Most people think that a life of action and a life of spiritual contemplation have little in common. Vipassana Acharya Satya Narayan Goenkaji has shown otherwise. A leading industrialist in Myanmar (Burma) in the post-war years, he has gone on to become the foremost living householder teacher of Vipassana meditation and by his own example shown how meditation can be the foundation for a wholesome and socially beneficial life.
The practical, results-oriented nature of Vipassana is what appealed to S. N. Goenka. In 1955, he undertook a course and found that it was indeed a life-transforming experience. In the following years, he deepened his understanding of Vipassana and learned to apply it successfully in business and family life. His teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, was a senior civil servant who held the post of Accountant-General and other top-level positions in the central government of post-war Burma. At the same time, Sayagyi U Ba Khin taught Vipassana and worked to spread its practice in public life.
In 1969, Goenkaji was authorized to teach Vipassana as the representative of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. Since then he has devoted himself to fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to him. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life have experienced the practical benefits of the simple process of self-awareness that Goenkaji teaches, finding in it a highly effective, time-tested tool to better themselves, their lives and the societies in which they live.
Vipassana: As it is
"Vipassana" is an ancient pali word and it means "to be aware of the reality as it is". It is a universal, non-sectarian, scientific process of self-observation leading to deep purification of the mind. It is the science of mind-matter and has the potential to completely transform the individual. It may be called the 'Technology of Peace' or the 'Art of Living'. Vipassana is a timeless spiritual practice and was re-discovered by the Buddha 2500 years ago, who used it for His own enlightenment and also selflessly taught it to others. Vipassana is the practical essence of Buddha's teachings - a process of awareness of mind-matter 'as it is'.
While Vipassana is firmly rooted in the teaching of the Buddha, it is not a religion and involves no dogma, rites or rituals. Instead of a system of belief, it is a system of experience'a way to discover the reality of the world and oneself, in order to live a happy and productive life. It is a logical process of mental purification through self-observation. In the words of Sayagyi U Ba Khin, Vipassana offers results that are 'good, concrete, vivid, personal and immediate.'
Vipassana is useful for one and all - from prisoners to civil servants to students. Shorn of any 'new-age' cult-like practices or blind-beliefs, Vipassana helps one to maintain inner tranquility in the midst of external turmoil.
It is a practice used by people of all faiths and religions of the world. It may be said that Vipassana is the experiential practice of the teachings of Buddha, Guru Nanak, Kabir and all other saints on the path of Truth. A large number of Hindu sannyasis, Jain munis, Christian priests and Muslim clerics have benefited from this non-sectarian process of self-observation. Some of these religious leaders and scholars have found Vipassana to be the experiential development of innate spirituality and have even termed the practice of Vipassana Meditation to be "Applied Bible" or "Applied Gita" or "the practical application of the teachings of J.Krishnamurti"! Surely - peace, happiness, harmony, compassion and equanimity cannot be confined to any particular religion. 'Purity of mind is the common denominator of all religions.' Said Sayagyi U Ba Khin.
Vipassana: The Timeless Teaching
Vipassana is one of India's most ancient meditation processes. This timeless science of mind-matter was re-discovered 2500 years ago by Gotama the Buddha, and is the essence of what he practiced and taught during his forty-five year ministry. During the Buddha's time, large numbers of people in northern India were 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 practice of Vipassana spread to the neighbouring countries of Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, Thailand and others, where it had the same ennobling effect.
Five centuries after the Buddha, the noble heritage of Vipassana had disappeared from India. The purity of the teaching was lost elsewhere as well. In the country of Myanmar, however, a chain of devoted monk teachers preserved it. From generation to generation, over two thousand years, this dedicated lineage transmitted this practice in its pristine purity.
In our time, Goenkaji has reintroduced Vipassana to India, as well as to citizens from more than 100 other countries. Before he died in 1971, Sayagyi U Ba Khin was able to see one of his most cherished dreams realized. He had the strong wish that Vipassana should return to India, the land of its origin, to help it come out of its manifold problems. From India, he felt sure it would then spread throughout the world for the benefit of all mankind.
Goenkaji began conducting Vipassana courses in India in 1969; after ten years, he began to teach in foreign countries as well. In forty years, since he started teaching, Goenkaji has personally taught tens of thousands of people in more than 400 ten-day courses all over the world. In the early 1980s, in response to ever-growing demand, he began training assistant teachers to conduct the 10-day residential courses on his behalf.
So far, Goenkaji has trained more than 800 assistant teachers, who with the help of thousands of other volunteers, have conducted courses in more than 100 countries of the world. Over 1500 residential 10-day courses are now offered annually around the world. The 10-day courses offered by Goenkaji and his assistant teachers worldwide, currently attract more than 100,000 students annually.
Today Goenkaji finds himself at the head of a large worldwide movement, overseeing the work of the trained assistant teachers, and the running of Vipassana courses at some 130 permanent meditation centres and many more course sites across Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North and South America, Oceania and Africa.
