Vipassana; Explore Within, Seeing Things as They Are

Minggu, Januari 27, 2019

Meditation brings wisdom; lack of mediation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back and choose the path that leads to wisdom_Buddha

Buddha Statue under the Bodhi Tree

I have done Yoga and meditation since. Sometimes specifically before starting and ending, I do sitting meditation for a maximum of 5 minutes. Then two years ago, I met a friend who first took part in the Vipassana meditation retreat. He shared his experience knowing that I like to do Yoga. At first, it seems unfamiliar until I realized it was in the phase of wanting to immediately try to train myself through this meditation. 

A Meditation retreat which is carried out with the aim of knowing ourselves consists of several techniques depending on the teacher. I waited for 2 years until I really convinced myself that I have to take this at the right time after I felt that there was something lacking in my life. 

I admit that in the past few years I have felt more busy than productive. I easily become tired, lack of sleep, spend a lot of time on things that are not useful, and other things that make me lose focus and concentration. So this causes me to have difficulty dealing with myself when problems occur. So, finally, I decided to give myself time to be alone in the Vipassana program. During this half-month, I attended a Buddhist fellowship gathering, Meditation retreat & Dhamma Talk (Vipassana), and 2 days Special Ceremonies at Brahmavihara Arama. 

Brahmavihara Arama 

Brahmavihara Arama is located at the peak of the hills, in the village of Banjar, about 3 km from the highway between Gilimanuk-Singaraja. 

The monastery was founded by Bhante Giri in 1969. It was originally set up near a hot spring, then moved to Banjar. 

Brahmavihara Arama consists of three words, namely: Brahma, Vihara, and Arama. Brahma means great, very noble, commendable, noble. So it's not just a god's name. While the Temple (Vihara) means a way of life, and Arama is a place. The largest monastery in Bali is indeed intended to be a place for self-training, forging commendable behavior, which includes Metta, Karuna, Mudita, and Upekkha, and can be achieved through Bhavana vipassana meditation. This monastery is not only a spiritual tourist spot and a place of worship for Buddhists but is also a center of meditation training as it is now done. 

Vipassana Meditation Retreat Experience

Meditation induces a comfortable and calm effect. Meditation also makes the mind calm so that humans will react to life as needed. I do not need to confuse hurtful words or actions, gossip for if we respond to it actually disrupts our minds. Meditation allows me to control my emotions, and my mind becomes more focused. The actions are increasingly tactical and efficient. We become more compassionate towards others and mindful that we can live in the present. That's just some of the benefits of meditation. 

Buddha statue at the front of Brahmavihara Arama near male Yogi's dorm

There is another vipassana meditation method that requires the participant to sit for at least 8 hours a day, there is a free method that gives participants flexibility where meditation is most suitable for them. 

In everyday life, I chose to make detailed rules, so that in meditation I was able to adapt to the many strict rules that bind (Mahasi Technique). That's because the results of new meditation can be obtained if done with strict, disciplined, and strong determination. Moreover, continuous meditation can last many hours. Meditation continues when we do activities such as eating, bathing, washing, and so on. The point is this method, according to me, is the most effective way I can apply in everyday life. 

Stupa Hall from the left side

Some of my friends asked me if I had become a follower of the Buddhist path and foregone a heritage of religion (Hinduism). I was unable to answer the question. As far as I know and agree, the Buddha is an enlightened person, liberated. Becoming a Buddhist means living a life in the style of Sidarta to be liberated. It is not a problem that I have to worship this God or that God, for me everyone’s God is the same. So for me, this is the way of life and how to live to the fullest (Mindfulness). 

Inside of the Dharmasalla Hall, where the group meditation and Dhamma talk took place

In front of the Dharmasalla Hall

Meditation can actually be followed by all types of people, regardless of religion. For followers of Kejawen, the term semedi, bertapa, or ngelakoni, which is similar to meditation. In Islam, if we want to explore the deep meaning of fasting, it is actually meditation. Not just holding back drinking, but also lust, anger, saying dirty and useless. It is the same in Hindu, we celebrate Nyepi when some Hinduism also do fasting all along the day. But fasting then loses meaning to endure hunger and lust. Every religion and belief has its own various forms of meditation. 

You could see the beautiful creatures within you by looking deep into yourself   

Vipassana meditation can be followed by anyone. In fact, this meditation has become a goal of treatment for most people. 

Some strict rules are applied: namely, running the precepts. As fellow participants are prohibited from speaking for 10 days of meditation, it is forbidden to tell untruths, kill living things whether humans, animals such as ants and mosquitoes, participants are prohibited from wearing perfume and makeup, wearing striking jewelleries, eating after midday, and so on. 

Rules are applied so that each participant can achieve the goal of meditation. Purify our mind and erode inner impurities with the intention of raising awareness to reach mindfulness

Yogi rules for meditation participants, women are placed in rooms that are close to the dining room. Each room is filled with 2 yogis. We have to share the sink and shared the bathroom, in silence. 

