When there is darkness, light is needed. Today, with so much agony caused by violent conflict, war and bloodshed, the world needs peace and harmony…. Peace in the world cannot be achieved unless there is peace within individuals. One way to achieve inner peace is Vipassana meditation: a non-sectarian, scientific, results-oriented techique of self-observation and truth-realization.
S. N. Goenka, Vipassana Teacher
Address to world spiritual leaders,
Millennium World Peace Summit,
United Nations, 2000
Present-Day Environment and Government
Developments in the fields of science and technology, transportation, communications, agriculture and medicine have revolutionized human life at the material level. However, modern men and women are living in conditions of great mental and emotional stress, even in the affluent, developed countries. Although there is no dearth of material comfort, people suffer from restlessness, agitation, fear, anger, etc.
Government plays an all-pervasive role in society. The character and quality of the government is shaped by the people who run it. Hence, for real transformation in the functioning of the government, each individual within it needs to change for the better.
Government and society influence each other and are interdependent. Corruption, lack of ethics, stress and strain, materialism, greed, etc. in society is reflected in the working of government and vice versa. Since society consists of individuals, for true and lasting improvement in society, each individual has to change for the better.
No government can remain unaffected by the problems in society arising out of racial, ethnic, sectarian and caste prejudices and the general decline of moral values. Ultimately, it is the government that has to work hard for preventive and remedial measures of these problems. So much energy, manpower and money are being utilised just to maintain law and order and to prevent crimes in society.
Present-Day Situation of Government Employees
Government employees are public servants who have to work in accordance with the existing laws, rules and regulations. Their lives are generally stressful. There is much dependence on subordinates, colleagues, seniors, political will, set systems, etc. Their jobs involve a high degree of responsibility and accountability, uncertain work priorities, excessive workloads, frequent transfers, and differences of opinion with seniors and political bosses. There may also be family and social pressures and compulsions. All these result in tension, anxiety, feelings of helplessness, fear, frustration, anger, hostility, etc. which can adversely affect the quality of their lives.
Remedy for Positive Change in Government
Reduction of stress and strain, increase of efficiency, strengthening of integrity, etc. are the most common issues being discussed in government organizations today. The decline in mental health because of severe job-related stress is becoming a major concern. Therefore, government policymakers are striving hard to bring about reforms.
Continuous efforts are being made to reform the administrative system through various training programmes and workshops. Importance is being given to reform the government system especially at higher levels. These reforms cannot be accomplished merely by imparting management skills or through lectures, sermons, disciplinary action, punitive measures, etc. History is replete with the failures of such attempts. Reforms in the government can be achieved only when each individual is reformed.
Recognition of Vipassana Meditation by Government
Some state governments, public sector undertakings and local bodies have already adopted Vipassana for well-being of their employees. These organizations are encouraging their officials and other staff to attend Vipassana courses, by granting leave etc. The related Orders and Circulars of Government of India, State Governments, Public Sector Undertakings and Municipal Corporations are as follows:
1. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (Department of Education), Government of India has recognized that the Vipassana Research Institute is engaged in fostering national integration and international understanding and is the only institution of its kind that integrates theoretical principles with the practice of Vipassana. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, therefore, has recommended Vipassana Research Institute for training in Vipassana and teaching and research in Pali language. Therefore, this Ministry has recommended that scholars from abroad who get admission to this institute for various courses run by it may be granted student visa. This Ministry has recommended to the Ministry of External Affairs to issue suitable instructions to the Indian Embassies and High Commissions abroad to grant student visa to such scholars (Appendix 17).
2. The Ministry of Science and Technology, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Government of India has recognized the Vipassana Research Institute as a Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (SIRO) (Appendix 18). The Ministry of Finance (Department of Revenue), Government of India has approved the Vipassana Research Institute for the purpose of clause (iii) of sub-section (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.
3. The Government of Maharashtra has recognized the importance of Vipassana Meditation and has been a pioneer in introducing Vipassana Courses to the State Government officials since 1996. Initially, this facility was available only to officials of the rank equivalent to or above Deputy Secretary above the age of 45 years. This facility was extended to all gazetted officers in 1998. Recently, the government has further extended this facility to all employees of the state government. The government grants Commuted Leave for 14 days to the employees who attend Vipassana courses. Such leave is granted once in three years and maximum six times in one’s entire service period (Appendix 29). Many officials including senior level IAS officers are attending Vipassana courses and deriving benefits.
4. The Government of Andhra Pradesh has realized that Vipassana Meditation is very useful for government officials. Therefore, this government after careful consideration, has taken decision to sponsor the officials for Vipassana courses. The government grants Special Casual Leave for ten days to senior government officials to attend Vipassana course (Appendix 19A & 19B).
5. The Government of Madhya Pradesh has recognized the utility of Vipassana Meditation and has introduced this to its employees for “Stress Management and Spiritual Development”. The employees attending the Vipassana course are treated
On Duty (Appendix 30).