The invaluable gem of Vipassana, long preserved in the small country of Myanmar, can now be practiced in many places throughout the world. Today ever-increasing numbers of people have the opportunity to learn, this 'Art of Living', which brings lasting peace and happiness.
In the past, India had the distinction of being regarded as a 'World Teacher' (Vishwa Guru). In our time, the Ganges of Truth is once again flowing out from India to a thirsty world.
Vipassana ' The Science of Happiness
Vipassana, is the process of self-purification by self-observation. It is "observing oneself in a special way". It is the choiceless, effortless observation of things as they really are. It is a process that purifies the mind, de-conditioning the negativities of anger, hatred, greed, selfishness etc. by self-introspection. It is looking at things 'as it is' and not through the coloured glasses of conditionings, which distort the perception. It is an effort to change the deep habit-pattern of the mind, which dwells in the continuous blind reactions of craving and aversion. It is the highest form of awareness'the total perception of the mind-matter phenomena in its true nature. Vipassana is Insight! Vipassana is experiential pragya!
Vipassana is what the Buddha practiced after trying all other forms of bodily mortification and mind control and finding them inadequate to free him from the seemingly endless round of birth and death, pain and sorrow. It is a teaching so valuable that in Burma it was preserved in its pristine purity for more than 2,200 years!
The foundation of Vipassana meditation is 'Sila'moral conduct. The practice is strengthened through 'Samadhi'concentration of the mind. And the purification of the mental processes is achieved through 'Panna' [Pragya] ' the experiential wisdom of insight.
Vipassana meditation, as taught by Goenkaji, has nothing to do with the development of supernormal, mystical, or special powers, even though they may be awakened. Nothing magical happens. The process of purification that occurs is simply an elimination of negativities, complexes, knots, and habits that have clouded pure consciousness and blocked the flow of mankind's highest qualities'pure love (Metta), compassion (Karuna), sympathetic joy (Mudita), and equanimity (Upekkha).
It is a science of the mind that goes beyond theoretical psychology. The Buddha taught how to experientially understand and thereby purify the mental process. 'Vipassana is the highest form of self-psychotherapy and is not confined to any particular religion or dogma,' says Goenkaji.
The practice is a 'Way of Life' which manifests its profound practical value in our lives'lessening and then eliminating the greed, anger, and ignorance that corrupt all relationships, from the family level to international politics. Vipassana spells an end to daydreaming, illusion, fantasy'the mirage of the apparent truth. Like the sizzling explosion of cold water being thrown on a red-hot stove, the reactions after bringing the mind out of its hedonistic tendencies into the 'here and now' are often dramatic and painful. Yet there is an equally profound feeling of release from tensions and complexes that have for so long held sway in the depths of the unconscious mind.
Through Vipassana anyone, irrespective of race, caste, or creed, can eliminate finally those tendencies that have woven so much anger, passion, and fear into our lives. During the training a student concentrates on only one task'the battle with his own ignorance. There is no guru worship or competition among students. The teacher is simply a well-wisher pointing the way he has charted through his own long practical experience.
One begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate the mind. With a sharpened awareness one proceeds to observe the changing nature of mind-body and experiences the universal truths of Impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and non-substantiality (anatta), at the level of sensations.
Mind and matter are deeply interrelated. To completely explore the reality within, the Vipassana meditator observes the body, the sensations on the body, the mind and the contents of the mind. Mindfulness (Satipatthana) is established by observing the truth - the reality 'as it is', from moment-to-moment.
The whole field of mind-matter is in a continuous state of flux... changing... changing... arising and passing away with great rapidity... nothing but vibration, scintillation, fluctuation and oscillation... this Impermanence ('anicca') is experientially understood by looking within.
Any conditioning that arises in the mind turns into matter, into a sensation in the material field. This was the Buddha's discovery. People forgot this truth, which can only be understood through proper observation. The Buddha said, "Sabbe Dhamma Vedana Sammosarana", anything that arises in the mind starts flowing along with sensations on the body. The observation of these body sensations is the observation of mind-matter process ' the observation of the mind at its depths. This is going much deeper than the thoughts ' which are merely the surface layer of the mind. The mind is not something outside one's body or just confined to the brain. Mind is there in every particle of the body. To begin with, as Mind and matter are deeply interrelated, it may not possible to look at the mind or body separately. The observation of any reality of the mind or body ' is actually an observation of the entire mind-body structure. Thus, the observation of these body sensations is the complete holistic observation of the entire field of mind-matter ' what we consider to be 'mine', 'me' and 'I' ' what we consider to be our 'being'! This is 'self-realization'! The observation of these body sensations leads to the establishment of mindfulness (Satipatthana) into the reality of the body, the sensations on the body, the mind and the contents of the mind ' as a whole.
