Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. The “Vipassana” is a Pali word. It simply means seeing realistically that is to see things as they really are. Vipassana is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gautama Buddha more than 2500 years ago.
Vipassana is taught as a path, as a lifestyle, or as a way of life. Vipassana is always taught as a 10-day residential course. There are many reasons why Vipassana needs 10 days of residential learning. The most important of the reasons in my view is that Vipassana means meditating on reality in a continuous way, unbroken and constant. You need to learn to meditate in all states of your daily life, in all parts of the day that is in the morning, noon and evening. In all states of your daily life means, when you are hungry, when you are eating, when you are done with your meals, while walking, when lying down, while sitting, when you are just awake, when you are sleepy or when you are fully awakened, that is at all times, meditating on realities. In Vipassana you are taught to observe the reality in all your mental and physical states. This is important ingredient of Vipassana that differentiates meditation from any artificial exercise or activity to be done in a particular ways, in a particular posture, at a particular time of day. In Vipassana you observe reality and reality is constantly changing, it’s very dynamic, you cannot observe a constantly changing reality only in an idealized state, doing so will mean that you will be unable to reap benefit of meditation in some other conditions of your life, like under distress, under exhaustion, in agitation. Vipassana prepares us to observe reality in its ever-changing form encompassing all states of life’s dynamics. You learn to meditate under many of the conditions that your mind and body presents in everyday life.
A 10-day Vipassana course starts with a series of vows. With these vows you inculcate in yourself the right attitudes to begin and do meditation. The first vow is observing Noble Silence. Meditation is a training of your mind and calmness is the first step towards achieving stillness of your mind. Without observing Noble Silence your mind will ne be able to calm down to a state of no-thought. Noble Silence not only involves silence of speech but all sort of communication including through communication gestures. You are also asked to refrain from reading and writing since these activities also initiates and provokes thinking.
Then there is a set of five moral vows, these are the most common of universal ethics that are part of all the great traditions around the world, Not to Kill, Not to Steal, Not to Lie, Not to indulge in intoxication of any kind and to maintain celibacy during the ten-day course.
The final vow you take is to follow the teaching in its original and pure form as it is given, without adding anything to it or subtracting anything from it. Here we must understand the necessity for this vow. For learning Vipassana, people come from varied and diverse cultures and background, each of them have their own methods and techniques of meditation and also of many forms of prayers and rituals. During the Vipassana course they might face some minor confusion or doubt or may be frustration and think to get back to their traditional methods that they have done previously. This prevents the student from giving Vipassana a fair trial to reveal itself in its full potential as it is, without diluting or diminishing in any way. Since the time of Buddha, Vipassana has been handed down, to the present day, by an unbroken chain of teachers. They all have been able to do this because the originality and purity of the Vipassana Meditation has been preserved in this way. So to reap the full benefits of Vipassana, nothing is to be added or deducted from it as it is given by the teacher.
What the ten-day Vipassana course consists of and what has been my experience and my views will be shared in the next article. I earnestly invite you to share with me your insight, your ideas and knowledge of Vipassana.