Yesterday, a friend visited us and she was talking to us about the 10-day Vipaasana programme she had attended. My wife asked her about the benefits or what she discovered from the programme. I am not going into what my friend told her. The question set me thinking about the possible benefits from the programme which involves no talking, no reading, no writing and no eye contact with anyone for ten days.
Your only company is your thoughts. I can see the benefits of the programme. It can lead to an intimate awareness of oneself. All thoughts hidden deep within the crevices of one’s mind and memory will come gushing out – the good, the bad, the ugly, the profane, the gross, the sublime, the perverse, the straight, the generous, the mean, the narrow, the vicious and the magnanimous. One is bound to be surprised, startled, alarmed and repulsed and even scared by some of those thoughts.
But, the idea is precisely that. To become more intimately familiar with one’s thoughts and learn over those ten days to accept them, to see them for what they are – mere thoughts – and not to take them too seriously.
So, the programme has to be eventually about becoming more familiar with ourselves and not taking ourselves too seriously. In the course of the ten days, we realise that we do not miss the outside world and perhaps, more importantly, the outside world does not miss us either! Thus, it is also about coming to terms with one’s own insignificance and dispensability in the overall scheme of things.
Sure, this can happen without attending the programme or one can attend the programme and not achieve any of this too.
That should remind us of what Saint Thiagaraja meant in his kriti, ‘Enduku Peddala’:
vEda shAstra purANa tattvArthamu dElisi bhEda rahita vEdAntamunu dElisi nAda vidya marmambulanu dElisi nAtha tyAgarAjanuta nijamuga
In spite of me being aware of the profound meanings of the Vedas and Sastras and expounding the Bheda Rahita philosophy and the subtle secrets of Nada Vidya (knowledge of sound), yet real wisdom which transcends mere intellectual awareness you have not blessed me with! Why? [Source]