What Is It Like To Do Vipassana?
Vipassana Meditation or Full Attention aims to see the things that occur in our mind as they really are, making us understand the factors of suffering, rather than trying to suppress or avoid them, in order to find true happiness. An increasing number of people seek in meditation a way to find the mental and emotional balance so necessary to a better quality of life, indispensable to every human being.
“Peace and happiness”. These are fundamental questions of human existence. This is all we are looking for. Usually this is a bit hard to see because we cover these basic goals with layers of superficial goals. We want food, money, sex, possession and respect. We always say to ourselves that the idea of ’happiness’ is very abstract:’ look, I am very practical. Just give me money and I’ll buy all the happiness I need. ‘ Unfortunately, this attitude does not work. Examine each of these goals and you will see that they are superficial.
What is happiness? For most of us, perfect happiness means getting everything we want, controlling everything, being a Caesar, making the whole world dance according to our music. But it does not work that way. Take a look at the story and see the people who in the past had absolute power. They were not happy people. They certainly did not live in peace with themselves. Because? Because they wanted to control the world totally and absolutely and failed. They wanted to control all people, but there were always those who refused to be controlled. They could not control the stars. They were still sick. They were still dying.
You will never have anything you want. It’s impossible. Fortunately there is an option. You can learn to observe your mind, step out of this endless cycle of desire and aversion. You can learn not to want what you want, to recognize your desires without letting yourself be controlled by them. This does not mean that you go to the street and invite everyone to go over you. It means that it continues to lead a normal life, but from a new perspective. It does the things that must be done, but it will be free from being driven by your obsessive and compulsive desires.
No one can do more for you than your own purified mind – no parents, no relatives, no friends, no one. A well-disciplined mind brings happiness. Meditation is for the purification of the mind. It cleanses the thought process of what we might call psychic irritants, things like greed, hatred, and jealousy, things that keep you chained to emotional prisons. It leads the mind to a state of tranquility and awareness, a state of concentration and inner vision. ”
“The difficulty is that we are not aware when an impurity arises.” It arises deeply in the unconscious mind, and when it reaches the conscious level, it has gained so much strength that it takes care of us without our being able to observe it.
However, someone who has reached the ultimate truth has found a real solution. He discovered that whenever an impurity arises in the mind, two things begin to happen simultaneously on the physical level. One is that the breath loses its normal rhythm. We begin to breathe stronger whenever negativity comes into the mind. This is easy to observe.
At a subtler level, a biochemical reaction begins in the body, resulting in a sensation. All impurity will generate some sensation in the body. This offers a practical solution. An ordinary person can not observe abstract impurities of the mind – abstract fear, anger, or passion. But with proper practice and training, it is very easy to observe the breath and bodily sensations, both directly related to mental impurities.
Now with the training, we can see the other side of the coin. We can become aware of the breath and also of what happens within us. Whatever it is, breathing or sensation, we learn to simply observe it without losing our mental balance. We stop reacting and multiplying our suffering. Instead, we let the impurities manifest and disappear.
The more we practice this technique, the sooner the negativities will disappear. Little by little the mind will become free from impurities, it will become pure. A pure mind is always full of love – love disinterested in all others; full of compassion for the faults and sufferings of others; filled with joy for his success and happiness; full of equanimity in the face of any situation.
When someone reaches this stage, their whole standard of living changes. It is no longer possible to do or speak anything that disturbs the peace and joy of others. Instead, a balanced mind not only becomes peaceful, but the atmosphere surrounding such a person will also become permeated with peace and harmony, and that will influence and help others as well.
By learning to remain balanced in the face of all these things that are experienced within oneself, detachment also develops to everything found in outer situations. However, this detachment is not escapism or indifference to the world’s problems. Those who practice Vipassana regularly become more sensitive to the suffering of others and do their utmost to alleviate such suffering in all that they can – not with agitation, but with a mind full of love, compassion and equanimity. They learn “holy indifference” – how to be totally committed, fully involved in helping others, while at the same time maintaining mental balance. In this way, they remain peaceful and happy as they work for the peace and happiness of others. ”
In the West, this millennial technique of the Buddhist tradition became better known as of 1979, when it began to be used in non-religious stress reduction course created by Jon Kabat-zinn, professor of the Medical School of the University of Massachussets. A study he conducted in collaboration with Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin demonstrated that the practice of full-attention meditation strengthens the immune system and relieves symptoms of patients of any type of chronic illness. Patients reported feeling more energetic, calmer, and more capable of performing tasks. It was concluded that three hours of weekly practice can modify the brain patterns, from a more emotional response to a more serene one.
The benefits of this practice have been related in several studies, from the improvement of symptoms of multiple sclerosis, to depression. But now, a recent study by Harvard Medical School in the US demonstrates for the first time some of the positive effects of this meditation on the brain. Just eight weeks of meditation, beginner adult practitioners made magnetic resonance imaging that showed an increase in gray matter concentration in four regions of the brain. This may indicate, according to the researchers, an improvement in regions related to learning, memory, emotions and stress.
Other experiences demonstrate that the benefits of meditation also extend to quite different universes. As an example, the Tihar penitentiary complex in New Delhi, with about 13,000 inmates, where a Vipassana meditation practice program helps prisoners to recover and cultivate spiritual life. In the United States, Charlottesville’s Insight Meditation teaches women at the Blue Ridge Prison, Virginia’s maximum security, for impulse control, which also results in improved self-awareness for inmates. In Brazil, yoga teacher Renata Mendes runs a program for girls in one of the socio-educational centers of the Casa Foundation in São Paulo. Through the application of this technique, it was possible to observe a visible diminution of the aggressiveness between the inmates.