6. The Delhi police has also recognized the impact of Vipassana. The Police, Delhi Police has been regularly organizing Vipassana courses for its personnel since 1 January 1999. So far, more than 24 ten-day courses have been organized and more than 3700 police personnel, from the rank of Joint Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police to the constables, have all participated in the courses. Through their post-course feedback and interviews, it has been consistently found that police personnel are able to attain the peace of mind and harmony to handle the pressures of their job much better, serve the people more compassionately and do greater justice to their responsibilities. Training College
7. The Government of Maharashtra, Social Welfare, Cultural Affairs and Sports Department has taken decision in 1996 to sanction Special leave of 14 days and actual tour expenses (to the entitled class) to the officers/staff members of Mahatma Phule Backward Class Development Corporation, Lokshahir Annabhau Sathe Vikas Mahamandal, the Vasantrao Naik Vimukta Jati and Bhatakya Jamati Mahamandal and Leather Industry Development Corporation of Maharashtra (Appendix 20).
8. The Gujarat Council of Educational Research and Training, Department of Education, Government of Gujarat has decided that teachers who participate in Vipassana courses would be treated On Duty (Appendix 28).
9. The Social Welfare, Cultural Affairs and Sports Department, Government of Maharashtra has taken decision in 1995 to organize ten-day Vipassana courses during holidays in government hostels, government-aided hostels, schools, schools for handicapped, workshops, etc. belonging to this department (Appendix 33).
10. The Government of Rajasthan has also accepted the usefulness of Vipassana courses for police and jail personnel as well as jail inmates. It decided in 1996 that Vipassana courses could be organized for different ranks of jail staff and personnel from various jails (Appendix 21). The government also decided that Vipassana courses may be organized for jail inmates in various prisons of the state. Accordingly, courses are being organized in 11 jails of Rajasthan state: in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Ajmer, Bikaner, Kota, Bharatpur, Dholpur, Tonk, Alwar and Sri Ganganagar.
11. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has recognized Vipassana Meditation as a technique to reform prisoners and has introduced it in Central Jails. Vipassana has played a great role in the lives of prisoners in Tihar Central Jail, New Delhi, which is one of the largest jails in the world housing nearly 9000 inmates. Dhamma Tihar, Vipassana meditation center, was established in Tihar Jail in 1995. Many scientific studies have been conducted here to assess positive changes in the inmates.
12. The Inspector General of Prisons, Maharashtra has observed that Vipassana Meditation has successfully brought about mental purification amongst the prisoners. The authorities decided in 1996 that such Vipassana Meditation courses should be regularly organized for the prisoners, employees and officers of the prison (Appendix 22). State
13. As decided in the Mahapanchayat, the Additional Director General of Prisons, Delhi Prison Headquarters decided to enhance the diet expenses for Vipassana meditators in the Vipassana Ward. Further, to encourage all the staff members to attend Vipassana courses, they are given T.A./D.A. alongwith Rs 500 as reward as well as DG (P)’s Commendation Roll. The period spent on Vipassana course is treated as On Duty (Appendix 23).
14. The Maharashtra State Electricity Board is sanctioning Commuted Leave of 14 days to all employees who attend ten-day Vipassana course (Appendix 24).
15. Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. has realized that Vipassana meditation is excellent for self-development and stress management. The Corporation has observed that Vipassana helps in team-building and teamwork and enhancement of efficiency and productivity apart from discipline and good conduct and behavior. In view of all these benefits, ONGC is sponsoring its executives for Vipassana courses. (Appendix 25) The participants are treated On Duty and they get travelling expenditure as well as one-fourth dearness allowance (since Vipassana courses are fully residential and the expenses are being met by the voluntary donations from the old students, the corporation donates Rs.1500/- per participant).
16. Indian Petrochemicals Corporation Ltd., M.G.C.C., Nagothane Training Centre has decided that their executives be imparted Vipassana training. This organization is regularly deputing its personnel to attend Vipassana courses. The personnel attending the courses are treated On Duty and are entitled to get travelling expenses and 25% cash allowance as per the rules of the Corporation.
17. On similar lines, Hindustan Petrochemicals Corporation Ltd. is also deputing its personnel to take benefits of Vipassana courses.
18. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is granting Commuted Leave of 14 days to its employees who attend Vipassana courses (Appendix 31).
19. Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is also granting leave of 14 days to its employees so as to enable them to take advantage of this Vipassana meditation technique (Appendix 32).
