Vipassana — which means to see things as they really are — is an ancient Indian technique of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2,500 years ago, and taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art Of Living.
A non-sectarian technique, Vipassana aims for the total eradication of mental impurities. Healing — not the curing of diseases, but the essential healing of human suffering — is its purpose.
Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body. These sensations continuously connect with and condition the life of the mind.
This observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body dissolves mental impurities, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion. The scientific laws that operate one’s thoughts, feelings, judgments and sensations become clear. Through direct experience, the nature of how one grows or regresses, how one produces suffering or frees oneself from suffering, is understood. Life becomes characterized by increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control and peace.
Since the time of Buddha, Vipassana has been handed down, to the present day, by an unbroken chain of teachers. Although Indian by descent, the most recent teacher in this chain, Mr. S.N. Goenka, was born and raised in Burma (Myanmar). While living there he had the good fortune to learn Vipassana from his teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, who was at the time a high government official. After fourteen years of training Mr. Goenka settled in India, and in 1969 began teaching Vipassana. In 1982 he started appointing assistant teachers to help meet the growing demand for Vipassana courses. He taught tens of thousands of people of many races and religions, in both the East and West, before his death in 2013.
The technique is taught at ten-day residential courses, during which participants follow a prescribed Code of Discipline, learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results.
The course requires hard, serious work. There are three steps to the training. First, for the period of the course participants are to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual activity, speaking falsely, and intoxicants. This simple code of moral conduct serves to calm the mind, which otherwise would be too agitated to perform the task of self-observation.
The next step is to develop some mastery over the mind, by learning to fix one’s attention on the natural reality of the ever-changing flow of breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils.
By the fourth day the mind is calmer and more focused, and better able to undertake the practice of Vipassana itself: observing sensations throughout the body, understanding their nature, and developing equanimity by learning not to react to them.
As well as learning the technique of Vipassana, on the last full day of a course participants learn the meditation of loving kindness and goodwill towards all, in which the purity developed during the course is shared with all beings.
Below is a 20 min explanation of the technique of Vipassana Mediation by Mr. S.N. Goenka, the foremost lay teacher of Vipassana meditation in the tradition
The entire practice is actually a mental training. Just as we use physical exercise to improve our bodily health, Vipassana can be used to develop a healthy mind.
Because it has been found to be genuinely helpful, great emphasis is put on preserving the technique in its original, authentic form. It is not taught commercially, but instead is offered freely. No person involved in its teaching receives any material remuneration.
There are no charges for the courses — not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. All expenses are met by donations from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to also benefit.
Of course, results come gradually through continued practice. It is unrealistic to expect all of one’s problems to be solved in ten days. Still, within ten days the essentials of Vipassana can be learned, so they can be applied in daily life. The more the technique is practiced, the greater the freedom from misery. Even ten days can provide results which are vividly beneficial in everyday life.
All sincere people are welcome to join a Vipassana course to see for themselves how the technique works and to measure the benefits. Vipassana is an invaluable tool with which to achieve and share real happiness with others.
For additional information on Vipassana courses in your area, you may contact a local Vipassana respresentative.