Guidelines For Practicing
A Vipassana course is truly valuable only if it makes a change in your life, and a change will come only if you keep practicing the technique on a daily basis. The following outline of what you have learned is offered with best wishes for your continued success in meditation.
In daily life this is practiced by following the Five Precepts:
- to abstain from killing any being,
- to abstain from stealing,
- to abstain from sexual misconduct,
- to abstain from wrong speech,
- to abstain from all intoxicants.
The minimum needed to maintain the practice:
- one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening,
- five minutes while lying in bed before you fall asleep and after you wake up,
- if possible, sitting once a week for one hour with other meditators practicing this technique of Vipassana,
- a ten-day course or self-course once a year,
- and other free time for meditation.
Practice this if the mind is dull or agitated, if it is difficult to feel sensations or difficult not to react to them. You can begin with Anapana and then switch to Vipassana or, if needed, continue observing the breath for the entire hour. To practice Anapana, keep the attention in the area below the nostrils and above the upper lip. Remain aware of each breath as it enters or leaves. If the mind is very dull or very agitated, breathe deliberately and slightly harder for some time. Otherwise, the breathing should be natural.
Move your attention systematically from head to feet and from feet to head, observing in order each and every part of the body by feeling all the sensations that you come across. Observe objectively; that is, remain equanimous with all the sensations that you experience, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, by appreciating their impermanent nature. Keep your attention moving. Never stay for more than a few minutes at any one place. Do not allow the practice to become mechanical. Work in different ways according to the type of sensations you experience. Areas of the body having different gross sensations should be observed separately by moving the attention part by part. Symmetrical parts, such as both arms or both legs, having similar subtle sensations, may be observed together simultaneously. If you experience subtle sensations throughout the physical structure, you may at times sweep the entire body and then again work part by part.
At the end of the hour relax, letting any mental or physical agitation subside. Then focus your attention for a few minutes on subtle sensations in the body, and fill your mind and body with thoughts and feelings of goodwill for all beings.
Outside of Meditation Periods
Give your full and undivided attention to any important tasks before you, but check from time to time whether you are maintaining your awareness and equanimity. Whenever a problem arises, if possible be aware of your breath or sensations, even for a few seconds. This will help you to remain balanced in various situations.
Share whatever good you have acquired with others. Doing so helps to eradicate the old habit of self-centeredness. Meditators realize that the most valuable thing they have to share is Dhamma. Not being able to teach, they do what they can to help others learn the technique. With this pure volition they donate toward the expenses of other students.
This dāna is the sole source of funding for courses and centers around the world.
A still greater dāna is to give of one's time and effort by helping to organize or run courses or by doing other Dhamma work. All who help (including the Teachers and Assistant Teachers) give their service as dāna without receiving anything in return. This service not only benefits others, but also helps those offering it to eradicate egotism. to understand the teaching more deeply, and thus to advance on the path.
One Path Only
Do not mix this technique with others. If you have been practicing something else, you may attend two or three Vipassana courses to help you decide which technique you prefer. Then choose the one you find most suitable and beneficial, and devote yourself to it.
Telling Others About Vipassana
You may describe the technique to others, but do not teach them. Otherwise you might confuse rather than help them. Encourage people who want to meditate to join a course, where there is a properly trained guide.
Progress comes gradually. Mistakes are bound to be made-learn from them. When you realize you have made an error, smile and start again!
It is common to experience drowsiness, agitation, mind-wandering and other difficulties in meditation, but if you persevere you will be successful.
You are welcome to contact the Teachers or Assistant Teachers for guidance.
Make use of the support of your fellow meditators. Sitting with them will give you strength.
Make use of the meditative atmosphere at centers or Dhamma houses by going there to sit whenever you can, even for a few days or hours. As an old student you are also welcome to come for part of a ten-day course, depending on the availability of space, and assuming you have been practicing this technique of Vipassana only.