20. Pune Municipal Corporation and Pune Vipassana Samiti have undertaken a project to introduce Vipassana in schools in order to bring about transformation in the life of students. This long term project entitled, “Vipassana for Better Education”envisages, first imparting Vipassana training to the teachers so that they can subsequently facilitate Anapana courses (the first step of Vipassana) for the children in their schools. Some lines of the letter of PMC addressed to the Principals/Head Masters are follows: “It’s a great opportunity for the school teachers to experience the manifold benefits of Vipassana and help their students to become good citizens of this country. Anapana enables students in their early age to establish their life on a positive and constructive moral foundation. On practicing Anapana, the children’s outlook, behavior and attitude undergo a positive change, their ability to concentrate improves, and their memory is strengthened. And above all, children acquire something so precious, so valuable, which is of long lasting assistance for the rest of their life. It has been established by now that Vipassana enables students to develop virtues like concentration of mind, discipline, honesty, cooperation, etc.”
21. Similarly, the Education Department of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has decided to participate in children’s courses (Anapana courses) during holidays.
22. On realizing the utility values of a Vipassana, the Urban Development Department, Government of Maharastra, by its Order No. TPB. 4399/1576/CR-22/2000/ UD-11 dated 7th April 2000 clarified to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai that the construction of Vipassana centre may be permitted in the case of development of lands reserved for Play Ground/Recreation Ground, etc. up to 15% on 10% of the area of the land for said amenity as per the provisions (Appendix 26). Similarly, Pune Municipal Corporation has also by its Circular No. MCO/CE/639 dated 25-10-1999 clarified that construction for structures of Vipassana Centers will be permitted in the case of development of lands reserved for Children Play Grounds, Recreation Grounds, Play Grounds, Parks, Gardens, etc. (Appendix 27). Center
Background of the researcher:
The researcher is a government servant (Indian Forest Service, 1987 batch, Maharashtra cadre) and has been practicing Vipassana since 1994. A large number of personnel from the government sector have been attending Vipassana courses. Many of them have shared their experiences that they have been benefited from Vipassana meditation. Therefore, the researcher developed a keen interest to assess the impact of Vipassana on government officials in an objective manner and applied for study leave. The government found that the proposed study is of definite advantage from the point of view of public interest and it is for pursuance of studies in subjects other than academic or literary subjects. Therefore, the government was kind enough to grant the study leave as a special case.
Since the researcher has been practicing Vipassana, there may seem to be some personal bias while carrying out the research work. However, the methodology was designed to eliminate such bias.
VIPASSANA MEDITATION : AN INTRODUCTION
Vipassana means insight, "to see things as they really are." It is a logical process of mental purification through self-observation. It is a non-sectarian, scientific, result-oriented technique of truth realization. The technique of Vipassana is a simple, practical way to achieve real peace of mind and to lead a happy, useful life.
Vipassana is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques. Long lost to humanity, it was rediscovered more than 2500 years ago by Gotama the Buddha and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills. During the Buddha’s time, large numbers of people in 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, this technique spread to the neighboring countries of Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand and others, where it had the same ennobling effect.
This technique flourished in India for nearly five centuries. Gradually, however, it became corrupted and so lost its efficacy, eventually disappearing from the land of its origin, India. The purity of the teaching was lost elsewhere as well. Fortunately, in the country of Myanmar (Burma), it was preserved in its pristine purity by a chain of devoted teachers. Though the number of persons practicing it was quite small, from generation to generation, for two thousand years, this dedicated lineage transmitted the technique in its pristine purity.
In our time, Vipassana has been reintroduced to India, as well as to citizens from more than ninety other countries, by Acharya S. N. Goenka, a retired industrialist and former leader of the Indian community in Myanmar.
Acharya S. N. Goenka was trained in Myanmar by the renowned Burmese Vipassana teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin (1899-1971) who was a senior civil servant (first Accountant General in the Burmese Government). After 14 years of training under his teacher, in 1969, S. N. Goenka was appointed as a full-fledged Vipassana Acharya (Teacher).
Sayagyi U Ba Khin was taught Vipassana by Saya U Thetgyi, a well-known teacher of meditation in Burma in the first half of this century. In turn, Saya U Thetgyi was a pupil of Ledi Sayadaw, a famous Burmese scholar-monk of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There is no further record of the names of the teachers of this technique but it is believed that Ledi Sayadaw learned Vipassana meditation from traditional teachers who had preserved it through generations since ancient times.
Sayagyi U Ba Khin 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 certain that it would then spread throughout the world for the benefit of all humanity.
Acharya S. N. Goenka took this as the mission of his life and devoted his life for teaching Vipassana. He began conducting Vipassana courses in India in 1969; after ten years, he began to teach in foreign countries as well. He has personally conducted hundreds of courses around the world and has trained more than 700 assistant teachers to conduct courses on his behalf. Today, Vipassana is being taught in more than 90 Vipassana centers spread across Asia, Europe, North and South America, Australia and Africa. With the help of these assistant teachers and thousands of volunteers, courses have been conducted in many countries including Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar, UAE, Iran, Muscat, Thailand, The People’s Republic of China, Japan, Taiwan, Cambodia, Mongolia, Russia, U.S.A., Canada, U.K., France, Switzerland, Serbia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Mexico and all the countries of South America.
