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

 

 

 

 

 

Vipassana Meditation: An Introduction

Vipassana means insight. To see things as they really are, in their true perspective, in their true nature. It is a practical technique of self-examination, a scientific method of self-observation that results in the total purification of the mind and the highest happiness of full liberation.

Historical Background

Vipassana is a very ancient meditation technique of India, rediscovered over 2,500 years ago by Gotama the Buddha, the Enlightened One. The technique helped a large number of people in India to come out of their suffering and attain a high level of growth in all spheres of human activity. Subsequently, the technique went to the neighbouring countries of Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand and many others. It had the same ennobling impact on the people of those countries as in India.
About 500 years after the Buddha taught this technique, India lost it and so did many other countries. However, in Burma it was preserved in its pristine purity by a chain of teachers, though the number of persons practising it was quite small. Shri S.N. Goenka learned this technique in the year 1955 from the late Sayagyi U Ba Khin of Burma, a renowned teacher of Vipassana. For nearly 14 years Goenkaji received training under his teacher. Sayagyi wished that the technique of Vipassana should go back to India, the place of its origin, and help India to come out of its manifold problems and then spread throughout the world to help liberate mankind from the pangs of suffering.
Goenkaji has taken this as his life's mission, and has been teaching the technique in India since 1969 and in other countries since 1979. The main centre for the training and practice of Vipassana is the Vipassana International Academy. It was established in 1976 at Dhamma Giri, on the outskirts of the town of Igatpuri in Nasik district, about 135 kilometres from Bombay. Here regular ten-day courses are conducted continuously throughout the year. For more advanced students, 20, 30 and 45-day courses are also held. Adjacent to the Academy at Dhamma Giri is the Vipassana Research Institute which has been established to further the spread of Vipassana by organising research on the Vipassana technique and the Pāli texts in which it is explained. Research is also conducted on the application of the Vipassana technique in such fields as health, education and social development. A Pāli language programme is offered, and works of interest to Vipassana students are published.
Over the years, additional Vipassana centres have developed in Hyderabad, Jaipur, and Calcutta in India and also in Nepal, New Zealand, France, Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan and in the United States. At least one ten day course is held every month at these centres. Goenkaji has trained and appointed over 400 Assistant Teachers in India and abroad to assist him in conducting courses at these Centres and elsewhere. Goenkaji himself has conducted more than 400 ten-day courses in India and abroad. The courses conducted by the Assistant Teachers now number well over 1000.
Thousands of people from all walks of life in India and abroad have attended these courses and benefited from them. The technique is non-sectarian and open to all without any distinction of race, caste, religion or nationality. All courses are financed solely by donations from those who have taken a course and experienced benefits themselves and wish others to benefit in the same way. Neither the Teacher nor the Assistant Teachers profit in any material way from the courses. By this policy, the teaching of Vipassana can be spread with purity of purpose and without any commercialism.

Objective

The objective of the technique is to purify the mind. All human actions emanate from the mind and a pure mind is by nature full of love and compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. Sustained practice of Vipassana brings about the total transformation of the human personality.

Method

To learn Vipassana it is required to take a ten-day residential course under a qualified teacher. Observance of Sila (Moral Conduct) For the period of the course, sila, certain rules of moral conduct, must be observed. Everyone abstains from killing any sentient being, stealing, sexual misconduct (observing complete celibacy during the course), telling lies, and taking any intoxicants. The observance of sila is an indispensable part of this technique. A student, keen on attaining complete purification of his mind, has to start with a certain degree of purity. Any violation of the rules of conduct is bound to agitate and defile the mind. An agitated mind cannot proceed on the path of truth, the path of self-exploration. Observance of sila is, therefore, a prerequisite, an indispensable foundation for the practice of Vipassana.

Anapana (Awareness of respiration)

The student then starts the practice by observing respiration: the awareness of the natural flow of the incoming and outgoing breath, just breath. Two things happen at this stage of the practice: gradually the mind gets concentrated on the process of respiration, and at the same time the student becomes aware of the relationship between mental states and the respiration. One observes that whenever there is some agitation in the mind due to anger, hatred, fear, passion, etc., the normal respiration is affected; it gets disturbed. Although this happens all the time, the student discovers this process for the first time, and then continues the practice unruffled by the change in respiration. As the mind becomes more and more concentrated, it starts to calm down, making it fit to practise Vipassana, insight, which will remove the roots of all the mental defilements.

Vedana (Feeling body sensations)

Man is nothing but a combination of mind and body: Nama-rupa. The bodily sensations are manifestations of the interaction of mind and matter, a process which goes on continuously. As the six sense-doors come in contact with their respective objects, sensations occur in the body. These sensations are perceived as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, according to the evaluation made by a section of the mind. As soon as these sensations are felt, perceived and evaluated, the mind reacts with liking or disliking on the basis of its past conditioning. A continuous process of multiplication of deep complexes is the result. This phenomenon is explained as the four functions of the mind, that is consciousness (vinnana), perception (sanna), feeling of body sensations (vedana), and reaction (sankhara).

Vipassana

As one proceeds on this path, one's awareness becomes sharper. One is no longer oblivious as to what is happening inside. One now observes sensations in all parts of one's body: heat, cold, throbbing, pulsation, lightness, heaviness, itching, burning, pain, etc. One observes that these sensations arise and pass away. One understands their impermanent character, their ephemeral nature, at the experiential level. A proper grasp of this natural process is indeed a breakthrough. One observes these sensations objectively without any identification of 'I', 'me' or 'mine'. The student is just an observer of the constantly changing mental and bodily phenomena. Continued and proper practice of Vipassana brings about even the elimination of the concept of an observer. Only observation remains.

The process of purification

During the meditation period, moments come when there is no new input of any complex-sankhara. The mind is just aware of sensations, unattached and full of equanimity. When this happens, layers after layers of accumulated deep conditioning, which are the cause of suffering, are eradicated. The mind becomes cleaner and purer, unburdened of defilements. Awareness gets established and the analytical faculty of the mind becomes sharper. There is no longer any sloth: there is energy. As a result, distinct awareness, discriminatory understanding of the law of nature, perseverance rapture, tranquility, concentration and equanimity develop in the mind. These factors of enlightenment lead to liberation, release from all suffering, here and now. All this is not achieved just by attending a course of ten days. There is no short cut; one has to make sustained effort; one has to work really hard. But the goal is achievable by one and all. A ten-day course followed by regular practice sets in motion a process of improvement which is worth attempting, sublime and elevating.

Present environment and Vipassana

class="page-wrap" type=divThe developments in the realm of science and technology, particularly in the field of electronics, have revolutionised human life. It seems there is material progress all around. In fact, this apparent progress is superficial; underneath, the mind of man is under great stress, even in developed and affluent societies. The problems of conflicts arising out of racial, ethnic, sectarian and caste prejudices, of poverty, ignorance, ill health, drugs, the menace of terrorism and the erosion of moral values cast a deep shadow on the future of human civilisation. Is there a way out? The answer is a clear and unequivocal yes. The problems are man-made. Man will have to change; change his attitude and his perceptions. Vipassana deals with the human mind, the human psyche. There is clear evidence of people changing, getting transformed, coming out of anger, avarice and conceit. People addicted to drugs and intoxicants have come out of their malady. The cruel have become kind and the rowdy, disciplined. There has been substantial improvement in the efficiency of people and in their inter-personal relations. Students have done better in their studies; professionals have become more effective. Several studies made on Vipassana bear ample testimony to its efficacy. In the present context, therefore, the message of Vipassana is very relevant and the holding of this Seminar is of great importance.