Ten Days of Solitude (Part 1) – Vipassana Meditation

The Mountains Surrounding the Center

I recently attended and completed my first 10-day Vipassana meditation course from June 23rd to July 4th.   The facility, Dhamma Mandala Vipassana Center, is located about 30 minutes outside of the center of Mandalay in Yetagun Hill and surrounded by beautiful mountainous landscapes and friendly monkeys.

I’ve been wanting to take a meditation course for quite a while, however I did not want the course to focus on trying to convert one to Buddhism or Hinduism etc.   I wanted the course to be neutral, one that openly welcomed and accepted people from all walks of faith.  On May 26th, one of the workers at a guest house where I stayed, in Mawlamyine, handed me a pamphlet that explained the practice of Vipassana meditation.  However, instead of reading it, at that moment, I shoved it into my bag with the intent of engaging in a little reading later that day.  Well, my later turned into two weeks or more when I arrived in Mandalay.

A few days after my arrival, I met a girl from Brazil and as we were conversing she mentioned how she had just completed a 10-day meditation course in Thailand.  At that point, I remembered the paper stuffed in my bag and I said, “oh yeah, let me read that pamphlet”.  After reading the pamphlet, I realized that it was exactly what I was looking for.  On the next day, I began the process of inquiring about my enrollment.  After a few days of trying to figure out my visa situation and ensure I wouldn’t be penalized more than what my pockets could afford, once I left the country, I eventually found a way to make it happen.

Prior to signing up for the course, I did not know what to expect in terms of the results.  I was, however, hoping to find practical application that would help me to understand the WHY behind the struggles and negative emotions that have lingered in my life for many years.  Yes, I believe in Christ and this experience was not about leaving HIM out of the picture.  In fact, this was the part where I continued to learn how to “work out my own soul salvation”. 😉

Continue to read below for more details about Vipassana and what the course required.
Or skip directly to my experience by clicking here.

What is Vipassana?

“Vipassana is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques.  Long lost to humanity, it was rediscovered by Gotama the Buddha more than 2,500 years ago.  The technique has been taught by the late S.N. Goenka since 1969, after being under the instruction of his teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin for fourteen years.

The word Vipassana means seeing things as they are and not what they were or what you would like them to be.  It’s the process of self- purification by self-observation.  One begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate the mind.  With a sharpened awareness one proceeds to observe the changing nature of the body and mind and experiences the universal truths of impermanence (The Law of Nature), suffering and egolessness.  This truth-realization by direct experience is the process of purification.”

To Sum It Up Vipassana is:

  • a technique that will eradicate suffering.
  • a method of mental purification which allows one to face life’s tensions and problems in a calm, balanced way.
  • an art of living that one can use to make positive contributions to society.

Vipassana is not:

  • a rite or ritual based on blind faith.
  • neither intellectual or philosophical entertainment.
  • a rest cure, a holiday or an opportunity for socializing.
  • an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

“The foundation, which is built during the first three days, of the practice is sīla — moral conduct.  One may not necessarily harm others, but harm is done to oneself by generating defilement in the mind.  Sīla provides a basis for the development of samādhi — concentration of mind, to suppress the defilement that has arisen.  When the defilement of the mind is suppressed it remains in the unconscious and multiplies, ultimately continuing to cause self harm if not eliminated.  Therefore purification of the mind is needed and this is achieved through the third step called paññā — the wisdom of insight.  This step does not give one permission to act on or suppress the defilement, but instead it allows ones defilement to arise for the sake of being eradicated.  When the defilement is eradicated, the mind is freed from impurities.  And when the mind has been purified, then without any effort one abstains from actions that harms self and others, since by nature a pure mind is full of goodwill and compassion for others.”

Before You Go

Before considering to enroll in a 10-day Vipassana mediation course you must first agree to undertake the following five precepts for the duration of the course:

  1. abstain from killing any being (including insects)
  2. abstain from stealing
  3. abstain from all sexual activity
  4. abstain from telling lies
  5. abstain from all intoxicants

There was an additional list of things that we were requested to do and not to do, such as:

  • be willing to accept and fully comply with the teaching, throughout the course, with the teacher’s guidance and instructions.
  • discontinue the practice of any other techniques and forms of worship during the 10 days – reciting mantras, singing and dancing, fasting, burning incense, prayer, religious ceremony etc.
  • observe noble silence – silence of body, speech and mind until the morning of the last full day.
  • men and Women were to maintain complete segregation at all times.
  • remain dressed in modest apparel at all times.
  • attend all scheduled meditation sessions unless otherwise instructed by the teacher.
  • remain in the course boundaries, no contact with the outside world, no reading, writing or listening to any music, etc.

Whew, can you begin to feel how rigid the ten days were for all 133 students, including twelve foreigners?  Even the late S.N. Goenka joked, during one of our evening discourse sessions, about how this 10-day experience can be compared to being in a prison.

What Does It Cost?

Vipassana centers around the world are funded by the donations made from students that have completed the course and felt that it was beneficial to them in any way shape or form.  The center provides you with accommodation (including blanket, pillow and mosquito net), food and all the things you will need for the course.  Click here for more details and to find a course near you.

Continue to My Experience

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