Mankind has since time immemorial been in constant quest to find means and ends to suffering. All possibilities have been explored from abstinence and renunciation to acceptance and surrender to the challenges faced in an eventful life time. Some took it to levels of extreme indulgence and some others tried shortcuts through psychotropic drugs ending in dependence and sickness. In the wake of these realities, one is often haunted by the peaceful grace of Buddha. The way he sat, the way he looked, the way he moved, the way he spoke – There was something perceptibly different. Had this man mastered the way to freedom from suffering. Even in the midst of chaos he remained an ocean of silence and peace. And the quality of his silence was profound, transforming and contagious. Millions were attracted and transformed by his presence and preaching. Of all methods he has taught, vipassana stands out for its uniqueness and resemblance to what Buddha practiced himself. The term vipassana comes from Pali language that means “insight”.
Vipassana is a method that teaches detached observation of the reality of the mind and body from moment to moment. The aim of vipassana meditation is to purify the mind at the deepest level and free it from past conditioning. By learning how to remove unhealthy mental states one leaves room for the positive qualities of a pure mind to emerge and put an end to suffering.
In a nutshell vippassana meditation is the experiential observation of mind and matter in their aspects of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and lack of an inherent, independent essence or self.
At times everyone experiences feelings of unease and agitation. To come out of one’s agitation one has to know the basic processes that precede agitation in the physical and mental levels.
When ever negative emotions or thoughts arise in the mind, the breathing looses it normal rhythm and at a more subtle level a series of biochemical reactions start within the body. Often this is self evident, for instance with anger veins stick out, the heart beats faster and the face becomes red. Thus the first victim of your anger, is always you.
But if one dissects deeper into the issue, he would realize, that in reality this is more due to wanted things not happening (craving) or unwanted things happening (aversion). Gautama Buddha explains that the agitation that was built up, was actually due to reacting to the sensations of the body. Sensations which had been triggered off by an initial mental impurity.
The technique is very simple in concept. Vipassana teaches that when one experiences pleasant sensations one starts craving and when one experiences unpleasant sensations one is full of aversion. By going to the root of the problem of craving and aversion and not reacting to the sensations by understanding their impermanent nature, one has to stop craving and aversion from rising and causing misery. So in other terms it’s a conscious entrainment of the biophysical and physicochemical responses of the mind and body from unpleasant and unwanted thought processes.
As you can imagine this process of mental purification is not easy. To help develop a conducive atmosphere for positive meditation, students have to take precepts not to kill, not to steal, not to commit any kind of sexual misconduct, not to lie and refrain from intoxicants. In addition one has to practice noble silence. This means no communication with others, verbally or otherwise. Talking keeps the mind engaged at the surface and makes it difficult to listen to ones self, to penetrate to the deeper truths of mind and body. So the initial practice and training of this method requires one to be away from all present associations for a few days.
There are several training centres around the world preaching and propagating vipassana meditation. Sri Satya Narayan Goenka is one of the prominent masters of vipassana today. His centers worldwide offer ten day vipassana courses which are absolutely free. They operate on donations from old students who have benefited from the practice. But as mentioned earlier, the student has to be prepared to go through the rigors of isolation from ones routine. If you are determined and committed, nothing can stop you from exploring the possibility of experiencing the silence and peace that surrounded Buddha.
Source: Ms.Ambily Gopinath