She was the authority of this place and I was only a small drop in the sea of all of the hundreds of thousands of students that followed this tradition, therefore I was hesitant but I still mustered the guts to ask her that question:
”Why be here if I am already free?”
”If you would be free you would be Buddha and then you wouldn’t have any problem whatsoever sitting here and focusing in meditation,” she answered.
”Sorry, I don’t mean it like that, I mean ’free’ as in ’free from the idea that I need to become free’.”
”Well, just give it time,” she said and there was nothing more to add to that conversation.
I walked out of the Dhamma hall and the server manager looked at me with eyes wanting to say something. It looked as if he wanted to state his own opinion. A rare thing in a place like this. We only exchanged eye contact since a Vipassana center is not a place of personal opinion.
For a short while I thought that I was going to listen to what she had said and actually stay for a day more. But I had also concluded beforehand that I might think that way, that my mind would be swayed only by her authority, just the same way a parents opinions can cover the intuition of his or her own child. Her answer lingered in me for a while and I realized that I didn’t respect it. Why use ’Buddha’ as a distant and vague metaphor when one can speak from ones own true heart?
It was clear to me that ’my inner voice’ spoke in just the same way as during that time when life had told me to break up with my girlfriend. I had waited one whole year before doing so and that was a one year of unnecessary suffering. Now, this only became one hour. I lied down in bed and felt intensely the truth of my own experience. When that was done I concluded that the worst part of this was going to be to rebel against the group and the tradition. A fear was there, but I straightened my back and prepared to do the unthinkable: To break from a Vipassana course.
No one can blame me for not investigating Vipassana thoroughly. I have done my fair share of meditation. This was going to be my fifth 10-days course. And on top of that I had practiced rigidly for several years and I had also become responsible for gathering hundreds of people in my home town and teaching them the preliminaries of the technique. So yeah, it’s not for the lack of trying, but if one was to quote Buddha: ”When the river is crossed, let go of the boat, it is no longer needed.”
I am of course not sure if that can be applied to me, but it does feel as if my own nature is revealed with much better clarity these days and that might be partly thanks to meditation, but sometimes I also think the opposite: That Vipassana made me walk further away from truth. What bothers me about the tradition is that it teaches a ’path of becoming’, just like any other spiritual school. The fundamental message is something like: ’You are going to purify yourself to become a better human being.’
It’s ironic that Goenka, the modern day teacher of Vipassana, rants about virtues and becoming enlightened and all that stuff and at the same time implies that the technique is not based on any doctrine. The idea of becoming a better human being is attractive, to say the least, but it’s certainly a doctrine. And yeah, that’s misleading! If there is a sense that one needs to become a better human being, then one is already imprisoned and doing Vipassana is not going to change that.
I can hear my mothers voice saying something like: ”What did I tell you?”
If words like that would arise as a response to this text then that would be to entirely miss the point. You can read this and you might feel that you know what I am talking about, but it doesn’t mean you understand it and the difference is huge.
I do not mean to slap you on your fingers, it’s not that. It’s more like a friendly reminder that what is shared here is only a memory of a process and it’s not yours. My friend, my love, you need to dig your own hole and meditation might be a good start. How would I know?
That’s the mind-wrecking paradox. The cell in which one is stuck is seemingly supposed to be exactly where it should be.