This article is dedicated to Guru S N Goenkaji, (in tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin) who spread Buddha’s mindfulness meditation to India and the whole world. Vipassana or to look at yourself in a special way is an insightful meditation based on awareness of your feelings. Also known as Burmese movement, Vipassana meditation is one of the mindfulness technique rediscovered by Buddha to come out of misery to liberate ONESELF. Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation and focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined insightful meditation. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion. Vipassana meditation is taught as a residential course across the world and more information can be accessed at http://www.dhamma.org.
Looking back I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to practice Vipassana meditation when I was in my mid 20s’. I was distraught at one point in time, miserable and very unhappy. I had become very negative and despondent in life, when one of father’s friend recommended that I try Vipassana meditation in tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. I got very excited when I was apprised that during my 10 day introductory course I would have to follow strict precepts of morality including noble silence. I enrolled myself in a 10 day residential course in one of the Vipassana meditation centres for the course.
( Photo: Sayagyi U Ba Khin below) I was very anxious, elated as well as apprehensive since this was my first course, my first experience at any kind of meditation in this birth and at that point of time I was under the illusion that being religious was akin to being spiritual. At our induction we were all appraised about strict precepts which we had to take and abide till we finished the course. We all were enrolled to practice Buddha’s meditation as lay disciples so as beginners, we followed Five precepts also known as Sila in pali ( monks follow many more precepts which range from 227-250 precepts) which included no lies, no sexual misconduct ( which during Vipassana course means celibacy), no intentional killing, no intoxication and no stealing. Old Vipassana meditators have to take Eight precepts.
All the meditators realised that the meditation will be taught in a non sectarian manner with no religious affiliation. Our teacher for the course was a young brilliant man whom I would later realise was felicitate as one of the top scientists in India. He would be conducting the course while S N Goenkaji tapes detailing instructions on meditation would be played. All the meditators sat in the big Dhamma hall (Dhamma in pali means law of nature) with separate cushions for all meditators to sit and meditate.
(Guru S N Goenkaji on right addressing world buddhist conference ) Vipassana technique is divided into three parts: Sila (a code of conduct of self restraint to be followed which serves as a precursor for concentration, Samadhi (which is concentration or one pointedness) and Panna which means wisdom (insightful mindfulness). Everyone started with Samadhi which is taught in the manner of Annapanna which is concentrating on your breath as it is i.e. to observe the breathe its its natural form without regulating it. Buddha taught forty different types of concentration with Annapanna being the most sublime requiring supreme effort. As I started my first experience of meditation, I realized how untamed my mind had become over time. All of us give lot of time and money for outward appearance while ignoring the most important part of our existence..our mind. As I progressed on this path over the years, I would learn that Buddha is the greatest scientist of mind and peace. We will discuss this in detail going forward over series of articles. The first few days turned out to be the most difficult since it was very difficult to sit in a fixed posture and meditate with all negative thoughts and painful memories becoming prominent.
I learnt to be silent and not eating a proper meal after 12 pm was the easiest part of the course. In the beginning of the course, I could not sit for five minutes and I had body pains all over my body. I made many excuses to run from the course including the ultimate excuse of self defeat i.e. I am not good enough for this path. I am very thankful to my teacher you was a strict disciplinarian and persuaded me to stay for the course. In the evening we heard discourses from Guruji who seemed very logical and sensible that I felt spiritually invigorated and at peace.
( Left Igatpuri Center, India Head of Vipassana Meditation) When I got back home and started practicing Vipassana meditation, I soon realized the change which had come in myself. I was no longer miserable or had any negative affiliation attached towards any of my previous experiences. I was more alert, full of optimism, more compassionate and my relationship with my family members was much better. It dawned to me that the world was same but I had changed and my parents were dazzled which motivated them to attend a Vipassana course (although they did not change much..not sure why?).
Over the years I have attend many more courses including as a volunteer around centers in India. I met some extraordinary spiritual people from around the world including some Vipassana teachers to whom I shall be forever be indebted in life. As I traveled around India during my spiritual sabbatical, I learnt how much Vipassana meditation had spread and become popular especially in Europe & North America and one of the important destination for people from the around the world who travel to India in search of spiritualism.
I am so happy that at last the land of Buddha has got back his teachings esp. the meditation which he preached and practiced. As a old mediator I understood that it is not important on how many courses you have attended but the regularity of practice and precepts. It is very important that you meditate everyday judiciously as the technique and Lord Buddha wanted meditators to practice. I had a sinusoidal journey on my path to liberation with uneven flow and trying my best to come out of my impurities and defilements which is an eternal journey until you become a Buddha or Arahant. I will always be grateful to Goenkaji for spreading this technique to lay disciples so that even working professionals could develop on the path of liberation without becoming a monk.
There have been many books which have been written on Vipassana technique as taught by S N Goenkaji and it has been successfully implemented in prisons in India incl. Tihar Jail. Scientific research has been conducted to find the efficacy of Vipassana meditation and has been published in relevant journals. You can always refer to Art of Living by William Hart among others.
Video of Guru Goenkaji addressing Harvard Business School
I am very thankful to Sayagyi U Ba Khin for spreading the technique around the world through his principal teachers which included Guru Goenkaji, thanks to King Asoka for spreading the technique worldwide and Burma (to all the people who kept the tradition going for centuries). I am extremely grateful to Lord Buddha for finding the path to come out of misery and attachments in order to live a holistic life. I am thankful to Vipassana foundation which does not charge any money for the courses and only works through donations. I am extremely grateful to many volunteers like myself you worked selflessly in order to help other meditators meditate peacefully. To wrap in words of Guru Goenkaji, life is full of vicissitudes which would include many undesirable situations but accepting the reality with equanimity helps in living a harmonic life. Vipassana meditation serves as a catalyst for enhancing your equanimity which is one of the ten parami (perfections) in Buddha and aids in changing the habit pattern of the mind at a deep experiential level.
Thank you Lord Buddha for finding the path for coming out of misery and thank you Sayagyi U Ba Khin and Guru Goenkaji for spreading the technique in its pristine form.. Thank You..Thank You..Thank You..