What Attracts People To Vipassana Meditation
Material Life is Empty and Substanceless
1. Sunil is IT professional from India. A global software giant picked him up 10 years ago and he ended up in the US. The open and challenging professional environment offered him an ideal opportunity to realize his full potential. He really was flying high in heavenly cyberspace for first couple of years before he realized that he was counted among the top brains of the company. In last 10 years he has made a fortune and was sitting on everything professionals look for – tons of money, recognition and ideally placed for a future without growth limit.
Suddenly, he decided to quit – something vital and more meaningful has been missing in the utterly material opulence. He discovered that material life is empty and substanceless; he needed something else more satisfying and meaning in his life.
2. Dane a grad student, product of a loveless and abused childhood, had wasted the youth in drug addiction. With a strange coincidence, he landed up in a bible study group, found some emotional strength with group support and began to stay away from the dark corners where drug peddlers do business.
Being a man with sharp intelligent, he soon realized that the craving inside is as strong as ever; only the group support that is keeping him good. Looking at the pressure of studies and research he felt that he needed something else that would work at more fundamental level and uproot the craving altogether.
He chanced upon a video on how Vipassana meditation has transformed even so-called hardcore criminals and how it works at the level of human craving and aversion. He became interested and soon he ended up joining a 10-day Vipassana meditation course to explore if it can help him out.
The course left him almost speechless and in awe of what he has actually discovered, a tool so simple and yet so effective! While 10 days practice wasn’t sufficient to get rid of his craving for drugs fully but deep inside he realized he has found the personal weapon he has been looking for.
Is Modern Lifestyle the Only Sane Way to Live?
1. Brutal and Unjust Business World
Are people just tools to produce more goods and consume more of them, and keep doing it till they drop dead?
Work like a flawless robot and consume like an ever hungry ghost – this is the ideal profile of a citizen of the modern consumer society. Of course, we need to work and earn in order to survive and live comfortably.
It is also true that the rules of modern business don’t allow anyone to feel secure or take life easy. In an environment of ‘survival of the fittest’ wild culture, it is a dog eats dog kind of competition where you have to be constantly on guard.
As a result, people continuously operate at a high level of preparedness and the trigger of the fight or flight defense mechanism is mostly ON than OFF. At the physiological level, it implies that the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal glands have to be ready for action more frequently or continuously. This sure refers to stressful life that we are forced to live – and a whole huge stress-relief industry has evolved around it to boost the GDP.
This has made stress look a normal part of modern life that we are trained to live – as another unwritten rule of life.
You can’t aim to stay healthy, peaceful and happy when you are forced to remain insecure and stressed up as a matter of routine.
Therefore, now more and more people aspire to break these rules!!
Gone are the days when families and communities generated the feeling of ‘togetherness’ and bonding which was much cherished by today’s elder generation; it added ‘human quality’ to people’s life. Now ‘collectiveness’ is at best a virtue of the armed forces or people of protest marches. Beyond that people live as single individuals.
In fact, people grow up without ever knowing ‘family atmosphere’, ‘family bonds’ and the ‘security of family life’. In the past, families were founded on marriage; today marriages are just a matter of convenience and things like lifelong commitment are becoming obsolete. You no longer need marriage to make kids.
The distinction between the breeding behavior of human societies and the animal world decreases as societies get ‘developed’. Thus, humans are born and grow up; they are no longer ‘raised’ in family by parents who are too busy with the most important task of money-making. Parenting kids in a family is considered an old fashioned job people want to stay away from.
Thus, grown up as loners playing with electronic gadgets ‘modern humans’ lack a holistic perspective of life and simply can’t make much sense of life and relationships. Particularly when they face emotional issues, they haven’t the slightest idea what drives them crazy and how to handle it rationally.
Vipassana meditation ideally fills their ‘human knowledge gap’ and shows them the best approach towards life in this dangerous and unsafe world.
What Makes Vipassana Meditation Attractive
Perhaps the best aspect of Vipassana Meditation is its universal nature. It is actually a path of mental purification that people of any faith, belief and background can practice it. The meditation technique doesn’t demand you to accept any Guru or supernatural entity as your saviour or impose any belief or ritual on you. You can be a theist or atheist, religious or non-religious; your belief or non-belief in soul or god has nothing to do with Vipassana practice.
Additionally, and you will like it, Vipassana meditation doesn’t demand you to concentrate on anything! You must have heard people saying that since their concentration is not good, they can’t go for meditation. Please keep in mind that Vipassana is a different form of meditation – it is based on mindfulness; not concentration. Further, there are no chanting, mantras or visual imagery.