The Vipassana meditator is like a scientist who sees from his own personal experience how mind and matter are related to each other. To believe that one understands the mind process without having directly experienced the reality of mind-matter - is a big delusion. This is where Vipassana starts helping us. Vipassana is reading the book that one is oneself! There are sensations throughout the body, from head to feet. One feels those sensations, and is asked not to react to them. Our habits, conditioning and miseries can only be ended when we stop multiplying them. When we blindly react and crave for something ' we enforce the habit. When we blindly react and want to get rid of something ' we further perpetuate the same vicious cycle. This misery is what binds us and it can be ended by the 'middle path'! No craving. No suppression. Just observation. One just observes; observes objectively, without identifying oneself with the sensations. Mere observation. Bare observation. Observation of the reality 'as it is'. 'Doing' nothing! Just observing the dynamically changing reality - 'what is' - from moment-to-moment'.
The Vipassana meditator begins by observing his body, which initially appears to be so solid'he continues to experientially observe the entire mental-physical structure at the level of body sensations... observing' observing' he will reach the stage when he will actually experience that the entire mind-body structure is nothing but subatomic particles: throughout the body, nothing but 'kalapas' (subatomic particles). And even these tiniest subatomic particles are not solid. They are mere vibration, just wavelets. The Buddha was a super-scientist. The words of the Enlightened One become clear by experience: 'Sabbo Pajjalito Loko, Sabbo Loko Pakampito'. The entire universe is nothing but combustion and vibration. This is what science textbooks may tell us ' but, the Buddha discovered this truth about mind-matter with His introspective eye. This is what the Vipassana meditator does. As, the meditator proceeds on this experiential journey and actually feels these subtle truths about his own mind-body ' he becomes convinced that his observation is becoming sharper and deeper and that he is penetrating the depths of the mind much deeper than the superficial thoughts. Hearing lofty discourses or intellectualizing on philosophical matters or attending counseling sessions or praying or recitations or rites-rituals or the practice ofpranayama cannot touch these depths of mind. Vipassana is the real art of 'dialogue' with oneself. Vipassana is the art of 'seeing' the mind at its depths. Vipassana is the science of deep mind purification.
Moko kahaan dhoonde re bande, main to tere paas me.
Na mai mandir, na masjid, na kaabe kailash me.
Nahi kono kriya karam na jog bairag me.
Khoji hoye to turathi milihon pal bhar ki talash me' Kabir
Vipassana apne se apni hi gupchup guftagu hai, yaaron! Shabdon, vichaaron, manyataaon ke pare mauni ki maun antaryatra' Mangal Ho!
The Vipassana meditator continues to observe these body sensations. Just observing and not reacting. Every moment aware. Every moment equanimous. The meditator is a student learning the truths about himself. Self-study! He himself experiences and understands that the entire mental-material world is nothing but vibrations. He experiences the ocean of infinite waves surging within, the river of inner sensations flowing within, the eternal dance of the countless vibrations within every atom of the body. The Vipassana student becomes a witness to his continuously changing nature. All of this is happening at an extremely subtle level. These kalapas (subatomic particles) are in a state of perpetual change or flux. They are nothing but a stream of energies, just like the light of a candle or an electric bulb. The body (as we call it) is not an entity as it seems to be, but is actually an ever-changing continuum of mind-matter.
The meditator becomes sensitive to the ongoing processes within - which in other words are atomic reactions ever-taking place in all living beings. When one becomes engrossed with the choiceless observation of these sensations, which are the products of nature, one comes to the experiential realization of the truth that this whole mental-physical being is after all a changing mass. This is the fundamental concept of 'anicca' - the nature of change that is ever taking place in everything, whether animate or inanimate, that exists in this universe.
We may know this truth of impermanence of the mind-body structure intellectually, but when this is actually experienced - it is a revolutionary understanding ' an understanding which when established, will fundamentally change the individual by striking at the roots of his conditionings. This understanding has the power to eradicate all ignorance about ourselves and how we function. This truth of impermanence, when directly experienced makes it clear that we are in essence 'sensation seeking' organisms and all that we do, our whole life, is blindly react to these impermanent sensations!
We crave for pleasant sensations and have aversion for unpleasant sensations. Is there a moment in life when we are out of this pattern?
And sensations are so impermanent; they arise only to pass away'. to form a 'memory' (conditioning) of these impermanent sensations and to crave for them, gives rise to so much suffering ('dukkha').
The concept of 'anatta': we call a "substance" - what appears to us to be a substance. In reality there is no substance as such. The solidity of this mental-physical structure is apparent ' this body, this mind is in essence nothing but vibrations in a state of great flux. So where is the 'I'? ' Its just empty phenomenon rolling on, as per laws of nature. Isn't this 'I' an illusion? This is the realization of non-substantiality ('anatta'). As the course of meditation progresses, the student comes to the experiential realization that there is no substantiality in his so-called self, and there is no such thing as the core of a being. Eventually he breaks away the egocentrism in him - both in respect to mind and body. He then emerges out of meditation with a new outlook - ego-less and self-less -alive to the fact that whatever happens in this universe is subject to the fundamental law of cause and effect. He knows with his inward eye the illusory nature of the separate self. The observer is the observed... in fact, there is just 'observation'! Is there a separate doer / separate self?
