Written by Yoana Moya
As taught by S.N Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U BA Khin
Vipassana means to see things as they really are, and it is also a synonym of “establishing of awareness”. Originally from India, Buddha discovered this technique more than 25,000 years ago. Vipassana is the sience of mind and matter,how mind and body influence each other, reacting with craving whenever there is a pleasant sensation, or reacting with aversion whenever there is an unpleasant sensation.
The diminute particles that constitute our body are always working and therefore our body is in constant changing situation. The conscious mind might not always react, but the deep unconscious always does. All the other impurities of the mind are product of these two. Whenever we generate craving or aversion, we lose the peace and the harmony of the mind.
There are many practices that aim to calm and purify the mind, but they do so on a superficial level. However, Vipassana starts working at the root level. The root level of the mind is constantly in contact with body sensations. Mind and matter are so interconnected. By practicing Vipassana, we are able to come out of the blind reactions of the mind through the experience of the impermanence of every sensation we observe.
Five Hindrances or Enemies:
- Kamacchandaà craving
- Vyapadaà aversion
- Thina-middhaà physical sloth and mental torpor
- Uddhacca-kukkucaà agitation and worry
- Viikicchaà doubt, uncertainty
Four Qualities of a Pure Mind:
- Mettaà selfless love
- Muditaà sympathetic joy
The most important part is to sharp the mind. That is the reason why the students spend the three first days continually work observing the breath; as it goes in, as it goes out. Natural breath, without trying to control or modify the rhythm or intensity. Keeping the attention on a small area: bellow the nose and above the upper lip. There is not imagination, verbalization, visualization, or autosuggestion, the student experience by merely observing his or her breath.
At the end of the third day most of the students are able to feel shuttle sensations. Apart from the breath, students start feeling different sensations on the area. We usually do not feel this because the conscious mind only feels gross, intense sensations. On the fourth day of the course, Vipassana is taught. Students learn how to observe objectively all the sensations in their bodies without reacting to them. They watch emotions come and go, they watch pain come and go, and they realize, not intellectually but through experience that nothing is permanent. By doing this, we change the old habit pattern of the unconscious mind and we also start to be aware of the feelings that certain situations on our everyday life cause. The pragmatic characteristic of this technique is what made me try. I believe that our knowledge should come from experience and not just from reading books and attending to lectures or conferences. We must experience in order to build our own vision of the world and have intellectual freedom. Question everything but what you have experienced. Whatever you have experienced is your reality. What I experienced during the 10 days course I have just done is my reality. I could felt many sensations and realized of the interconnectivity between mind and body. How the anxiety that I sometimes suffer have a direct influence in my body, how to kindly accept that my mind was wandering, and how to kindly go back to observing the sensations on my body. What I take from this experience and I would apply on my everyday life is that we have a lot of responsibility on what we feel. There is a good story that the teacher told us. A man comes to your house, he gives you some fresh vegetables and fruit. You happily accept the gifts and you feel good. Another man comes to your house, this man is angry and comes to you with insults and bad wishes. You can either accept his gift and probably start feeling unpleasant sensations or kindly reject his present. By taking the responsibility of what I feel, I am now observing everything more in my everyday life and I believe that I am the only one that can open or close the door to negativities in my life.
VIPASSANA FOR EVERYBODY
Vipassana is not connected with any religion, therefore it is suitable for everybody. You should accept the method only because you experience so, and not just because the teacher or the Buddha said so. People from every religion are doing Vipassana because the teaching of all religions is the same: live a moral life, have a disciplined mind, a pure mind full of love and compassion and tolerance. Vipassana helps students to be good human beings. Individuals form the world. When we talk about world peace, we need to start by working on the individual level. Although it would take time, Vipassana helps to make individuals happier and less miserable. Vipassana helps people to live a better life.
Vipassana has been introduced as a way of doing therapy in different prisons, not only in India but also in the United States with good outcomes, reducing violence and decreasing recidivism rate. This is not the only meditation technique that has being tried in order to change people’s behavior. I would talk more about the use of yoga and meditation for this purpose in my next post 🙂
Bhavatu sabba mangalam- May all beings be happy