Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An evening with AT Mr. Jayesh Soni

On Sunday the 19th December we had Mr. Jayesh Soni for dinner at home. Jayeshji is an Assistant Teacher of Vipassana meditation (Goenkaji's tradition). It was his first visit outside India and was actually on his way to Malaysia after conducting a one day course in Singapore.

It was very interesting to talk to him. Infact it is always interesting to talk to senior meditators of this tradition. They generally discuss the application of Dhamma in everyday life, one's progress on the path and one's grasp of the teaching.

He asked me about the courses I have attended and was impressed that I had been on this path for the past 15 years. He then asked me about my experiences in my long courses--20 day and 30 day.

I told him that I did my 20 day course in New Zealand because I wanted to have a breakthrough in my attachment for Indian food. He then told us a story of a group of monks who once visited a small village. An elderly lady in the village offered them food, and after a meal, the monks dispersed to the nearby forest to meditate. One day, out of curiosity, the lady asked the monks about their practice. Impressed with what they shared, she asked to become the head monk's lay disciple. The monk instructed her on the basic technique of Ananpana and then Vipassana. Practicing diligently in her home she soon reached the highest stages of meditation ---sotapanna (stream enterer), and then anagaami ( once returner). At this stage, she was able to penetrate her own mind as well as the minds of the other monks and find out at which stage they were in.

To her surprise she found that they hadn't yet come to the stage of Sotapanna and wondered why this was so. Being monks, they could give their complete time and energy to the practice and achieve high levels of success. Then why was this was not the case with these monks, she thought to herself. She then found out that the monks were quite worried about their source of food and this preoccupation hampered their progress on the path.

Therefore she decided to offer them food on regular basis, so that they would be free of that concern and could work diligently towards liberation. The point Jayeshji was trying to make was that food and some basic necessities were important in order to meditate otherwise, our preoccupation with it will keep us from working properly. Point noted Jayeshji.

He then asked me about my 30 day course and what changes I saw in myself afterward. Now it was my turn to tell him the story of the skeptic's similar question to the Buddha and the Buddha's reply--that he gained nothing from meditation--he only lost his anger, insecurity and fears.

In addition, I replied that it was a deep and intense course and that I could see that some of my old habit patterns had changed. He asked if I was able to understand the Dhamma at a more deeper level, to which I replied in the affirmative adding that I was now convinced that this was the only way toward liberation.

He was amazed at my confidence and said how was I so sure? How could I say that this was the only way? There are so many ways to enlightenment---what was so special about this path and this teaching....(I knew he was testing me).

After a while of thinking deeply, I said that in my view, other paths focus on avoiding pain and achieving pleasure states. The essence of the Buddha's teaching was that one recognize the transiency of both pleasure and pain and thus move beyond this to experience true liberation. Pleasure was not a desired state as when one observes it deeply, it also causes suffering (as when we get separated from a pleasure object). Pain is always something that we want to avoid, and very often it is not avoidable. However the truth is that these are transient states and therefore reaching a state of balance, unfazed by the good and the bad happening around us is the key to liberation. This is the unique and special teaching of the Buddha, which resonates with me deeply and which convinces me that it is the only way to liberation from suffering.

Not only is there logic in this kind of reasoning, there is a clear path to follow in order to achieve freedom from suffering.

Jayeshji was pleased, and so was I with the discussion.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Raja for sharing this conversation.
    Jayeshji was my teacher while I sat for my first course in Nagarjun Sagar, India. I keep remembering many times. His equanimous posture during the course and his blissful walk after the end of course are very vivid to this day. Thanks you!

    - Prashanth