To a casual observer a piece of iron is motionless. The scientist knows that it is composed of electrons all in a state of perpetual change or flux. If this is so with a piece of iron, what will be the case with a living organism, say, a human being? The changes taking place inside a human body must be more violent. Does man feel the rocking vibrations within himself? Does the scientist, who knows that all the electrons are in a perpetual state of change or flux ever feel that his own body is but energy and vibration? What will be the repercussion on the mental attitude of the man who introspectively sees that his own body is mere energy and vibration?
To quench thirst one may easily just drink a glass of water from a village well. Supposing his eyes are as powerful as microscopes, he would surely hesitate to drink the very same water in which he must see the magnified microbes. Similarly, when one comes to the realization of perpetual change within himself (anicca or impermanence), he must come to the understanding, as a sequel thereto, of the truth of suffering (dukkha) as a consequence of the sharp sense of feeling the combustion, radiation, vibration and friction of the atomic units within. Indeed life is suffering, within and without, to all appearances and in ultimate reality.
Vipassana teaches us to observe suffering and the arising of suffering. Without observing these two we can never know the cessation of suffering. Suffering arises with the sensations. If we react to sensations, then suffering arises. If one does not react one does not suffer from them. However unpleasant a sensation may be, if one does not react with aversion, one can smile with equanimity. The Vipassana meditator understands that this is all anicca - impermanence. This truth-realization by direct experience is the process of purification. The whole habit pattern of the mind changes at the deepest level.
There is no dependence on books, theories, or intellectual games in Vipassana. The truth of impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha), and non-substantiality (anatta) are grasped directly with all the enormous power of the mind rather than the crutch of the intellect. The illusion of a "self," binding the mental and physical functions together, is gradually broken.
The madness of cravings and aversions, the futile grasping of "I, me, mine," the endless chatter and conditioned thinking, the reaction of blind impulse'these gradually lose their strength. By his own efforts the student develops experiential wisdom and purifies his own mind.
The student of this science called Vipassana - experientially understands that every desire is the desire of a sensation. Every desire is the desire to maintain or reject a sensation. Every desire is a craving or aversion at the level of sensations. The mind seeks sensations ' madly and blindly. Isn't this mad pursuit of sensations, the craving... the root cause of all misery and sorrow? Can this madness come to an end? Is it possible to stand in the middle of the 2 extremes of mortification / suppression and being overpowered by desire? Is it possible to 'just observe'? Is it possible to be a master of the mind? Vipassana has all the answers. Vipassana is the art of transcending, and not suppressing, the sensory attractions.
With continuity of practice, the meditation will quiet the mind, increase concentration, arouse acute mindfulness, and develop Insight. This insight is the ability to experience the reality in its true nature. As in the Buddha's enlightenment, a student simply goes deep inside himself, disintegrating the apparent reality until in the depths he can penetrate even beyond subatomic particles into the absolute. The final culmination of this process of mere observation, bare observation, observation of the reality 'as it is'- staying with 'what is', effortlessly and choicelessly, from moment to moment, is the "peace of Nibbana within". Nibbana or Nirvana is the freedom from all suffering and is an indescribable state beyond the impermanent field of mind-matter.
There is no scope for imagination or intellectualisation in Vipassana, there is no place for any illusion /delusion/hallucination. The whole path is based on actual experience; the whole path is based on the actual experience of the truth ' the truth, as it actually manifests, from moment-to-moment.
We learn how to observe the reality within ourselves with perfect equanimity, and find how valuable this ability is in our daily lives.
Vipassana is the 'Science and Art of Living' that teaches to smile in good times, and to be equally unperturbed when difficulties arise all around us, in the certain knowledge that we, like our troubles, are nothing but a flux, waves and vibrations arising with incredible speed, only to pass away with equal rapidity. Just bubbles!
Vipassana is the Art of Looking Within, Living from moment-to-moment ' Living in the 'now' and being happy! Vipassana is the science of mind-matter, an objective study of mind-matter interaction and the application of this experiential understanding to deeply purify the mind by eradicating the conditionings. It is a universal practical tool to realize inner peace and happiness.
Vipassana is a radical revolution in the psyche and has the potential to fundamentally transform the individual. The entire path is a universal remedy for universal problems and has nothing to do with any organized religion or sectarianism. For this reason, it can be freely practiced by everyone, at any time, in any place, without conflict due to race, community or religion, and will prove equally beneficial to one and all.
How Vipassana is Taught
Self-introspection is a serious task, and a Vipassana course is a major undertaking. For 10 days the participants remain within the course site, cutting all contact with the outside world. They refrain from reading and writing, and suspend any religious activities. Among themselves they maintain complete silence (Arya Maun), but are free to discuss difficulties or questions with the teacher or management.
They begin by committing themselves to a code of ethical conduct (Sila): for the period of the course they agree to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual activity, harmful speech and use of intoxicants. These are all actions that agitate the mind and interfere with the work of introspection. Having agreed to avoid them, participants can proceed with the task at hand.