“This direct experience of our inner reality, this technique of self-observation is called the Vipassana meditation. In the language of India, in the times of the Buddha, passana meant seeing in the ordinary sense, with open eyes; but Vipassana is observing things as they really are, not as they appear to be. The apparent reality has to be penetrated until we reach the ultimate truth of all physical and mental structure. When we experience this truth, then, we learn to stop react blindly, to create impurities, and, of course, the old impurities will gradually be eradicated. We become freed from all suffering and experience true happiness.
Although Vipassana was developed as a meditation technique by the Buddha, its practice is not limited to Buddhists, and in no way is it akin to a conversion. The technique is based on the basic principles that all human beings share the same problems and that the technique capable of eradicating these problems will have universal application. The benefits produced by Vipassana meditation have been experienced by people of the most diverse religious beliefs, without any conflict with the faith they profess.
Thus, the literal meaning of Vipassana is to see things clearly, not only our own mind-body process, though this is basic, but also to see everything clearly, other people, relationships, situations. The way is to live without avidity, without hatred, without illusion; living with awareness, alertness, equanimity and love. ”
“As our clear vision deepens, we see more sharply the results of our actions – the peace fostered by good intentions, sincerity and mental clarity; and the difficulties created by confusion and carelessness. ” It is this greater sensitivity, especially when we observe the problems we cause for ourselves and others, which inspires us to want to live wiser. For true peace of mind it is indispensable that formal meditation be combined with a commitment to responsibility and care with and with one another.
Increasingly focused on full attention, the mind becomes free in order to respond skillfully to the present moment, and a harmony arises in life. This is the way meditation does “social work” – bringing awareness to your life, it brings peace to the world. “When you are able to remain peaceful in the face of the wide variety of feelings that arise in consciousness, then you are able to live more openly to the world and to yourself as you are.”
Buddhist meditation is a form of mental concentration that leads to enlightenment and spiritual freedom. It occupies a central place in all forms of Buddhism, but has developed different variations and characteristics in Buddhist traditions.
There are two main types of Buddhist meditation: Vipassana ( insight ) and Samatha (tranquility). The two are often combined or used one after the other (usually Vipissana follows Samatha).
The basic purpose of Samatha, or meditation of tranquility, is to focus the mind and train it to concentrate. The object of concentration (kammatthana) is less important than the ability of concentration itself and varies according to individual and situation. The use of meditation music is optional.
The goal of Samatha meditation is to progress through four stages (Dhyanas):
1 – detachment from the external world and awareness of joy and tranquility;
2 – concentration, with suppression of reasoning and investigation;
3 – the passing of joy, but with the feeling of tranquility remaining;
4 – the death of tranquility, provoking a state of self-control and pure equanimity.
Many of the skills learned in tranquility meditation can be applied to insight meditation , but the goal is different. As the name itself suggests, the goal of insight meditation is the perception of important truths.
Of course, these doctrines are already known by any Buddhist. After all, they are the central teachings of the Buddha. But in order to attain liberation, the practitioner must personally grasp and understand these important truths. Simply knowing Buddhist doctrines is not enough.
Vipassana meditation alone produces the understanding through which liberation occurs. It is considered superior to the meditation of tranquility and is the main way of meditating, practiced in Theravada Buddhism.
The practice of meditation centers revolves around the notion of consciousness. Mindfulness is related, but it is different from the concept of concentration. When one is ready to concentrate, the focus is all on the object of concentration, so that we are in a trance.
Benevolence is a central virtue of Buddhism, and the meditation of goodness (Mettabhavana) is one way of developing this virtue. It is a practice that is seen as supplementing or complementing other ways of meditating.
The goal of kindness meditation is to develop the mental habit of selfless love for self and others. There is, of course, a wide variety of ways to practice Mettabhavana, but it generally progresses in three phases:
In the first, the practitioner focuses on sending benevolence to specific people in the following order:
1 – oneself;
2 – an admired (as a spiritual teacher);
3 – a loved one (such as a friend or family member);
4 – a neutral person, someone familiar, but who does not evoke a special feeling (like a person working in a local shop);
5 – a hostile person (such as an enemy or someone who causes difficulty in dealing).
Beginning with himself, the practitioner seeks to evoke feelings of benevolence for each person in the list above. Tools to accomplish this include:
– visualization: imagine the person looking happy and happy;
– reflection: reflect on the qualities and acts of kindness that this person performed;
– mantra: repeat silently or out loud a simple mantra like “benevolence”.
When this first step is performed, even for hostile people, go to the next stage. In this, the practitioner systematically projects feelings of kindness to all geographical directions: north, south, east and west. This can be done by bringing to mind friends and related communities in various cities around the world.
The last stage of the Mettabhavana seeks simply to radiate feelings of universal and unconditional love in everyday life.
Buddhist meditation, whether insight or not, is an excellent practice for bringing emotional balance. Vipassana meditation is not much commented on, however, it is an alternative for you to know more about the reality that is around you. One knows how much practice and how to meditate can bring us to a consciousness much closer than we need, making us aware of our attitudes, their impact and how to review our feelings in the face of difficulties and happiness. Releasing material goods, practicing benevolence, and being sincere with yourself will allow for peace and tranquility.