Real wisdom is recognizing and accepting that every experience is impermanent. With this insight you will not be overwhelmed by ups and downs. And when you are able to maintain an inner balance, you can choose to act in ways that will create happiness for you and for others. Living each moment happily with an equanimous mind, you will surely progress toward the ultimate goal of liberation from all suffering.
Frequently Used Terms
Most of the terms set forth below are taken from the Pali language and listed here in roman pali notation. Unfortunately, limitations of this medium make it impossible to include the appropriate diacritical markings of the letters. To facilitate proper pronunciation of the Pali words one should consult another printed source which does include these markings.
The three trainings:
- samādhi-concentration, mastery of the mind
- paññā-wisdom, insight that purifies the mind
The Triple Gem:
- Buddha-anyone who is fully enlightened
- Dhamma-the law of nature; the teaching of an enlightened person; the way to liberation
- Sangha-anyone who has practiced Dhamma and has become a pure-minded, saintly person
The three roots of all mental defilements:
The Noble Eightfold Path:
- sammā-vācā-right speech
- sammā-kammanta-right action
- samna-ājīvā-right livelihood
- sammā-vāyama-right effort
- sammā-sati-right awareness
- sammā-samādhi-right concentration
- sammā-saṅkappa-right thought
- sammā-diṭṭhi-right understanding
nibbāna-the unconditioned, the ultimate reality which is beyond mind and matter (Sanskrit nirvāṇa)
The three kinds of wisdom:
- suta-mayā paññā-wisdom gained by listening to others
- cintā-mayā paññā-intellectual, analytical understanding
- bhāvanā-mayā paññā-wisdom based on direct personal experience
The three characteristics of phenomena:
kamma-action; specifically, an action one performs which will have an effect on one's future (Sanskrit karma)
The Four Noble Truths:
- the fact of suffering
- the origin of suffering (craving)
- the cessation of suffering
- the path leading to the cessation of suffering
The five aggregates of which a human being is composed:
- rūpa-matter; the physical body composed of subatomic particles (kalāpa)
- viññāṇa-consciousness, cognition
- saññā-perception, recognition
- saṅkhārā-reaction; mental conditioning
The four material elements:
- pathavī-earth (solidity, weight)
- āpo-water (fluidity, cohesion)
- vāyo-air (gaseousness, motion)
- tejo-fire (temperature)
The five hindrances or enemies:
- thina-middha-physical sloth and mental torpor
- uddhacca-kukkucca-agitation and worry
- vicikicchā-doubt, uncertainty
The five strengths or friends:
The four causes for the arising of matter:
- a present mental reaction
- a past mental reaction
The four qualities of a pure mind:
- mettā-selfless love
- muditā-sympathetic joy
Satipaṭṭhāna-the establishing of awareness; synonym for Vipassana
The four satipatthanas are:
- kāyānupassanā-observation of the body
- vedanānupassanā-observation of bodily sensations
- cittānupassanā-observation of the mind
- dhammānupassanā-observation of mental contents
The ten parami or mental perfections:
- adhiṭṭhāna-strong determination
- mettā-selfless love
- dāna-generosity; donation
Bhavatu sabba maṅgalaṃ-May all beings be happy!
Sādhu, sādhu, sādhu-weIl said, well done; we agree, we share this wish
A Message From Goenkaji
Dear Travelers on the Path of Dhamma,
Keep the torch of Dhamma alight! Let it shine brightly in your daily life. Always remember, Dhamma is not an escape. It is an art of living: living in peace and harmony with oneself and also with all others. Hence, try to live a Dhamma life.
Don't miss your daily sittings each morning and evening.
Whenever possible, attend weekly joint sittings with other Vipassana meditators.
Do a ten-day course as an annual retreat. This is essential to keep you going strong.
With all confidence, face the spikes around you bravely and smilingly.
Renounce hatred and aversion, ill will and animosity.
Generate love and compassion, especially for those who do not understand Dhamma and are living an unhappy life.
May your Dhamma behavior show them the path of peace and harmony. May the glow of Dhamma on your faces attract more and more suffering people to this path of real happiness.
May all beings be happy, peaceful, liberated.
With all my mettā,