What is Vipassana?
Vipassana is an old meditation technique to get to the stock room of the mind. You can also say to get to your deepest level of unconsciousness. You learn how to reach it and how you can empty old stock. Obvious that isn’t a quick and easy thing to do. To do that in just 10 days is impossible. You do learn the Vipassana technique and you do practice it in 10 days. Vipassana is the pure teaching of Buddha. Buddha’s path, the Dhamma. Not mixed, not commercialized as in many other Buddhist centers.
It is on base of donations. You can give as much as you can or want. Many students don’t give anything without getting blacklisted. They do get accepted again for a 2nd or 3rd time when they apply for it. Even the lodging and the food (veggie) that you get is for free. The helpers who serve the food and clean, are old students. A part of Vipassana is that older students must be servants too.
Vipassana was founded in India, but over time, centuries, it got lost from India. It did move to other Asian countries and it got preserved in Burma, the birth country of S N Goenka. This man learned it from a teacher and he moved to India. There he got a visa and slowly but surely started the Vipassana teachings again. It grew rapidly. Goenka has made it big and quite famous and he is the person who has set up the schedules and whole strategy for a good teaching and benefits for the students.
Code of discipline
There is a code of discipline to be followed: 10 days noble silence, don’t talk. On the day of arrival you’ll get an orientation video. If you have questions, you can ask then. Later you won’t be able to speak, unless you have questions for the teacher on a scheduled time. No phones, music players or any devices are allowed for 10 days. There are lockers to put it safe. No body decoration allowed. You can have tattoos without a problem, but you can’t have anything related to another form of religion or study. No rosemary’s, beads, wrist things, necklaces with or without images. This to keep the teaching pure about one self, as Buddha had wanted it.
Male and female are in separate sections of the compound and in the meditation hall. You are not supposed to look at anyone, male nor female. No hand signs either. For more info about Vipassana you can look here: http://www.punna.dhamma.org/ and here https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index where you can find everything you need to know.
Vipassana exists of three different stages:
Stage 1: Sila
This stage is about the 5 precepts which are part of the eightfold path in Buddhism. The 5 precepts are 1 – not lying, 2 – not stealing, 3 – not killing, 4 – no sexual misconduct and 5 – no intoxicants. Not lying means also not talking badly, gossip, etc. Not killing means also that you don’t kill a mosquito, ant, etc. No intoxicants mean also no alcohol, no painkillers, etc. Not stealing also means that you don’t take anything that’s not given to you. No sexual misconduct means also no sexual activities when you are in the center. These 5 precepts must strictly be followed if you want to get liberated, enlightened, but can be kept weaker if you are not that fanatic.
Stage 2: Samadhi
This means mastery of the mind. Controlling the mind. On day 1, 2 and 3 of the 10 day Vipassana course you work on Samadhi. You focus only on your nose breathing in and out without getting your mind wandering away. This is not easy, especially not when you meditate on this for about 12 hrs a day.
Stage 3: Panna
This means wisdom. From day 4 to day 9 you work on Panna. You now move your focus from the nose to all other parts of the body. Firstly one by one and two days later simultaneously the 2 arms, then the 2 hands, then the 2 legs, etc. What are you focusing for? For 9 days you focus on sensations. First 3 days with Samadhi you focus on the nose and from day 4 on the rest of the body.
Sensations is anything that gives you a feeling. A tickling, itching, pulsing, dry feeling, and so on. Anything that you feel. You feel it arising and passing repeatedly without reacting to it, just observing. This is the link to impermanence, an important part of Buddha’s teaching. With Vipassana you learn to get rid of craving and aversion and reaction because of that. On day 10 you get another meditation too.
The bell rings at 4 am. You have 30 minutes to wake up, shower if you like. Between 4.30 and 6.30 you can choose to meditate in your room or in the meditation hall. In the room you have a metal frame of around 50 cm height with a cushion on it for your meditation. At 6.30 there is breakfast and rest till 8.00 am. Between 8 and 11 am there is meditation in the hall. Lunch from 11 to 12 am. You can speak with the teacher between 12 and 1 pm, but you need to fill a request before.
From 1 pm to 2.15 pm meditation in either your room or the hall. Between 2.30 and 5 pm it’s meditation in the hall. Dinner from 5 to 6 pm. Meditation in the hall between 6 and 7 pm. From 7 to 8.15 pm time for the discourse. The daily video of S N Goenka in which he explains everything. He describes things in words that make perfectly sense. Clear and understandable. Between 8.40 and 9 pm start the new meditation for the next day. After an hour meditation, you get a 10 minutes break to stretch the legs. Between 9 and 10 pm rest in your room and after 10 pm the lights off.
You will have private rooms, as you need to meditate and keep silence for 10 days. The students who did it more than once, don’t get a high bed. New students have a normal single bed with a thin mattress. It might depend on which Dhamma center you visit. There are cabins with attached bathroom and there are huts without attached bathroom. Male and female sleep and live in separate parts of the compound. You clean your room on day 10 to leave it for the next student. Often the centers are located in peaceful environments, for example in a forest.
When you are living in Asia or travelling in Asia, it definitely is recommendable to do a 10 day course. You don’t have to travel all the way to Asia anymore. Vipassana centers are all over the world located now. From Europe to the USA and from South America to Africa too. For locations you can look here: https://www.dhamma.org/maps
Don’t think that following the Dhamma is easy. That meditation is just sitting with your eyes closed. It really is hard work which should not be underestimated. Once you get into it, you surely will feel very soon the benefits in all fronts of your life!!