- By Vipassana Research Institute
Vipassana is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. Long lost to humanity, it was rediscovered more than 2,500 years ago by Gotama the Buddha, and was taught by him as a universal remedy for the universal truth of suffering. Though an integral part of the Indian spiritual heritage, prior to the last 20 years, the technique had not been practised in India for centuries. As a result, little research has been done on the theory and practice of Vipassana.
Vipassana Research Institute is committed to developing a deeper appreciation of the Buddha's teaching, both at the theoretical (pariyatti) as well as the experiential (patipatti) level. It is for this reason that the unique format of this seminar has been devised; ten days of experiential practice in which to obtain a deeper understanding of the seminar's theme.
The Pāli term vipassana means insight, to see things as they really are, not as they appear to be. Its goal is complete liberation from suffering. To attain this goal, we must experience the truth of the Buddha's teaching for ourselves, by ourselves. Mere faith in the Buddha, or intellectual appreciation of the universal law-the Dhamma-is not enough to liberate one from the misery inherent in life.
The Buddha, out of his personal experience, found that suffering arises because of the mental habit of craving (tanhatanha). This in itself was not a new discovery, but what was unique to his teaching was that he found a practical way out of suffering. By exploring the depths of his mind, he realized that between external objects and the mental reflex of craving, is a missing link-vedana-the feeling of body sensations.
Whenever we encounter an object through the five physical senses or the mind, a sensation arises, and based on the sensation, craving arises. If the sensation is pleasant we crave to prolong it; if it is unpleasant we crave to get rid of it. Therefore, the immediate cause for the arising of craving and of suffering is not something outside, but rather the sensations that occur within us. To free ourselves, we must deal with this inner reality.
Vedana is the meeting ground, the crossroads where mind and body interact, and where our true nature is revealed in a vivid, tangible way. This is wisdom; the thorough understanding that all sensations, all that one calls 'I', all that one is attached to, are arising to pass away. By objectively observing this process, we develop equanimity towards change. We no longer crave for pleasant sensations nor have aversion to unpleasant ones.
The Buddha called this wisdom sampajanna-the constant thorough understanding of impermanence. By Vipassana one learns to develop the continuity of this understanding. The practice results in a calm, balanced mind in the midst of all the ups and downs of life, and leads to liberation from attachment, craving and suffering. This path is a true art of living that enables one to live a wholesome, creative life. And due to its non-sectarian nature, people from all communities, religions, castes and countries are able to derive great benefit from its application.