DR SANJAY TEOTIA explores the nature of Vipassana Meditation and explains how it can help us control our reactive mind
What exactly is Vipassana meditation? According to dhamma.org, it is an observation-based, self-exploratory journey that focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which is realised through disciplined attention to physical sensations. According to another internet definition, it is also called insight meditation, and “is the practice of continued close attention to sensation, through which one ultimately sees the true nature of existence.” It is a form of meditation practice believed to have been taught by the Buddha himself.
It is realised through focussed attention to physical sensations. Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gautam Buddha and was taught by him as a universal remedy to cure all ills.
Inner transformation, and not external events is what plays an important role in determining our happiness. It is not what happens to us but how we interpret what happens to us or the meaning we provide to what happens to us that makes us feel happy or sad. This changing and controlling of our thoughts is what is called inner transformation and ultimately is what allows us to cultivate happiness independent of any external event. It is what shifts control of our life on to us. Slowly, we will observe that our sphere of influence begins to expand.
There are various methods of inner transformation, but vipassana meditation is one of the best. Like any meditation technique, the purpose of vipassana is to create awareness of the deep mind or deep consciousness, and ultimately to maintain a state of equanimity through the experiences in the practice.
Another plus point is that there are various crucial health benefits of practising the Vipassana meditation technique. An immediate fallout is lower stress levels and reduction in anger and an increase in our emotional balance.
Thus, the Vipassana technique benefits a person’s mental health and enables a connection between peace and mind. This connection has to be acquired by carefully observing the physical sensations of the body and its reactions.
Vipassana teaches us how to be detached amidst all luxuries and comforts of life, as well as be happy and equanimous even if these luxuries and comforts disappear. It ensures a steady progress in our spiritual journey as it purifies our mind and body.
Vipassna frees us from suffering and helps us confront and thereby eliminate the deep-seated causes of suffering.
Step-by-step, the practice leads to the highest spiritual goal of full liberation from all mental afflictions. Mindfulness is, essentially, a vipassana meditation technique. It encourages us to take the time to notice and observe our every action as well as the objects surrounding us, so that gradually, we become more aware of ourselves.
Mindfulness in Vipassana meditation can be practised in hearing, breathing, speaking, walking, eating and in other areas of life. Mindful breathing is one of the oldest and most widespread techniques of vipassana meditation for individuals. In Vipassna meditation, the meditator uses his concentration as a tool by which his awareness can chip away at the wall of illusions that cut him off from life’s reality. It is a gradual process of ever-increasing awareness into the inner workings of reality itself. It may take years of this constant meditation practice to one day chisel through darkness and stumble upon light.
The transformation is now complete, and this is what is often referred to as liberation of the mind. When you reach this state, the transformation within is usually permanent. This liberation is the ultimate goal of Vipassana meditation.
Vipassana helps you to realise the truth of impermanence. Everything changes every moment and nothing lasts forever. Directly experiencing this often painful truth reduces attachment to a big ego, a major cause of most of our suffering.
People often describe Vipassana meditation as a form of meditation that controls the wandering mind from rolling in the past or future, in memories and fantasies, assumptions and presumptions. It trains the mind to live in the present. It leads us to realise that it is us who hurt ourselves even when we hurt others, even in thought.
A Vipassna meditator becomes aware of unpleasant sensations within his own mind when he is angry or upset. But he can confront these sensations with equanimity as opposed to his earlier habit patterns of blind reaction.
The vipassana meditator experiences how every unhappy or happy thought arises with a sensation. For instance, our eyes see something that our mind evaluates from past conditioning as very beautiful and a pleasant flow of sensations arise. But, with words of abuse, burning sensations arise with thoughts of anger. Just as the eyes give us the faculty to see, vipassana gives us insights that enable us to see the reality within.
Dr Sanjay Teotia is a senior consultant eye surgeon