Can a human being be really relieved of pain and miseries? Is there a path towards liberation? I don’t feel any devotion towards a deity but how do I get rid of anger, worries, fears in me? How do I find happiness at every moment? These and many more questions have been bothering me for some years. A few years ago, I read this book called “Old path white clouds” by Thich Nhat Hanh (also referred as Thay or Master). This is a very well researched biography of Gautam Buddha. Although there are several novels or fictional works on Lord Buddha’s life, I found this one very unique because it has a very detailed bibliography in the end. I listened to his talks and also the video of his interview by Oprah.
In later years while travelling to Ladakh, Manali , Ajantha caves, Kanheri caves, Dhammapatana at Gorai, Sarnath and finally Bodh Gaya last December my interest in Buddhist philosophy grew. This year, we (Vinay and me) had the opportunity to do a course on Buddhism and Modern Psychology on coursera.org by Professor Robert Wright. Bob Wright mentioned that he had done Vipassana and during the course he introduced us to many interesting scholars like Joseph Goldstein, Bhikku Bodhi etc. I understood some of the parallels between psychology and Buddhism. But there is a major difference between reading or listening to a master and practicing. My rational mind understood the arguments at an intellectual level however; the miseries and problems in the day today life were just the same. Then I heard first hand experiences of some friends and colleagues about Vipassana.
In the meantime, Vinay went for the course in September. Usually when one of us is traveling there are short text exchanges like “boarded “, “landed”, “reached” and a few minutes of conversation each night in spite of our busy schedules. That itself gives a sense of security. At Vipassana, once he surrendered the phone the communication was completely shut down. My days would pass at work but the evenings and weekend was tough. This taught me to live on my own and not to worry constantly. When he returned, I asked him can we reverse the roles in December. He agreed but i kept worrying about how the father-son duo will manage without me for ten days. However, Vinay assured that he will manage everything.
I am really glad that i could take off for 10 days this winter. I am thankful to my school job which gives me long winter holidays. I am also thankful to my supportive family for giving me this unique opportunity to experiment.
But did it answer my questions? Did I really find any peace?