Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art Of Living. Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body.
In Vipassana, we always enter from the physical aspect of our humanity. Why, you ask? Because this is the most apparent, the most obvious aspect of us, easily felt by all our senses. And yet, how little do we know about it.
Day in and day out, with our eyes we see the external, with our ears we hear the external noises, with our skin we touch the external, with our nose we smell the external, with our tongue we taste the external. All these receive, sense and perceive information from the outside. But what about the inside? What about the subtler parts of our body, like the cells? Isn’t it intriguing how the word each of us uses the most in a day is “I”, yet we know nothing about it?
“Know yourself”, all wise people say. So, let us take 5 minutes out of our time today and take a wiser step towards knowing ourselves. This step is one of the most vital steps towards attaining what’s called “Nibbana” or “the eternal peace” in Vipassana. This, of course, applies to our daily life as much as it applies to our meditation.
The enlightened one describes the “I”:
Whether we are Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian, atheist, agnostic, Eastern or Western, or anything else, each of us has an assured understanding that there is an “I” within us, a clear identity that is alive. With that notion, this ”I“ has existed 5 years ago, is existing now and will exist in the coming years too. Some may fancy an “I” in the afterlife as well. Sure, we can put that in our wishlist for now. A deep-rooted conviction that in Vipassana is summed up as - “I was, I am, I shall be.”
What relays now is a truth experienced by The Buddha. This isn’t another person expounding one more critic view about the “I”. This is the true experience of the enlightened one who spent years in meditation. This truth can be experienced by any of us with a conscious mind.
What if I told you there is no “I”?
(Request you to read further slowly and purposefully🙏🌸)
After experiencing the reality of matter, sensation, perception, reaction, and consciousness - the four processes of a human mind (Will extensively cover these in this Vipassana Blog series), he observed mindfully as they arose and passed away.
Despite separate appearances, he had observed that each human being is actually a series of distinctive yet related events. Each event is the result of the previous one. Sort of like Stephen Hawking’s theory of relativity. These events occur one after the other without any break making them look continuous.
Breath after breath, makes it apparent that life continues. A breath that arises has to pass for the next breath to be inhaled. Cells born and die frequently as we easily tag ourselves “alive”. Sure we feel the obvious parts of our bodies, but what about the subtle, subtler, subtlest particle? A river flows and the water in it keeps passing. The water at one spot keeps being replaced by the water inflowing. This spot itself keeps shifting and changing paths. Yet we give this river a name, a constant identity. Light photons have energy and momentum. As newer ones replace the older ones giving out the light, the tube light looks constant to us. Extermination makes way for re-birth. Just like the cells in our body that unobtrusively born and die as we coin ourselves alive as a constant. The undisturbed continuum of these events gives us a notion of continuity, but that indeed is the apparent reality, not the real truth.
In case the subheading has still got you thinking, according to The Buddha and also Sadhguru(an Indian yogi, mystic and author), there is no I. There is no you. We are energy vibrations that took form. And we are shifting every second, almost like we are what this second is. We are what now is. Sadhguru made a fun analogy to explain this. He said imagine many bubbles in a room. Some bubbles are big, some are small, but they are all bubbles. These bubbles have the same air that this room does. What if these bubbles start to identify with their different forms, getting attached to it? But they are exactly what's outside of them. The same air, the same energy. Now, what happens to bubbles after some time? They start to burst. And when they do, they become one with what they started from. What was inside of them was the same as what's outside, the shell that formed around wasn't their identity. They were all one in their universe. Just too caught up in their projected selves to see the truth of this moment as it is.
“You are this moment. You are now. You are the present.”
So is life and death two sides of the same coin?
Life is not very different from death, just like death isn’t any different from life. What's inside the bubble is what's outside the bubble. Stay with me here:
In the case of the tube light, the oscillations of energy is so rapid and continuous that it is difficult to tell the difference, isn’t it? In the case of the river water, while the process of flow goes on, can we pick up any particular sample of water and say for sure that this is the same water as the one before it or a different one? I cannot, yet the water keeps flowing and the process keeps on.
In the same way, a person is not a finished good. A person is always changing, flowing, evolving. A person is a process flowing from moment to moment. There is no real absolute identity that exists. We are a series of events from this moment to that one. We are a flow, a continuous process of becoming.
So how does this work in our daily life?
From today onwards we must call each other “bubbles, followed by our body identifiers.” Like, “hey you, bubble with bunny teeth and a red nose.” Kidding :p We absolutely, undoubtedly need to deal with each other as persons with somewhat defined, unchanged nature in order to function in this world. We must base this on external, apparent reality. It is good to remember that this identity is not a fake reality, it is just only the surface, not even 1% of what makes us, us.
The Buddha always believed that this entire universe, including each one of us, is in a constant state of becoming - of arising and passing. There is no constant “You” or a constant “I”. There is just this moment that we are a part of. We are this moment right here. You may store a bundle of experiences in your conscious and subconscious mind. But those are all thoughts. Thoughts are external voices in our heads that have been going on for so long that it is impossible to tell which one is ours and which one is not.
Why we discuss the “I” so much in Vipassana is because, in meditation, we realize all our sensual pleasures are impermanent, they come and go. Attaching ourselves with the pleasures of this “I” only leads to suffering.
Existence precedes Essence:
We get some degree, do some job and start attaching value to ourselves as per the value we think we are bringing to this world. A waiter is no less a human than the CEO of a big company. Our existence precedes all the adjectives we add to ourselves in our life. We come, we do some things in life, listen to some thoughts and start believing that we are what we do. We may think we are an important person or a non-important person by the values we add to the conventional world or with our job titles. But a higher state of life is a life lived consciously and mindfully, what we do to keep our bellies full is irrelevant, unless we are robbing banks :P
“ There is no superhuman, humans are super, each one of us.”- Sadhguru
We often believe that “I” should be loved because “I” am lovable, “I” must have comforts of life because “I” deserve it, somehow this entitlement leads us all to misery. I remember a story they told us in the Vipassana center, in Sikkim. It goes something like this-
There once was a mother whose son had just died and she couldn’t bear the shock. She went to Gautam Buddha with her son’s dead body, came down on her knees and started pleading him to revive her son. She was inconsolable, kept repeating, “I love my child. Please revive him.” Gautam Buddha saw this and thoughtfully told her that he would definitely revive her son. He asked her not to worry at all and that her son will be alive again. She was ecstatic and hopeful. The Buddha then told her that he needs some materials for the ceremony and gave her a list. There were about 10 items in that list that are easily available, things like - some bread, some rice, ghee, wood, etc. The last item in this list read “salt from a house that hasn’t suffered from death.” She went door-to-door, village-to-village, but came by not one house that hasn't experienced death. Tired, exhausted, her tears drying out with her hope as the epiphany occurred. The sense of “I” dissolved and this serenity, this tranquility took over her. Death is inevitable. And not just her, every house has experienced death. It hurt so much because it was “her” loss.
As soon as the mother detached “my son” or the “I” from the phenomenon of death, acceptance came easily, and wisdom surfaced. Every day about thousands of people die, it doesn’t hurt us, at least not this way. The moment someone related to the “I” dies, suddenly that shatters us. The mother couldn’t have been explained this, it was only experientially that she could have learnt this, much like meditation itself. She returned with not just great respect for Buddha’s ways, but with a life ready for transformation towards true peace and love.
If you are this moment, you'd rather live it fully, don't you think? Hope you find true peace in every mindful moment :)