Vipassana Research Institute (VRI), a non-profit-making body, was established in 1985 with the principal aim of conducting scientific research into the sources and applications of the Vipassana Meditation Technique.
Vipassana meditation is a technique of observation and exploration of the mind-body phenomena. The technique leads to purification of mind and can bring about a major transformation in the attitude and behavioural pattern of an individual and, through him, in the entire society. The technique has a unique potential as an instrument for better education, health, organisation, management development and social change for strengthening the concept of secularism, national integration and international understanding. Vipassana has been revived after a period of more than 2500 years.
Courses of Vipassana meditation started in India since 1969, however, initially, there was no separate institution to explore the theory part of the technique. The importance of establishing such an Institute was realized when Mr. S. N. Goenka, principal teacher of Vipassana meditation, began teaching courses on the Satipatthāna Sutta, a discourse in which the Buddha systematically explains the technique of Vipassana.
During the Satipatthāna courses, Goenkaji noticed students studying the words of the Buddha (pariyatti), were encouraged and filled with gratitude when applying them in their meditation practice (patipatti). They found their understanding and practice strengthened, owing to their experiential understanding of the Buddha’s words. Naturally, some of them felt inspired to undertake further study, and to provide this opportunity, the Vipassana Research Institute was established.
VRI is currently located adjacent to the Vipassana International Academy (VIA), known as Dhamma Giri located in Igatpuri, a small town about 136 km from Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra, India.
The Institute’s work focuses on the following main areas:
- Exploration of sources of Vipassana in the Tipitaka
- Conduct courses in Pali language
- Practical research into the application of Vipassana in daily life and its impact on society
- Publishing books and other inspirational material related to Vipassana
1. Exploration of Sources of Vipassana in the Tipitaka
Publication of the Tipitaka and other allied literature
Twenty-five centuries ago, Pāli was the lingua franca of northern India, the dialect in which the Buddha taught. Just as Sanskrit is the canonical language of Hinduism and Latin the canonical language of Catholicism, Pāli is the classical language in which the teachings of the Buddha have been preserved. Tipitaka (Pali canon) i.e. literally meaning three baskets which contains teachings of the Buddha, are in Pali language.
Unfortunately, the Pali texts and the practice of Vipassana were lost in India. Realizing the importance of the Pali canon as an invaluable part of the ancient heritage of India, the Government of India after the Chattha Sangayana, took the decision to publish the entire Pali literature in Devanagari script. This task was entrusted to Nalanda Mahavihara, at the Nalanda Institute. The work of publishing the Tipitaka was undertaken in earnest, and the efforts of many eminent scholars culminated in the publication of the work in Devanagari. However, the work slowed down, and today the complete set of Tipitaka volumes is out of print. Even isolated volumes are not available. The sublime record of the Buddha's teaching in Devanagari is therefore now not readily available in the country of its origin.
VRI undertook the monumental task of publishing the entire Pali canon and allied commentaries. This work supplemented the efforts of Nalanda Mahavihara. VRI has taken the Chattha Sangayana version in Burmese script as the authentic, authoritative version. Pali scholars from India and other countries, including many learned bhikkhus and research scholars in Myanmar, assisted in this work. The work product has provided an authentic version of the Tipitaka and allied literature in Devanagari script in printed book form. To see complete list of volumes published by VRI in Devanāgarī script, please click here.
Preparing a Compact Disc (CD) of the Tipitaka
Preparing a CD of all the Pali literature was another mammoth task the VRI undertook and successfully completed. The entire Pali Tipitaka in Devanagari script which has been produced by VRI has also been digitally encoded and is being published on a CD-ROM (Compact Disk-Read Only Memory). Having the information contained within the Pali Tipitaka in this form of storage will preserve this invaluable legacy indefinitely. It will also greatly facilitate study and research into the words of the Buddha by computer search programs capable of locating any word or phrase in any part of the Tipitaka in a matter of seconds. Digital encoding of this information and its use with such search engines opens up vast possibilities for both, research scholars and students of Vipassana alike. Information retrieval software will enable the assembly of comprehensive indices of relevant words and terms.
