Vipassana is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques. Having been lost for a long time, it was rediscovered by Gotama the Buddha more than 2,500 years ago. The word ‘vipassana’ means seeing things as they really are. It is a process of self purification by means of intense and continuous self observation. We begin by observing our own natural breath to make the mind concentrate. With sharpened awareness, we proceed to observe the changing nature of our own body and mind until we are able to experience and grasp the universal truth of impermanence, suffering and egolessness. Realization by direct experience is in itself the process of purification. Dhamma is universal, not belonging to any particular religion or belief. Therefore, it can be practiced and help to solve common problems faced by all kinds of people regardless of differences in race, sex, age, class or religious conviction. One can practice Dhamma at any time, in any place. It is eventually beneficial to all.
What Vipassana is not:
It is not a rite or ritual based on blind faith.
It is neither an intellectual nor a philosophical entertainment.
It is not a rest cure, a holiday, or an opportunity for socializing.
It is not an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.
What Vipassana is:
It 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 and balanced way.
It is an art of living that one can use to make positive contributions to society.
Vipassana meditation aims at the highest spiritual goals of total liberation and full enlightenment. Its purpose is never simply to cure physical disease. However, as a byproduct of mental purification, many psychosomatic diseases are eradicated. In fact, Vipassana eliminates the three causes of all unhappiness: craving, aversion and ignorance. With continued practice, the meditation releases the tensions developed in everyday life, opening the knots tied by the old habit of reacting in an unbalanced way to pleasant and unpleasant situations. Although Vipassana was developed as a technique by the Buddha, its practice is not limited to Buddhists. There is absolutely no question of conversion. The technique works on the simple basis that all human beings share the same problems and a technique which can eradicate these problems will have a universal application. People from many religious denominations have experienced the benefits of Vipassana meditation, and have found no conflict with their profession of faith.
Meditation and Self Discipline
The process of purification by means of self observation is certainly never easy. Students have to work very hard at it. By their own efforts students will arrive at their own realizations; no one else can do this for them. Therefore, meditation suits only those who are willing to work seriously and observe strictly the discipline, which is there for the benefit and protection of meditators and is an integral part of meditation practice.
Seven days are certainly a very short time to penetrate into the deepest layers of the unconscious mind and learn how to eradicate the complexes lying there. Continuity of practicing in seclusion and observing noble silence are the secret of success.
Rules and regulations are designed in order to preserve and maintain the practice. They are not meant for the benefit of the teacher or for the sake of easy management. Nor are they meant to oppose certain existing tradition, orthodoxy or blind faith in some organized religions. Rather, they are based on the practical experience of thousands of meditators over the years and are both scientific and rational. Abiding by the rules creates a very conducive atmosphere for meditation; breaking them will pollute it.
A student will have to stay for the entire period of the course. The other rules should also be carefully read and considered. Only those who feel that they can honestly and scrupulously follow the discipline should apply for admission. Those not prepared to make a determined effort will waste their time and, moreover, will disturb others who wish to work seriously. A prospective student should also understand that it would be both disadvantageous and inadvisable to leave without finishing the course upon finding the discipline too difficult. Likewise, it would be most unfortunate if, in spite of repeated reminders, a student does not follow the rules and has to be asked to leave.
Persons with Serious Mental Disorders
People with serious mental disorders have occasionally come to Vipassana courses with the unrealistic expectation that the technique will cure or alleviate their mental problems. Unstable interpersonal relationships and a history of various treatments can be additional factors which make it difficult for such people to benefit from, or even complete, a seven day course. Our capacity as a nonprofessional volunteer organization makes it impossible for us to properly care for people with these backgrounds. Although Vipassana meditation is beneficial for most people, it is not a substitute for medical or psychiatric treatment and we do not recommend it for people with serious psychiatric disorders.
The Code of Discipline
The foundation of the practice is sila — moral conduct. Sila provides a basis for the development of samadhi — concentration of mind; and purification of the mind is achieved through panna — the wisdom of insight.
All who attend a Vipassana course must conscientiously undertake the following eight precepts for the duration of the course:
to abstain from killing any living creature;
to abstain from stealing;
to abstain from all sexual activity;
to abstain from telling lies;
to abstain from all intoxicants.
to abstain from eating after midday;
to abstain from sensual entertainment and bodily
to abstain from using high or luxurious beds.
