by Naveen from Mumbai, India
“Vipassana” has created a furore in my house. The moment me and my wife utter this word, my sons say “Oh no, and now you will talk about Vipassana.” Others in the family believe that it is a Buddhist technique and something that has to do with “Buddhism”. Yes, it truly is about “Buddhism”, but in the true sense of the word and not in the filtered sectarian “Buddhism” that is prevalent in our world today. Buddhas existed before Siddhartha Gautama and many exist today too, so if we talk about trying to reach their state by practicing something, and if we call this practice as “Buddhism” , then yes Vipassana is about Buddhism. But if you mean that “Buddhist” is one who has to go to a monastery and chant some verses and perform certain rites and rituals, then you are very wrong.
Labelling any technique and trying to define it definitely dilutes the very importance of the technique. Vipassana is a technique meant for purification of the mind from the deepest layers. So how is that possible, ask many? Well, what happens when we try to meditate? Our mind wanders, but where does it go? Now, by these questions, we have started a process of observation. These questions are the key. So, instead of just accepting our mind and the thoughts that ensue as a result of our various experiences, we have started observing our thoughts as if there is another entity that is doing the thinking. This is the key point. But how do we observe because it may not be possible for someone to do that at all, because there is a strong belief that there is nothing true except our own thoughts. Well, that is the mystery! Thoughts have made human beings unconscious and fragmented in perception and views. If only we were attentive to all that is happening at this instance around us, to observe the fullness and beauty of life around us without labelling any thing or judging anyone, we would realise that all our thoughts are only an outcome of a certain personal reaction due to “EGO” to an external event or stimuli that is recorded and memorized. All these recordings and memories are dormant and lying ready to flood our minds as soon as they get a similar stimuli from external environment. How can this be overcome? Here lies another beautiful fact: The moment we start observing this reaction as another entity observing the behavior of our own mind, the mind calms down and the memory starts to vaporize. An example can be given here:-
Children at home tend to seek attention by crying even when they are not really hurt. In such situations, based on a certain habit pattern, there are certain reactions evoked from the parents, for example, some parent my react with pity and sympathy, another parent may scold the child and ask the child to shut up as there is actually no issue and the parent is aware of the child’s nature. All these reactions can be very spontaneous. If we were to just hold ourselves back and observe the feelings/ thoughts going through our mind when the child screams/ cries for attention, we will observe this thought coming and then slowly ,as if it is a magic happening, subsiding on its own. This is the true form of nature, if you just observe something without any judgment, no memory gets attached and it just passes away. Instead of deriding the thought, we must pause and just observe the thought and say to one self: “See this thought just came to my mind”, and then the magic of nature will be visible.
Vipassana is nothing but this art of observation of sensations on our own body which are well beyond our control and are ephemeral and just arise and pass away. These sensations are linked to our mind and based on certain external stimuli and the memories stored in our mind, they manifest as sensations on our bodies. We normally cannot feel these sensations unless they are very strong. All subtle sensations are hidden as our mind cannot sense them normally. Vipassana makes the mind sharper to observe even those subtle sensations. The pivotal point here is that the mind has stopped wandering and is now listening to it’s master and is in the “NOW” rather than wandering into the “PAST” or the “FUTURE”, which was its original habit.
Therefore, Vipassana is only a tool to master one’s mind and try and purify it from the deepest layers by vaporizing all memories and recordings collected due to the external stimulus to one’s “EGO”, which a person mistakes to be self. The “EGO” is not the self and I must learn to differentiate between the two to become more alert and observe the games of the mind.