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Buddha's Vipassana
Meditation is a scientific cure for suffering
Smita Poudel (smita)     Print Article 
Published 2006-09-02 16:56 (KST)   
It was a cold winter morning when I set off for the Vipassana meditation center. The center stands on a hill called Shivapuri and it is a magnificant sight. My stay there was to last for 10 days.

Meditation is indispensable in Buddhism. Some 2,500 years ago Gautam Budhha invented a meditation technique called Vipassana. It is through the regular practice of Vipassana that a very ordinary prince, Sidhartha Gautama, became the enlightened one or the Buddha.

Buddhism teaches that the regular practice of meditation leads to liberation or Nirvana. Buddha is not the name of a particular god, instead it is the name given to someone who has attained enlightenment.

Vipassana is a Pali Word which means to see things as they are. Pali is the ancient language that was used during the time of Buddha. Vipassana actually means insight. When we break the word down we see that "Vi" means especial and "Passana" means to look at something. It is the special way of looking at something.

The regular practice of Vipassana frees people from wordly sufferings and allows their consciousness to mingle with the Divine Consciousness.

There is a certain technique of Vipassana. Being a non-sectarian method it can be practiced by all.

The meditation has three stages, these are Sila, Samadhi and Pragya. Sila means discipline, Samadhi is concentration and Pragya is Enlightenment.

It is generally believed that when one follows discipline, he or she can easily go on to the Samadhi or concentration and that regular concentration leads one to enlightenment.

I was going for a simplified meditation course of 10 days. I needed to follow everything that the monks did.

The most important and the first step is the Silas or discipline. My teacher or guru made me vow to be free from intoxicants, and abstain from killing, sexual misconduct, stealing, and speaking falsely for the duration of my stay there. These are the most basic requirements to follow the path of Buddha.

During the whole 10 days the Sadhaks (one who is there to meditate) were not allowed to communicate either verbally or symbolically, but were provided with every facility that they needed.

What I needed to do was meditate for 10 hours a day.

The next step I had to take was to develop some mastery over the mind by learning to fix my attention on the natural reality of the ever changing flow of breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils.

Concentration on inhalation and exhalation continuously helps to enrich Samadi and prepares one for Vipassana. The fourth day was the day of Vipassana, the most awaited moment after the toil of four days.

For Vipassana one must be aware of the sensations all over the body starting from the head and going down to the feet. It is looking at the sensations in a very special way. When one practices it deeply, one finds that everything is transitory and temporary. It makes the Sadak feel that everything here on Earth is changeable, including feelings and attitudes.

It was in fact wonderful to discover the ever-changing sensations all over the body. It helps to develop the sense of equanimity which teaches one not to react to the sensations.

Buddha says that one must be free from Shankaras or the craving and aversion for things. We all are very much habituated to this. If we like something, we develop a craving and if we hate something we develop aversions which are eventually accumulated.

The accumulation is called Shankaras. Buddha says one must not develop cravings or aversions because it is the key cause of suffering.

Our guru, or teacher, S.N. Goenka lives in India, so a video of his preaching was played everyday for an hour. One day he asked:

"When we are angry, we suffer more than the person with whom we are angry but still we react and the quarrel increases endlessly. At closer inspection, we find that anger is temporary. The short termed emotion makes us suffer a great deal. After a while we come to realize this truth. But why do we become angry?"

His answer was that "when someone scolds us, our sense organ transmits it to the brain. There we have accumulated Shankara or a preconception that is already there in the mind is stirred. We immediately realize that this person is scolding. Why? It is because we already know that the word he is using has negative connotations or is something we don't like hearing so we immediately react."

"What if we develop no aversion and remain in equanimity?"

"Whenever a reaction arises in the mind, two types of physical change appear. The breath becomes heavier, and some physical sensation is produced. Those who practice Vipassana observe the breath or the sensation as soon as the reaction is formed. This helps them to remain in full equanimity and later when the habit is developed, we know nothing called anger and the same is the case with each and every kind of emotion."

This was when I realized the practical side of Vipassana and the implementation of meditation in life. That is why Vipassana is more than meditation, it is an art of living.

During Vipassana we find that so many good and bad feelings arise in the mind and at first it is painful not to develop cravings or aversions, but later on one becomes habituated.

We simply observe the sensations with closed eyes and learn the art of equanimity.

When we stop creating new Shankaras, the old ones are automatically swept away and the soul remains free from them. It is believed that when we die, it is only our physical body that is destroyed but the soul which is full of Shankaras take a new body and new Shankaras are added to the old stock.

No one is allowed to speak at the center because meditation is all about complete introversion. We always live so much attached to the outer reality but we never bother to explore the inner self.

Vipassana says the root cause of suffering is inside us. So we should heal the inner wounds to remain happy.

The regular practice of Vipassana leads one to the liberation of Nirvana. Nirvana is being free from the cycle of birth and death or Samsara. Samsara is the repeated cycle of life.

Buddhism believes that until and unless the person is free from Shankaras,
one has to be born again and again and the cycle of life continues. But when one is liberated, there is no need to be born again and the soul mingles with the Divine Soul.

Lastly it was the day of Mangal Maitri which is also called Mitta Bhavana in Pali, meaning sharing goodwill. Actually it is the method of sharing the delights that we have gained during the meditation with all the creatures on the earth.

"May all the living beings in the world be happy, be peaceful and be delighted. May all share my peace, merits and delights," is the motto and our slogan.

It is believed that if we think good of others and remain delighted, the electromagnetic waves produced from the body transmit it to everyone around us and they too are affected.

I felt quite relieved after 10-days of practice. Not speaking for all that time was an amazing experience, I explored myself. Then I felt like I had never before recognized my inner reality. My ecstasy was far from the reach of words. A short-tempered girl like me learnt the art of mastery over emotional reactions.

The most amazing fact is that there were people at the center who followed different religions.

I was a Hindu, one of my friends who was from the U.S.A. was Christian and the other was a Buddhist. Those facts made me realize the words of my teacher or guru:

"Suffering is common to everyone and exactly like suffering, Vipassana is also a non-sectarian practice."

I am a Hindu by birth but I respect Buddhism equally because more than a religion it is a philosophy, a scientific cure for suffering.

It is mentioned in history that Vipassana was practiced for around 500 years after Buddha. Buddha himself taught it to so many people. Later it was limited to the monastery. The practice was preserved by a small religious group in Burma and Mr. S.N. Goenka, an Indian industrialist started it all over again.

Nowadays Vipassana is widely practiced all over Nepal, India and in many other countries.

One must practice it under the strict guidance of the teacher and one must take a 10-day course. It is said that if it is followed randomly it may cause adverse effects because it has a very scientific technique. Each and every step in the meditation has a scientific meaning.

Those willing to practice the meditation must go to the Vipassana camp. It costs nothing. But if you feel you have benefited and want to donate with a generous heart, then it is accepted.

There is no age bar for those willing to practice Vipassana. A three-day youth camp is organized for school kids and there is a 10-day camp for anyone else who wants to follow the path of purity.

I practice it regularly and I have concluded that meditation need not be an escape. It can also be a means to encounter the world in order to understand it and ourselves.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Smita Poudel

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