The first part of the technique is to develop concentration (Samadhi): students practice focusing their attention on the flow of the natural, normal breath within the area of the nostrils and upper lip. This is called Anapana or awareness of the incoming-outgoing breath. They do not practice pranayama or control the breath in any way. They just observe the breath ' as it is. They work at this for three days, and as they try again and again, they gradually develop the ability to keep their attention fixed on the object of their natural breath. By doing so, they turn their mind into a tool for penetrating self-analysis.
On the fourth day they begin the practice of Vipassana meditation itself. Instead of focusing on one spot, they move their attention systematically from head to feet and feet to head, observing in turn whatever sensations occur in each part of the body. Pleasant or unpleasant, every sensation is to be observed and accepted dispassionately, with the silent experiential understanding that these sensations are a changing phenomenon. Impermanent' Impermanent' Anicca' Anicca'Sabbo Pajjalito Loko. Sabbo Loko Pakampito' Pakampito' Vibrating' Oscillating' Scintillating' Anicca' Anicca.
With continued observation, this practice gradually brings into consciousness deeply suppressed complexes that are the source of mental agitation. Whether they manifest as emotions, memories, dreams or anything else, they are all accompanied by physical sensations. The meditators are instructed to give importance only to actual sensation, practicing to perceive its impermanent nature. Through trial and error they learn to observe even the most unpleasant or agreeable experience with equanimity, a mind at balance. As they do so, they find that agitation gives way to inner peace.
With proper practice acute mindfulness arises and Insight (Panna / Pragya) is developed. This insight is the ability to experience the reality in its true nature, at the level of sensations. It is a long journey; on the path of truth... experiencing the truth about mind-matter from moment-to-moment... the journey culminates in experiencing Nibbana - the ultimate absolute truth, beyond the dimensions of time-space-causation, beyond the impermanent conditioned field of mind-matter. This is not a topic for intellectualisation or blind-belief ' the whole path is that of direct experience. A Vipassana meditator does not look or crave for Nibbana, he is happy to take his first step on the path and he understands that every step takes him closer and closer to his final goal of complete de-conditioning of the mind.
As the course approaches its end, most participants feel a sense of accomplishment, of well-being, and of having set aside a burden. Typically, the desire to share this peace with others arises. Through the formal practice of cultivating goodwill and loving kindness towards all (Metta), meditators mentally share their peace and happiness with others 'May all beings be happy, May all beings be peaceful.... May all enjoy real peace, real harmony, and real happiness... Just as I have experienced deep peace inside, may all enjoy peace.... I share my happiness with others' May all be happy'.
When they leave the course they have the opportunity of applying this practice in active life. For all it is a major challenge. But whether or not they succeed immediately, most understand that they have a goal worth striving towards. They now have the tools to become master of themselves by learning not to be overwhelmed by any experience, and to use this mastery in order to live a good life that brings happiness to themselves and those around them.
The Vipassana Courses
Vipassana courses are held regularly at permanent centres and rented sites in different countries. In addition to the frequent 10-day courses, special courses and long courses of 20, 30, 45 and 60 days are offered for advanced students at long course centres like Dhamma Tapovan, (Igatpuri, Maharashtra) established for this purpose.
Anapana courses are held regularly for children between 8 to 16 years. Generally separate courses are organized for age groups 8 to 12 years and 13 to 16 years. The courses are of different duration to suit every section of the society. Residential courses are for 3 or 2 days. There are also non-residential courses for 1 or 2 days. Anapana courses are also being conducted at various Institutions like Schools, Orphan Homes, Homes for the Blind, Juvenile Homes, etc.
Seven-day Vipassana courses are also organised for teenagers who have completed 15 years and up to 19 years.
All courses throughout the world are run solely on the basis of voluntarily offered donations. From the very beginning, there has never been any charge for the teaching in these courses. No fee is charged even for boarding and lodging. The courses are financed totally by voluntary donations from grateful students who have completed a prior course and wish to share the benefits they themselves received by giving donation for the students who come after them. All donations are entirely voluntary without the slightest coercion. Neither Goenkaji nor the assistant teachers receive any remuneration; they and those who serve the courses volunteer their time. All are required to have their own means of Livelihood (Right Livelihood). They impart the teaching as a public service without discrimination of race, class, creed, gender and without self-interest. This practice is consistent with the pure tradition, whereby the teaching is to be offered freely - free from any taint of commercialism, and supported solely by donations stemming from the wholesome volitions of gratitude and generosity.
Vipassana: The Teaching for One and All
Vipassana contains nothing of a sectarian nature, and can be accepted and applied by people of any background. There is no question of conversion from one organized religion to another organized religion ' this meditation works on the simple basis that all human beings share the same problems, and any process that can eradicate these problems will have a universal application.
Vipassana courses are open to anyone sincerely wishing to learn this teaching, irrespective of race, caste, faith or nationality. Vipassana courses have been conducted in churches, mosque, temples,Buddha viharas, Jain monasteries and other places of worship. Top ranking religious leaders ofHindus, Jains, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Roman Catholics etc. have all practiced Vipassana meditation, and reported a dramatic lessening of those tensions and complexes that affect all mankind.
