Vipassana: Practical path to unity in diversity | Daily News

Vipassana: Practical path to unity in diversity

In multi-religious and multi-cultural societies such as in India, Vipassana is a wonderful, practical path to unity in diversity. Vipassana, an ancient, timeless heritage of India, is the quintessence of all religions: how to live a moral life, to be a master of one’s own mind, to purify the mind. No religion objects to these ideals. No right-thinking person objects to these ideals. Vipassana is the effective, universal method to achieve these ideals.

In past millennia, and in the present day, we are seeing how Vipassana enables one to live a happy, harmonious life. When more individuals achieve inner peace, peace is achieved in homes, in the neighbourhood, in villages, towns, cities and countries.

Universal Non-sectarian Path

This unifying process of peace and harmony is visible in Vipassana courses worldwide. During a Vipassana course, people from all religions, castes, nationalities, races and social strata sit together to practice this ancient path. Thousands of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Jews have taken Vipassana courses. They follow the same code of discipline and gain benefit from the Vipassana course.

Vipassana courses have been taken not only by the followers of all religions but also by their leaders. Many religious leaders have later told me, “Goenkaji, in the name of Vipassana, you are teaching our religion!” Vipassana courses have been held in temples, mosques, churches, and monasteries.

True Dhamma

In the ancient Pali language, Vipassana means to see things as they are, not as they seem to be. Gotama the Buddha re-discovered this ancient scientific path to real happiness. This is the true Saddhamma, the truth of the laws of nature applicable to all beings in the universe.

The Buddha did not claim any monopoly on this path; neither did he intend to start any sect, cult or ritualistic religion. He told people who came to debate and sometimes to quarrel with him: “Let us keep aside our differences. Let us talk about what we agree upon. I am teaching sīla (morality) samādhi (mastery of the mind) and paññā (purification of the mind).”

The Science of Mind and Matter

The Buddha was a super-scientist who rediscovered certain universal truths using his own body and mind as the laboratory instruments. He discovered that, at the actual level, there is no solidity in the entire universe, that all material phenomena are made up of tiny kalapas (sub-atomic particles) that arise and pass away with such great rapidity that they give the appearance of solidity. These kalapas, the basic building blocks of the material universe are nothing but mere vibrations. The Buddha said:

The entire world is in flames,

The entire world is going up in smoke;

The entire world is burning,

The entire world is vibrating.

The Role of Bodily Sensations

The Buddha discovered that the key to liberation experiencing the different physical sensations in the body and their nature of arising and passing away (anicca). He also realized that misery arises because of the blind reaction of craving and aversion to these sensations.

One comes out of the habit pattern of misery when one learns to remain equanimous with every sensation, pleasant or unpleasant, with the experiential realization that they are all impermanent, changing every moment. This ability to remain equanimous eradicates old impurities and helps one to change the behaviour pattern of the mind.

The Importance of Morality (Sīla)

At the start of the Vipassana course, the student undertakes to observe a moral code of conduct. The student experiences how morality is the essential foundation to inner peace and happiness, not merely an empty, unrealistic ideal. One cannot do any harm to others without first harming oneself:

The student in a Vipassana course starts meditation practice with Anapana — observation of the natural incoming and outgoing breath, as it is, without regulating the natural reality of the breath. The student is instructed not to add any shape, colour, form, philosophy or image to the breath. As the natural breath is linked directly to the mind, one observes the mind by observing the breath. For instance, when one is angry, the breath becomes hard and irregular; when one is calm and peaceful, the breath becomes soft and subtle.

The truth of the natural breath can be experienced by anyone; this is not the monopoly of any religion or country. Then the student observes the touch of the breath at the point below the nostrils, above the upper lip where the breath touches.

When the student starts observing the point of contact of the breath with the body, he or she begins to experience the truth of sensations on the body: any physical feeling like heat, cold, vibration, tingling, itching, pain, etc.

During the practice of Vipassana, the student is instructed to observe the truth of sensations throughout the body. It is a choiceless observation. The student is instructed not to give any importance to any particular sensation or to have any bias or preference for any sensation.

The student proceeds from the gross truths to the subtler truths to ultimately reach the subtlest truth. He observes the mind-matter phenomenon, the truth of the so-called ‘I’, the truth about the causes and effect of suffering and the way out of suffering. He makes this observation within the framework of the body, without any illusion, delusion, imagination or visualization.

The Vipassana student observes the truth of the moment, as it is. So he experiences the truth of the changing reality, from moment to moment, within the framework of the body. Nature is playing its role, one just observes. One realizes how difficult this is! One also realizes how necessary and beneficial this is!

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