The most powerful aspect of Vipassana for me is the ability to verify what is right or wholesome and what is wrong or unwholesome within my own body. I didn’t grow up in a religious household so while my brother and I were taught the importance of morality it was never exactly clear what was moral and what wasnt. For example, I was taught not to hurt people but learned how to filet a fish. I was taught to say please and thank you but not that I needed to hold the door for women. I was taught that it was better to tell a white lie than to hurt someones feelings. All of these guidelines were learned by watching my parents, teachers, and peers. I mimicked whoever I was trying to impress. The boundaries between right and wrong have always been grey for me.
At first, Vipassana is no different from Christianity declaring its 5 precepts just like Christianity’s 10 commandments. You’re told that following them is part of the tradition so you accept it a bit on faith. The difference comes after the course when you discover that panna (wisdom from meditation) is reinforcing these precepts. When you break your precepts your meditation becomes less clear. It’s not always perceptible at the beginning but as I’ve grown deeper and deeper in my practice I’ve noticed this to become more and more true.
A big moral issue in Christianity is sex before marriage and masturbation. You’re told it’s bad and if you do it you’re going to hell. At first you’re scared off. Then you hear that some of your friends have done it, enjoyed it, and they still appear to be okay. Then you try it you seem to be okay. Then I started wondering, well which of these Christian moral issues are real and which aren’t? I could never really figure out a good measuring stick except public opinion. Whatever people thought was good people generally accepted as good and vice versa.
Vipassana can be a bit confusing because of the sliding scale of your awareness. As you go deeper on the path and become more sensitive to sensations you start holding yourself to a higher standard of the precepts. Sexual misconduct starts out as abstaining from rape and adultery and eventually can become abstinence. This is a bit confusing for someone who is used to measuring morality on intellectual criteria but I’m getting used to it. I’m starting to appreciate that my practice meets me right where I am at this moment. It doesn’t push me beyond what I can achieve and doesn’t let me get away with underachieving. It’s alway right by my side.
I’ve met people who aren’t that impressed with this so I wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t impress you, but it sure did impress me and I’m glad it did. Hopefully every day I’ll become a little bit better of a person. For now, it’s time to go meditate.
One thought on “Evaluating Right And Wrong”
Thanks for these comments. This aspect of Vipassana (that is, re-learning how to navigate morality and make decisions in general) has helped me break down old moral structures (within my society, my family, my head) and find what is really true for me…which is always changing of course. Through trial and error I am slowly learning to trust that subtle intuition. Someone pointed out to me recently that after the first precept (non-harming) the next four are only there to help a person achieve the first. Similarly, through the lens of Vipassana, moral guidelines can now be interpreted this way – if they help you to not harm yourself or others, great! If they don’t seem helpful, no need to put your energy toward them at this time. Very efficient, Vipassana 🙂