All the Vipassana centers throughout the world have same schedule and same instructions during the courses (for details about centers, see Appendix 34). The main center for the training and practice of Vipassana is the Vipassana. International Academy
The technique is non-sectarian and open to all without any distinction of race, caste, religion or nationality. Thousands of people from different backgrounds in India and abroad have attended Vipassana courses.
According to the tradition, there is no fee or charge for the teaching in these courses. Neither Acharya S. N. Goenka nor his assistant teachers receive any remuneration for their services. Volunteers (called Dhamma servers) also serve at the centers without any remuneration. Expenses of the courses are met solely by voluntary donations from students who have benefited from Vipassana and wish others to gain the same benefit.
To learn this technique one is required to take a ten-day residential course under a qualified teacher. The students have to arrive at the center before 4.00 p.m. on ‘Day Zero’ (the day the course starts). The course starts in the evening after the registration process.
To begin with, one has to take a vow to observe certain rules of moral conduct (sila). These are:
1. Abstention from killing
2. Abstention from stealing
3. Abstention from sexual misconduct
4. Abstention from lying
5. Abstention from taking any intoxicant
Any violation of these rules is bound to agitate and defile the mind. An agitated mind cannot proceed on the path of truth, the path of self-exploration. The observance of sila is, therefore, the foundation for the practice of Vipassana. This first step itself is likely to initiate a positive change in one’s life.
The second step of this training is called Anapana (awareness of respiration). This involves continuous ‘observation’ of the natural flow of the incoming and the outgoing breath. Gradually, the mind gets concentrated on this natural activity and the person gains greater control over his or her mind. Anapana promotes awareness of the present moment, equanimity and tranquility of mind. Respiration is a universal object and can be used by anyone to develop concentration (samadhi). As the mind becomes more concentrated, it starts to calm down, making it fit to practice Vipassana (insight), which removes the roots of all mental impurities.
The third step is the development of wisdom (pañña), which is purification of mind by the practice of choiceless observation of body sensations and development of an attitude of non-reaction. This has a corrective influence on one’s deep-rooted negative habits.
Students remain within the course site for the duration of the retreat, having no contact with the outside world. They refrain from reading and writing and suspend any religious practices or other disciplines. They follow a demanding daily schedule, which includes about ten hours of sitting meditation (with rest periods for meals and walking exercise). They observe Noble Silence: not communicating with fellow students in any form; whether by physical gestures, written notes, sign language, etc. However, they are free to discuss mediation related questions with the teacher and material problems with the management.
The observation of rules of moral conduct allows the mind to calm down sufficiently to proceed with the task at hand. For the first three-and-a-half days, students practice ‘Anapana’ meditation, focusing attention on the natural breath. This practice helps to develop control over the unruly mind. These first two steps of living a wholesome life and developing control of the mind are necessary and beneficial, but are incomplete unless the third step is taken: purifying the mind of its underlying negativities. This third step, undertaken for the last six-and-a-half-days, is the practice of Vipassana: one penetrates one’s entire physical and mental structure with the clarity of insight.
Students receive systematic meditation instructions several times a day, and each day’s progress is explained during a videotaped evening discourse by Acharya S. N. Goenka. Noble Silence is observed for the first nine days. On the tenth day, students resume speaking, making the transition back to a more extroverted way of life. The course concludes on the morning of the eleventh day. For rules and regulations to be observed during a Vipassana Meditation course, see Appendix 16.
Vipassana enables one to experience peace and harmony: it purifies the mind, freeing it from suffering and the deep-seated causes of suffering. The practice leads step-by-step to the highest spiritual goal of full liberation from all mental defilements.
The best way to know about Vipassana is by attending a ten-day course. At the Vipassana centre, there is a suitable environment and a trained guide to support the meditator.
Review of Literature
A number of studies have been carried out to investigate the psychotherapeutic effects of Vipassana. Both clinical and traditional literature suggests that Vipassana “increases self-awareness, promotes integration of subjective experience, and facilitates acceptance and tolerance to sufficiently reduce physical and psychological distress” (Fleischman, 1999).
This study focusing on Government officials, however, is the first of its kind. Numerous research studies helped to provide the necessary framework. Below, a brief review of the general research on meditation is followed by the studies conducted on the various aspects of the effectiveness of Vipassana meditation.
Research on Meditation
Meditation has been practiced in a wide variety of forms throughout the world by many people of different cultural and religious backgrounds. All the world’s major religions have embraced meditation in one form or another. The past two decades have witnessed a marked revival of studies in meditation, with an equally spectacular upsurge of scientific interest in meditation. Meditation is now gaining prominence not only as a self-help and self-mastery technique, but also as an adjunct to psychotherapy (Khosla, 1989).
