A search is on all over the world, by scientist engaged in the study of the human mind and its behaviour patterns, to find a method which can purify and transform mind. The key to the solution of all problems that affect human society lies in the discovery of this method.
Much of the trouble and tension result from rigid, fixed habit patterns. Every day we come across people apparently looking wise, intelligent and learned but deeply suffering because they cannot change their habits and behaviour patterns.
Another evil which has caused so much suffering in the lie of the individual is the human ‘ego’, a totally misplaced belief in the so-called ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘mine’, a created image so distorted and false, the cause of deep suffering. Similarly, ‘my views’, ‘my opinion’, ‘my belief’, ‘my philosophy’ become fetters and chains causing endless anguish.
Human history is replete with examples of how this ‘ego’ at the individual, group or even national level has been the cause of conflicts, wars, tension and turmoil. Justifiably, therefore, there is intense search for the solution.
Based on my own experience and the experience of thousands of people in India and in other countries who have gone through the training, it can be stated that Vipassana provides a solution, a method which brings purity of mind. No miracles are promised: arduous work is required for the process of self-improvement. However, the destination is sure: peace, harmony and happiness. It is worth giving a trial.
-Mr. Ram Singh, I.A.S. (Ret’d), Jaipur
I am grateful for this opportunity to speak. My name is Dr Om Prakash, I am 83 years old, and have been practicing medicine for the last 56 years. I am also a small-time Dhamma worker: I meditate, and on occasions talk about Dhamma.
Vipassana helps a lot in the practice of medicine. I was quite young when I started practicing Vipassana. At that time I was staying in Myanmar (Burma) and had a flourishing practice, seeing 250 to 300 patients every day. On entering the clinic I used to be excited and agitated, wondering how I could see so many patients and how I could finish my work in time. I often used to lose my temper, would get angry at the nurse, and would shout at my assistant.
But as I started practicing Vipassana I saw that I was able to work without losing my peace of mind. My medical practice grew, but I no longer felt agitated. My attitude towards my problems changed. Initially, I used to think about the patient’s ability to pay for my treatment. After Vipassana, I started thinking: "Oh, what would I do if my son or grandson became sick. This child is like my grandson!" I found that now I had nothing but karun± (compassion) and mett± (loving-kindness) for my patients.
I also found that my treatments became more effective and beneficial. I was giving the same medicines, but the results were far better. The patients would become well more quickly, even though I was giving the same medicines! In fact, I was using smaller quantities, so people would ask if I was giving them homeopathic medicines, and why I was not giving them modern allopathic medicines.
I realised that the medicines I gave were less important than my compassion and mett±. Patients started getting cured no matter what medicine I prescribed. Thus the professional can benefit from Vipassana and help people.
Secondly, I would like to talk about equanimity. I have written a small article in the Hindi Vipassana newsletter entitled "Let’s Maintain Equanimity". One goes through many vicissitudes in life. My father passed away when I was 22, and I had six siblings. The responsibility of rearing them fell on my young shoulders. Somehow, I went through it.
Later during my medical career, I faced a difficult situation. The Burmese brothers sitting here know about it. The government ofMyanmar had started an "Eagle Movement" at that time. Anybody could be arrested and put in jail without any reason being given. Family members would not even know where the person was imprisoned or how long it would be before he was released, if he was released at all.
One day some men came to my clinic and asked me to accompany them after seeing my patients. They were from the dreaded B.S.I., and a visit from them was like a death sentence at that time in Myanmar. I told my wife that I was going with these B.S.I. people and not to be afraid. I said, "I have done no wrong. I am clean. Do not bribe anybody. People will come saying that they have contacts with the B.S.I. or that they can get me out of prison, and they will demand money. Do not give any money, any bribe, however long I am held in prison. I am sure to come out some day."
It is hard for you to even imagine the jail conditions. The prison to which I was taken was built in 1908 by the British and is a very large prison like our Tihar Jail. I was kept in solitary confinement for thirty-five days. My room was about eight by ten feet in size and it also served as a latrine. Once in four days I would be taken out for a bath. Even that was a difficult affair. There was constant prodding from the warders to use less water and to be quick. A barber used to come once in about fifteen days. He would use a safety razor, but the shaving was more like grating, and the pain was beyond description, especially when he shaved the moustache area. Dr.S.N. Goenka describes many kinds of sensations during a Vipassana course, but this pain was so intense that it defies description.
But I can say with certainty that equanimity was maintained during the entire ordeal of thirty-five days. I was not at all worried. I continued my meditation. Finally, I was told that I was innocent and was allowed to go home. This was the effect of the equanimity of Vipassana.
Thanks to Vipassana, even at the age of 83, I can still stand on my own and talk, I am still active, I even see patients.
-Dr. Om Prakash, Vipassana Teacher and Medical Practitioner, Delhi
I want to tell you about my experience of Vipassana. I came to Dhamma Giri two years ago, not knowing anything about it. I only knew it was something where you kept maun brat (silence). I was very fond of keeping maun bra—in fact I started practicing maun brat about four years before I came to the course. You know we Punjabis have this system of "karva chauth", where you keep a fast for your husband’s long life, and I decided no I wouldn’t fast, I would keep a maun. And in that maun of one day, which was from six in the morning till nine at night, I started going very deep inside myself. I started feeling a peace I had never felt before. Normally I’m a very outgoing person. I’m a hairdresser and beautician by profession so I come in contact with a lot of women as well as men. Still I found this feeling of peace getting stronger and stronger.
I can just tell you one thing, friends, that coming here I have come to know that I am in tune with nature. It was the most exciting experience I could have gone through. I don’t know why but I cry every time I say this. It’s something from within that I was looking for, as we always pray to be in tune or at one with God. When I came here I found it was all within me, I didn’t have to look outside at all for anything.
