What Is Vipassana? The Technique, The Retreats and The Philosophy
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Vipassana, or insight meditation as the practice is also known, has enjoyed widespread popularity in recent years, with many people attending the gruelling ten-day courses that are available across the globe.
Like many of the popular techniques of meditation that have found their way to the west, Vipassana is a traditional Buddhist practise that has been taught in India for thousands of years, possibly since the time of Buddha.
The Vipassana technique aims to teach the meditator about the true nature of reality through direct experience of the body, feelings and mind.
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What Is the Vipassana Meditation Technique?
The Vipassana technique involves sitting as still as possible whilst scanning the body and observing physical sensations.
The vipassana technique is essentially a form of open awareness, body scan meditation. Open awareness meditative practices require no particular focus, like the breath or a mantra, but instead just observes the natural flow of consciousness.
Whilst practising Vipassana, the meditator is instructed to remain as still as possible so that the physical sensation in the body become more noticeable.
The technique works by having the meditator observe their sensations as they come and go, with no attempt to control or change them.
By observing the constantly changing body and mind with complete objectivity, the meditator attempts to gain insight into one of the key characteristics of existence; impermanence.
A Meditation session aims to last up to one hour without any movement, but beginners are guided to practice for as long as possible; 10 – 15 minutes is still beneficial.
What Is the Philosophy of Vipassana
Vipassana aims to teach the meditator about the true nature of impermanence and how to view that impermanence with equanimity.
In the modern mindfulness movement, morality has mostly been discarded and replaced by health benefits as the main motivation to start a meditation practice.
However, because the goal of Vipassana is to guide the meditator towards the gradual cultivation of knowledge through personal experience, it is still taught in combination with traditional Buddhist philosophy.
The end goal of Vipassana is to develop the quality of equanimity, which has a number of characteristics, including being able to accept difficult experiences without reacting to them and having a sense of calm acceptance during change. Essentially learning to accept any outcomes to a situation without aversion or craving.
If you would like to learn more about the philosophy of Vipassana, we go into it in far more detail in our 22-day Vipassana course.
Each guided meditation comes with an audio introduction and written lesson that covers a different aspect of Vipassana.
What Is a Vipassana Silent Retreat?
The 10-day silent meditation retreats created by SN Goenka can be found all other the world and teach Vipassana in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khi.
Most peoples experience of Vipassana comes from the ten-day residential courses set up by SN Goenka. Goenka was a Burmese businessman who discovered Vipassana when it was recommended to him as a way to cure his chronic migraines.
After discovering the value of Vipassana went far beyond just a cure for headaches, he began teaching in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin to thousands of people in numerous centers all across the world.
The courses are famous for their requirement to observe ‘noble silence’, which means 10 days of silence without any form of communication with other students, including eye contact.
This is done simply to avoid any form of distraction when learning the technique and to replicate the Buddha’s isolation when he sat under the Bodhi tree to reach enlightenment.
The daily schedule of the course generally consists of about 10 hours of meditation a day, either in a meditation hall or individual meditation cells with guidance given from the qualified teacher or assistant teachers, who you are allowed to talk to.
The courses are paid for on a contribution basis with the donations from people attending the current course paying for the next course.
Can You Do Vipassana at Home?
Yes. Vipassana should be incorporated into everyday life and practised consistently to achieve the full benefits.
The ten-day residential courses are a great place to learn the technique but putting aside that time can be quite hard for most people to achieve.
The Vipassana technique can also be learnt online, at home, to great effect.
Like all forms of meditation, consistent practice and dedication is the key to success.
- Vipassana is a traditional Buddhist practice that has been taught in India for thousands of years.
- Vipassana is a form of open awareness meditation that uses a body scan to observe the impermanence of bodily sensations.
- When practising Vipassana, you should try to stay as still as possible to help make the sensations in the body more noticeable.
- Vipassana is still commonly practised in combination with traditional Buddhist teachings.
- The end goal of Vipassana is to develop the quality of equanimity, which means calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation.
- 10 Day silent Vipassana retreats can be found all other the world and were started by SN Goakenka in 1985.
MindEasy founder & meditation teacher
Griff Williams is an accredited meditation teacher and founder of MindEasy. He spent 12 years working as a London firefighter before changing paths to pursue building MindEasy. He received his diploma in meditation teaching from The British School of Meditation.