The malady is universal; therefore, the remedy has to be universal. For example, when we experience anger, this anger is not Hindu anger or Christian anger or Chinese anger or American anger. Anger is anger! Similarly, love and compassion is not the strict province of any community or creed: they are universal human qualities resulting from purity of mind. People from all backgrounds who practice Vipassana find that this process of mind purification has helped them to live a happier life.
P.L. Dhar, Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, comments in his article 'Dharma and Science': 'Though its most important objective is to purify the mind of dross, Vipassana is not a mere detergent to wash the dirt off the mental linens, and then to be left behind in the washroom after use. It is an attitude to life, a fragrance that naturally envelops practitioners as they develop more and more insight into the fundamental traits of human existence. It is an art of living equanimously in spite of defeats and victories, praise and criticism, falling health and rising prices. It is the art of transcending, and not suppressing, the sensory attractions. As the practice matures, one naturally develops a deep insight into the fundamental laws of life and becomes harmonious with these. One becomes established in Dharma.'.
Dharma (Pali: Dhamma) is 'The Law of Nature' ' the Universal Law of Nature. The Laws of Nature apply to all of us. It is the dharma of fire to burn and water to flow; it is as per the Law of Nature. Similarly, it is the dharma or nature of a pure mind to be happy; it is the nature of a wholesome mental, vocal or physical action to bring peace, happiness and joy to oneself and others. Again, as per the universal Laws of Nature, one who is agitated and full of aversions and anger, may commit vocal or physical actions that bring further restlessness and misery to oneself and also to others. Vipassana is the scientific path of purification, based on the timeless and universal Laws of Nature. The benefits of Vipassana can be actually experienced by one and all, irrespective of one's religion/faith, profession, education or socio-economic background.
At the United Nations Millennium World Peace Summit in New York in August 2000, Goenkaji held a broad assembly of religious and spiritual leaders captivated with his simple message of the humane and noble teaching of the Buddha. Following is a brief excerpt from a report in 'The Times of India':
United Nations (31 August 2000): ' (S. N. Goenka) was given a standing ovation repeatedly at the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual leaders at the UN General Assembly when he strongly supported 'conversion' but not of the religious kind. 'I am all for conversion, but not from one organised religion to another, but conversion from bondage to liberation, from misery to happiness and from cruelty to compassion,' S. N. Goenka, a meditation master, said in his brief address. 'That is the conversion needed today and that is what the UN should ensure,' he added.
Vipassana - The Technology Of Peace
Developments in the fields of science and technology, transportation, communications, agriculture and medicine, have revolutionized human life at the material level. But, in actuality, this progress is only superficial: underneath, modern men and women are living in conditions of great mental and emotional stress, even in developed and affluent countries.
The problems and conflicts arising out of racial, ethnic, sectarian and caste prejudices affect the citizens of every country. Poverty, warfare, weapons of mass destruction, disease, drug addiction, the threat of terrorism, epidemic, environmental devastation and the general decline of moral values'all cast a dark shadow on the future of civilization. One glance at the front page of a daily newspaper reminds us of the acute suffering and deep despair that afflict the inhabitants of our planet. 'News' nowadays is more often than not 'Bad News'!
Is there a way out of these seemingly insolvable problems? The answer is unequivocally, yes! All over the world today, people are eager to find a solution to these problems. More than ever before, mankind is longing for peace and harmony. A method that has the potential to restore confidence in the efficacy of wholesome human qualities and create an environment of freedom and security from all types of exploitation'social, religious and economic, is highly welcome. Vipassana has all the qualities to be such a method. It may sound unbelievable or utopian to a mind used to the predictions of impending destruction and disaster. But, all that is required is to take a personal journey within and test the benefits of Vipassana Meditation!
J. Krishnamurti used to say: 'You are the World and the World is you'. Mahatma Gandhi had said: 'You must become the change that you seek in the world.'. Vipassana, as the greatest science of self-transformation that the world has ever acquired, ensures that these statements do not remain an intellectual understanding. Vipassana changes the individual and thereby actually changes the world. "Peace in the world cannot be achieved unless there is peace within individuals' says Goenkaji.
Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new end. Vipassana gives us a practical tool to start from 'now' and make our own happy future! 'You are your own master, you make you own future', said the Buddha.
