What is Vipassana meditation – Complete Guide

Vipassana means to see as it is to see. To see reality as it is. Vipassana is an ancient technique of meditation. It was thought in India 2500 years ago.

The closest English translation of vipassana is Insight. And how do you get that insight? How do you see things as they are?

For this, you need to cultivate awareness.

Vipassana meditation was taught by Gotama The Buddha and the method comes directly from Satipatthana Suta.

Vipassana helps to eradicate the root cause of suffering and takes to a final stage of full liberation.

AnapanaSati

In order to cultivate awareness, you need to start with Anapanasati.

Sati means Mindfulness and you need to have the right kind of mindfulness that is sammā-sati.

Sanskrit counterpart of Sati is smṛti which means to remember.

You start by observing the incoming and outgoing of breath. So it’s being mindful of your own breath that’s right kind of mindfulness(sammā-sati).

Remembrance of your own breath coming in going out. And seeing the breath as it is.

If it’s long it’s long if it’s short it’s short, or if it’s deep it’s deep if it’s shallow it’s shallow.

Simply observer the natural flow of respiration don’t try to breathe intentionally.

Notice if the breath is coming from the right nostril or the left nostril or both the nostrils.

If your mind drifts and thoughts arise be mindful of it and without feeling any pressure come back to observing natural breath incoming and outgoing.

You don’t need to add any mantra or imagine a shape or object.

Observe the simple natural breath. You need to work with your own breath.

Every step should be based on the truth that you experience.

Truth pertaining to your physical and mental structure.

The reality that you have experienced is your reality. Someone else’s reality won’t help you.

 

What is the aim of Anapanasati?

To develop concentration and awareness. To explore the truth about yourself. 

Pure breath is a very important tool for you to go deeper.

For self-observation, you need to have a certain amount of concentration.

Anapanasati helps us to calm the mind and make it more stable and ready for the vipassana practice.

 

Anapanasati has its own benefits you will start experiencing the benefits once you start practising it.

Here are some of the benefits Anapanasati

  • Improves concentration of the mind
  • It can help you in dealing with anxiety, Fear, Stress, Tension
  • Improves your memory in Daily life.
  • Helps in keeping the mind alert and aware.
  • Improves your quality of sleep.
  • Keeps you grounded in the present moment.
  • Can improve your ability to make decisions.

 

There can be many more benefits that you can get from Anapanasati.

According to Roger Bischof, the Ven. Webu Sayadaw said of Anapanasati:

It’s a shortcut to nibbana  It stands to the path that has been preserved in scriptures taught directly by Gotama Buddha.

Ven. Webu Sayadaw  was a Burmese monk know to be an Arahant(The one who has attained the stage of full liberation)

For the practice of Vipassana, Anapanasati is very important. One cannot see things as they are until he has a concentrated and aware mind.

It’s important to cultivate awareness see the reality as it is.

Which posture to sit in for practising Anapanasati?

You can sit in a comfortable posture with your back and neck straight in a single line.

Keeping the back straight is very helpful in practice and will also have advantages in the long run.

That’s why you should try to keep your back straight.

But if you are unable to do that in starting you can choose a position comfortable for you and then slowly more towards the straight back posture.

Vipassana

Seeing things as they are.

It sounds simple and it’s simple but simple doesn’t always mean easy.

In order to see things as they are you need constant awareness.

You start by observing your body sensations from head to feet.

Without adding anything to them or without removing anything. See them as they are and remain equanimous.

Whatever sensation you may experience it has a basic nature to arise and pass. It will arise and pass away after some time.

There is no point in having any attachment, craving or aversion towards it. This is the basic understanding we need to have and on the basis of this understanding, we need to see the sensations as they are and remain equanimous.

Sometimes you may feel very unpleasant sensation (sensation of pain) on any part of your body.

The best way around it is to understand it’s basic nature and keep observing the sensation and remain equanimous.

Make sure you don’t start generating aversion or hatred towards the sensation.

Make sure you don’t try to change the sensation.

Observing the sensation as it is and understanding from your own experience the basic nature of sensations is to arise and pass there is no point in reacting to them is the key.

The deeper this understanding goes the more equanimity you cultivate.

Sometimes it may happen you may start experiencing very subtle and pleasant sensation.

It’s very important to remain equanimous even when you experience a very pleasant sensation.

If you start getting attached to it and start craving you will start creating misery.

As per the second noble truth Craving/desire is the root cause of suffering.

Remain equanimous and understand the basic nature of sensations is to arise and pass.

