Vipassana is a meditative practice designed to change the habit patterns of the mind at the subconscious level. (read official explanation here)
You may ask, ‘Why?’
It’s because we are in a constant process of liking or disliking everything on a conscious and subconscious level.
Every time we like something, we crave it, and every time we don’t like something, we create aversion.
This is done at a subconscious level, and what’s interesting is that every time we crave or create an aversion, there is a corresponding sensation that happens at the bodily level.
Sometimes very subtle and sometimes at a gross level.
With the practice of Vipassana meditation, we not only see the true nature of our mind habit pattern, but we also learn to be free from this.
The practice of Vipassana is threefold
Shila – Samadhi – Panya
Five precepts we take that help in the further development of samadhi and Panya.
These precepts are:
- Noble silence
- No sexual misconduct for 10 days
- No stealing
- No intoxication
- No lying
Samadhi is a meditative practice called Anapana, where we learn to improve our focus and concentration. In a 10-day meditative practice, we practice Anapana to improve our concentration and focus. Most meditative practices help you reach here as they engage the surface level of the mind.
Panya is the wisdom or development of wisdom. The absence of ignorance is knowledge, and this is what Vipassana offers.
When one stays in the state of samadhi for a longer period, they can see the sensation on the body, however stable or gross it is.
Vipassana meditation emphasizes direct experiential understanding, going beyond intellectual knowledge to observe and understand the nature of one’s own mind and experiences.
In this part of the meditative practice, one watches the reality of these sensations with samatha and an understanding of anicca.
With practice, one becomes profound in this and starts to see and understand that in every second, many such sensations come and go. The impermanent nature of these sensations is also a reflection of our thoughts and feelings and attachment to them in the form of cravings and emotions.
The more we see these sensations (think of pain, fear, greed, passion) rationally, corresponding similar sensations (read – emotions or feelings or experiences) will arise from the depth of our mind. If we don’t react to it (create new sankhara in the form of craving or aversion), they will appear on the surface level and go away.
Depending on how many past sankharas one has (this life and past lives if you believe in it and if you don’t, focus on this life only), it could take time to get rid of them.
Why practice Vipassana?
Imagine yourself being woken up and feeling fresh, experiencing the sunlight all over you, and your mind is free from worry about the future or free from the past trauma or memories that trouble you and stop you from living in the moment.
Once the reality unfolds with the help of Vipassana practice, the reality of impermanence, and once we free ourselves from the habit pattern of the mind of creating craving and aversion, one can experience life in its true form.
The joy will always be there, and one will enjoy every moment as if it’s new while understanding it will be gone as we blink our eyes.
One would not stop living or may not renounce the world, which is what many feel when talking about going deep into the world of Vipassana. Rather, one develops the faculty to enjoy life, be joyful, and gain more clarity on how to conduct life.
How to get started with Vipassana?
The practice of Vipassana was designed centuries back, and to understand this technique, you need to dedicate 10 days of your life.
There are centers where you can go and understand this technique. However, don’t take it too lightly, as these 10 days, you will be :
- Maintaining noble silence – No talking and maintaining complete silence.
- 10 hour of daily meditation: Your day will start at 4.30 and ends at 9.30. There will be sufficient breaks for you to relax.
- No phone, no internet, and no contact with the outside world – For 10 days, you will have no contact with the outside world. So before you come, you need to ensure that the next 10 days of commitment are taken care of. You can have your family or colleagues take care of urgent or critical issues.
- This is completely free, and you don’t need to pay anything. Your stay and food are completely free, and if you like, you can donate any amount. Even if you don’t, nobody will frown on you.
- Breakfast at 6.30 AM, lunch at 11 PM, light snack at 5.30 PM (See the complete schedule before)
How, when, and where to register for Vipassana?
My schedule used to be very busy, so what I used to do was look for available courses anywhere in India as per my available time. It doesn’t matter if it’s in UP or Rajasthan or Hyderabad. In India, you can reach popular cities within 3-6 hours max.
Head to Dhamma.org and click on search
Select your preferred dates (keep it around 30-40 days at least) and select your location and preferred language.
You will see results like this, and based on location and availability, you can click and apply.
Note: You will get notification via email in a few days. Often, you will get a call from the center to explain the program and to ensure you are willing to stay for the entire 10 days. If you ever feel you are not ready, do not force yourself to do this. You can always re-apply at a future date. Leaving the course in between is not a good idea, so make sure you are aware of the program and join only when you can dedicate 10 days.
Note: I have completed 5 * 10-day courses and many 1 and 3-day courses. I keep going back to it because I see many benefits of it. From my experience, I could suggest you let go of all your limited beliefs and, for the 10 days (your first course) simply follow the process. After 10 days, you can decide whatever you want with newfound info.
Here is a video that I made after the 2019 camp (Pushkar). It may give you some more info:
What have I learned by practicing Vipassana?
Every time I completed a 10 day retreat, I came out as a new person. A lot of things inside me has changed or in the process of changing. It is usually after 3-4 months, I start seeing some significant changes in my life.
Here are a few takeaways that I could recall right now which is worth sharing –
World always moves on – We often worry a lot, and think how everything will workout if we are not available for 10 days. But to my surprise the world simply moves on and only a few people might have missed your presence, and thats it. Your work, family and everything else, just moves on. This is what will happen when we die or someone else’s die, this realisation was pretty strong and a lot of things changed because of this.
Intent is everything – The difference between you and a criminal in a jail is, he is caught. Day and night we often commit so many crimes in our mind, but the only thing is we are never caught. However, we are punished by the law of nature when we have ill will for others. It could be as simple as thought of stealing, hurting others and more. For example, if you get angry on someone, before you shout on other, you already hurt yourself to a degree. When you practice meditation, you will be able to see this in a better manner, and perhaps you will change your conduct. First anything appears as intent (thought), then in voice and then in action! Once you understand this, you will do your best to improve on how you think and life choices that you make.
Always attempt to respond over react.
One more step – Before giving up, push yourself for one more step. It will be worth it.
Serve – Once you complete your first 10 day camp, you can now give service. The purpose is to be a server in one of the meditation camp and enable an environment which helps other practice this technique. I was fortunate enough to do this once, and the kind of reflection such experience gives is going to be very unique and dissolve a lot of ego and create space for selfless love.
On day zero you take 5 precepts, and the 5th and most important once is “no intoxicants”. The reason it is most important is because once you take intoxicants (drugs or alcohol), you will not be able to maintain other precepts such as sexual misconduct, stealing and others.
Even though we maintain 10 days of noble silence, every evening there is a discourse of around 1 hour. In this discourse (available in many languages), the teacher Goenka Ji explains the technique and that entire one hour clarifies most of the doubt related to the technique.
Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about Vipassana. Do note that I’m a student as well, so my answer may not be perfect, and I can’t talk much about the technique, but I will do my best to point you in the right direction/resources that I know of.