Sri Satyanarayanji Goenka was born in Mandalay, Myanmar in1924. Although he topped the list of all successful candidates in thewhole of Myanmar in the tenth class he could not continue hisstudies further because of financial constraints of his family. At avery early age he set up many commercial and industrial institutionsand earned fabulous wealth. He also established many social andcultural centres. Because of tension he became a victim of migraine,which could not be cured by doctors of Myanmar and of othercountries in the world. Then some one suggested him to take acourse of Vipassana. Vipassana has done well not only to him but ithas also been benefiting many others.
He learned Vipassana from Sayagyi U Ba Khin in 1955. Sitting atthe feet of his teacher he practices it for fourteen years He alsostudied the words of the Buddha during this period. He came to Indiain 1969 and conducted the first vipassana course in Mumbai. Afterthat a series of courses were held. In 1976 the first residentialcourse of vipassana was held in Igatpuri and the first centre ofvipassana was established here. Up till now 167 centres have beenestablished all over the world. New centres also are coming up. Atthese centres 1200 trained teachers teach vipassana in 59languages of the world. Not only ten- day courses are conducted atthese centres but also at some centres 20-day, 30-day, 45-day and60-day courses are conducted. All courses are free of charge. Theexpenses on food and accommodation etc. are met by the self-willedDana given by those who benefited from the course. Seeing itsbenevolent nature vipassana courses are held not only for theinmates of jails and school children in the world but also for policepersonnels, judges, government officers etc.
Despite the greater availability of meditation courses in re-cent times, the term Vipassana meditation and Its potentialremain largely unknown in the West. This book, featuringaccounts by practitioners leading everyday lives, aims tomake Vipassana both better known and more clearly. under-stood.
Two decades back, I had the good fortune to learn thetechnique of Vipassana directly from S.N. Goenka, a modern lay meditation master In a tradition dating back to thetime of the Buddha, Since then, like countless others, I havecome to appreciate what a priceless gift Vipassana is. I knowthrough my own experience, personally and professionally,that the benefits I have received from this meditation practice today are indeed enormous. I am profoundly indebted to Mr. Goenka, whose teaching suffuses this book, and whois a tireless and exemplary ambassador for Vipassana aroundthe globe.
Realising Change has been five years in the making.Many people worldwide have generously given their time,energy and skill to helping the Project come to fruition. Iam particularly grateful to the dozens of meditators—students and teachers—who submitted stories about their ownexperience of Vipassana. It has only been possible to includea sample here. In making this compilation, I have also beenfortunate to have a wealth of existing source material in different media to draw upon: the Vipassana Research Institute(India) and Partyatti (USA) and their authors for an extensive list of books, articles and seminar papers; Karuna Films, Film-makers David Donnentield, Michael Norton and GeraldFrape and transcribers for scripts and camera interviews; Michael Green and Kirk Brown for photographic images;Paul Fleischman for permission to extract from CultivatingInner Peace.
My job has been more anthologist, than originator—to weave personal narratives into a straightforward accountof Vipassana meditation and its relevance to contemporary,life. Special thanks to editors Rick Crutcher ot Pariyatti andto Bill Hart for their perceptive comments, suggestions andpatient guidance. By repeatedly driving us back to the basics their advice undoubtedly improved the text. Thanks too due to the U.K. Vipassana Trust for invaluable access tostaff and facilities at the Hereford meditation centre.
Friends Kirk and Reinette Brown and my wife Shelinaalso read everything and were unfailingly encouraging—theideal support team.
Vipassana has been a central part of my lite for thepast twenty-four years and the text naturally reflects myown experience and understanding, both as a meditator andin my role as an assistant teacher. Where there are short-comings, they are mine alone and no reflection on theteaching, which is flawless.
Deepest thanks to all who have contributed to thisjoyful work. May its merits be shared with every one ofthem.
Where to now?
