Vipassana meditation is a logical process of mental purification and training through self-observation. Vipassana is one of Hinduism’s most ancient meditation techniques. It aims at raising the mind to such a level that is no longer subject to suffering. Vipassana enables us to experience peace and harmony: it purifies the mind, freeing it from suffering and the deep-seated causes of suffering. The mind transcends the worldly condition and attains a supra-mundane level (lokottara bhumi).
In the Theravada tradition, two basic forms of meditation (Pali: jhana, Sanskrit: dhyana) have been practiced in various forms.
The first one is closely related to the Hindu tradition of Yoga practices, involving a process of moral and intellectual purification, associated with stages of jnanic attainment.
The second form of meditation of the Theravada tradition is called vipassana or insight meditation, which requires concentration and is produced by exercises such as concentrating on one’s breathing. This is then used to attain directly the Buddhist insight into the truth that all reality is without self and impermanent and is filled with suffering.
This insight from the Buddhist perspective gives direct access to progress along the path of actual attainment of nirvana itself. Though vipassana forms are never completely ignored, the emphasis is placed on jnanic forms in Theravada texts.
Vipassana is the essence of what Gautama Buddha practiced and taught during his 45 year ministry. During this time, large numbers of people in North India are believed to have been freed from the bonds of suffering by practicing vipassana, allowing them to attain high levels of achievement in all spheres of life. Over time, the technique spread to the neighboring countries of Myanmar (earlier Burma), Sri Lanka, Thailand and others, where it is said to have had the same ennobling effect.
Five centuries after Buddha, the heritage of vipassana disappeared from India. In Myanmmar, however, a chain of devoted teachers preserved it. From generation to generation, over two thousand years, this dedicated lineage transmitted the technique in its pristine purity.
S.N.Goenka reintroduced vipassana to India, as well as to citizens from more than 80 other countries. He was authorized to teach vipassana by the renowned vipassana teacher of Myanmar, Sayagi U Ba Khin, and began conducting vipassana courses in India in 1969 CE. After ten years, he began to teach in foreign countries as well.
In a ten-day residential course, conducted at established vipassana centers, students suspend all religious practice and follow a demanding daily schedule, which includes about ten hours of sitting meditation.
Three steps to the training are –
Students practice abstinence from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, and the use of intoxicants.
For the first three and a half days, they practice anapana meditation, focusing attention on the breath.
Purifying the mind for the last six and a half days by the practice of vipassana: one penetrates one’s entire physical and mental structure with the clarity of insight.
Originally Published: www.hindu-blog.com