Vipassana is the way to see things as they really are; it is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation that was rediscovered by Gautama Buddha more than 2500 years. He then taught vipassana as a way to enlightenment and a universal remedy for day-to-day problems.
Vipassana saw a resurgence with S N Goenka, who after learning vipassana started teaching others in 1969. This has lead to a whole lot of vipassana institutions cropping up around the world that offer the 10-day course free of cost.
Vipassana is a technique that will eradicate suffering, it is a method of mental purification which allows one to face life’s tensions and problems in a calm, balanced way. The path of Vipassana is not easy and during the course there are many who do not complete it.
The Origin and Spread of Vipassana::
I went through part of this video which shows how Buddha gained enlightenment through Vipassana, how it changed him and how he started teaching people Vipassana to help them get rid of their earthly problems. The video has nice images for each step of the journey and although the message of Vipassana to enlightenment may be pushed in a little too often.
Doing Time, Doing Vipassana:
Doing Time, Doing Vipassana is a full length documentary that talks about how Vipassana was introduced into the Indian prison system and the positive effect it had not only on the prisoners but even improved the interactions between the jail wardens, prisoners and their families. It also includes the story of how Kiran Bedi, the former Inspector General of Prisons in New Delhi, India, strove to transform the notorious Tihar Prison, the largest complex of prisons in South Asia, and turn it into an oasis of peace.
One very interesting part is when a murderer of three people, whose heart is filled with vengeance and is waiting to get out of prison to kill his enemies, undergoes a transformation through Vipassana and ends up filled with compassion. He even calls up the family of the people who he murdered to ask for their forgiveness.
The Dhamma Brothers:
Here’s a documentary film about a group of prison inmates who participate in a 10-day Vipassana retreat at the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Alabama. The film asks “is it possible for these men, some of whom have committed horrendous crimes, to change?”
The Dhamma Brothers tells a dramatic tale of human potential and transformation as it closely follows and documents the stories of the prison inmates as they enter into this arduous and intensive program.
Here’s one of my friend’s Amit Ayre’s Vipassana experience, “It started off really well. Excited to learn something new on day 1-2. By Day 4, I was done. Felt like I was wasting my holidays because of boredom. By day 5 morning, mind was made up and I was all set to quit. But then something happened. I spoke to the Guruji, who asked me to give it another day. I did. That was the day we started learning the Vipassana technique of meditation. Day 6 onwards, the actual journey started for me.
It was wonderful after that, I started feeling the vibrations as we progressed. At one point, I felt they were mixing something in my food because of the experience, the vibrations and all that was surreal. Something I could not have imagined possible without psychedelics.
The best part of the day was the discourse where they played a pre-recorded message from S. N. Goenka, it was insane because he had an explanation for whatever was happening with me throughout the day. Everything we did throughout the day and why we did what we did as well as a lot of knowledge about the inner workings of your mind.
On day 10 we started talking and sharing experiences, it was simply wonderful, to add to that, it was also a full moon night. We were done with collecting all the new thoughts and new ideas. I spent that night under the stars, reading up, making notes, questions to ask etc. Another perk was the ability to connect with some incredibly awesome people, it was like Amit 2.0.”
There are hundreds of other Vipassana experiences online and on Youtube. If you are interested in doing a Vipassana course, you can apply for a scheduled course here
The Vipassna Course:
People who apply for the course have a strict code of conduct to follow for those ten days. They can’t have any connection with the outside world, all electronic devices are given to the management for this period. They have to maintain silence most of the time, simple vegetarian meals are provided, and neither can one write or read. No physical contact with the same or opposite sex are permitted and perhaps the most important is to declare that you are willing to comply fully with the teachers guidance and instruction during the course.
Apart from that you have to abstain from killing any being, stealing, all sexual activity, telling lies and all intoxicants. If you are a returning student or have done a course earlier then you have three more rules,
abstain from eating after midday, sensual entertainment and bodily decorations and from using high or luxurious beds.