Vipassana meditation is at the heart of the Theravada tradition.
It is not a devotional practice, but is a technique that allows us to investigate our own body and our own mind, with the goal of freeing us from an erroneous view of reality. We think that there is a fixed « I » that lives forever, with which we identify ourselves and that will continue after death, but life is essentially characterised by change; nothing lasts, nothing persists, all is in a state of flux. There is not one stable element in us. The more we practise, the more we understand this; the more we understand this, the less we suffer.
To practise vipassana meditation is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha that involves morality, concentration and wisdom.
Noble Eightfold Path.
– SILA, ethical conduct. This consists of at least the five precepts that all practitioners must endeavour to abide by: do not kill, do not steal, do not engage in sexual misconduct, do not lie and do not take intoxicants.
– SAMADHI, concentration. This involves controlling the mind through focused attention. As long as the mind is concentrated, mental impurities do not come and disturb it.
– PAÑÑA, wisdom. This involves the uprooting of our “latent dispositions” and frees us from habits that have accumulated deep in the mind since time immemorial.
Vipassana is taught in many different ways, but these methods all share the same goal: the development of attention and wisdom.
As far as we are concerned, we use the method of the late Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw
of Burma. In an intensive retreat, the meditator practices in three ways: in a sitting position, whilst walking and in daily activities. He will also be asked to respect eight moral precepts and to maintain the Noble Silence throughout the course. The meditator is also expected to maintain a Noble Silence during the retreat.
In the sitting position, the meditator must direct his or her attention towards everything that manifests itself in a prevalent manner, beginning with the movements of rising and falling of the abdomen. After one hour of meditating in this position, the meditator practises attentive walking for another hour.
As regards daily activities, the meditator must behave in a slow and considered way throughout the day and carefully observe everything that occurs within him at each instant. The meditator is supported in his or her efforts by daily lessons on the Dhamma and by interviews with a meditation master.