Though practiced for over four thousand years, a history longer than any other psychotherapeutic endeavor, it is only in recent years that researchers have turned to an objective and empirical investigation of the aspects of human behavior involved in the practice of meditation. This is partly due to the belief of many of the meditation groups that their experiences were ineffable and reflected experiential, non-observable and hence immeasurable events. Changing attitudes coupled with advances in physiological monitoring and psychometrics have ‘opened up’ meditation to more systematic investigation. In 1977, the American Psychiatric Association strongly recommended that “research be undertaken in the form of well controlled studies to evaluate the specific usefulness, indications and dangers of meditative techniques. The research should compare the various forms of meditation with one another and with psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacologic modalities” (Khosla, 1989).
The studies establish that Yoga and meditation can contribute positively to the overall quality of life. Following are a few examples:
i) Ahmad (1988) conducted a study, which showed that those who engage in a meditation practice often show a higher quality of life than those who do not meditate. He found that overall adjustment and personality organization was higher amongst those who practiced meditation (Khurana and Dhar, 2002).
ii) In a similar study, Jhansi and Rao (1996) investigated the role of Transcendental Meditation (TM) in improving the attention regulation capacity of its practitioners. Their study reveals greater attention regulation capacity among TM practitioners compared to their counterparts due to the regular cognitive exercises involved in meditation practice.
iii) Jin (1992) observed the efficacy of Tai Chi, a Chinese moving meditation, in reducing mood disturbance caused by mental or emotional stress.
iv) A whole series of research projects have been conducted in India to determine the beneficial effects of Yoga on a subject’s stress management, various cognitive processes, and overall mental health (Selvamurthy, 1993). According to Aminabhavi (1996) Yoga training greatly improves the well being of the regular practitioner. Also, Venkatesh, Pal, Negi, Verma, Sapru, and Verma (1994) have observed that male and female Yoga practitioners in the prisons have a more positive attitude than non-practitioners. The Yoga practitioners were more socially desirable than the control group (Khurana and Dhar, 2002).
4. These studies establish that Yoga and Meditation can contribute positively to the overall quality of life. Among the various forms of meditation, Vipassana is well recognized and accepted.
The following additional observations are worth mentioning here before giving a brief account of research on Vipassana.
i) Healing and helping professionals belonging to diverse disciplines like the Naturopaths, Yoga therapists, Homoeopaths, Vaidyas, Allopaths and others, have readily accepted Vipassana as it is free from dogma, experientially based and focused on human suffering and relief (Fleischman, 1991).
ii) Vipassana is a technique of self-examination, a scientific method of self-observation that results in total purification of the mind and the highest happiness of full liberation (VRI, 1990).
Brief Account of Research on Vipassana Meditation
A. Impact of Vipassana on Health
1) Deepak, Manchanda, and Maheswari (1994) reported that continuous meditation can substantially improve the ‘clinico-electroencephalographic’ measures in drug-resistant epileptics. Chandiramani et al (1994) found that since Vipassana Meditation emphasizes both conscious lifestyle changes in the area of morality and deeper psychological analysis, it affects the contents and processes of the mind in fundamental ways. Mild to moderately severe neurotic cases of anxiety, depression, and adjustment problems show complete recovery as a result of Vipassana (Dhar and Khurana, 2002).
2) In a long-term prospective study, Khosla (1989) reports that Vipassana Meditation induced marked benefits in both “normal” and “mental disorder” groups, which were studied in terms of “personality based hardiness”, “stress-related physiological and psychological symptoms”, and “ways of coping with stress”. By the end of six months of regular Vipassana practice, all the subjects indicated significant improvements in all the psychological parameters like depression, anxiety, coping with stress, personality functioning, etc. Khosla reports that their general complaints about life diminished and the ability to withstand stress increased. These measured improvements were even greater by the end of the follow up study after one year.
3) There are several research reports suggesting the therapeutic utility of Vipassana. Dwivedi (1977), Doshi (1990), Chandiramani (1991) and Fleischman (1986, 1991 and 1999) pointed out the similarities between the principles of Vipassana and psychiatric practice. Sinha et al (1976) have reported improved attention span, alertness and emotional stability in the subjects after attending Vipassana courses.
4) Some of the physiological and biochemical measurements on Vipassana meditators support the obvious hypothesis of built-in relaxation. Udupa et al (1975) found an increase in the R.B.C. acetylcholine, R.B.C. cholinesterase, plasma catecholamines and plasma histamines, and a decrease in the plasma cortisol, urinary corticoids and urinary nitrogen, indicating that the meditators were physically stable and in a more restful state, while mentally, they were more active and in a state of increased awareness. Dillow and Davidson (1988) noticed a significant increase in visual sensitivity and a greater flexibility of cognitive set among the meditators. An electroencephalographic (E.E.G.) study of the meditators revealed novel neuro-physiological processes of synchronization appearing from the midline structures of the brain; these were more pronounced in the experienced meditators than the novitiate.
