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Buddhist Insights

Vipassana - Insight Meditation

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These are general guidelines for the practice of Vipassana Bhavana --- Insight Meditation.Vipassana means to see things as they really are. The Buddha taught this as a way to liberate us from all suffering. It is good practice to read through the following before meditating.
"Choose a suitable time:- early morning or evening is the best time for most people. Sitting twice for half an hour is better than sitting once for an hour. The optimum is to sit for two hours daily."

Resolve to set time aside for meditation.

Choose a suitable place: secluded and quiet.

Sit in a comfortable posture without leaning against anything. You can use a well-padded cushion or even a chair. Whatever posture you adopt, make sure that before you begin the meditation proper it fulfils these three conditions: comfort, a straight back and easy natural breathing. Lying down is not advisable since sleep comes too easily. Keeping the eyes gently closed fix your attention on the breathing process. Become aware of the breath as it passes over the upper lip or through the nose. Breath naturally, just watching the breath as it is. Don't try and control it or change it. Simply observe the rising and falling of the abdomen or the touch of the air in or around the nostrils as you breathe in and out.

When you feel your mind is somewhere steady, become aware of all passing sensations, feelings, emotions, images and thoughts that come into your attention. As with the breath, do not try to control, change or in any way interfere with the mind. Simply observe what comes into your attention. If your mind begins to wander a lot, just notice it and bring the mind gently back to the breath, staying there until you have regained your steadiness of observation. This bare attentiveness --- simply watching all that arise and passes away in our minds; this choice less awareness --- that does not control or manipulate the mind; this impartial observation --- that does not judge or question; this intuitive introspection --- fully experiencing each mental and bodily phenomenon as it really is, leads us to the realisation that our lives are impermanent and insubstantial --- anicca and anatta.

These insights will liberate us from all suffering - dukkha, and we shall come to experience the bliss of Nibbana - ultimate peace.
Remember to end any meditation period with sharing your merits and developing loving -metta towards

How meditation works
The practice of Vipassana Bhavana, sometimes called Insight Meditation works on two levels --- the psychological and the spiritual.
On the psychological level, it first helps us to come to terms with our negative mental states. By learning to look closely at our changes of mood and accepting them, we come to know our inner selves --- the angry, guilty, anxious, sad and depressed states of mind. It teaches us how to deal with them, being aware of them not by trying to escape from them, but accepting them as they really are. It means we don't develop them either and make things worse by allowing fantasy, day dreaming and thinking to get us caught up in these emotions.
Instead, by developing mindfulness and attention, we allow them to be themselves. We then experience for ourselves exactly what Buddha taught that just by observing and watching, these states of mind lose energy, fade away and over a period of time die out altogether.
In this way even deeply repressed subconscious feelings come up and fade away until we have purified the mind of all negative states. Gradually we begin to experience more and more the positive states of mind --- love and compassion, joy, harmony and peace. This had its effect on our relationships and daily life, making us happier people.

On the spiritual level, as this process of purifying the mind continues, with concentration and awareness, intuitive wisdom arises and begins to see the real nature of mind. If perceives and understands the basic characteristics of our human life --- its essential un-satisfactoriness, its ever-changing nature. The awareness continues to do this until, when the conditions are right, it penetrates into the absolute, beyond body and mind ---- the Nibbana, the Deathless.

This is a very brief outline of how the meditation works, but remember that when we meditate, we don't think about this, we just develop the watchfulness, the awareness. We look at what comes into the attention, not look for something.

In Conclusion
So there are two sides to the meditative life. The first is the daily practice of sitting meditation where we deal with inner person, purifying the mind. The second, meditation in action, where we deal with the outer person, the social person, is purifying our relationship to people, to our work and to the world at large. When we practice like this, the wisdom we gain in sitting meditation manifests as friendliness, compassion and joyfulness in daily life; and the inner peace expresses itself as harmony with the world.

Meditation and Daily Life
The practice of Vipassana - Insight Meditation

The practice of sitting meditation is a training to develop mindfulness. This training is like learning to play an instrument. It's no good practising the guitar all Sunday and leaving it for the rest of the week. You simply forget everything you've learnt and every Sunday you have to start all over again. So it is with meditation practice. It is the continuity of effort that eventually brings the instrument of the mind under control. Most teachers advise two times in the day. Once in the early morning to set the mind right for the day and once in the evening to clear the mind of the day's agitation and secure a restful sleep.

To begin with at least twenty minutes at one sitting is recommended. As a result, the mind will become clearer and less agitated so that work and other tasks are done more efficiently. Less energy is wasted on negative emotions, as these negative states of mind lose their power over us, our relationships become more harmonious. It all adds up to a longer and more energetic day and a life more calm and connected.
If you are determined to put this sort of effort into practice for a period of six months to see if it's all really true, by the end of that period you may very well find, as so many others have done, that it really does work.
It is also a great help to spend the occasional weekend on a course. It helps to boost resolution and energy. And if once a year you can find time to do a week's course, this would help to deepen your practice. In this way steady progress in the meditative life is assured.

Meditation in Action
It is important to keep reminding ourselves that sitting meditation is only training. We have to take that alert and aware mind into ordinary life. We have to become more and more mindful of how we react to people, to different situations, and how others react to us. We have to come more and more aware of our effort upon the world and the world's effect upon us. The Buddha asked us to practice the four Efforts (Right Effort of the Noble Eightfold Path).

Whatever is unwholesome or negative in our minds, we should try to undermine and root out, we shouldn't act upon it, and we should guard against allowing any new unwholesome or negative habits to develop.

Whatever is wholesome and positive in our minds, we should try and develop. We should encourage ourselves to develop new habits that are beneficial to us and to others. In this way, we slowly re-condition our minds away from the negative to the positive, from the unwholesome to the wholesome, from darkness to light.

Another way of understanding meditation in action is to develop moment to moment awareness of everything we do, to try and do everything deliberately. Even when drinking a cup of tea, we shouldn't allow the mind to wander off thinking, dreaming and worrying. If there is something to really think about or worry about, then set the mind to the problem deliberately until a solution or temporary answer has been found. Then drink the tea!

In this way, because the mind is only doing one thing at a time, it remains calmer. In this mode, it thinks more clearly and efficiently. This is the sort of mindfulness the Buddha asked us to cultivate within all our daily activities.
Remember - this is the same mind that also penetrates with insight into Nibbana.

Sila (morality) is the beginning and the refuse,
Sila (morality) is the mother of all good.
It is the foremost of all good conditions.
Therefore, purify your Sila (morality).
The Buddha


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