Vipassana is a form of meditation that encourages insight into things as they really are, without bias. Although its Indian roots are Buddhist in philosophy, it is not a religion. Vipassana is a mental exercise, an “art of living,” that can be practiced by anyone who seeks mental purity, balance, and healing.
Self-observation and a focus on the present characterize Vipassana. Participants look inward to find the root of the mind-body connection. That connection is considered the heart of what causes human suffering. Once the cause of suffering is seen, Vipassana teaches that mental purity and balance can be achieved and, ultimately, healing and relief from suffering. Those who participate in Vipassana claim a stable happiness and contentment that is not affected by external circumstances or moods.
What is involved?
If you would like to become involved with Vipassana, you will need to take a minimum ten-day course under the guidance of a qualified instructor. It is not easy – students must give up writing, sexual activity, killing (any living being, including animals and insects), stealing, and alcohol or “intoxicants.” Students even give up the privilege of speech, although they can speak with instructors if necessary. About ten hours daily will be spent in meditation during these ten days.
After the students have given up the above “actions that cause harm,” they must learn to concentrate on their breathing. Breathing through their noses, students focus on the nature of their breath and thus train the mind to stay in the present.
Around the fourth day, students begin the actual process of Vipassana itself – observing bodily sensations, sensing their ever-changing inner nature and learning to eliminate reactions to such changes.
What are some of the benefits?
Experts in Vipassana believe it is a mistake to engage in this meditation with the goal of curing a certain disease. The goal is insight and self-realization. As mentioned above, contentment and a sense of happiness are often the effects of Vipassana, and ultimately healing as well. But to focus on curing a disease will upset the pure focus necessary to participate fully in Vipassana.
With that in mind, it is believed by practitioners of Vipassana that “inner agitation” is the cause of many diseases, and relieving that imbalance and purging the mind of impurities can bring about bodily healing.
Who should or should not participate in Vipassana?
There are no class, race, or religious boundaries to prevent someone from learning Vipassana. However, those who are physically too weak to withstand the rigors of the ten-day course should refrain from participating. This is also true for those who are mentally ill or undergoing severe emotional or mental trauma. If you are in doubt, check with your doctor and the Vipassana instructor – they can help you decide if Vipassana is right for you.