Old students will observe the sixth precept by having tea without milk or fruit juice at the 5 p.m. break, whereas new student may have tea with milk and some fruit. The teacher may excuse an old student from observing this precept for health reasons. The seventh and eighth precept will be observed by all.
Acceptance of the Teacher and the Technique
Students must declare themselves willing to comply fully and for the duration of the course with the teacher’s guidance and instructions; that is, to observe the discipline and to meditate exactly as the teacher asks, without ignoring any part of the instructions, nor adding anything to them. This acceptance should be one of discrimination and understanding, not blind submission. Only with an attitude of trust can a student work diligently and thoroughly. Such confidence in the teacher and the technique is essential for success in meditation.
Other Techniques, Rites, and Forms of Worship
During the course, it is absolutely essential that all forms of prayer, worship, or religious ceremony — fasting, burning incense, counting beads, reciting mantras, singing and dancing, etc. — be discontinued. All other meditation techniques and healing or spiritual practices should also be suspended. This is not to condemn any other technique or practice, but to give a fair trial to the technique of Vipassana in its purity. Students are strongly advised that deliberately mixing other techniques of meditation with Vipassana will impede and even reverse their progress. Despite repeated warnings by the teacher, there have been cases in the past where students have intentionally mixed this technique with a ritual or another practice, and have done themselves a great disservice. Any doubts or confusion which may arise should always be clarified by meeting with the teacher.
Interviews with the Teacher
Problems or questions regarding the meditation should be taken only to the teacher for clarification. The time between 12 noon and 1 p.m. is group interview for Thai students, and 8.00- 9.00 p.m. is for English interview. Meditators who need private advice from the teacher can contact our staff during rest hours.
Interviews and question times are solely for the purpose of clarifying actual practical problems concerned with the technique. They are not to be regarded as opportunities to indulge in philosophical discussions or intellectual arguments. The unique nature of Vipassana meditation can only be appreciated by putting it into practice and during the course students should concentrate exclusively on this task.
All students must observe Noble Silence which means silence of body, speech, and mind. Any form of communication with fellow students, whether by gestures, sign language, written notes, etc., is prohibited. Students may, however, speak with the teacher whenever necessary and they may approach the management staff with any problems related to food, accommodation, health, etc. But even these contacts should be kept to a minimum. Students should cultivate the feeling that they are working in isolation.
Separation of Men and Women
Complete segregation of men and women is to be maintained. Couples, married or otherwise, should not contact each other in any way during the course. The same applies to friends, members of the same family, etc.
It is important that throughout the course there should be no physical contact whatsoever between persons of the same or opposite sex.
Yoga and Physical Exercise
Although physical yoga and other exercises are compatible with Vipassana, they should be suspended during the course because proper secluded facilities are not available at the course site. Jogging is also not permitted. Students may exercise during rest periods by walking in the designated areas.
Religious Objects, Amulets, Rosaries, Crystals, Talismans, etc.
No such items should be brought to the course site. If brought inadvertently they should be deposited with the management for the duration of the course.
Intoxicants and Drugs
No drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicants should be brought to the site; this also applies to tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and all other sedatives. Those taking medicines or drugs on a doctor’s prescription should notify the teacher.
For the health and comfort of all students, smoking, chewing tobacco, and taking snuff are not permitted at the course.
It is not possible to satisfy the special food preferences and requirements of all the meditators. Students are therefore kindly requested to make do with the simple vegetarian meals provided. The course management endeavors to prepare a balanced, wholesome menu suitable for meditation. If any students have been prescribed a special diet because of ill health, they should inform the management staff at the time of registration.
Dress should be simple, modest, and comfortable. Tight, transparent, revealing, or otherwise striking clothing (such as shorts, short skirts, tights and leggings, sleeveless or skimpy tops) should not be worn. Sunbathing and partial nudity are not permitted. This is important in order to minimize distraction to others.
Laundry and Bathing
No washing machines or dryers are available, so students should bring sufficient clothing. Small items can be handwashed. Bathing and laundry may be done only in the break periods and not during meditation hours.
