Vipassana Meditation: Taming Monkey Mind
Description “Vipassana means seeing things as they really are. It is the process of self-purification by self-observation.”
S N Goenka
Vipassana is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques. Long lost to humanity, it was rediscovered by Gautama Buddha more than 2500 years ago…
A golden gateway to vipassana meditation is the 10-day vipassana course taught by S N Goenka in hundreds of centres all over the world. It initiates you to the technique beautifully and launches you successfully into the orbit of self-awareness and self-purification.
A human mind is often compared to a monkey – jumping all around. Vipassana is not just a technique to calm the mind or enhance concentration. It goes much beyond that. It purifies the mind of all impurities of craving, aversion and ego.
Goenka follows a scientifically structured three-dimensional approach taught to him by his Burmese Teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin. The technique as practiced by Buddha was preserved and passed on from generation to generation in its pure form in the Dhamma land now known as Myanmar.
The first dimension refers to discipline and moral conduct. Known as ‘Sheela’, this lays a strong foundation for the practice. During the course, the students maintain noble silence which means no verbal or non-verbal communications of any kind, no gestures, no physical touch and eyes downcast. Nutritious and wholesome food is served for breakfast and lunch. There is evening tea and simple snacks. No dinner. Your day starts at 4 a.m. and before 10 p.m. all lights are off. You clean your own room and wash your plates. No intoxicants or smoking for the duration.
On paper, this may look difficult to observe. But I have seen youngsters in their twenties’ and thirties’, the middle-aged and the old, and men and women of different nationalities comply with the code of conduct without any difficulty. In fact, it feels good. You get a first-hand feel of a monk’s life!
The second dimension is about taming the monkey mind. It is called ‘samadhi’ or concentration. Initially, we start with focussing our attention on our natural breath as it is. Yes, it seems difficult in the beginning. The mind simply sets to wander. Instead of meditating, your mind gets lost in fantasies. You find it very difficult to bring it back. After two or three days, the wandering lessens and you are there more and more.
Once you start experiencing a bit of focus, you move on to vipassana – purification of the mind. It begins with simple observation of your sensations. Then, we go deeper and deeper. Depending on how hard and diligently you work during the course, your experiences may be different, at different levels – gross or subtle.
Don’t ever think you will attain Buddhahood in these ten days. You just get introduced to the technique. Thereafter, it’s your hard work. It may take years, even whole life, sometimes many births. Don’t expect to see some Divine light or experience a state of sweet bliss. The process of metamorphosis or purification may be painful indeed. Be ready!
The third dimension is ‘panya’ or wisdom. Through daily discourses in the evening, insights are given into the activities during the day and the philosophy behind it. Nuggets of pure dhamma gradually build-up right understanding. The morning chanting and dohas give you fodder for thought.
On the tenth day, we practice ‘metta’ bhavna meditation. We wish happiness, peace and harmony for all beings. All our cravings, aversion and ego start dissolving by now. We feel lighter, better, transformed – ready to tread on the path of Dhamma, filled with gratitude towards Buddha who understood the misery of mankind and devised a tool to eradicate it.
The ultimate learning and insight we develop: May all beings be happy! Bhavatu sabba mangalam!
Jagat Singh Bisht
Happiness Coach & Laughter Yoga Master Trainer