“Vipassana is the art of living. Not the art of escaping.” – Satya Narayan Goenka
The world around us is filled with noise, rushing, constant distractions and flow of information. Hence, more and more people seek silence and ways to quiet one’s mind.
Vipassana meditation is an insight meditation and offers just that – ten days of silence with no distractions. The technique of Vipassana is taught in a ten day residential course. Because of partial sensory deprivation some might view Vipassana as almost a tool of torture or imprisonment, however to some Vipassana is a way of liberation and ‘the art of living’.
Vipassana, “which means to see things as they really are” is over 2500 years old tradition which was used as a remedy for universal ills. Gotama Buddha handed down Vipassana technique by an unbroken chain of teachers to the present day. The modern day teacher of Vipassana meditation was Satya Narayan Goenka, who “breathed his last” in September, 2013. Thanks to S. N. Goenka and his dedication Vipassana meditation technique is now available more widely than ever before. Under his guidance established Vipassana meditation centres are accessible across the world: Asia, Europe, North and South America, Australia, and Africa. The ten day course is an initiation in two meditation techniques – Apana (breath awareness) and Vipassana (mind-body awareness). During these ten days you not only meditate but you also spend them in a complete silence and partial sensory deprivation – no talking, no reading, no writing, no eye contact, no exercising, no listening to music – to let the mind be calm and open to observations and insights.
One of the reasons why Vipassana has gained such popularity in modern times is its non-sectarian approach, as it is noted on the Vipassana meditation’s homepage:
“The technique taught by S.N. Goenka goes back two and a half millennia to the Buddha. The Buddha never taught a sectarian religion; he taught Dhamma – the way to liberation – which is universal. In the same tradition, Mr. Goenka’s approach is totally non-sectarian. For this reason, his teaching has had a profound appeal to people of all backgrounds, of every religion and no religion, and from every part of the world.”
But what else is there? Why one should spend ten days meditating and not being able to do anything else than that? Our minds are wired to constantly think and to be noisy; our minds are like little monkeys that just keep making noise and keep moving and jumping from one thought to another. Vipassana is a way of calming down our “monkey minds”, finding peace in your own head. In S. N. Goenka’s words:
“The observation of the physical sensations without reaction during Vipassana meditation produces a remarkable effect. It causes the old stored-up past conditionings such as anger, hatred, ill-will, passion, etc. to come to the surface of the mind and manifest as sensations. Observation of these sensations without any reaction causes them to pass away, layer after layer. Your mind is then free of many of these old conditionings and can deal with experiences in the life without the colour of past experiences.”
Vipassana then helps to break old habits and patterns of reactions, as well it helps to observe everything with a little bit of perspective. Vipassana is acknowledged to be so beneficial that it has been made accessible in prisons and correction facilities in India, Israel, Mongolia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand, U.K., Myanmar, the U.S. and Canada. Research has shown that Vipassana helped to reduce the feelings of hatred, anger and revenge in inmates; it even has helped prisoners to integrate back into the society and find their direction in life. In 1997 two women filmmakers from Israel, Ayelet Menahemi and Eilona Ariel, released a documentary Doing Time Doing Vipassana, which looks at Vipassana as a rehabilitation method and its positive impact on prisoners. The results of Vipassana were so immediate and dramatic that it drastically changed prisoners’ behaviour. Watch Eilona Ariel’s TED talk on Vipassana and Doing Time Doing Vipassana documentary below.
Vipassana ten day course is accessible to anyone across the world, even more so due to the fact that the course is free of charge, with accommodation and meals provided. Yes, it is all inclusive and free! Donations are only taken from people who have finished the ten day course and wish to give others the opportunity to experience the same benefits. However be mindful, Vipassana is not a retreat, you will be working hard with your mind.
You can read more about Vipassana meditation and find S. N. Goenka’s Vipassana meditation centres across the world here.
And why not comment below and tell us at My Good Planet about your own Vipassana meditation experiences.