Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana is one of the world's most ancient sitting meditation technique, the inception of which is attributed to Buddha. Vipassana means insight into the nature of reality. This technique develops the insight which can lead to a permanent release. By practice of Vipassana, one overcomes the delusion of mind and cultivates mindfulness which is an attentive awareness of the reality of things in the present moment coupled with clear comprehension of whatever is taking place. It is a practice of self-transformation through self-observation and introspection to the extent that sitting with a steadfast mind becomes an active experience of positive change, realization of absolute truth and enlightenment.

The Meaning of Vipassana
Vipassana in simple language is “to see”, “observe” or “witness”. It can be translated as "insight", "clear-seeing”, “to see apart”, “discern” or "seeing deeply". Vipassana is a word of “Pali” language, popular at the time of Buddha around 500 BC. Original word is “Vipasyana”, which is taken from the ancient language Sanskrit. Pali was the language of common people whereas Sanskrit was for elite educated class. Buddha extensively used Pali so that everyone can understand easily what he was trying to teach. “Passana” means seeing the things ordinarily with one’s open eyes, whereas Vipassana is observing things as they actually are, not just how and as they appear to be or the way we would like or prefer to see them. In English, Vipassana meditation is often referred as "Insight Meditation".

The Technique
The technique involves first establishing mindfulness which according to Buddha is the direct path to the realization of Nirvana. In the Buddhist tradition, there are four foundations of mindfulness, namely:

  • Kaya: Mindfulness of the body or breath.
  • Vedana: Mindfulness of the feelings or sensations.
  • Citta: Mindfulness of the mind or consciousness.
  • Dhamma: Mindfulness of the qualities or the nature.

Meditation consists of the experiential observation of mind and matter in their aspects of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and lack of an inherent, independent essence or self when seen with the wisdom related to an origin and by seeing the cessation. The type of seeing denoted by Vipassana is that of direct perception, as opposed to knowledge derived from reasoning or argument.

In Buddhism all conditioned things share three characteristics called the “Three marks of existence”, and according to Buddhist tradition, a full understanding of these three can bring the Awakening or Nirvana, ending the suffering. These three characteristics are:

  • Anicca (impermanence, inconstancy or unsteady): All things are in a constant state of flux. Nothing might last. Nothing ceases to exist except the appearance which changes the form from one to another. For example, a fallen leaf gets decomposed and may go to form new plants.
  • Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness, dissatisfaction or suffering): Nothing can bring lasting deep satisfaction in physical or psychological World. According to Buddha, “Whatever is impermanent is subject to change, and whatever is subject to change, is subject to suffering.”
  • Anatta (non-self, no-thingness or no-permanent self): No one part of a person is a permanent entity. A person is made up of broken up constituents such as body, sensations, mind and consciousness etc. The consciousness being closest to the permanent idea of "Self", but is ever-changing with each new thought according to this viewpoint and hence there exists no permanent, unchanging, substantial Self.

Vipassana utilizes the deep interconnection of mind and body to explore and observe the common roots of mind and body. Despite of including body awareness as part of the practice, Vipassana is not a body-scan technique. Through self-observation, the consistent laws of science becomes clear of one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations and judgements. One develops equanimity by practicing and learning not to react to them. Through Vipassana one experiences directly the reality of all mental-physical phenomena. The entire practice of Vipassana is actually a mental training, which ultimately results in the development of a healthy steadfast mind. The practitioner reaches the stage where bodily sensations dissolve. The ongoing evolutionary process continues to reveal layer upon layer of mental purification. The practitioner experiences increasing cessation of cravings, fears, aversions, and attachments.

By seeing the arising and passing away of mindfulness and contemplations with regard to an origin, it follows that the self (related to the contemplation) arises and passes away. Because the contemplation of the arising and passing away of the self is not a tenable position, the ego of “I” or “Me” subsides and the truth of non-existence of any fixed-form-self arises. This practice develops a deep, experiential understanding of the impermanence of all phenomena. The technique fosters the development of insight that can lead to a permanent release and highest happiness of full liberation.

The Differences, Effects & Results of Vipassana
Fruition of Vipassana is knowledge, wisdom, clarity, self-purification and the realization of truth. Vipassana takes the practitioner deeper into the real nature of existance. The observation goes to the very source. Meditator can see the the whole truth from origin to cessation, rather than just the part of it. Only insight can reveal how the mind was disturbed to start with, which leads to awareness, wisdom and knowledge. This understanding prevents mind from being disturbed again.

The main difference between Vipassana and other kind of techniques is that whereas others increase tranquility, relaxation, stress-relief, focus and concentration, this one frees the practitioner from the being attached to the pleasures of tranquility. Vipassana is facing the problems rather than escaping them by ignoring or suppressing them. When we observe, face and become aware of our own negativity, anger and impurities, then they begin to lose their strength over us and slowly withers away. Constant practise of such insightful mindful awareness frees one from any negativity, angers and impurities permanently. The generation of any negativity or impurity in the mind, is the cause of misery and unhappiness. Gradually one can catch and subside the negativity right at the subconscious level of origin, rather than the damaging manifestation at conscious level where it has accumulated more strength and can make one erupt. A negativity in the mind, a mental defilement or impurity, cannot coexist with mindfulness, heightened awareness, peace, love, compassion, harmony and equanimity. Through insights of Vipassana one can eradicate mental afflictions, impurities, negativity and defilements (Klesha) forever.

The technique is being effectively used to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and bipolar disorders etc. It is also being used in the prevention of relapse of depression and drug addiction. The practice brings to the surface and dissolves deep-seated confusions, complexes and tensions. Life significantly improves by increased awareness, mindfulness, non-delusion, self-control, peace, happiness and enlightenment.

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