (whispering) to me when we are not supposed to talk, messing up the washroom and not cleaning up after use, .... in short be a complete nuisance and treat others lesser than oneself, which is difficult to ignore when you live together 24/7.

Despite her best efforts to cull my stay, i managed to complete the 10 days successfully and met a lot of other nice people after the course was over. I wanted to go back to repeat a 2nd or 3rd 10-day course, but never did. So I was surprised to discover today that Bangalore has a residential meditation centre, considering the fact that Mumbai still does not have one which meant I had to go to Igatpuri, which was very nice but not always good on our life schedules. In retrospect, it seems better to have one in the city you live, theoretically atleast. I could not locate the Centre on G-maps (Address: Alur (Near Panchayat Office), Dasanapura Hobli, (23 Km from Bangalore City Railway Station)) but am guessing its near Yelahanka or somewhere in N.Blr given that Attur lake sounds like Alur. Not sure. For 2008 this is on my 'to-do' list so lets see if i am able to do it.