It helps a lot to know beforehand what Vipassana meditation is Not.
So What is Involved in Vipassana Meditation
This meditation merely takes you as who you are – a human being with a body and mind and helps you discover why you behave the way you do. More importantly, why you like and dislike things.
When your thinking process is suspended, you come alive! Your mind becomes free to take note of things it always missed due to its habitual preoccupation with thinking process. You realize that a lot is happening inside you, in your mind-body complex. Sensations are arising in the body and changing continuously and the mind likes some of them and wants to avoid others, there are emotions in the mind which are also changing, and then there is the process of respiration which is also not constant. So, Vipassana meditation is the process of watching your inner universe in a special way. You need to watch things happening naturally without slightest effort to change them; and without judging or analyzing them.
Ideally, a Vipassana meditator merely observes with a “do-nothing” but “observe-everything” attitude. He is a mere witness to his internal world, as if he is watching a river flowing. So, training ‘to see things as they are’ is precisely the goal of Vipassana meditation.
You judge your success by noting how well you refrained from the habitual thinking, analyzing and imagining and how soon you caught your mind doing it. Thus, you are constantly on watch, alert or mindful towards mental distractions and to ensure that you are not selecting or rejecting things.
This is certainly not a complicated thing but requires suspending conditioned or ‘habitual’ activities of the mind. By virtue of our lifestyle, we have an achieving mind – it can’t stand things as they are, and wants to change everything. It habitually starts thinking, deriving conclusions and labeling everything as either pleasant or unpleasant.
In a Vipassana meditation session, you want to suspend all conditioned activities of mind and turn into a perfect witness like a neutral camera or a recording device.
Briefly, What is the Process of Vipassana Meditation
There are slight procedural differences in the technique taught by different traditions but the core idea remains the same. Here, I will outline the procedure that comes after renowned Burmese Vipassana Teacher U Ba Khin. Through efforts of his adept disciples (Particularly S N Goeka), the technique is available almost throughout the world. The course discipline is designed to give you the maximum benefit.
Vipassana meditation is taught in structured 10-day courses; this format remains same throughout the world. For the first 3 ½ days you will train to be continuously aware of your natural breathing. It is one thing to learn about respiration from physiology textbooks, it is entirely another thing to actually try becoming mindful of it. This itself teaches you a lot about yourself! There are a subtle realities connected with breathing, beyond oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange that is taught in school books.
This training significantly subdues the mind and alertness is heightened. Then you undertake the Vipassana meditation that involves inspecting the whole body systematically as instructed.
On the day prior to departure, you are taught the technique of loving compassion, practicing universal compassion towards all. Practically all students notice significant peace and tranquility inside.
That’s what Vipassana meditation is supposed to do – make you feel relaxed and peaceful!
How Vipassana Meditation Helps in Real Life
It is normal human nature to seek out things that please us and avoid things that don’t. This is exactly how people live – without exception. Vipassana trains you to stay composed (neutral) towards pleasant and unpleasant things and good and bad happenings.
Equanimity. You begin to realize that whatever you like is always accompanied by subtle pleasant sensations and whatever you dislike come with gross unpleasant sensations. So, basically your likes and dislikes are all related to agreeable and disagreeable physical sensations. With Vipassana practice you tend to stay neutral towards sensations; it reduces the intensity of your likes and dislikes, making you more balanced and poised. You also realize that negative thoughts and feelings induce unpleasant sensations and positive thoughts of goodwill and benevolence produce agreeable sensations.
Holistic approach to life. Vipassana also gives you a much broader and comprehensive approach to life; you no longer react for short term gains, but always keep the overall long term perspective in mind. You also discover that ‘your’ reality can be only found inside you. People around you or society can only tell you their ideas and concepts about you, the truth about you can be known only if you explore your inner universe.
Modern life is a product of intellectual mind; it creates ideas, concepts and builds an inflated ego. Each moment you are developing an intellectual web that keeps you separated from your reality. Practice of Vipassana destroys this artificial web and puts you face to face with your real self, without any social persona or mask. This makes things simple, life simple!
Mind is supreme. A vital discovery every Vipassana meditator makes is the importance of mind. Current lifestyle is based on Western ideas of life – here everything is material and body is supreme, so health means only physical health. Role of mind comes into picture only when you end up in situations like depression or stress. But then again the ‘experts’ looks for presence or absence of some chemicals in the body. With practice of Vipassana you clearly see how your mind affects your body. In fact, every thought or emotion in the mind comes with physical sensations.
The intimate relation of mind and body becomes clear to you. You no longer look to suppress the symptoms, but go deeper to uncover the root cause of every problem you face.