Anapana in a School Setting
The first course took place in 1986 in a school located in the Mumbai suburb of Juhu. It was within walking distance of the Goenka family home, and several of Goenkaji’s grandchildren participated. Every day Goenkaji would go over to the school to sit with the children, tell stories and explain about the practice of Anapana.
That first course was followed by many more, in India and around the world. Meditators enthusiastically stepped forward to serve. The format kept evolving, as it continues to do; but the response from participants, parents and teachers has consistently been positive.
During a six-month period in 2007, more than 120 courses were held in 48 Mumbai schools with six different languages of instruction (English, Marathi, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Urdu). Of the 9,000 participants, over 8,000 children were 15-year-olds scheduled to write board exams in April 2008. One aim of the program was to see the impact of Anapana practice on the students’ exam results. It turned out that the percentage of students who passed the board exams was higher than it had been in many years.
The meditation program was suspended in 2008 and 2009, but it resumed on a smaller scale in 2010. This time the courses were centralized in a few larger schools, to which the students were bused. Over a three-month period, approximately 2,900 children attended a total of 33 courses.
The experiment taught several important lessons: First, administrators and schoolteachers need to be committed to supporting an Anapana program in schools. Detailed planning is important to cover all aspects of a course. The schools must give their students time to continue practicing daily after an Anapana course. And on an ongoing basis, it is vital to develop Dhamma workers to serve on such courses.
Other countries that have held courses involving schools include Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Australia, Germany and Britain.
Regular daily practice is the key to long-term benefits. Schools that have tried just five to 10 minutes of Anapana per day have had impressive results. Studies of the participants found significant increases in self-discipline, honesty, cooperation, attentiveness, cleanliness and concentration. At the same time there were decreases in irritability, quarreling, use of abusive language and feelings of inferiority.
Based on the experiences of thousands of experiences, following procedure and guidelines have been form by Vipassana Research Institute for the benefit of students:
Students from the ages of eight to sixteen years are eligible to attend the courses. Separate courses should be organised for the two different age groupings, one for younger children: ages eight to twelve; and one for the older ones: ages thirteen to sixteen. These are ideal groupings but slightly different groupings are also sometimes considered. Students less than eight years of age and more than sixteen years may not be admitted to a children's Anapana course. The recommended number of children per course should not exceed fifty. For courses larger than fifty children, additional Children's Course Teachers may be required to conduct the course.
Various schedules have been developed and successfully implemented in schools over the years. One-day or two-day non-residential courses can easily be conducted during the school hours. In residential schools, three-day residential courses may be held. The timetable is determined by the length of the course and whether it is residential or not. The timetable should be modified to avoid the times when other students who are not participating in the course could interact with the children taking the course. Enough time should be scheduled for meditation periods, counselling (when the CCT meets with small groups of children to reinforce the practice), discourses and stories, lunch, rest, play, etc. The total duration of a one-day course is about six hours. The timetable will be decided by the teacher conducting the course in consultation with the organisers and school administrator. To get an idea of tentative time table, please click here.
Pre-requisites for Schools intentded to conduct Anapana Courses
- To begin the process of having a children's Anapana course held in a school, the administrator or the head of the school should send a formal request along with the duly filled Requisition Form (please see below) to either the Regional Co-ordinator of Children's Courses, a Children's Course Teacher or a local Vipassana meditation centre. Please click here for the requisite contact details.
- At least one person from the teaching staff or administration should have completed a ten-day Vipassana course in this tradition.
- Apart from this, there should be a firm commitment by the school or institution to provide an opportunity for the children to continue their practice of meditation for a few minutes every day.
- The school management may decide the time to implement this programme within their daily routine, with the minimum of about ten minutes a day for practice. The limit on the number of students participating in a course should be carefully determined. A very large group may be difficult to manage and a very small group may have difficulty in creating a cohesive and inspirational atmosphere. Generally, courses with between twenty-five to fifty participants work well. However, depending on the infrastructure, facility and circumstances, the number may vary.
- Ideally, a course should be organised for all of the students from the participating classes. All the teachers of the participating classes should also participate in the course. The teachers of the participating classes may sit as observers. Besides organising courses during the regular school week, courses may also be organised to take place at the school on a weekend or during vacation periods.
Guidelines for Courses in Institutions
- For a residential Anapana course, separate and adequate sleeping accommodations, showers, and toilets should be available for boys and girls. A dining facility where boys and girls can sit separately is also required.
- The course should be organised in a way that no other students or staff are present in the area where the course is being conducted or where the attending children will be residing. Organising on weekends or during holidays can be helpful in insuring this separation.
- A large enough room or hall should be available for seating all the meditators on the floor on cushions or comfortable mats.
- A suitable sound system, a VCR and TV should be available for playing instruction tapes and discourses.
- The place for meditation and the accommodations should be at a sufficient distance from main roads and traffic in order to have the quiet, peaceful atmosphere required for meditation.
- A few course servers, who are experienced Vipassana meditators, may be required to help in running and managing the course.
- If there are children who are old students and have been doing courses regularly, they may serve on the course, having minor responsibilities. (They should never be put in a counsellor role).
(From school administrators and heads of institutions, for conducting Anapana courses in their institutions)
- Name and address of the sponsoring authority
- Name and address of the school/institution participating
- Name/s of the person/s in the institution who has/ have done a ten-day course previously and their position in the school (i.e., Head/ Principal/ Trustee/ Teacher)
- Dates of his/ her first and last course
- Proposed duration of course (one/ two/ three-day)
- Age group of participants and break-up of male/ female participants
- Details of facilities available: a. Hall for meditation b. Residence and amenities c. Microphone/ Audio/ Video arrangements d. Food and dining facilities
For more information on children's courses, please contact:
Vipassana International Academy, Dhamma Giri, Igatpuri 422 403 District Nashik, Maharashtra, India Phone:  (02553) 44076, 44086; Fax:  (02553) 44176 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org