Vipassana, an ancient meditation technique of India, rediscovered by Gautama the Buddha is a straight-forward practical method of purifying the mind through self-observation.
The technique is a mental exercise to keep the mind healthy, wholesome and pure. It makes use of tools that are available and acceptable to any human being irrespective of caste, creed or religion – the breath and physical sensations.
It enables the practioner to see things beyond the apparent truth, as they actually are. This is what The Buddha rediscovered, practiced and taught as a remedy for all maladies of life. The technique is scientific, devoid of false beliefs, dogma and rituals. It is timeless in that it produces the same results today as it did then. Vipassana helps meditators explore the Universal laws of Nature within oneself at the experiential level.
The practice of Vipassana meditation involves following the principles of Dhamma/ Dharma, the universal law of nature. It involves walking on the noble eight fold path, which is broadly categorised into Sila (Morality), Samadhi (concentration) and Pañña (wisdom, insight).
To learn Vipassana, it is necessary to take a ten-day residential course under the guidance of a qualified teacher. The courses are conducted at established Vipassana Centres and other non-center locations. During the entire duration of the retreat, students remain within the course site having no contact with the outer world. They refrain from reading and writing, and suspend all religious practices or other disciplines. During the course, participants follow a prescribed Code of Discipline. They also observe noble silence by not communicating with fellow students; however, they are free to discuss meditation questions with the teacher and material problems with the management.
There are three steps to the training.
First, students practice sila (Morality) - abstaining from actions which cause harm. They undertake five moral precepts, practising abstention from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and the use of intoxicants. The observation of these precepts allows the mind to calm down sufficiently to proceed further with the task at hand.
Second, for the first three and a half days, students practise Anapana meditation, focusing attention on the breath. This practice helps to develop samadhi (concentration) and gain control over the unruly mind. These first two steps of living a wholesome life and developing control of the mind are necessary and very beneficial, but they are incomplete unless the third step is taken: purifying the mind of underlying mental impurities.
The third step undertaken for the last six and a half days, is the practice of Vipassana: one penetrates one's entire physical and mental structure with the clarity of panna (wisdom, insight).