Vipassana is the practical science of living. The next generation must learn this science at a very young age, so that they can live a very healthy life, a harmonious life. If they understand pure Dhamma, the law of nature, they will live according to the law of nature. - S. N .Goenka
Vipassana Meditation is an ancient method of gaining wisdom by insight - looking at the interaction of one's own mind and body. It is a logical process of mental purification through self-observation. Taught in ten-day residential courses, the practice of Vipassana, which means 'seeing things as they really are,' has benefitted people from every class, race, religion and continent due to its non-sectarian nature.
Many come to Vipassana late in their lives, wishing they had found this technique earlier because it is so effective in learning the art of living peacefully and harmoniously. The ideal time to begin this mental training is in childhood, when children as young as eight years, can easily learn the technique of Anapana meditation, the first preparatory step in learning Vipassana. The first Anapana courses for children between 8 to 16 years were held in 1985, and have spread rapidly since, not only in India but in all parts of the world.
Vipassana for Teenagers
“We give the seed of pure Dhamma to these boys and girls and after 15 or 20 years the new generation that comes up will have responsibility towards their family, towards society, the country, the world, towards humanity. They should grow up to be ideal human beings. This is our only aim.” - S.N. Goenka
Teenage is an extremely difficult period when the individual goes through various physical and mental changes. Children and young adults go through a lot of stress. The pressure of school, meeting expectations of parents and teachers, and planning out a career for themselves puts them under considerable strain and tension. Added to this is the adolescents’ experience of his/her own intense feelings of joy, sorrow, fear, love, disappointment and anger. Relationships with friends are of utmost importance and success or failure in these interactions weighs heavily on them. They have to go through formal education in these formative years and at the same time, need to develop their self-confidence and a sense of personal identity.
The metaphor of ‘twilight’ can be aptly used to describe this age group; for them, no more childlike, innocent faith of one below 14; they are now objectively critical and yet, not complete, mature adults. They are on the threshold of becoming adults, at the junction between adolescence and adulthood, hence this transition period is very important.
Mind training is particularly important in this period because bad mental habits tend to persist when one grows up. Many psychological problems in adulthood are sown during childhood and adolescence, making the individual less productive and less creative. Therefore, introducing a seed of Vipassana early in life will help them to master their mind and live a peaceful and harmonious life.
With this objective, a 7-day Vipassana course was designed for the teenagers and introduced in April 2004 at Dhamma Giri. Till then, the teenagers had access only to Anapana meditation. With this first course, the gates to Vipassana were thrown open to this group. Since then, courses have been held all over India, Myanmar and Nepal benefitting thousands of teen-aged boys and girls.
Structure of a 7-Day Vipassana Course and Eligibility
The 7-day Vipassana courses are designed for young people aged 15 (completed) to 19 years. Such courses are mostly conducted at established Vipassana meditation centers.
In this course, the technique of Vipassana Meditation is taught in 7-day residential courses during which participants follow a prescribed Code of Discipline, learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results.
In 7-day courses, participants have to stay within the course premises for the entire duration of the course. They are also expected to refrain from all kinds of religious practices or other disciplines for that period.
There are three steps to the training. The first step is, for the period of the course, to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual activity, speaking falsely, and consuming intoxicants. This simple code of moral conduct serves to calm the mind, which otherwise would be too agitated to perform the task of self-observation.
The next step is to develop some mastery over the mind by learning to fix one's attention on the natural reality of the ever changing flow of breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. By the third day, the mind is calmer and more focused, better able to undertake the practice of Vipassana itself: observing sensations throughout the body, understanding their nature, and developing equanimity by learning not to react to them. Finally, on the last full day, participants learn the meditation of metta-bhavana (loving kindness or goodwill towards all), in which the purity developed during the course, is shared with all beings.
The entire practice is actually a mental training. Just as we use physical exercises to improve our bodily health, Vipassana can be used to develop a healthy mind.
Of course, the results come gradually through continued practice. It is unrealistic to expect all problems to be solved in seven days. Within that time, however, the essentials of Vipassana can be learned so that it can be applied in daily life.
Difference between 10-Day and 7-Day Courses
7-day teenager courses stand out distinctly from 10-day courses in the following aspects:
The participants of 7-day course belong to a specified age group (15 to 19 years). While 10-day courses are open to all adults above 19 years of age.
7-day courses, while retaining the seriousness and intensity of the 10-day courses, address the specific needs of this age group. The technique is the same as on the 10-day courses for adults, but with evening talks that are more suited to teenagers and a more relaxed time table.
7-day courses are single gender courses, either male or female courses at a time, irrespective of the capacity of the Center.
All courses are run solely on the basis of voluntarily offered donations. There is no fee charged. The courses are financed by donations from the students who have completed a prior course and wish to share the benefits they themselves received, by giving donations for the students who come after them.
How to Apply
1. Read Code of Conduct in Hindi or English
2. Select suitable date and Center from Teenagers' Course Schedule
3. Download and complete the application form
4. Take signature from parents or legal guardian on the application form
5. Send the duly filled application form to the Center selected by you
6. Await notification from the Center about further procedure
Impact on Course Participants
Participants have reported multifold changes and benefits from the courses with a significant gain in cognitive, social and emotional factors. Some reported that it improved their concentration and that they scored well in the tests conducted. Many felt that they were able to manage their negative feelings, especially anger. This helped them to calm down more quickly and they were able to avoid fights at home.
Many students reported that meditation helped them to cope better in their lives. They found that it made them calmer, and more focused in studies and less violent and angry. On the social front, many students, who were initially feeling socially isolated and lonely, were able to mix up with others comfortably.
One girl of Class VIII wrote she has learnt to be more patient and not to lose her temper. Another girl said that she was glad that her confused mind learnt to become more focused and positive.
To read experiences of course participants, please click here.
Detailed research has been undertaken to study the impact of Vipassana on teenagers. To read the research reports, please click here.