It doesn’t matter however pleasant the sensation is it will sooner or later pass away.

Sometimes you may not experience any sensations on somebody part a kind of dark spot.

Simply stay there for some time if you don’t experience anything keep moving.

And then again you can come to that point on an order.

This way keep moving and observing sensations as they are without any reaction to them.

We have to develop our Equanimity(Samatha) and based on that equanimity we develop insight and go deeper.

We need a very sharp mind to go deeper in order to experience subtle truth about ourself. The smaller the point of observation the more sharp mind will become.

While moving from head to feet observing all the sensations make sure you don’t miss any body part.

Make sure to pass your attention through each and every body part and observer the sensations as they are.

Remember that all the sensations will arise and pass away. There is no point in having attachment or aversion towards any of the sensations.

No matter how painful it is no matter how pleasant it is will pass away.

And if we create craving or aversion towards it we will get entangled in the cycle of creating misery for ourself.

SN Goenka (Sayagyi U Ba Khin Vipassana Tradition)

Vipassana in Sn Goenka tradition is taught as a 10 days residential course and it’s a very intensive course where you need to follow code of discipline for 10 days.

You need to remain silent through the course you cannot speak communication with fellow meditators is even prohibited in the form of gestures.

But you can ask any doubts from the assistant teacher when the time has been allocated as per the timetable.

You cannot carry mobile phones, Electronic devices, books, journals etc.

You are cut off from the outside world completely and have to remain inside the centre boundaries.

The course has been divided into three basic parts

  1. Sila(Morality)

For 10 days you need to follow 5 precepts

  • Abstain from killing any being
  • Abstain from stealing
  • Abstain from all sexual activity.
  • Abstain from telling lies.
  • Abstain from all intoxicants
2. Samadhi(Concentration)

After you take five precepts. The first process you learn is to improve your concentration.

You are taught Anapana Meditation by SN Goenka on day 1. And then you have to practice that for the complete day.

It’s simply observing the breath coming and going out.

Anapana meditation is practised for 3 days and each day you keep on decreasing the area of focus.

Smaller the area of focus sharper the mind becomes.

3. Panna(Wisdom)

After day 3 on the fourth day, Vipassana is taught by SN Goenka through the audiotape.

You start observing sensations from the top of your head and pass your attention from each and every part of the body and move towards your feet.

And remain equanimous no matter whatever sensations you feel.

Along with that 1-hour sessions are introduced when you need to have a strong determination to sit for 1 hour without opening your legs arms or changing the posture.

As per Sn Goenka tradition Sensations are very important and we react to sensations without knowing subconsciously.

Either we create craving towards the pleasant sensation or aversion towards the unpleasant sensation.

Reaction to both leads to misery. As we keep on reacting to these sensations and keep on tying knots.

You are asked to observe the sensations as they are without any reaction.

You need to understand the true nature of sensation is to arise and pass away sooner or later.

There is no point reacting to something that is bound to change and is temporary.

You are asked to understand this nature of sensations through your experience. See them arising and passing away and then move to a more subtle level.

Based on your experience and insights you develop wisdom and based on that wisdom you come out of suffering.

Evening discourses

Every evening Sn Goenka gives discourse through a video that is being played he talks about the technique and tells few stories from buddha’s life as well.

Evening discourses also helps you understand the technique. Sn Goenka explains very clearly and in detail parts of the technique.

Discourses encourage you to practice continuously and seriously the next day.

Free of Cost Courses

There is no fee charged for the Course even the Food and lodging is free of cost. The courses are run solely on a donation basis.

Also some of the old students who feel benefits from the technique server at the courses voluntarily.

Should you take a Vipassana(SN Goenka tradition) course for 10 days?

I will highly recommend attending a 10-day course it’s a completely non-sectarian and non-religious universal technique and if you practice properly you will start to experience benefits yourself.

You can find a centre here and register for a course.

 

conclusion

Vipassana meditation is absolutely worth every second of your time. It’s a once in lifetime kind of learning and a way of living life.

Seeing things as they are. It also helps us know how little we know about ourselves.

You will start to experience peace and happiness from inside and it will become easier for you to let go of things, feeling, emotions or thoughts.

I will highly recommend a 10 days Vipassana retreat in Sn Goenka tradition.

Even if you don’t have any interest in mediation you should give it a try just to experience something new and challenge yourself(Course in itself is very challenging but worth the effort)

Be happy! Be peaceful!

About the author

Ashish Rattan

Software Developer. Meditating for past 377 days 1 hour a day.

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