Students must remain within the course boundaries throughout the course. They may leave only with the specific consent of the teacher. No outside communications is allowed before the course ends. This includes letters, phone calls and visitors. In case of an emergency, a friend or relative may contact the management.
Music, Reading and Writing
The playing of musical instruments, radios, etc. is not permitted. No reading or writing materials should be brought to the course. Students should not distract themselves by taking notes. The restriction on reading and writing is to emphasize the strictly practical nature of this meditation.
Tape Recorders and Cameras
These may not be used except with the permission of the teacher.
According to the tradition of pure Vipassana, courses are run solely on a donation basis. Donations are accepted only from those who have completed at least one seven-day course. Someone taking the course for the first time may give a donation on the last day of the course or any time thereafter. In this way course are supported by those who have realized for themselves the benefits of the practice. Wishing to share these benefits with others, one gives a donation according to one’s means and volition. Such donations are the only source of funding for course in this tradition around the world. There is no wealthy foundation or individual sponsoring them. Neither the teachers nor the organizers receive any kind of payment for their service. Thus, the spread of Vipassana is carried out with purity of purpose, free from any commercialism. Whether a donation is large or small, it should be given with the wish to help others: ‘The course I have taken has been paid for through the generosity of past students; now let me give something towards the cost of a future course, so that others may also benefit by this technique.’
To clarify the spirit behind the discipline and rules, they may be summarized as follows:
Take great care that your actions do not disturb anyone. Take no notice of distractions caused by others.
It may be that a student cannot understand the practical reasons for one or several of the above rules. Rather than allow negativity and doubt to develop, immediate clarification should be sought from the teacher. It is only by taking a disciplined approach and by making maximum effort that a student can fully grasp the practice and benefit from it. The emphasis during the course is on work. A golden rule is to meditate as if one were alone, with one’s mind turned inward, ignoring any inconveniences and distractions that one may encounter. Finally, students should note that their progress in Vipassana depends solely on their own good qualities and personal development and on five factors: earnest efforts, confidence, sincerity, health and wisdom. May the above information help you to obtain maximum benefit from your meditation course. We are happy to have the opportunity to serve, and wish you peace and harmony from your experience of Vipassana.
THE COURSE TIMETABLE
The following timetable for the course is designed to maintain the continuity of practice. For best results, students are advised to follow it as closely as possible.
Each course will start in the evening of the first day and will finish in the morning of the last day of the course.
4.00 A.M. Waking bell4:30 – 6:00 A.M. Walking / sitting meditation
6:30 – 8:00 A.M. Light breakfast / Cleaning service
8:00 ‐ 9:00 A.M. Sitting meditation
9:00 ‐ 9:30 A.M. Rest
9.30 ‐ 11:00 A.M. Walking / sitting meditation
11:00 A.M.‐ 12:00 P.M. Lunch
12:30 P.M. ‐ 1:30 P.M. Dhamma talk and interview (for Thai practitioners)
1:00 ‐ 1:30 P.M. Short rest
1:30 ‐ 3:00 P.M. Sitting / walking meditation
3:00 ‐ 4:00 P.M. Rest
4:00 ‐ 5:00 P.M. Sitting meditation
5:00 ‐ 6:30 P.M. Beverage break
6:30 ‐ 7:30 P.M. Sitting meditation
8:00 ‐ 9:00 P.M. Sitting meditation/interview (for foreign practitioners)
NOTE: A welcome meeting and orientation for all participants will be held in the evening of the first day.
List of necessary articles for daily use
At present, there is no selling service of necessary articles for daily use at the center. Meditators should prepare and bring the following personal items with them:
- White or grey simple outfits sufficient for 7 days
- Towel and handkerchief
- Shawl, socks and light jacket (the weather is rather cold in early morning in every season)
- Tooth brush and tooth paste
- Soap, shampoo, insects repellent lotion
- Toilet paper and tissue paper
- Medicament in the case of specific personal illness
- In-door and out-door slippers
- Flashlight and battery
- Drinking water is provided, but please bring your own bottle to reduce plastic trash.
- Sanitary napkin
- Nail clippers, needle & sewing thread, or clasp