5) The clinical utility of Vipassana is considered to be more in providing a general psychological pattern of positive mental states rather than as a response to any particular presenting problem, which makes it a perfect anti-stress remedy and an excellent human potential development method (Chokhani, 1986 and 1995).
6) Kutz et al (1985) have drawn and advocated the use of a framework, wherein Vipassana meditation and Dynamic psychotherapy are integrated. They have discussed the synergistic advantages of the combination, considering the psychobiological nature of meditation, the relaxation response (Benson, 1975) and its use as an effective cognitive technique for the development of self-awareness.
7) A case has also been made to use Vipassana as a Consciousness therapy since it helps in exploring the deeper reaches of one’s mind and in developing better insight and self-understanding, known to facilitate healthy and lasting changes in one’s life-style (Chandiramani, 2001).
8) Miller et al (1995), Nathawat et al (1997) report the efficacy of Vipassana in managing anxiety, stress and related symptoms and other emotional problems. Miller et al (1995) reported long-term beneficial effects in the treatment of anxiety disorder patients following an intensive but time-limited group stress reduction intervention based on mindfulness meditation.
9) Several therapists have reported using Anapana (a preparatory step in the training of Vipassana) as a relaxation therapy in clinical practice (Bhamagara, 1990; Curry, 1990; Fleischman, 1991). Ayyar (1990) and Chokhani (1986) have been using Anapana meditation in neurotic and psychosomatic disorders as a supplementary form of treatment with good clinical response.
10) A good response has been observed in rehabilitating alcohol and drug dependants with Vipassana as it tackles ‘craving’ which is the root cause of all addiction (Hammersley and Cregan, 1986; Khosla, 1989; Scholz, 1990-a and 1990-b; Vipassana Research Institute, 1990-a and 1990-b).
11) Studies by Scholz (1990-a and 1990-b) and Hammersley and Cregan (1986) from the “Start Again” drug therapy center in Zurich, Switzerland and from “Cyrenian House” drug therapy center in Perth, Australia demonstrate that Vipassana has been a useful companion to other drug related therapies. They report that Vipassana has assisted drug addicts to conquer their addiction to hard drugs, increase their ‘life-practical autonomy’, reduce and prevent relapses, and develop new perspectives and strategies towards a sober life.
These two addiction therapy centers established in 1982 and 1992 respectively, have worked out an effective therapeutic programme incorporating Vipassana, wherein the addicts are counseled and taught Anapana while they are with the programme (in-house). The addicts are prepared and motivated to pass through a regular ten-day Vipassana course (externally organized); they are supported and counseled after their Vipassana course to ensure that they keep working with the technique properly and regularly. Nearly all the staff members of these centers are meditators and many are ex-addicts too, who with their Vipassana experience and its applied practice in their daily life, serve as effective therapists and excellent role models. Individuals who incorporate this technique into their daily life are found to become highly resistant to threats to their sobriety.
A study by Studer (1999) has rated the addicts’ chances of getting partially and/or fully rehabilitated to be 59 to 69 % in the second year after their leaving the ‘Start Again’ therapeutic programme.
12) Vipassana has been proved to be of value in relieving pain, by reducing the experience of suffering via cognitive reappraisal in chronic pain patients, who had not improved with traditional medical care (Kabat-Zinn J., 1982; Kabat-Zinn and Burney, 1981; Kabat-Zinn et al, 1984). Numerous case reports are available of meditators who suffer from excruciating pain due to terminal cancer or other diseases, yet stay calm and peaceful, not permitting the ‘physical’ pain to become a ‘mental’ pain (Vipassana Research Institute, 1990 and 1995).
13) The effects of Vipassana on physical and psychological health were also assessed on a multi-ethnic population in Muscat, Oman. Ala’Aldin Al-Hussaini et al (2001) examined the subjects’ ‘Before and After’ their Vipassana course. Self-assessments of health-related parameters and physical and psychological symptomatology were collected from them before and immediately after the course. A control group was tested for a similar time interval. The researcher found that immediately after their ten-day training, the Vipassana participants assessed themselves significantly higher compared to their levels prior to the course, suggesting that the ten-day course had significantly improved their physical and psychological well being. The control group did not exhibit such changes. The investigators concluded that Vipassana Meditation might help mitigate psychological and psychosomatic distress (Sultan Qaboos University Journal for Scientific Research: Medical Sciences, Volume 3, No. 2: 87-92, October, 2001).
