In Chicago I came to know about Dhamma Pakasa, a Vipassana center near Rockford, Illinois and immediately decided to visit the place and spend New Year in the meditation center.
Rockford used to be the second most populous city in Illinois and is about an hour drive from downtown Chicago depending on the traffic. It a very scenic place and well laid American town which you usually see in Hollywood movies. I loved the space around town and Dhamma Pakasa (http://www.pakasa.dhamma.org) was about 20
minute drive from the Van Galder bus station. Van Galder is a very comfortable bus journey and
you can catch the bus from Downtown Chicago (Union Station) or Chicago O’Hare station.
Dhamma Pasaka is small 50 residential Vipassana meditation center surrounded by pristine beauty and beatific landscape. A 10 day course had already started and requested for part time opportunity to serve in the course and very thankful to the center managers Kim and Karan for allowing me to visit. Inset pic Meditation hall
The service like elsewhere includes attending at least three one hour group meditations apart from helping in chores around the center. The service in America is much more focused and intensive compared to India since it includes cooking in the kitchen as well as cleaning. The course included an eclectic mix of people from around America who served in harmony with compassion and enthusiasm as well knit group. The food was amazingly delicious and loved the Carrot Halwa prepared by an Indian lady and some delicious cookies baked by Cookie Man (American from California). I shared my dorm with the cookie man (lovingly nick name) and an elderly man (both of whom were poets and writers. I gave them a tough time due to my snoring and guess need to address it soon. I met two young Americans (Ariel and Mike) who taken a spiritual sabbatical and were exploring meditation and mindfulness and travelling around America. I had a very insightful chat with them and shared my timeless experiences. During my visit at the center, learnt a bit how to cut vegetables (got some very useful tips), cleaned utensils, cleaned around the kitchen and got a very good feel of various chores. Very thankful to Mike for treating to an excellent Indian buffet after the course. The friendships you make over a small period of time are timeless and immeasurable. Last but not the least special thanks to the teachers for allowing me to attend the course at such a short course. I had met many Americans in Vipassana centers and monasteries in India and neighboring countries and marvel at their dedication and single minded focus towards spiritualism. Many of them had inspired me and had promised that when I go to US, I would definitely give my best heartfelt service in centers around US. I also saw a few churches around Rockford and wanted to visit one of them but did not have much time. The best part of my stay at Dhamma Pakasa was that I also meditated at-least three hours everyday with more focus on Annapanna i.e. concentration on breath. If you are path of wisdom as preached by Buddha then meditation and mindfulness is prime part of self realization backed by intellectual understanding of the path.
Forgot to mention that Chicago has some very old and histrionically known churches around the city and definitely makes sense to visit them to pay respects to Jesus and Mother Mary. It was one of the most holistic serving experiences I had in any Vipassana center and my first among the many in America. I connected with warmth of people and felt very much at home. My visit to Chicago and Dhamma Pakasa was a shot in the arm and thankful to my parents especially my mother for encouraging me to take time out to visit Chicago and Vipassana center during the short break between terms at University of Michigan.
We come to an end of recording my journey here on this blog. Might write one article on my visit to a church and will focus more on articles on economics, science etc.
Leave you with a video with Majestic swans around the center…