Teenage is an extremely difficult period when the individual goes through various physical and mental changes. Children and young adults go through a lot of stress. The pressure of school, meeting expectations of parents and teachers, and planning out a career for themselves puts them under considerable strain and tension. Added to this is the adolescents’ experience of his/her own intense feelings of joy, sorrow, fear, love, disappointment and anger. Relationships with friends are of utmost importance and success or failure in these interactions weighs heavily on them. They have to go through formal education in these formative years and at the same time, need to develop their self-confidence and a sense of personal identity.
Mind training is particularly important in this period because bad mental habits tend to persist when one grows up. Many psychological problems in adulthood are sown during childhood and adolescence, making the individual less productive and less creative. Therefore, introducing a seed of Vipassana early in life will help them to master their mind and live a peaceful and harmonious life.
With this objective, a 7-day Vipassana course was designed for the teenagers and introduced in April 2004 at Dhamma Giri. Till then, the teenagers had access only to Anapana meditation. With this first course, the gates to Vipassana were thrown open to this group. Since then, courses have been held all over India, Myanmar and Nepal benefitting thousands of teen-aged boys and girls.
The 7-day Vipassana courses are designed for young people aged 15 (completed) to 19 years. In this course, the technique of Vipassana Meditation is taught in 7-day residential courses during which participants follow a prescribed Code of Discipline, learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results.
In 7-day courses, participants have to stay within the course premises for the entire duration of the course. They are also expected to refrain from all kinds of religious practices or other disciplines for that period.
There are three steps to the training. The first step is, for the period of the course, to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual activity, speaking falsely, and consuming intoxicants. This simple code of moral conduct serves to calm the mind, which otherwise would be too agitated to perform the task of self-observation.
The next step is to develop some mastery over the mind by learning to fix one's attention on the natural reality of the ever changing flow of breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. By the third day, the mind is calmer and more focused, better able to undertake the practice of Vipassana itself: observing sensations throughout the body, understanding their nature, and developing equanimity by learning not to react to them. Finally, on the last full day, participants learn the meditation of metta-bhavana (loving kindness or goodwill towards all), in which the purity developed during the course, is shared with all beings.
The entire practice is actually a mental training. Just as we use physical exercises to improve our bodily health, Vipassana can be used to develop a healthy mind.
Of course, the results come gradually through continued practice. It is unrealistic to expect all problems to be solved in seven days. Within that time, however, the essentials of Vipassana can be learned so that it can be applied in daily life.