I went to a Vipassana course in Aug 2006. I left before the course was over. I wrote a blog post fairly soon after that on the experience: Experience from attending Vipassana Course by S.N Goenka (4 days out of 10): Updated
Here is my current view on it and some other information.
Vipassana Course as taught by S. N Goenka is not for me. Why
- Mismatch of general philosophy and outlook
- There are enough of aches and pain in life on it’s own
I do not believe in the most common refrain that more one does or achieves (Money, Career, etc) in the world, the more one is accumulating bad karma. This is typical of many Buddhist and Hinduism philosophy and also of Vipassana.
My current method seems to be a mix of Yoga (Moral Conduct, Asanas, Meditation as per Yoga Sutras by Patanjali), Law of Attraction\Intention manifestation, though I keep checking what my goals are and updating paths\methods accordingly (Ideas to think consciously about your spiritual goals and evaluating spiritual paths.)
In my opinion, in a Vipassana course, pain (in addition to diet detox, less sleep, minimal or no caffeine, deprivation of normal activities and stimuli, etc) is used to break down mental barriers and defenses to self exploration.
I would rather not go through acute pain and potential of injury for my spiritual path. This is more relevant being a computer programmer my body gets repetitive stress on a daily basis. and being in my 30s.
I will, in future seek courses\retreats which include Yoga Asanas to balance Sitting Meditation. Unless Yoga continues to help me in which case I might consider reapplying to a Goenka Vipassana course.
Vipassana Course as taught by S. N Goenka why it might be for you.
- It is one of the non-controversial spiritual path and it is free.
- You do not have acute pains or even better have a young body.
- You have difficultly starting some spiritual practice on your own.
At the core, it is kind of straight forward. You sit and meditate lots of hours for lots of days, insight happens.
It is free, donations are welcome at the end of the course. This compares well againsts the typical $100 per day at the other Ashrams such Sivaananda or Haridass ones.
I personally know or saw 55+ year old people doing the course and of many young ones being in utter pain. I believe the course is better handled if you do not have acute pains or even better have a young and healthy body.
A retreat, any retreat is a good way to get a boost, a jump start and if the general Buddhist philosophy appeals to you, give a try.
Few other things
- Retreats or meditation break\vacation are useful
- If I ever get the temptation to get tough and try it out, I will remember to sit at home for 2 days or I might just try something else equally tougher like climb Mt. Rainier.
- I found a disturbing trend is that some educational institutes (For example, MBA HR students at SCM HRD, Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development in Pune, India) are forcing their students to take the Vipassana course.
- Vipassana course did and still does has that feel of being able to provide a way to go to the other side (Spiritual, More knowledge, etc) and make quicker progress, it is in sheer hours, equivalent of many months of regular meditation.
- Do consider it when you are serious about a spiritual path. As I wrote earlier in Ideas to think consciously about your spiritual goals and evaluating spiritual paths, “Do not go knocking on doors you do not want opened or want to go through”.
They revitalize one’s path, resulting in progress and highlighting the benefits of a spiritual practice if one has been drifting.
Nipun wrote about such a group in Vipassana Day 2: Dharma Works. Excerpt: “Right then, the director of the college calls just as a routine check-up. He is furious to learn of the plans of these 17 students (to leave early); he blatantly informs them that they will be expelled from college if they return.” and “if they get expelled, not only will they lose their valuable admission here but they won’t be allowed to enter another business school elsewhere.”, though they do not agree with it “And everyone at the meditation center here is in full agreement that such a scenario should never ever happen again. Fear simply can’t be the motivation for meditation.”
On what to expect at a Vipasana Center and what to take
- Keep the items to take at a bare minimum, the place is rustic. You will not get a drawer or cupboard, so be ready to use your luggage bag as your cupboard.
- The beds are bunk beds with one of top accessible using a ladder.
- The toilets and bathrooms are rustic but more or less clean. The waterless ones in NorthWest Vipassana Center in Onalaska smelt pretty bad most of the time.
- a water bottle and a mug, it will save you trips.
- a meditation cushion, though they do have some and provide a thin one for all.
- a light shawl\throw for the temperature change.
- Consumables like Soap, ToothPaste, Sleeping bag, etc
- The food is excellent, it is modern vegetarian with lots of whole grains, vegetables, etc.
Last updated: 2nd June 2007.