I went back home with complete happiness, with no fear in me, no hatred. I felt like a person cleansed from within, as if I were a bottle and someone had cleaned me with a brush so that I came out sparkling. I rang my husband in Mumbai after the course. He said "How are you?" And I said "I’m so happy, I can’t tell you how happy I am!"
Since then I’ve been talking to my children and to my friends. They all are going to be coming here, in fact my daughter took a course earlier this year, and I want to spread this message, as everyone has been saying, especially to the children. That was the first thought that came to me—we’ve got to get the children to know themselves, because once you grow old, it is very difficult to open your mind. So I think we should work together to put the children first, to open their windows, so that they become better citizens.
-Mrs. Shahnaz Anand, Mumbai
I learned that there are many in the audience who have not been able to find time to sit a Vipassana course, so I thought I would like to say a few words on how to find time for Vipassana.
I’m a businessman and economist from Nepal, so I’m used to seeing things from a cost-benefit point of view, trade-offs and so on. When you have a limited amount of money, you have to decide where to spend it. You have to sit down and figure out where it will provide most benefit, where it may even save money. Similarly, when you have a limited amount of time, you should also figure out where to spend that time to give maximum benefit and perhaps even to save time. I have received so many practical benefits from Vipassana.
I have found out the benefits of maintaining s²la (moral precepts), I rarely get angry or upset, so I don’t waste time on these things. If wavering on a decision, s²la or Dharma shows me the way and I don’t waste time. I am aware of my responsibilities and I feel I am more effective as a manager. I may raise my voice but I don’t do it with anger or animosity. I have found that people take you much more seriously when you tell them what they have done wrong with a cool and calm mind, and what they should do to correct it—whether they are employees or your own children. So when you realise that Vipassana can give you so many benefits and also save you time, I’m sure it becomes easier to find the time to do a Vipassana course. We find time every day to clean our bodies, I’m sure that we can similarly find time to clean our minds.
These are some of the benefits you receive when you are living. Vipassana also helps you when you are dying. My father, Mani Harsh Jyoti, found out in July 1992 that he had lung cancer and he died in January 1993. During the last period of his life, I was able to observe him very closely. He was a serious Vipassana meditator. Every time he had a setback from the time of his diagnosis and during his treatment (which happened quite often), Vipassana helped him to restore his balance of mind and remain calm and peaceful. In his last few days I am sure it was with the help of Vipassana that he was able to give up his attachment to life. Observing him I felt that it was like putting water in a saucer and letting it evaporate; he passed away without a ripple. He passed away not only at peace with himself, but leaving so much peace around him, among his family and friends.
Many friends of mine, particularly my Rotarian friends, ask how I can find time to do regular ten-day courses and now even thirty-day or forty-five-day courses. I reply that if you had found out that you were going to have a heart attack or suffer a miserable death, and to avoid that you needed to spend ten days in a hospital, would you not make the time and admit yourself to the hospital? I look at Vipassana in the same way. If I don’t spend time in meditation, I will lead a miserable life, maybe growing in misery day by day and perhaps suffering in death. So I just think of that and time for Vipassana is naturally found.
-Mr. Roop Jyoti, Businessman and Economist, Nepal
Taking a cue from our brother from Nepal and our sister from Punjab, I as a doctor I would like to point out that whenever we are acutely ill, physically ill, we never think twice about being admitted into hospital. But whenever it comes to the management of our own mind, we never even accept that we are ill, mentally ill, as we all undoubtedly are.
What does this mean? Unless we have developed in meditation, we find that whenever we sit down and close our eyes, we are never aware of where we are. Mentally we move out—into the past, into the future, and we are never really aware of this. We are never in the body where we should be. If this is a mental illness, every human being suffers from it. As a doctor I would like to tell you that during our five to eight years of medical training, we are never taught a single thing about the mind. Those who are called psychologists and psychiatrists are given some training in how to treat the diseases of someone else’s mind. For instance, a psychologist may be able to advise a husband and wife with marital problems, but if the psychologist himself has a problem with his own wife, he won’t know what to do. A good Vipassana meditator, whether a doctor or not, will know what to do because he knows how to watch his own mind.
The mind, with its tendency to move between past and future, never living in the present, can be compared to watching a television screen which is constantly showing replays of action, rather than the live action as it actually happens. To take another example, if you were asked where you stay, you might reply with this or that address which describes the place where you eat, sleep and to which the postman delivers your mail. In fact we constantly live only in our minds. Whether driving a car, at work or at home, I am in fact always in my mind and this is my common address. Vipassana gives us a way to watch this mind, to treat this sick mind. Those who have not taken a course, have the courage to take a ten-day retreat where you are the surgeon, you are the patient and you are the one who is going to walk out of the centre cured. To remain cured, you will have to continue the practice in daily life because of the many impurities our minds accumulate. Do not hesitate, the treatment is there and the hospital doors are open.
-Dr. H. N. Phadnis, Gynaecologist, Pune
We had a survey done this morning concerning the biggest identifiable problem facing humanity today. I am grateful that responses have come, not from all but many of you attending the seminar. The results of the survey show that the greatest single problem we face is that of ego and self-seeking. Next comes degeneration of national character; then jealousy, intolerance, fault-finding and ill will; then fear, apprehension about the future, insecurity. Then comes dishonesty and unruly behaviour; next lack of courage and conviction, lack of mental peace, corruption in life—how it prospers and people suffer.
The suggestions made to counteract these problems are: to inculcate selfless love; to take Vipassana to illiterate people in the villages, as they need it the most; to inculcate moral values in children in schools; and to inculcate it as well in the political elite who rule the country and set the pattern of behaviour for society.
-Mr. Ram Singh, I.A.S. (Ret’d), Jaipur