The movement of using the bathroom, opening and closing the door must be as quiet as possible until every movement can be felt up to the breath. The male yogi lives in the men's room below, which is also divided into rooms with two yogis in each room.

The main meditation room is a Dharmasalla Hall whose outer ornament is a combination of Balinese, Tibet, and Chinese architecture. In this room, all yogis must chant - readings from 3:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Then proceed with sitting and walking meditation for each one hour alternately (non-stop). On the night of the return, the yogis gather at 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for chanting reading and sitting meditation together. 

Stupa Hall (Miniature of Borobudur Temple) and a yard in front with tracks where Yogis do walking meditation 

Dharmasalla is used for monks giving lectures or dhamma talk. Outside of the schedule are Stupa Hall (female yogis) and Dharmasalla Hall (male yogis) for meditation.

There are open paths in front of the Stupa Hall (miniature of Borobudur Temple). This is where yogis do walking meditation every day if the day is not hot, from 3:30 to 22:00 (non-stop). Of course, this follows with sitting meditation.

I myself prefer to meditate in the Kwan Im Goddess Pagoda and in front of the Buddha statue. Sometimes I meditate in a kind of gazebo that is situated among the mango trees below and also in the early hours I prefer to meditate sitting on a wall close to the Stupa Hall which faces towards the sea. The open air makes me free to breathe and meditates more quietly. 

Kwan Im Goddes at the Avalokitesvara's Pagoda 

In retreat, walking meditation must be done after the meal. The goal is to get rid of sleepiness and facilitate digestion. So, instead of sleeping, leisurely after eating, you can walk. Walk as slow as possible, not just one step (left-right), but it can be 3 steps (lift-push-down), up to 5,6,7 step. It feels amazing to be able to feel and know so many movements in each step and a sigh of breath. I am accustomed to details, sometimes counting my steps for one hour so that I step about 200 meters within 1 hour.

When studying walking meditation, we start from the lowest step. Then with the length of the yogis' exercise will increase the exercise step according to our ability to feel the movement. Of course the more steps the slower the steps and the longer the breath, and the higher the concentration needed. 

There are several things I learned during the meditation retreat 

First, maybe we used to think why are other people so mean to us? Or why is it so hard to beat someone else, or why it's so difficult to get something. In this meditation, the first thing that impacts on my heart is the fact that how mean we are to ourselves plus how hard it is to defeat ourselves. 

There was one day I really cried without stopping even though I didn't want to cry. But my tears flowed without stopping, it felt like I was having trouble so I had to compress with warm water and calm down and refocus. I am indeed mean within myself, so sometimes I try to please others without thinking about whether my heart is safe enough or even uncomfortable sometimes. Then, I admit, it is very difficult to overcome myself. Such an interesting thing to found out within me during my own experience during this retreat program. 

Even during meditation, I can meditate on the wall which I could fall into if I was sleepy. But I do this for my meditation progress, indeed, my ego is still high during this phase of meditation practice and still struggling to face my own mind. 

My most favorite place to meditate in the early morning, in between of Buddha statues and I enjoyed the sea view in front of me yet breathe a freshes air in the morning 

Second, meditation is not a competition. Each meditator will have different achievements from other yogis. Their spiritual experiences also vary. Their defilements are different. Glancing at Bhikkuni Santini Theri’s lecture, mental defilements like anger, malice, greed, and dilution are really the main causes of suffering or suffering in the world. Angry about being hurt, being wasted, being treated unfairly, then venting anger will only inflame greater anger. It's like pouring oil into a fire. Likewise with hatred, greed, which starts from feeling good, pleasant, then gives rise to a desire to have, so that it gives birth to a hunger steadily, not enough. 

Bhante Giri Hall; the initiator and founder of Brahmavihara Arama who was Brahma (Hinduism) enlightened to choose the way of Buddha's life

Third, because we, yogis, must feel, by slowing down all movements during meditation, including eating, only a few foods can enter the stomach. I personally choose food in the form of vegetables and fruit every meal, and only 2-3 spoons of carbohydrates. Chew slowly, feel the movement of teeth when meeting and separating, making us full quickly. Not surprisingly, yogis will lose weight between 1-3 kg after the retreat (unexpectedly I lose around 1 kg). 

The ceremony for some Bhante in Brahmavihara Arama

Fourth, don't set any target in meditation. At first, I set many targets then I faced extreme pain both physically and mentally. Meditation commonly is known is sitting meditation. But meditation is done by paying attention to the deflection of the abdomen - in this method - in my opinion, is the most severe. Not only because the pain in the left shoulder is still felt, but also the interference when sitting is so strong. Starting thoughts that appear to recede, until drowsiness. It is true that some say that meditation requires extraordinary determination and patience. Yogis are usually asked not to target something. 

Healing from certain diseases, becoming a 'magic', or something else is just a side effect of meditation. The main purpose of meditation is to erode the defilements. 

