Introduction to the Technique
Vipassana is one of India's most ancient meditation techniques.
Long lost to humanity, it was rediscovered by Gotama the Buddha
more than 2500 years ago. The word Vipassana
means seeing things as they really are. It is the process of self-
purification by self-observation. One begins by observing the
natural breath to concentrate the mind. With a sharpened awareness
one proceeds to observe the changing nature of body and mind and
experiences the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and
egolessness. This truth-realization by direct experience is the
process of purification. The entire path (Dhamma) is a universal
remedy for universal problems and has nothing to do with any
organized religion or sectarianism. For this reason, it can be
freely practiced by everyone, at any time, in any place, without
conflict due to race, community or religion, and will prove equally
beneficial to one and all.
What Vipassana is not:
- It is not a rite or ritual based on blind faith.
- It is neither an intellectual nor a philosophical entertainment.
- It is not a rest cure, a holiday, or an opportunity for socializing.
- It is not an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.
What Vipassana is:
- It is a technique that will eradicate suffering.
- It is an art of living that one can use to make positive
contributions to society.
- It is a method of mental purification which allows one to face life's tensions and problems
in a calm, balanced way.
Vipassana meditation aims at the highest spiritual goals of total
liberation and full enlightenment. Its purpose is never simply to
cure physical disease. However, as a by-product of mental
purification, many psychosomatic diseases are eradicated. In fact,
Vipassana eliminates the three causes of all unhappiness: craving,
aversion and ignorance. With continued practice, the meditation
releases the tensions developed in everyday life, opening the knots
tied by the old habit of reacting in an unbalanced way to pleasant
and unpleasant situations.
Although Vipassana was developed as a technique by the Buddha, its
practice is not limited to Buddhists. There is absolutely no
question of conversion. The technique works on the simple basis
that all human beings share the same problems and a technique which
can eradicate these problems will have a universal application.
People from many religious denominations have experienced the
benefits of Vipassana meditation, and have found no conflict with
their profession of faith.
Meditation and Self-discipline
The process of self-purification by introspection is certainly
never easy--students have to work very hard at it. By their own
efforts students arrive at their own realizations; no one else can
do this for them. Therefore, the meditation will suit only those
willing to work seriously and observe the discipline, which is
there for the benefit and protection of the meditators and is an
integral part of the meditation practice.
Ten days is certainly a very short time in which to penetrate the
deepest levels of the unconscious mind and learn how to eradicate
the complexes lying there. Continuity of the practice in seclusion
is the secret of this technique's success. Rules and regulations
have been developed keeping this practical aspect in mind. They
are not primarily for the benefit of the teacher or the course
management, nor are they negative expressions of tradition,
orthodoxy or blind faith in some organized religion. Rather, they
are based on the practical experience of thousands of meditators
over the years and are both scientific and rational. Abiding by
the rules creates a very conducive atmosphere for meditation;
breaking them pollutes it.
A student will have to stay for the entire period of the
course. The other rules should also be carefully read and
considered. Only those who feel that they can honestly and
scrupulously follow the discipline should apply for admission.
Those not prepared to make a determined effort will
waste their time and, moreover, will disturb others who wish to
work seriously. A prospective student should also understand that
it would be both disadvantageous and inadvisable to leave without
finishing the course upon finding the discipline too difficult.
Likewise, it would be most unfortunate if, in spite of repeated
reminders, a student does not follow the rules and has to be asked
Persons With Serious Mental Disorders
People with serious mental disorders have occasionally come to
Vipassana courses with the unrealistic expectation that the
technique will cure or alleviate their mental problems. Unstable
interpersonal relationships and a history of various treatments can
be additional factors which make it difficult for such people to
benefit from, or even complete, a ten-day course. Our capacity as
a nonprofessional volunteer organization makes it impossible for us
to properly care for people with these backgrounds. Although
Vipassana meditation is beneficial for most people, it is not a
substitute for medical or psychiatric treatment and we do not
recommend it for people with serious psychiatric disorders.
