Tushita means the heavenly realm, which holds true for the monastery. It is nestled amidst the mesmerizing coniferous forest of Dharamkot with a splendid overview of narrow winding lanes of the roads in the valley down below. However, metaphorically it refers to a certain state of mind achieved after advanced meditation techniques, which relate to the ultimate objective of course as well as mine – “Investigation of your own mind”, learn to handle curveballs thrown by life, and attainment of a well-balanced and composed mind. The batch at Tushita was diverse. Of 100 people, only 8 were Indians, while the rest were from 17 different nationalities. On the first day, I was excited to interact with people from different cultures and ethnicities, spanning from Israel to Columbia to New Zealand.
The course structure had long hours of meditation, Buddhist teachings, discussion groups wherein we dwelled on and introspected on the learnings of that day, as well as karma yoga where we assisted the monks with the chores of running the property. Learning starts from unlearning, this was their way to make us humble to receive their learning. To keep us off the distractions of the world and people, we were not allowed the use of any gadgets or interactions amongst ourselves, even reading books of non-related content was not recommended. The imbibing of learnings and discipline was further aided by a simple lifestyle that included bland food, a set pattern of things, and long periods of silence. With each passing day, I could sense the increased subtleness of mind. I was changing, becoming more aware of my mind and moods.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” – Dalai Lama
Our teaching comprised topics such as working of mind, anger, happiness, karma, and others. We delved deep into them through various meditation practices such as Shamatha (focussing on any object such as the breath), visualization, analytical meditation (or vipassana), mindfulness, and so forth.
As days went by, I immersed myself in the spiritual literature kept in an extensive library and tried to relate it with the teachings taught in class and my own life experience. On the 7th day, magic happened. As we were going through a session of practice in the evening inside a beautifully painted hall, when we began chanting a mantra with our teacher within a few chants, I started getting Goosebumps. It felt like something had awakened inside me, and the feeling kept growing within me. When the chants came to an end, I could see people crying. Everybody was awed with this new sensation. I have trekked to 19000 feet, did bungee jumping from 600 feet, and also done some other daring stuff, but still, the feeling I had that day overwhelmed me. After the session, I sat in the lawn for a very long time, looking at a water tap, taking notice of every water drop that trickled down from it. I was intoxicated, yet fully aware as if each receptor in my body had suddenly become active. At that moment, I just wanted to hold that state of consciousness forever.
Following day, we had a guest teacher at Tushita, a German nun who meditated in a nearby Himalayan cave for 12 years. Her lecture gave a fresh perspective to our mind, body, and emotion. She gave an analogy that while watching movies, we cry, get angry, or excited with characters even though we know little of them, yet we feel their every emotion. Similarly, in life, we are not the mind, body, and emotion, but a separate entity. Instantly, I was able to relate it with my own experience that whenever I sat for meditation, within minutes, a new thought kept befalling in my mind. This realization helped me to develop certain innate stability to face the tumultuous waves of life. At the same time, it also reminded me of the famous dialogue “हम सब रंगमंच की कठपुतली हैं ” (Translation – We all are stage puppets) from the movie Anand.
The last two days at Tushita were kept for absorbing teachings in complete silence, having neither discussion groups nor teachings. Finally, the course ended on the 10th day, they finally allowed us to speak after breakfast, but nobody had anything to say. The stillness had replaced restlessness.
Gradually people started talking. A Turkish guy said sorry to me because, during our discussion group, he had questioned my belief that we need to take care of our parents. It made me realize that the difference in our values and approaches to life were stemmed and shaped by our societal and cultural surrounding. My idea of agony was far different from those Israelis who had lost a loved one in a war, or that American nurse who was posted in Afghanistan treating abused women at the hands of their husbands, or that girl from Holland who lost her fiancé in a suicide bombing. And yet here they were, making the best of life and being so appreciative of India and the environment it provides.
At last, we had a nice lunch with Pizza as a reward from our teachers. They emphasized on small steps on a day to day basis to transform ourselves. They bade farewell to us and requested us to keep an open and exploratory mind, incorporate their teachings in our life, and keep exploring our inner being.
“Our life is like a house with many windows, once in a while choose a different window to look at it.”