Hurricane-force changes characterise the times. Foreverraising or dashing our fortunes, they test us to the limit. Isthere shelter in the storm? The world won’t stop to let usoff, so what to do and which route to go? Do we bend orbreak? Vipassana is a practice of experiencing change—faceto face with full understanding—moment by momentthroughout our days. By realising change—face to face withfull understanding—we can be doers rather than done-tos.The aim of this book is to introduce Vipassana meditationas a tried and tested way of solving our everyday problems.
The book 1s written both as celebration and invitation;a celebration of a living tradition of meditation which is beingpractised around the world today, positively transformingpeople’s lives in great ways and small, as it has unfailinglyfor over two thousand years; an invitation to journey together into a fascinating realm of feeling, thought and action.
Vipassana is an ancient meditation technique of India.The Buddha discovered it, attained full enlightenment using it and made it the essence of his teaching, which spreadthroughout the Indian sub-continent and then on to neighbouring countries. For five hundred years Vipassana flourished in India but then eventually it became pollutedand was lost there.
However in Burma (now Myanmar) a chain of devotedteachers maintained the theory and the practice of the technique in its original form over the centuries. Sayagyi U BaKhin, a respected lay meditation teacher and high government official, was the person directly responsible for relaunching Vipassana in the modern era. At his centre inRangoon he taught foreigners as well as native Burmese.Amongst his closest students was S.N. Goenka, a Burmesebusinessman of Indian origin whose family had settled inMyanmar some generations before. In 1969, after fourteenyears studying meditation and assisting his teacher, MrGoenka returned to India. The mission entrusted to him by U Ba Khin was to take Vipassana back to its birthplace, theland of the Buddha, and from there to spread it around theworld. Accordingly Mr Goenka started to give courses 1nVipassana, first in India and then abroad. In time, meditation centres exclusively devoted to the teaching wereestablished.
Although Vipassana has its origin in India and has beenpreserved in the Buddhist tradition, it contains nothing of asectarian nature and can be accepted and applied by peopleof any background. In the West people often feel uneasy atthe mention of meditation. Various negative associations aremade: with ''cults''; with ''other religions''; with ''mysticism''.In sum, people often feel about meditation, ''This is not forus''. By its progress over the past thirty years Vipassana hasshown how unfounded these anxieties are. The approach ispractical, rational and scientific—an objective investigation _of our own minds and bodies, free from any ritual or blindbelief. Members of all religions and none, coming from everypart of the world and every walk of life, are successfully —practising Vipassana. This should come as no surprise. Ourproblems are universal and the solution must likewise beuniversal. Now, as in the past, East and West are ultimatelyOne. Tangible evidence of the technique’s effectiveness 1soffered here in anecdote and research. Through the practiceof Vipassana and across all cultural boundaries, we will seehow individuals are not only developing their own potential as human beings but are able to make a. greatercontribution to society as a whole.
The invitation, dear reader, is this. You’ll find an out-line description of the technique in these pages so that youknow what’s involved. However the book is not a do-it-yourself meditation manual and shouldn’t be used as such.There’s no substitute for learning Vipassana by your ownpersonal experience. For this you need to undertake a ten-day course with an authorised teacher in a supportiveenvironment. These courses are designed so that you can.discover first-hand how to meditate and get the best results.
Alongside the account of the technique is a sampling ofthe voices of meditators from different communities: youngand old, female and male, simple and sophisticated. Somecontributors’ names have been altered by request. Each hashis or her own story—how they came to Vipassana, whatthey’ve learned, the struggles, the gains; all humanity at thewater’s edge, finding common refreshment in a practice focused on peace, happiness, compassion and loving kindness.
This is the terrain we’ll be travelling.
The book is arranged in three parts:
Section A: ''Vipassana—Meditating on Change'' looksat the impact of change on our lives today, what Vipassana meditation is and what happens on a ten-daycourse.
Section B: ''Vipassana—Changing Everyday Life'' de-scribes the various ways that individuals andorganisations are applying the teaching in everydaysituations, at home, with friends and in settings suchas education, business and administration, social re-form and health.
Appendices provide information for those wanting tofind out more about Vipassana and how to set aboutjoining a course.
May what you read here give encouragement and direction to your own search for happiness and truth.
**Contents and Sample Pages**