Thursday, August 31, 2006

Back from Vipassana

This past Sunday ended a 10-day silent meditation retreat in the Hungarian countryside for me and my fellow participants. It was my second such retreat in 12 months. It was tough - hard work - but rewarding. The technique, taught by Burmese/Indian businessman turned meditation junkie S.N. Goenka, teaches students first to observe the breath, then the sensations of the body; this while sitting in one place, noiselessly, for 9+ hours a day, broken up by meals, rest and instruction.

The overall goal is "liberation", liberation from misery that comes from being a slave to one's cravings and aversions. According to the technique, these cravings and aversions are manifest in physical sensations. Observing these sensations while sitting silently in one place for hours on end teaches us not to react to them, which eventually brings them eventually to an end. Once they're gone, we are free to experience peace, harmony, compassion and happiness.

A lot of other details relating to the practice are taught, such as the notion that matter is ultimately just vibrations of energy and that with sufficiently deep meditation, one is able to sense these vibrations at the deepest, most minuscule level. All this must be done in observance of Sheila, or Morality, which means not killing (so no meateating), lying, sexual misconduct or autointoxivation. Samadi and Panya are the other two lynchpins of the practice; they represent alertness of the mind and purification of the mind (wisdom), respectively.

The trick is to remain "equanamous", greeting all sensations, whether pleasant or ill with equal welcome, so as to free oneself from - and not to develop any new - "sankaras" - cravings and aversions. To observe "reality as it happens."

"It's easy to be happy when life rolls along like a slow sweet song. But the man worthwhile is the man with a smile when everything goes wrong."

Following the workshop, one is instructed to meditate twice daily, an hour in the evening and morning until the next retreat. One is told to participate in a minimum of one 10-day retreat per year. This will keep one on the path toward full liberation. So far, it seems, it's been working for me. Let us hope I make best use of my time.

May all Beings find Happiness.


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