Buddhist Ceremony at Brahmavihara Arama

Fifth, in the Buddist Fellowship Gathering Program, as the only Hindu that allowed to learn Vipassana meditation techniques, I met a mother. I call her "Ci". A Chinese mother who taught me from the first until we were so close because I was comfortable to talk with her in Bahasa Indonesia (she is from Singapore who currently living in Malaysia) when the lecture delivered in Chinese. The mother who is with kindness considers me like her own child, so she straightforwardly gave direct advice for self-introspection and also living like a mother to her child (she taught me a lot about life and how to be an independent woman for my future kids). I am really lucky added have learned the science-backed benefits of meditation not only from the classes but also from her as she has been doing meditative yoga flow since a teen. 

Again, the main purpose of meditation is to erode the defilements. 

What about the progress of my Vipassana? 

In the retreat, the yogis were given the opportunity to complain, the progress of our meditation, in an interview with the teacher - Bhikkhuni Santini Theri (Sangha Bhikkuni Theravada) in this matter - every two days. 

In the last interview, my teacher said that there should be progress after each retreat and practicing meditation. I experienced very rapid progress after the first 4 days because the first 4 days were indeed the most chaotic moments that occurred in me. Even the first day, it was the longest day I ever had in life. I was so serious that my body was stiff even like being totally sedated from the neck to my feet so that the first day I really felt how my blood flowed with the warmth that accompanied it. I only experienced this on the first day. 

Lotus flower symbolism is its association with spiritual awakening or enlightenment 

Then the next 3 days I really experienced tremendous pain. Not only physically ill but struggles that are very chaotic feel like tangled thread. So that for two days I couldn't sleep because my body was extremely painful but I didn't know which part was sick (we were forbidden to exercise even do yoga). I feel like I wanted to go home. But because of the opportunity to tell about the progress of meditation with the Bhikku, I stayed and no longer focused on pain, but focused on my goal of meditating. So after 4 days until the last day I felt progress in this meditation practice that really surprised me. I usually do lotus sitting meditation (Buddha Pose) for a maximum of 5 minutes, I never expect myself to do it for 3 hours non-stop without open my eyes just focus on observing the mind object that comes, observing pain (not refusing/accepting it) and realizing the breath in and out. 

What is clear is that I become a better human being and managing my heart and mind as well, who treats others more humanely and full of love. 

I also now choose jobs that not only pursue material satisfaction but always include elements of whether my work is useful for humanity and whether I feel happy with what is done. Hopefully, it continues until the end of life. 

When I finally had to leave Brahmavihara, I did not feel the sensation of "excessive joy" like my previous experience, even the worldly plans that I wanted to reward myself when I finished the retreat, I canceled because I feel that it was not useful. 

I just feel normal, calm, nor do I have the time to be friendly with many other yogis. I spent the time by listening to Yogis who told me about their struggle against "serious illness", with this I felt this Vipassana moment, I not only learned about myself through meditation but also from Yogis. The experience has made me increasingly understand how important every second of life is to be used wisely, with full awareness, and to cause feelings of happiness as the top of life’s priority. 

Time is short and precious, let's spend it well with our beloved one?

Because time is very precious and sometimes we pass it unconsciously so that it ends with no meaning or benefit for ourselves or others. After this meditation, I know that my mind was still wild because I am a beginner. 

I need to control my sensual desires that may cause defilements. So I started doing this meditation regularly at home. Even at night, my breath feels so regular and practice to looks into myself whether I am happy today or not and whisper it to myself. While I am still meditating in my daily life, moving slowly with caution, trying to keep defeating myself and not being mean to myself and my mouth aching when I talk 'too much' let alone talking about things that are only satisfying sensual desire itself. 

Absolutely! My experience was very positive. Not only did I grow a sense of pride and accomplishment in myself, but also learned a lot of other valuable lessons that will benefit me in my growth as a person. On top of that, I met some great people, some of which I am still in contact to this day. 

I also enjoyed many other aspects of the retreat. The timetable and rules make a lot of sense in the aftermath – they create a calm and peaceful atmosphere very supportive of meditation. The evening discourses were very informative. Even the food was surprisingly good (even though the menu was vegetarian). 

All in all, I am very happy with my Vipassana retreat. I talked to my parent about everything since the beginning including the ceremonies I have joined. Especially my lovely dad fully supports me to continue my practice in the near future as he also well known about Gede Prama (Guru Ji- famous Buddhist figure in Bali). 

Anyway, near the Brahwavihara Arama, we could enjoy Banjar Hot Spring in order to relax after the retreat and Lovina Beach to watching Dolphins as well. 

Once in the sea, adrenalin pumps as I wait for dolphins to surface again and again. It was worth to lose sleep for just to catch a glimpse of these heavenly creatures before heading to Vihara. Buleleng-Singaraja also well known as its beautiful and unique waterfalls in all over Bali. 

Lovina Beach

You should go to this beach in early morning, the Jukung (small ship) will go to the Dolphins spot at 6:00-07:30 a.m to catch them. 

 Banjar Hot Spring

Visited this place in the morning around 9:00 a.m., you will feel like having a private holy hot spring water. 

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