Mastery over the mind is important in all human activity and purification of the mind is essential for true peace and happiness. School is an appropriate place to introduce this to children. Children can learn the first step of Vipassana--the technique of Anapana--at an early age.
The technique of Anapana is a simple and practical way to achieve mastery over the mind and lead a happy, wholesome life. Anapana means observation of natural, normal respiration, as it comes in and as it goes out.
Observation of breath is an ideal object for meditation because it is always available, non-sectarian and natural. It is also a truth pertaining to the self and closely related with the mind. Anapana is in this way, different from techniques based on artificial regulation of the breath. There are no rites and rituals involved in the practice of Anapana.
Anapana is the first step in the practice of Vipassana Meditation. Vipassana means, "to see things as they are". Vipassana is India's most ancient meditation technique, rediscovered by Gotama the Buddha nearly 2600 years ago. Vipassana is a universal, scientific and non-sectarian method towards purifying the mind. It is the practical essence of the teachings of the Buddha, who taught Dhamma - the Universal Law of Nature.
The ideal time to begin the first steps of this mental training is in childhood. Besides helping children to calm and concentrate their minds, Anapana helps them to understand themselves better and gives them an insight into the workings of their own minds. They develop an inner strength that helps them to choose right and appropriate actions over wrong actions, control and become master of their own mind.
Anapana provides them with a tool to deal with the fears, anxieties and pressures of childhood and adolescence. Because of its simplicity, children find the technique easy to understand and practice.
To learn Anapana it is necessary to take an Anapana Course under the guidance of a qualified teacher.
There are two steps to the training:
In the first step the children make a conscious effort to abstain from all kinds of unwholesome actions. They undertake five moral precepts: practicing abstention from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct and use of intoxicants. The observation of these precepts allows the mind to calm down enough to proceed for the next step.
Next they learn & practice Anapana meditation-- focussing attention on the breath as it comes in and goes out naturally.
The entire teaching in all these courses is conducted through audio & videotapes of Vipassana Acarya, Shri SN Goenkaji who reintroduced this teaching in India and many other countries. Each course is divided into small sessions of 30-40 minutes which includes both practice and understanding of the theory. Residential courses also include games and other creative activities. However more time is allocated to the practice of the technique.
The course concludes with the practice of Metta-bhavna (loving kindness or good will towards all) in which peace and happiness gained during the course is shared with all beings.
Course Eligibility & Duration
Anapana courses are held regularly at permanent Vipassana centers and rented sites in different countries 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. Children have to stay within the course premises for the entire duration of the course. They are also expected to refrain from all kinds of religious practices or other disciplines for that period. Girls and boys stay separately at all times during the course. To participate in the course children undertake to observe five precepts as mentioned above and observe course related disciplines.
Anapana courses are also being conducted at various Institutions like Schools, Orphan Homes, Homes for the Blind, Juvenile Homes, etc. at their request and subject to certain formalities for the benefit of their children.
Continuing the Practice after the Course
Continuity of practice is essential for children to get the true benefits of the technique. It is therefore recommended that the child be given an opportunity at home to continue practicing Anapana for a short period of 10 -15 minutes each day, after the course. They can also be encouraged to attend refresher courses.
All courses are run solely on the basis of voluntarily offered donations. There is no fee charged. The courses are financed by donations from the students who have completed a prior course and wish to share the benefits they themselves received by giving donations for the students who come after them.
For more information on Children's courses, please contact the nearest Vipassana Center
A new Website has been launched for Children's Courses and is available at www.children.dhamma.org