Vipassana Research Institute

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Vipassana Research Institute
Introduction to Anapana courses for children in schools
Vipassana Research Institute

In a time of worldwide social transition and upheaval, more and more people throughout the world are seeking concentration, purification and peace of mind through the practice of Vipassana meditation. Vipassana means "to see things as they really are" and is a logical process of mental purification through self-observation. Many come to Vipassana later in their lives, wishing they had found this technique sooner because it is so effective in learning the art of living peacefully and harmoniously.
 
The ideal time to begin the first steps of this mental training is in childhood when children as young as eight years old can easily learn the technique of Anapana meditation. Anapana is the first step in the practice of Vipassana meditation. It is the observation of natural, normal respiration, as it comes in and as it goes out. Anapana is a simple technique that helps develop concentration of the mind. It is easy to learn, objective and scientific. Observation of the breath is the ideal object for meditation because it is always available, and it is completely non-sectarian. Anapana is very different from techniques that are based on artificial regulation of the breath. There are no rites or rituals involved in the practice or presentation of Anapana. It is presented in a non-sectarian format, making it ideal for introducing it to children at school programmes throughout the world. This approach is traced back to the Buddha, who rediscovered and taught this technique nearly 2,600 years ago. The Buddha never taught a sectarian religion; he taught Dhamma-the way to liberation-which is universal. Following this tradition, this technique is presented in a totally non-sectarian approach. For this reason, it has had a profound appeal to people of all backgrounds, of every religion or no religion, from every part of the world.
 
Besides helping them to calm and concentrate their minds, Anapana helps children to better understand themselves and how their minds work. As they learn to calm and concentrate their minds, they gain mastery over their impulses and actions. They develop an inner strength that helps them to choose right and appropriate actions over wrong actions. This is a natural by-product of the technique. For this reason, Anapana provides them with a tool to deal with the fears, anxieties, and pressures of childhood and adolescence. Because of its simplicity, they find the technique easy to practise and understand and they appreciate its scientific and universal nature.

  

 
Objective

 
Over the past 15 years, hundreds of Anapana courses have been conducted exclusively for children around the world. These courses have yielded substantial benefits for the thousands of children who have attended them. Many of them have experienced a positive change in their outlook, behaviour and attitude. Many have found their ability to concentrate has improved and that their memory has strengthened. And above all, these children have acquired a tool that is of immense value to them for the rest of their lives.
  
Children are, by nature, active and enthusiastic, with an eagerness to learn and explore. For this reason, it is appropriate to offer them an opportunity to explore themselves and their mind with all its hidden faculties, latent abilities and subtle complexities. Learning Anapana plants a wholesome interest in self-introspection and meditation, which may open an entirely new dimension of life for them later on.
 
Anapana courses for children have been conducted since 1986. These courses have been offered to children of various ages and socio-economic and cultural groups. They have been conducted in Vipassana meditation centres as well as at schools and other institutions, and have been both residential and non-residential.
 
Whether a children's Anapana course is held at a school or at a Vipassana meditation centre, it is essential that the students be given an opportunity to continue to practise Anapana for a short period each day after the course to yield the true benefits of the practice.
 

 
Eligibility

 
Students from the ages of eight to sixteen years are eligible to attend the courses. Separate courses should be organised for the two different age groupings, one for younger children: ages eight to twelve; and one for the older ones: ages thirteen to sixteen. These are ideal groupings but slightly different groupings are also sometimes considered. Students less than eight years of age and more than sixteen years may not be admitted to a children's Anapana course.

The recommended number of children per course should not exceed fifty. For courses larger than fifty children, additional Children's Course Teachers may be required to conduct the course.
 

 
Timetable

 
Various schedules have been developed and successfully implemented in schools over the years. One-day or two-day non-residential courses can easily be conducted during the school hours. In residential schools, three-day residential courses may be held. The timetable is determined by the length of the course and whether it is residential or not. The timetable should be modified to avoid the times when other students who are not participating in the course could interact with the children taking the course. Enough time should be scheduled for meditation periods, counselling (when the CCT meets with small groups of children to reinforce the practice), discourses and stories, lunch, rest, play, etc. The total duration of a one-day course is about six hours.

 
The timetable will be decided by the teacher conducting the course in consultation with the organisers and school administrator.
 

 
Pre-requisites for Institutions

 
To begin the process of having a children's Anapana course held in a school, the administrator or the head of the school should send a formal request to either the Regional Co-ordinator of Children's Courses, a Children's Course Teacher or a local Vipassana meditation centre.
 
At least one person from the teaching staff or administration should have completed a ten-day Vipassana course in this tradition. Apart from this, there should be a firm commitment by the school or institution to provide an opportunity for the children to continue their practice of meditation for a few minutes every day. The school management may decide the time to implement this programme within their daily routine, with the minimum of about ten minutes a day for practice.
 
The limit on the number of students participating in a course should be carefully determined. A very large group may be difficult to manage and a very small group may have difficulty in creating a cohesive and inspirational atmosphere. Generally, courses with between twenty-five to fifty participants work well. However, depending on the infrastructure, facility and circumstances, the number may vary. Ideally, a course should be organised for all of the students from the participating classes. All the teachers of the participating classes should also participate in the course. The teachers of the participating classes may sit as observers.
Besides organising courses during the regular school week, courses may also be organised to take place at the school on a weekend or during vacation periods. 
   

     
Guidelines for Courses in Institutions

 
1. For a residential Anapana course, separate and adequate sleeping accommodations, showers, and toilets should be available for boys and girls. A dining facility where boys and girls can sit separately is also required.

 
2. The course should be organised in a way that no other students or staff are present in the area where the course is being conducted or where the attending children will be residing. Organising on weekends or during holidays can be helpful in insuring this separation.

 
3. A large enough room or hall should be available for seating all the meditators on the floor on cushions or comfortable mats.

 
4. A suitable sound system, a VCR and TV should be available for playing instruction tapes and discourses.
 
5. The place for meditation and the accommodations should be at a sufficient distance from main roads and traffic in order to have the quiet, peaceful atmosphere required for meditation.

 
6. A few course servers, who are experienced Vipassana meditators, may be required to help in running and managing the course.

 
7. If there are children who are old students and have been doing courses regularly, they may serve on the course, having minor responsibilities. (They should never be put in a counsellor role).

 
 
Requisition Form

 
(From school administrators and heads of institutions, for conducting Anapana courses in their institutions)

 
1. Name and address of the sponsoring authority

 
2. Name and address of the school/institution participating

 
3. Name/s of the person/s in the institution who has/have done a ten-day course previously and their position in the school (i.e., head/principal/trustee/teacher)

 
4. Dates of his/her first and last course

 
5. Proposed duration of course (one/two/three-day)

 
6. Age group of participants and break-up of male/female participants

 
7. Details of facilities available:

 
          a. Hall for meditation

 
          b. Residence and amenities

  
          c. Microphone/Audio/Video arrangements

 
          d. Food and dining facilities

   

For more information on children's courses, please contact:

Vipassana International Academy,
Dhamma Giri, Igatpuri 422 403
District Nashik, Maharashtra, India
Phone: [91] (02553) 44076, 44086;
Fax: [91] (02553) 44176
E-mail: dhamma@vsnl.com

 


Vipassana Research Institute
Vipassana Research Institute