Students wishing to learn Vipassana meditation undergo a minimum ten-day course, during which time they take precepts not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to speak lies, and to refrain from intoxicants. The rate of progress of a student depends solely on his own paramis (previously acquired merits), and on the operation of five elements of effort—faith, health, sincerity, energy, and wisdom.
S N Goenka was authorised to teach Vipassana meditation by the respected Vipassana teacher of Burma, Sayagyi U Ba Khin. With more and more people practicing Vipassana, both the patipatti and pariyatti aspects of the Buddha’s teaching are gaining prominence.
Vipassana is an ancient meditation technique that was taught by Gautama Buddha thousands of years ago.
The first step you need to take while practicing Vipassana is to sit down on a chair or the ground. While you are scanning every area of your body, make sure you are not jumping from one are to the other as every single part of your body does not respond or reciprocate the same way.
While 10 days without technology, human communication or any stimuli may seem like a prison sentence rather than a retreat, for the truly dedicated the reward significantly outweighs the sacrifice.
Despite the suggestive tranquillity of the Dhamma Bhumi centre, situated in the majestic Blue Mountains setting of Blackheath, New South Wales, students of Vipassana are not here for an effortless weekend’s respite from household chores and day jobs; this practice is hard-core, and certainly not comparable to your weekly yogalates class. Whilst the practice is tough, physically challenging and, at times, evokes strong emotions, students don’t go entirely without pleasures. To find out more about Vipassana or to find a location near you, go to Vipassana Meditation Centre.
As for costs of board, lodging, and other minor expenses, these are met by the donations of grateful students of past courses who have experienced the benefits of Vipassana, and who wish to give others an opportunity to experience them. Born in Burma of Indian heritage, and well established as a businessman and householder, S.N.
Goenka has also helped to establish the Vipassana Research Institute at Igatpuri, to help make the pariyatti teachings of the Buddha available to the public.
Mr Goenka stresses the practical and non-sectarian nature of the teaching and its relevance to householders as well as renunciates.
There are some areas where you might get simple sensations and in some others, it might get stronger.
Vipassana-convert Ashley Harrigan shares with us her 10-day journey at the picturesque Dhamma Bhumi centre, a Vipasanna retreat catering to both novice and dedicated devotees alike.


Slipping out of bed and into shoes and a coat, I silently make my way along the path towards the meditation hall behind a procession of students in pashminas. Classic Australian pastel hues of galah pink and desert orange begin to streak the surrounding valley on sunrise. Noble silence, 100 hours of meditation and 4am wake up calls over 10 days is no easy feat, yet this does not deter those seeking a shift in consciousness. According to Dr Ayyar of the Vipassana Research Institute, deprivation of stimuli cultivates the perfect environment for Vipassana to take place.
It does not rely on pleasing visual stimuli or encouraging mantras; the focus is solely on breath and bodily sensations, whilst exercising a perfect balance of awareness and equanimity. Students are taught to observe their sensations over long periods of time and learn to acknowledge pain and pleasure as impermanent. When the Vipassana started I felt like my skin was crawling with ants, the tingling endless; this a sure sign my awareness was yards ahead of my equanimity. Each day, a short hot shower can be sheer delight, and a kangaroo sighting a thrilling sign of life.
In turn, having completed a course, if one feels benefited by it and would like others also to benefit from the practice of Vipassana, he or she may give a donation for future courses. The only proper way to learn Vipassana is to do a ten-day course with Mr S N Goenka or any of his authorised assistants. Goenka did his first course under Sayagyi in 1955 at the International Meditation Centre in Rangoon.
Here was a scientific method, a practical technique that eradicates suffering and purifies the mind. He has also appointed several hundred assistant teachers to help conduct courses around the world. The Institute is publishing the entire Pali Tipitaka along with its commentaries and sub-commentaries, in Devanagari script.
He emphasises that Vipassana meditation does not encourage people to withdraw from society, but rather teaches them to face the ups and downs of life in a calm and balanced way. You can always encourage them to join a meditation class or course where they will receive proper guidance and learn the techniques well. Gravel crunching under foot is one of few subtle reminders of our collective reverberation on the earth during this 10-day Vipassana meditation course, over which noble silence is maintained.


Without conversations, eye contact, the warmth of human connection and other stimuli, an inordinate amount of time outside of meditation hours is spent observing nature. Once armed with acute awareness, developed over the first three days of breath observation, the technique of Vipassana is introduced and awareness of bodily sensations is heightened well beyond what is achievable in routine daily living. Eventually, through focused practice I learned to observe the sensation objectively and recognise its impermanence.
This kind of meditation is definitely not some kind of religion; it can be used by anybody and everybody.
If you were to steal a glance at other students in the dining quarters (strictly forbidden), you’d see smiling, contentment and the warmth of gratitude.
For three days the student develops concentration of the mind by observing the inhalation and exhalation of the breath (Anapana). Goenka continued to practice (patipatti) and study the texts (pariyatti) for the next 14 years under the guidance of Sayagyi. Since then he has been giving hundreds of courses to people from different backgrounds and nationalities.
In addition, the Institute is exploring references to Vipassana in various ancient texts, and it is conducting scientific research on the present applications and benefits of Vipassana in different fields of human development. During the ensuing days the student develops awareness and equanimity towards the various sensations experienced within the framework of the body and is shown how to penetrate his entire physical and mental makeup with the clarity of insight (Vipassana). It has two different stages, for the beginner and the advanced and because of its benefits; Vipassana has become one of the most popular meditation techniques in the world today. The basic understanding and outline of Vipassana has been described in this particular article. The course closes on the last day with the practice of loving kindness meditation (metta bhavana), the sharing of the purity developed during the course with all beings.



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