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founded by S. N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin






Theme Paper by VRI

Considerable data is available indicating the various mental and physical benefits accruing from the practice of Vipassana meditation. However, one point must be made clear from the outset and that is: alleviation of disease is not the final goal of this technique, it is only a by-product.

Vipassana aims at the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. Healing, not merely the curing of diseases, but the essential healing of human suffering, is the purpose of Vipassana meditation. Vipassana is a technique of self-exploration, a system of self-transformation by self-observation. It focuses on the absolute interconnection between mind and body, that can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that shatters dualism and evokes in the individual meditator a revolutionary vision of his or her unconscious mind.

The scientific laws that operate upon one's thoughts, feelings, judgments and sensations become clear. With simple clarity, the nature of how one grows or regresses, how one produces suffering or frees oneself from suffering, is elucidated. Life becomes characterized by increased awareness, reality-orientation, non-delusion, self-control and peace. Thus, Vipassana is a practical way to examine the reality of one's own body and mind, to uncover and solve whatever problems lie hidden there, to develop unused potential, and to channel it for one's own good and the good of others. "Know thyself," all wise persons have advised. "Atta dipo bhava-Develop the light (of wisdom) within," exhorted the Buddha.

We must begin by knowing our own nature, otherwise we can never solve our own problems or the problems of the world. One of the major problems which the present world is facing is: substance use disorder (chemical abuse and dependence or addiction). Chemical addiction is actually an addiction to sensations in the body. Initially a person may start taking chemicals for a number of reasons, such as an unhappy financial situation or an unhappy relationship. But eventually, when a person becomes a true addict, it is the craving for the pleasant body sensations induced by the intake of chemicals; or putting it differently, the aversion towards the unpleasant body sensations manifesting because of the withdrawal from the chemicals, that makes an addict continue to use chemicals. The addict is thus caught in the web of craving and aversion. Vipassana teaches one to develop equanimity towards sensations, and this capacity to observe sensations without reaction enables the addict to escape the web of craving and aversion and stop using chemicals.

It was more than 2500 years ago that the Buddha, by practising Vipassana-this science of introspection-understood how the various body sensations (vedana) arise with a concomitant and specific biochemical underflow (asava), and how this holds true for everybody, whether one is a chemical dependent addict or not. And recently modern science, with its sophisticated instruments, has also started discovering biochemicals specifically associated with certain emotional and behavioural phenomena. The addict, by virtue of practising meditation, becomes free to live for higher values and richer goals: loving-kindness, sympathetic joy, compassion and equanimity, and realises that he or she has other choices than using chemicals. In addition, continuing practice of the technique provides assistance in times of stress which might have led to relapse in the past. Vipassana meditation, therefore, is a human potential development method par excellence and an art of living that enables one to live a happy and harmonious life free from all addictions.