14) Studies conducted at the Navjivan Nature Cure Center in Gujarat, India examined patients who suffered from asthma, ulcerative colitis, hyper-acidity, hypertension, peptic ulcer, diabetes, renal failure, muscular atrophy, and pamphigus vulgaris. Dr. Sanghvi (1994) reports that his patients who attended Vipassana courses demonstrated many positive signs:
Meditation hastens the healing process,
The patient’s capacity to endure suffering increases,
Increase in equanimity reduces the agony of incurable patients in the face of imminent death,
Meditation changes the total outlook towards life and illness,
In most cases, the role of mind in the genesis of disease becomes evident,
Patients suffering from many types of incurable diseases were relieved beyond their expectations,
Patients with chronic renal disease showed improvement. (V.R.I., 1995)
B. Impact of Vipassana on Police
1) At the Rajasthan in Jaipur, Sinha et al (1976) found improved attention span, alertness and emotional stability in the subjects, who were police officials. There were measurable changes in their behavior and outlook; they attained a clearer perception of their roles and functions and a greater awareness of their duty towards society. Police Academy
2) Dr. Amulya Khurana, Prof. P.L. Dhar, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and Dr. Kiran Bedi, I.P.S., the then Joint Commissioner of Police (Training.), Delhi Police, conducted a series of scientific studies on the impact of Vipassana on Police personnel at the Police Training College, New Delhi in October, 2001. In their final report submitted to VRI, the investigators reported that the statistical analysis revealed significant improvement in the Job Anxiety level of the police personnel. Majority of the participants felt, after doing the course that their job anxiety had reduced. The Subjective Well Being of the participants increased significantly after attending the Vipassana course. The analysis of self-reports and self-assessment also revealed many positive changes experienced by the participants after they attended the Vipassana course. The investigators concluded that the overall results of the study were positive and encouraging, suggesting that the adoption of Vipassana as part of police training culture and regular practice of Vipassana should be encouraged so that the change process initiated after attending a course can be further strengthened.
3) In the Home Department of the Government of Rajasthan, several key officials who attended Vipassana courses showed improvement in their decision-making capacity and interpersonal relationships (Singh, 1997).
C. Impact of Vipassana in Private Sector
Many private organizations like Surya Foundations, Mahindra and Mahindra, Speed Engineering, Toshniwal Instrumentations, Anand Engineers Pvt. Ltd., etc. are deputing their employees to attend Vipassana courses.
1) In a case study of Anand Engineers Pvt. Ltd. (Mumbai), Shah (1994) reports that in the company, having a turnover of five crores (over one million U.S. dollars), it was found that all the directors, members of the senior staff and a majority of clerks and workmen attended Vipassana courses. First, the managing director went for a course, then the other senior staff followed his example. Others noticed changes at the top, and they decided to attend a Vipassana course. Sixty percent of the employees have attended courses. About half of those have done more than one course. Resultant changes in the organization have been a shift from authority rule to consensus decisions taken at a lower level, from one-upmanship to team spirit and from indecisiveness and insecurity to self motivation in the work-force. The ultimate result was an increase in group efficiency and profits accompanied by improvement in mental health and interpersonal relations. Productivity was improved by 20%.
2) In another case study, “Productivity and Harmony through Vipassana”, Gupta (1997) reports enhanced industrial productivity and harmony through the practice of Vipassana meditation during the period 1986-1996 in Anand Engineers Pvt. Limited.
The average increase in the output per employee was 21 percent.
There were no strikes or any other form of labor unrest in the company.
Individual employees reported reduction in anger, calmness of mind and greater tolerance as a result of Vipassana meditation.
These factors are bound to translate into higher productivity and harmony for the company.
D. Impact of Vipassana on Prison Inmates
1) Several experiments have been conducted in Indian prisons to assess the efficiency of Vipassana in prisons. In 1975, Acharya S. N Goenkaji conducted a 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 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 positive results. In 1991, a course for life-sentence prisoners was held at the Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad, and was the subject of a research project by the Department of Education, Gujarat Vidyapeeth. The Rajasthan and Gujarat studies indicated definite positive changes in the attitude and behavior of the participants, and showed that Vipassana is a positive reform measure, enabling criminals to become wholesome members of society.
2) At the Central Jail in Jaipur, where the first ever prison course was organized in 1975, Shah (1976) and Unnithan and Ahuja (1977) found a marked change in the attitude and behavior of the participants, who were hardened criminals convicted of heinous crimes. They regretted their offences and became calmer and more equanimous; in addition, crimes and petty offences in the jail were significantly reduced (VRI, 1991).
3) The adoption of Vipassana in the Tihar Jail, the largest prison in India housing about 9000 prisoners, has been described as the culmination of testing of a wide range of innovative reforms. The positive changes in the inmates and staff indicated that Vipassana could become an effective method of reform. After the success of these courses, the government thought to introduce Vipassana as a reform measure in all the prisons in the country. This led to the establishment of a regular Vipassana center inside Central Jail No. 4, where two courses are being held every month.