The Code of Discipline
The foundation of the practice is sila --moral
conduct. Sila provides a basis for the
development of samadhi --concentration of mind;
and purification of the mind is achieved through panna
--the wisdom of insight.
All who attend a Vipassana course must conscientiously undertake
the following five precepts for the duration of the course:
- 1. to abstain from killing any living creature;
- 2. to abstain from stealing;
- 3. to abstain from all sexual activity;
- 4. to abstain from telling lies;
- 5. to abstain from all intoxicants.
There are three additional precepts which old students (that is,
those who have completed a course with S.N. Goenka or one of his
assistant teachers) are expected to follow during the course:
- 6. to abstain from eating after midday;
- 7. to abstain from sensual entertainment and bodily
- 8. to abstain from using high or luxurious beds.
Old students will observe the sixth precept by having only tea (without milk)
or fruit juice during the 5 p.m. break, whereas new students may have
tea with milk and some fruit. The teacher may excuse an old
student from observing this precept for health reasons. The
seventh and eighth precept will be observed by all.
Acceptance of the Teacher and the Technique
Students must declare themselves willing to comply fully and for
the duration of the course with the teacher's guidance and
instructions; that is, to observe the discipline and to meditate
exactly as the teacher asks, without ignoring any part of the
instructions, nor adding anything to them. This acceptance should
be one of discrimination and understanding, not blind submission.
Only with an attitude of trust can a student work diligently and
thoroughly. Such confidence in the teacher and the technique is
essential for success in meditation.
Other Techniques, Rites, and Forms of Worship
During the course it is absolutely essential that all forms of
prayer, worship, or religious ceremony--fasting, burning incense,
counting beads, reciting mantras, singing and dancing, etc.--be
discontinued. All other meditation techniques and healing or
spiritual practices should also be suspended. This is not to
condemn any other technique or practice, but to give a fair trial
to the technique of Vipassana in its purity.
Students are strongly advised that deliberately mixing other
techniques of meditation with Vipassana will impede and even
reverse their progress. Despite repeated warnings by the teacher,
there have been cases in the past where students have intentionally
mixed this technique with a ritual or another practice, and have
done themselves a great disservice. Any doubts or confusion which
may arise should always be clarified by meeting with the teacher.
Interviews With the Teacher
The teacher is available to meet students privately between 12 noon and 1:00 p.m.
Questions may also be asked in public between 9:00 and 9:30 p.m. in the
meditation hall. The interview and question times are for clarifying the
technique and for questions arising from the evening discourses.
All students must observe Noble Silence from the beginning of the
course until the morning of the last full day. Noble Silence means
silence of body, speech, and mind. Any form of communication with
fellow student, whether by gestures, sign language, written notes,
etc., is prohibited.
Students may, however, speak with the teacher whenever necessary
and they may approach the management with any problems related to
food, accommodation, health, etc. But even these contacts should
be kept to a minimum. Students should cultivate the feeling that
they are working in isolation.
Separation of Men and Women
Complete segregation of men and women is to be maintained.
Couples, married or otherwise, should not contact each other in any
way during the course. The same applies to friends, members of the
same family, etc.
It is important that throughout the course students avoid any physical
contact whatsoever with others of the same or opposite sex.
Yoga and Physical Exercise
Although physical yoga and other exercises are compatible with
Vipassana, they should be suspended during the course because
proper secluded facilities are not available at the course site.
Jogging is also not permitted. Students may exercise during rest
periods by walking in the designated areas.
Religious Objects, Rosaries, Crystals, Talismans, etc.
No such items should be brought to the course site. If brought
inadvertently they should be deposited with the management for the
duration of the course.
Intoxicants and Drugs
No drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicants should be brought to the
site; this also applies to tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and all
other sedatives. Those taking medicines or drugs on a doctor's
prescription should notify the teacher.
For the health and comfort of all students, smoking, chewing
tobacco, and taking snuff are not permitted at the course.