The CD-ROM produced by VRI also contains custom-developed computer software which automatically converts the Pali in Devanagari script into either Roman script or Burmese script, as the reader prefers. This will be of great value to people everywhere interested in the original words of the Buddha.
For more details related to Exploration of Sources of Vipassana in the Tipitaka, please click here.
2. Pāli Study Programmes
VRI started imparting Intensive Residential Basic and Advanced training in Pali language for Indian and foreign students simultaneously. As research work is best done by those with direct experience of the Buddha's teaching, VRI offers an intensive three-month Pali course for serious Vipassana meditators fully committed to the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin as taught by Mr. S N Goenka. The programme provides excellent opportunity for both the theory (pariyatti) and practice (patipatti) of Dhamma. The course introduces students to Pali, the language in which the teachings of the Buddha are preserved. It does this in the environment of a meditation centre, where the teachings are actually practiced. A 45 days Pali-Hindi course and a 75 days Pali-English course includes compulsory morning and evening group sittings. This combination of scholarly and meditative approaches makes the programme unique.
The Government of India has recognized the Institute for training in Vipassana and for the teaching of Pali as the only institute of its kind, which integrates theoretical principles with the practice of Vipassana.
Since 1999, Department of Philosophy, University of Mumbai in collaboration with VRI has started a course, “Diploma in Teachings of the Buddha”. The course is divided into basic and advanced diploma. It has gained much popularity. These courses are open for meditators as well as non-meditators.
For details regarding Pali courses, experiences of students and specific discourses by Mr. S. N. Goenka on learning Pali, please click here.
3. Practical Research into the application of Vipassana in Daily Life and its Impact on Society
In addition to researching the Pāli Texts, VRI conducts research into the personal and interpersonal effects of Vipassana Meditation. This work includes studying the effects of controlling and purifying the mind, improved moral conduct and harmonious personality development; as well as the application of Vipassana in the areas of health, education and social development. The Institute has also studied the benefits of Vipassana on drug addicts and jail inmates in particular. A study of the impact of Vipassana in Government has been published as well. All these studies enable a contextual comparison with the results that are mentioned in the Pāli texts. For more details, please click here.
From time to time, VRI sponsors international seminars on various aspects of the research work as it applies to the actual experience of Vipassana. It features an opportunity for the participants to participate in a 10-day Vipassana course after the presentation of the seminar papers and this experiential aspect has proven to be popular as well as beneficial. In a very tangible way, the practice of meditation throws light on the research presented in the papers. It gives an opportunity for the participant to experience what was presented in the seminar.
To view reports of the selected seminars conducted by VRI, please click here.
Apart from above, VRI publishes various books and other inspirational material for Vipassana meditators across the world.
The Institute has published several invaluable books in various languages on the basis of discourses delivered by the Principal Teacher of Vipassana, Mr. S. N. Goenka and other senior meditators over the last few decades. They are a real source of inspiration to meditators and non-meditators alike.
For more details regarding VRI publications, please click here.
b) Audio CDs, Video CDs and DVDs
Goenkaji's discourses in 10-day course, Satipatthana course and other discourses are a product of thorough research of the Buddha's teachings. These valuable discourses, group sitting instructions for daily practice, documentaries related to Vipassana, talks featured in the Urja series on Zee TV, introductory material in Hindi and English, are made available by the Institute. They are useful in spreading Vipassana in society and provide inspiration to old students to maintain their practice of Vipassana in daily life.
To view the PDF list of all DVD and CD titles, please click here.
c) Vipassana Newsletter
VRI publishes monthly newsletters in various languages which contain articles by Mr. S. N. Goenka and others. It also serves as a means for Vipassana students all over the world to derive inspiration from, and to stay in touch with the teachings.
To view newsletter archives, please click here.