4) Two detailed investigations into the effects of Vipassana on Tihar Jail inmates were undertaken under the aegis of the Department of Psychiatry, AIIMS (Dhar, 1994). In the first study, the dimensions studied were well being, hostility, hope, helplessness, personality, psychopathy, and in the case of psychiatric disorders, anxiety and depression. In another study, the dimensions studied were- anomie, attitude towards the law, personality and psychiatric illnesses. Both studies revealed similar results. Immediately after the course, the subjects were found to be less hostile towards their environment and felt less helpless. The psychiatric patients, constituting about 23% of the total subjects, reported improvement in their anxiety and depressive symptoms. Subjects without any psychological symptoms also reported improvement in the form of enhanced well being and a sense of hope for the future. Their sense of alienation from the mainstream, though unchanged immediately after the course, was found to be lower after three months. The follow-up evaluations at three and six month intervals revealed further improvement in many of these dimensions.
5) Chandiramani, Verma, Dhar, and Agarwal (1994) studied the psychological effects of Vipassana on Tihar Prison inmates and reported significant improvement in parameters like sense of hope and well being. They also observed considerable reduction in neurotic predisposition, hostility, and feelings of helplessness amongst the prisoners who had taken a Vipassana course. Khurana (1996 and 1999) conducted field experiments using ‘Before and After’ designs to find out the effect of Vipassana on the Quality of Life and Subjective Well Being of undertrials in Tihar Jail. She found a slight improvement, but recommended that the study be repeated using a Control Group design. Chaudhary (1999) analyzed the efficiency of Vipassana Meditation to ameliorate stress and promote reformation among adolescent prisoners. In her study, she reported that both ‘state anxiety’ and ‘trait anxiety’ reduced significantly in Vipassana meditators. She also stated that there was a decrease in aggression among the undertrial prisoners who had taken the course, and an increase in positive emotions such as hopefulness, self-control, conformity, and compassion.
6) Khurana and Dhar (2002) conducted a series of five studies and investigated the effect of Vipassana on the Quality of Life, Subjective Well Being and Criminal Propensity among inmates of Tihar Jail, Delhi. They conducted the studies using both ‘‘Control Group’’ and ‘Before and After’ experimental designs on the effect of Vipassana. They found that Vipassana Meditation significantly improved Subjective Well Being and reduced Criminal Propensity of inmates of Tihar Jail.
7) Chandiramani (2000) conducted a multi-method qualitative research, “A Study of the Attitudes of Prison Staff towards Use of Vipassana Meditation for Behavioral Change within Prison”. This study explored the feelings, interpretations and the opinions of the prison staff regarding the use of Vipassana meditation in prisons. The investigator visited some prisons in India where Vipassana was already being practiced by jail inmates and found that Vipassana was seen by the prison staff as a scientific method, which could be employed without much difficulty and extra cost for bringing about a positive change in prisoners’ behavior in different cultural settings. The investigator found that it would be desirable to use Vipassana meditation for behaviour change among prisoners, particularly in treating minor psychiatric problems: anxiety, depression, adjustment problems, social isolation and other stresses of imprisonment. The investigator also found that about one-third to a half prison population suffered from significant psychiatric problems. The existing mental health resources will continue to be insufficient in the foreseeable future. The option of drug treatment has a major limitation of dependence liability, as many of the prisoners are a high-risk group for addiction. The conventional non-drug treatments (psychosocial therapies) are labour-intensive and would require a large number of mental health professionals. Spiritual practices like Vipassana could fill this gap and has the following advantages:
The ethico-moral aspects appear quite appropriate for the needs of prisoners.
It is cheap and practicable because it can be administered to a large number of individuals at one time (a few hundred).
Vipassana can have a preventive role as it reduces distress of even normal individuals and sub-clinical population.
It is a scientific technique free from rituals and dogma.
8) Vipassana is now being practiced in many prisons in India on a regular basis. Thousands of prisoners have so far learnt this technique. Vipassana courses have also been organized in prisons in USA, UK, Spain, Mexico, Thailand, Taiwan, and New Zealand.
9) In addition, many other studies have reported positive changes in the behaviour of jail inmates, due to Vipassana Meditation (Hammersley and Cregan, 1986).
E. Impact of Vipassana in Burmese Government
The civil service career of Sayagyi U. Ba Khin, Acharya S. N. Goenka’s meditation teacher, is an example of the transformative effect of Vipassana on government administration. Sayagyi U. Ba Khin was a renowned Vipassana Teacher. He was also the first Accountant General of independent Burma, now Myanmar. Many times he worked as head of several government departments.
Sayagyi used Vipassana as an instrument of change and reform. 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. His outstanding achievements in reforming the administration indicate clearly that Vipassana facilitates quick decisions based upon sound judgement (Appendix 15).
F. Impact of Anapana (first step of Vipassana) on Children:
Since 1986, thousands of school children ranging between the ages of 8 and 15 have attended Anapana meditation courses tailored to meet the specific needs, interests and capabilities of the children. In their studies on the impact of these courses, Adaviyappa (1994), Shah and Katakam (1994) explain that the immediate and long-term benefits are clearly significant in helping children to become established in lives of positive action with a strong moral foundation at an early age. The academic performance of those children who continue to meditate at home or at school improves because the meditation helps to improve their concentration, memory and self-control.