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My year at a Vipassana Center: Introduction

What many of you may not know about me, is that I spent a year living at a Vipassana center. For those of you who know Vipassana, don’t freak out. It does not mean that for 365 days I was meditating 11 hours a day, as we do at the 10-day retreats, however there are some pretty strict guidelines for staying at a Vipassana retreat center, which I will outline later. During this time, I’d seen quite a number of students come and go as they participated in the meditation retreats. Many of them were interested in my life there, what I was doing, experiencing and observing, as I was interested in theirs.
I have had some insightful experiences and some more light-hearted stories to share too. I thus decided to write about these in a few blog posts, highlighting some of the incidents I remember. For those who are unfamiliar with the Vipassana technique and organization, I here is a short summary. The rest you can read up on at www.dhamma.org
Vipassana is a meditation technique, believed to be the exact technique Guatama Buddha discovered enlightenment through. It means to see the reality for what is, without delusion, fantasy, and falsehood. It is the technique to release suffering which is a result of our attachment to the world we perceive as real. The technique is taught by S.N. Goenka on 10-day silent retreats, during which very specific instructions are given in specific order to learn the technique.
Vipassana centers are found worldwide and are funded and managed entirely by volunteers. Donations in the form of service or money are only accepted from those who have completed a ten day retreat under the guidance of an assistant teacher. During periods of service, a server is expected to maintain a minimum of 3 hours meditation per day. Reading material is limited to that issued by the Vipassana Research Organization. Strict segregation of men and women during meal times are maintained, and in general, conversation is asked to mostly be limited to functional communication.
Persons volunteering their time as dāna (a Pali word for donation) contribute to the atmosphere of the center by keeping their thoughts and emotions clear, if not, filled with love and appreciation, compassion and peace at all times. The Pali word to describe this offering is called “mettā” (loving-kindness.)
In the lives of Vipassana students in general and on all Vipassana centers the following precepts are to be observed at all times: 1. To abstain from killing or harming others. 2. To abstain from stealing, or taking what is not given. 3, To abstain form telling lies or wrongful speech, 4. To abstain from sexual misconduct, 5. To abstain from all intoxicants.
I hope this gives you sone insight into the setup of a Vipassana Center. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you. The way these stories are written, is with the intention to have each individual event read as individual story, however in actuality all of them very much makes sense consecutively, as elements build upon each other and the understanding of events, lessons and occurrences very much flows into the context of another.
Read about how my year at the Vipassana center came about in the next post.
Photo credit: @wellnessstockkphoto