Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me by Raji Lukkoor is a personal account of the author’s experience on a ten-day vipassana meditation retreat. It is not written as a Buddhist book, per se, and the author writes in her preface that she had no Buddhist background when she embarked on the retreat. This makes the title very useful for anyone who wants to find out more about the vipassana retreat experience, whatever their background, because as the author learns about the practice of vipassana, so does the reader.
The ten-day retreat that is described in this book was led (via video instruction) by S. N. Goenka, and anyone who has already experienced a retreat such as this will find Inner Pilgrimage to be a very useful summary of the main concepts that are taught. Those who are merely curious about how this kind of retreat works – or who have been thinking about taking part in one but are unsure about what to expect – will get an excellent first-hand account from someone who knows.
Inner Pilgrimage is split into 13 chapters. In the first chapter, Day Zero, the author says goodbye to her family and makes her way to the retreat centre. Here we learn why she decided to take the retreat and what it will involve. We are with Raji every step of the way as she checks in, finds her accommodation and sits on her assigned cushion for the very first time when she attends the introductory session.
The next ten chapters take us through the retreat day by day, and throughout the book the author writes not only in the first person, but also in the present tense. This gives her writing a great sense of immediacy and puts the reader firmly in the middle of the experience. Perhaps even more importantly, the author writes with complete and utter honesty throughout, describing not only external activities but also her internal thought processes. As you might expect, the author found quite a few things to mentally grumble about during the first day or so, and her train of thought initially switched tracks with alarming regularity, but as we read on we get to see that her entire attitude softened and changed as the retreat progressed, and so we witness – as far as possible via the written word – a genuine transformation.
Raji learned a great deal on her ten-day retreat, and by covering all of the main points in some detail she has ensured that the reader is able to learn alongside her. All of the important concepts taught on the retreat are very well explained in a way that makes them easy to understand even if you have no prior knowledge of vipassana, and that makes Inner Pilgrimage an excellent introduction to the subject, and one that will no doubt motivate you to find out more.
A brief chapter entitled Homecoming covers the author preparing to return home, and the final chapter, The Afterlife, tells us how she felt about the ten-day retreat some eight months later. Here we learn how the retreat has improved her life in a variety of ways, and whilst the author is quick to point out that she didn’t grown a halo of light around her head or experience angelic visitations of any kind, it is clear that the ten day retreat has changed her life quite substantially, and all for the better.
In summary, Inner Pilgrimage is a book that we recommend highly to anyone who has any level of interest in vipassana, and we thank the author for putting her very personal experience in writing for the benefit of others.