Goenkaji and his ageless-timeless teaching of Vipassana have made a fundamental contribution to global peace and have offered a way out of chaos and disaster. Goenkaji sounds very optimistic when he says:
'For a long time I knew that Vipassana was a good technique, one which could help the individual to help society. But I wondered how it could be taught to the masses, because it is difficult for most people to come for a ten-day course. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the rock edicts of Emperor Asoka (3rd century BC). The technique of Vipassana only remained in India for about five hundred years after the time of the Buddha; then it was lost to the country. But during the reign of the exemplary ruler Asoka, the Dhamma flourished. In his edicts, Asoka proclaimed that he, like all the rulers before him, wanted his subjects to live in harmony, to live a life of Dhamma, and to have respect for the elders and love for the younger ones. Similarly, he wanted the different sects to be on friendly terms with one another. But unlike his predecessors, Asoka attained these goals. Asoka claimed that he was successful because he spread this wonderful teaching, the Dhamma, throughout the country. He had dhammamatya-ministers, secretaries and government officials-travel to different parts of the kingdom to explain the teaching to people. They did not convert people from one religion to another religion. I am told that for five hundred years after Buddha, nobody used the word bauddha-dharma (Buddhist Dhamma). They said only "Dhamma." Every edict of Asoka speaks only of the Dhamma. The people were taught not only the theory of the Dhamma, but also the practice of meditation. The people during the time of Asoka became peaceful and happy on a mass scale. This was not because of sermons but because of the meditation practice. The emperor claimed his success was demonstrated by the improvement in the morality of his people. If this were not true, surely the rock edicts would have been smashed long ago. But they have survived for 2,200 years.This shows that an experiment in Vipassana has already been done at a mass level. This entire country was transformed. In the same way, the entire world will change.'
Vipassana: The Art of Life Management
The experiential development of innate spiritual intelligence has a deep impact on organizational effectiveness. The efficacy and importance of Vipassana has been officially recognized by the Government of India.
* The government of the state of Maharashtra (of which Mumbai is capital) encourages senior government officers to learn and practice Vipassana and grants 10 days additional paid leave to enable them to join the Vipassana courses. The state governmental Electricty Board offers 30-days leave for assistant teachers, to conduct / sit Vipassana courses.
* The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, Municipal Corporation of Pune and and Public Sector organizations like Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC, India's most valued company wirth market cap of US$ 21.8 billion) are sending their officials to participate in Vipassana courses.
* The Indian Railway Board, the governing body of Indian Railways - the second largest rail network in the world, carrying 14 million passengers daily - has in a recent order to all General Managers of its zonal railways, granted leave and has encouraged its officials to participate in Vipassana courses.
* The Board of Governors of the apex-training Institute of the Government of Maharashtra, the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development and Administration (Yashada) under the Chairmanship of Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra, has approved the proposal of Yashada to include 10-days Vipassana courses as a part of Induction / Foundation courses of senior officers. Regular 10-day courses are being held for Yashada officers.
* The Ministry of Home affairs, Government of India, has recognized Vipassana meditation as a process to reform criminals and had introduced it in all Central Jails, particular Tihar Jail, New Delhi. Vipassana courses (including an annual 20-day course) have been held for over 10 years in 'Dhamma Tihar', the Vipassana center in Jail No. 4, Tihar Center Jail.
* The Ministry of Human Resources Development (Department of Education), Government of India, has recognized that Vipassana International Academy / Vipassana Research Institute (Igatpuri, Maharashtra) is engaged in fostering national integration and international understanding. The HRD Ministry has recommended to the Ministry of External Affairs to issue suitable instructions to the Indian embassies and high commissioners to grant students visas to those from abroad seeking admission to Vipassana centres.
* The Ministry of Science and Technology (DSIR), of Government of India, has recognized the Vipassana Research Institute as a Scientific Research Organization (The SIRO).
* The Ministry of Finance (Department of Revenue), Government of India, has approved the Vipassana Research Institute for the purpose of clause (iii) of subsection(1) of Section 35 of the Income-tax act, 1961 under the category "institution" to encourage people to donate generously to this institute to support its research work.
Vipassana: An Instrument for Social Change
Vipassana is a path leading to freedom from all suffering; it eradicates the craving, aversion and ignorance, which are responsible for all our miseries. Those who practice it remove, little by little, the root causes of their suffering and steadily emerge from the darkness of former tensions to lead happy, healthy, productive lives. There are many examples bearing testimony to this fact.
Several experiments have been conducted at prisons in India. In 1975, Goenkaji conducted a historic course for 120 inmates at the Central Jail in Jaipur, the first such experiment in Indian penal history. This course was followed in 1976 by a course for senior police officers at the Government Police Academy in Jaipur. In 1977, a second course was held at the Jaipur Central Jail. These courses were the subject of several sociological studies conducted by the University of Rajasthan. In 1990 another course was organized in Jaipur Central Jail in which forty life-term convicts and ten jail officials participated with very positive results.
In 1991, a course for life-sentence prisoners was held at the Sabaramati Central Jail, Ahmedabad, and was the subject of a research project by the Dept. of Education, Gujarat Vidyapeeth. The Rajasthan and Gujarat studies indicated definite positive changes of attitude and behaviour in the participants, and demonstrate that Vipassana is a positive reform measure enabling criminals to become wholesome members of society.
In 1995, Inspector General of Delhi Prisons Kiran Bedi organized a massive course for 1000 prisoners in Tihar jail with far-reaching effects. Kiran Bedi was honoured with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for her work. Convinced of the practical benefits of Vipassana, the Government of India has recommended that every prison in the country organize 10-day Vipassana courses for inmates as part of their rehabilitation programs. Vipassana has been adopted as a criminal reform technique in the largest jails of India.
