Vipassana Research Institute

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Vipassana Research Institute
Vipassana Meditation
Vipassana Research Institute

 Vipassana meditation is the personal purification of the mind. It is the highest form of awareness—the total perception of the mind-matter phenomena in its true nature. It is the choiceless observation of things as they are.

 

Vipassana is the meditation the Buddha practised 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 technique so valuable that in Burma it was preserved in its pristine purity for more than 2,200 years.

 

 

Vipassana meditation 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 (mettā), compassion (karuā), sympathetic joy (muditā), and equanimity (upekkhā). There is no mysticism in Vipassana. It is a science of the mind that goes beyond psychology by not only understanding, but also purifying, the mental process.

 

 

The practice is an art of living 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.

 

 

With continuity of practice, the meditation will quiet the mind, increase concentration, arouse acute mindfulness, and open the mind to the supramundane consciousness—the "peace of nibbāna (freedom from all suffering) within."

 

 

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.

 

 

There is no dependence on books, theories, or intellectual games in Vipassana. The truth of impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha), and egolessness (anattā) 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 wisdom and purifies his mind.

 

 

The foundation of Vipassana meditation is sīla—moral conduct. The practice is strengthened through samādhi—concentration of the mind. And the purification of the mental processes is achieved through paññā—the wisdom of insight. We learn how to observe the interplay of the four physical elements within ourselves with perfect equanimity, and find how valuable this ability is in our daily lives.

 

 

We smile in good times, and are equally unperturbed when difficulties arise all around us, in the certain knowledge that we, like our troubles, are nothing but a flux, waves of becoming arising with incredible speed, only to pass away with equal rapidity.

 

 

Although Vipassana meditation was developed by the Buddha, its practice is not limited to Buddhists. There is no question of conversion—the technique works on the simple basis that all human beings share the same problems, and a technique that can eradicate these problems will have a universal application.

 

 

Hindus, Jains, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Roman Catholics, and other Christian sects have all practised Vipassana meditation, and have reported a dramatic lessening of those tensions and complexes that affect all mankind. There is a feeling of gratefulness to Gotama, the historical Buddha, who showed the way to the cessation of suffering, but there is absolutely no blind devotion.

 

 

The Buddha repeatedly discouraged any excessive veneration paid to him personally. He said, "What will it profit you to see this impure body? Who sees the teaching—the Dhamma—sees me."

 

 

The Ten-day Course

 

 

Students wishing to learn Vipassana meditation undergo a minimum ten-day course, during which time they take precepts not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to speak lies, and to refrain from intoxicants. For the entire ten days they live within the course site. Each day begins at 4:30 a.m. and continues until 9:00 p.m., with the student aiming for at least ten hours of meditation (with breaks). For three days the student develops concentration of the mind by observing the inhalation and exhalation of the breath (Anapana). During the ensuing days the student develops awareness and equanimity towards the various sensations experienced within the framework of the body and is shown how to penetrate his entire physical and mental makeup with the clarity of insight (Vipassana). Each day’s progress is explained during an hour-long discourse in the evening. The course closes on the last day with the practice of loving kindness meditation (mettā bhāvanā), the sharing of the purity developed during the course with all beings.

 

 

The work of controlling and purifying the mind is given top priority during the course. The results are allowed to speak for themselves. Philosophical and speculative conversation is discouraged.

 

 

There is no charge whatsoever for the teachings. As for costs of board, lodging, and other minor expenses, these are met by the donations of grateful students of past courses who have experienced the benefits of Vipassana, and who wish to give others an opportunity to experience them. In turn, having completed a course, if one feels benefited by it and would like others also to benefit from the practice of Vipassana, he or she may give a donation for future courses.

 

 

The rate of progress of a student depends solely on his own pāramīs (previously acquired merits), and on the operation of five elements of effort—faith, health, sincerity, energy, and wisdom.

 

 

The Teacher

 

S.N. Goenka was authorised to teach Vipassana meditation by the respected Vipassana teacher of Burma, Sayagyi U Ba Khin. Born in Burma of Indian heritage, and well established as a businessman and householder, S.N. Goenka did his first course under Sayagyi in 1955 at the International Meditation Centre in Rangoon.

 

 

In Vipassana, S.N. Goenka found an invaluable jewel—the jewel of the Dhamma—which dispels the darkness of ignorance. Here was a scientific method, a practical technique that eradicates suffering and purifies the mind. Fascinated by this universal remedy rediscovered by the Buddha, S.N. Goenka continued to practice (paipatti) and study the texts (pariyatti) for the next 14 years under the guidance of Sayagyi.

 

 

In 1969, S.N. Goenka was appointed by Sayagyi as an authorised teacher of Vipassana. That same year, S.N. Goenka left Burma (present-day Myanmar) for India and began conducting courses. Since then he has been giving hundreds of courses to people from different backgrounds and nationalities.

 

 

In nearly three decades of teaching, S.N. Goenka has helped establish the Vipassana International Academy, in Igatpuri, India—as well as more than 35 other centres in India and abroad—for the purpose of offering courses in paipatti, Vipassana meditation. He has also appointed several hundred assistant teachers to help conduct courses around the world. He and his assistants do not receive any remuneration whatsoever, and expenses for the courses and centres are met with voluntary donations from grateful students.

 

 

S.N. Goenka has also helped to establish the Vipassana Research Institute at Igatpuri, to help make the pariyatti teachings of the Buddha available to the public. The Institute is publishing the entire Pāli Tipiaka, along with its commentaries and sub-commentaries, in Devanāgari script. It is also producing this material in a multilingual CD-ROM with search facilities. In addition, the Institute is exploring references to Vipassana in various ancient texts, and it is conducting scientific research on the present applications and benefits of Vipassana in different fields of human development. 

With more and more people practising Vipassana, both the paipatti and pariyatti aspects of the Buddha’s teaching are gaining prominence. Mr Goenka stresses the practical and non-sectarian nature of the teaching and its relevance to householders as well as renunciates. He emphasises that Vipassana meditation does not encourage people to withdraw from society, but rather teaches them to face the ups and downs of life in a calm and balanced way.

 

 

 

The Teaching Today


Vipassana Research Institute
Vipassana Research Institute