It is not possible to satisfy the special food preferences and
requirements of all the meditators. Students are therefore kindly
requested to make do with the simple vegetarian meals provided.
The course management endeavors to prepare a balanced, wholesome
menu suitable for meditation. If any students have been prescribed
a special diet because of ill-health, they should inform the
management at the time of application.
Dress should be simple, modest, and comfortable. Tight,
transparent, revealing, or otherwise striking clothing (such as
shorts, short skirts, tights and leggings, sleeveless or skimpy
tops) should not be worn. Sunbathing and partial nudity are not
permitted. This is important in order to minimize distraction to
Laundry and Bathing
No washing machines or dryers are available, so students should
bring sufficient clothing. Small items can be hand-washed.
Bathing and laundry may be done only in the break periods and not
during meditation hours.
Students must remain within the course boundaries throughout the
course. They may leave only with the specific consent of the
teacher. No outside communications is allowed before the course
ends. This includes letters, phone calls and visitors. In case of
an emergency, a friend or relative may contact the management.
Music, Reading and Writing
The playing of musical instruments, radios, etc. is not permitted.
No reading or writing materials should be brought to the course.
Students should not distract themselves by taking notes. The
restriction on reading and writing is to emphasize the strictly
practical nature of this meditation.
Tape Recorders and Cameras
These may not be used except with the express permission of the
According to the tradition of pure Vipassana, courses are run
solely on a donation basis. Donations are accepted only from
those who have completed at least one ten-day course
with S.N. Goenka or one of his assisting teachers. Someone taking
the course for the first time may give a donation on the last day of
the course or any time thereafter.
In this way course are supported by those who have realized for
themselves the benefits of the practice. Wishing to share these
benefits with others, one gives a donation according to one's means
and volition. Such donations are the only source of funding for course
in this tradition around the world. There is no wealthy foundation or
individual sponsoring them. Neither the teachers nor the
organizers receive any kind of payment for their service. Thus,
the spread of Vipassana is carried out with purity of purpose, free
from any commercialism.
Whether a donation is large or small, it should be given with the
wish to help others: 'The course I have taken has been paid for
through the generosity of past students; now let me give something
towards the cost of a future course, so that others may also
benefit by this technique.'
To clarify the spirit behind the discipline and rules, they may be
summarized as follows:
Take great care that your actions do not disturb anyone.
Take no notice of distractions caused by others.
It may be that a student cannot understand the practical reasons
for one or several of the above rules. Rather than allow
negativity and doubt to develop, immediate clarification should be
sought from the teacher.
It is only by taking a disciplined approach and by making maximum
effort that a student can fully grasp the practice and benefit from
it. The emphasis during the course is on work. A golden rule is
to meditate as if one were alone, with one's mind turned inward,
ignoring any inconveniences and distractions that one may
Finally, students should note that their progress in Vipassana
depends solely on their own good qualities and personal development
and on five factors: earnest efforts, confidence, sincerity, health
May the above information help you to obtain maximum benefit from
your meditation course. We are happy to have the opportunity to
serve, and wish you peace and harmony from your experience of
THE COURSE TIMETABLE
The following timetable for the course has been designed to
maintain the continuity of practice. For best results students are
advised to follow it as closely as possible.
4:00 a.m.---------------------Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 a.m.----------------Meditate in the hall or your own room
6:30-8:00 a.m.----------------Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 a.m.----------------Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 a.m.---------------Meditate in the hall or your own room
according to the teacher's instructions
11:00-12:00 noon--------------Lunch break
12noon-1:00 p.m.--------------Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 p.m.----------------Meditate in the hall or your own room
2:30-3:30 p.m.----------------Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 p.m.----------------Meditate in the hall or your own room
according to the teacher's instructions
5:00-6:00 p.m.----------------Tea break
6:00-7:00 p.m.----------------Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 p.m.----------------Teacher's Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 p.m.----------------Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 p.m.----------------Question time in the hall
9:30 p.m.---------------------Retire to your own room--Lights out