In the world today, vices such as anger, envy, violence and misery seem to overshadow virtues of patience, empathy and compassion. This makes it almost impossible to imagine the world as a peaceful, happy place. The greater the threat, the greater the insecurity. So what can an average Joe do to remedy this? Individuals and groups around the world are trying to make way for peace. And how! Out of myriad philosophies at war with this unrest, a clear answer has emerged. The way to peace is to be at peace with yourself. Buddha said: “Peace comes from within. Do not see it without”. In my pursuit to find answers to these compelling questions, I stumbled upon Vipassana. Also called insightful meditation, it is gaining popularity among peace-seekers around the world. Vipassana teacher Jaya Sangoi, in an interview with Soulveda, explains the importance of peace its connection with body, mind and matter. Excerpts:
What is Vipassana?
Vipassana in the Pali language means special insight. Passana means ‘to see’ and Vi means ‘to see in a special way’. It is a clear awareness of what is happening ‘now’ in the moment. This experiential technique brings your mind to rest and does not allow it to wander. Two important aspects of this technique are breath and concentration.
Vipassana was rediscovered by Gautam Buddha 2,500 years ago. As he sat under a tree near Bodh Gaya to contemplate, his mind quietened and he started to feel his breath. As he observed, his mind became calmer, subtler and sharper. He started experiencing the subtler realities of mind and matter. He understood that mind and body share an intimate connection. If anything goes wrong in the mind, it gets reflected on the body and vice versa. He also found that when any of our sense organs comes in contact with an object, there is a sensation on the body and our mind reacts to the sensation. If this reactive nature in human beings is eliminated, one can take the path to enlightenment.
There are specific programmes designed under Vipassana. Can you talk about it a little?
Vipassana has 10 day programmes where participants work under the guidance of qualified teachers by observing silence. The course is divided into three stages–Sila, Anapana and Vipassana. Under Sila, a person abstains from harmful actions, promising to abide by five precepts–no killing, no sexual misconduct, no use of intoxicants and no lying and no stealing. Anapana is the foundation of Vipassana. Here, the focus is on natural breathing. Through three days of Anapana, one develops concentration to achieve mastery over the mind–Samadhi. On the fourth day, we enter into Vipassana, taking our attention all over the body in a focussed manner. No part is left unobserved. During this process, we realise that every pore of our body changes from moment to moment. As we experience this truth more and more, we understand nature, our nature, how we live, where we are wrong and how we can correct ourselves.
Through the process of Vipassana, we understand what is happening in the body and mind, stop reacting and start accepting.
A major element of Vipassana is silence. Why is that?
We need silence because the human mind is always chattering. There is a lot of information there. Silence helps as we are continuously in contact with the mind which churns constantly, and is often unhappy. All stock within is constantly manifesting. During Vipassana programmes, one is asked to not even make gestures or eye contact. The participants have to lay other practices aside for this 10-day period. There is nothing external here. We have our breath and sensation. The mind can explore at a deeper level and understand the truth about oneself.
What does Vipassana do for the mind?
Through Vipassana one develops the wisdom to make his/her life better. Exercising wisdom to accept everything that comes in front of you is what Vipassana does for a person. And we develop our wisdom by observing our breath. Through the process of Vipassana, we understand what is happening in the body and mind, stop reacting and start accepting. Through intellect we know that no pain lasts forever. Every situation is going to pass no matter how painful it is. The training in Vipassana is at an experiential level, helping us introspect and explore our inner selves. We train the mind to live in the present by focusing on our breath.
What does Vipassana teach an individual?
It teaches us to not react to a sensation. It is the reaction to a sensation that changes the whole equation. Being receptive is human. When things go wrong, I say I am not enlightened, I am still learning. It is my own karma. You see our life is a drama of our own karma. When we are born, our bundle of karma opens up. Whichever karma is ripe comes to the surface, and accordingly nature creates the situation. If I have wisdom, I will learn how to handle the situation. But if I am ignorant, I will keep blaming people and situations. So many things go wrong in the world and no one, in particular, is necessarily responsible. When our karma ripens, we all come together. What I have sown, I have to reap. Vipassana teaches how not to add to our karma and come out of what we are carrying. It is a path of purification, self-realisation and liberation.