Detailed scientific research studies carried out to assess the impact of Vipassana meditation on the prisoner's mental health and criminal propensity proves that Vipassana is capable of transforming criminals into better human beings. [Psychological Effects of Vipassana on Tihar Jail Inmates - Research report by Kishore Chandiramani, Prof. P L Dhar et al, 1998. Research Paper on Inmates of Tihar Jail, Delhi: presented by Dr Amulya Khurana and Prof. P. L. Dhar, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, 2000].
Another research study shows that Vipassana has a role to play in Prison reform & re-integration of prisoners into society [Prison reform & re-integration of prisoners into society Research by Akanksha Kela, The School for International Training, Brattleboro, Vermont, USA.2003]
Vipassana meditation has been taught to prison inmates and staff in many parts of India as well as in the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Spain and Nepal.
Vipassana is taught not only to prisoners but also to law enforcement officials, at various course sites including a permanent Vipassana centre within the Police Training Academy of Delhi, India.
National Institute of Health in the US has funded a study to find out whether Vipassana Meditation can lead to a reduction in inmate drug and alcohol addictions and criminal behaviour.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK in a press release dated 10 July 2001 stated “Vipassana meditation, improves discipline and co-operation amongst prisoners and has role in the treatment of mental illness.” [This observation was based on the Research studies done by Dr K Chandiramani, Professor E Scrivens, Professor P Ong, Dr K F Standage, Keele University, Staffordshire]
A Medical Research study by Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat (2001) said, “this meditation technique may help mitigate psychological and psychosomatic distress in those who practise it.”
The Vipassana Research Institute has documented other examples of the positive impact of Vipassana in such fields as health, psychological and psychosomatic illnesses, drug addiction and alcoholism, government administration, human resource development, business management and education.
A Research to investigate the effect of Vipassana on Senior Bureaucrats and Government officials found Vipassana to be highly beneficial. [Impact of Vipassana in Government: presented by D.R. Parihar, I.F.S. Maharashtra cadre – 2004].
The civil service career of Goenkaji’s meditation teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, is an example of the transformative effect of Vipassana on government administration. Sayagyi was the head of several government departments. He succeeded in instilling a heightened sense of duty, discipline and morality in the officials working under him by teaching them Vipassana meditation. As a result, efficiency dramatically increased, and corruption was eliminated. Similarly, in the Home Department of the Government of Rajasthan, after several key officials attended Vipassana courses, decision-making and the disposal of cases were accelerated, and staff relations improved.
Ministers and other executives of many of the state governments of India are now given time off with pay to attend a Vipassana course because of the many benefits it brings, including relief from stress and enhanced job performance.
High level institutions in India, such as the governments of the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh; large corporations such as the Oil and Natural Gas Commission; leading research institutes such as the Bhabha Atomic Research Institute; and national training institutes such as the Indian Institute of Taxation—all encourage their employees to attend Vipassana courses as part of their ongoing job training.
Vipassana Meditation can be a part of a highly effective corporate management strategy. A lengthening list of US, European and Asian corporate executives agree. Senior staff of companies including Microsoft, Citibank, IBM, Merrill Lynch and Zee TV experience Vipassana as a powerful human-resources development tool. Special Vipassana courses are now organized for these executives.
In India, students at medical and engineering colleges, management schools and other tertiary training institutes have found that the practice of Vipassana helps them in their professional studies. Some institutes, such as Pune’s Sadhana Institute of Management and Symbiosis, Pune encourage all their students to join 10-day Vipassana courses.
The positive effects of meditation are being seen in younger students too. Hundreds of thousands of primary and secondary school pupils in India and other countries have benefited from short courses in Anapana meditation. The latest 2007-2008 news is that the municipal corporation of Bombay has invited the Vipassana Research Institute to conduct Anapana courses for school children. Initially, about 6000 students appearing in the S.S.C. examination were taught meditation. In the next phase, students of 9th Std and others classes will be covered which is approximately about 79000 children. The courses are being held twice a day at about 48 government schools, all over Bombay.
Special Vipassana courses have also been organized for the disabled (those with special needs), including the blind and leprosy sufferers. Other programs have focused on drug addicts and street children.
These experiences and Research Studies underscore the point that societal change must start with the individual. Social change cannot be brought about by mere sermons; discipline and virtuous conduct cannot be instilled in students simply through textbook lectures. Criminals will not become good citizens out of fear of punishment; neither can caste and sectarian discord be eliminated by punitive measures. History is replete with the failures of such attempts. The individual is the key: he or she must be treated with love and compassion; he must be trained to improve himself—not by exhortations to follow moral precepts, but by being instilled with the authentic desire to change. He must be taught to explore himself, to initiate a process, which can bring about transformation and lead to purification of mind. This is the only change, which will be enduring.
“If a forest is parched by drought,” says Goenkaji, “you can revive it only by watering each tree in the forest. Similarly, if world peace is to become a reality, peace must be established within each human being.”
Vipassana has the capacity to transform the human mind and character. It the Science of Happiness. It is the Path of Peace. It is an opportunity awaiting all who sincerely wish to make the effort. Ehipassiko - Come and See, said the Buddha!