Thursday, July 30, 2015
The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation
Everyone seeks peace and harmony, because these are what we lack in our lives. From time to time we all experience agitation, irritation, disharmony, suffering; and when one suffers from agitation, one does not keep this misery limited to oneself. One keeps distributing it to others as well. The agitation permeates the atmosphere around the miserable person. Everyone who comes into contact with him also becomes irritated, agitated. Certainly this is not the proper way to live.One ought to live at peace with oneself, and at peace with all others. After all, a human being is a social being. He has to live in society--to live and deal with others. How are we to live peacefully? How are we to remain harmonious with ourselves, and to maintain peace and harmony around us, so that others can also live peacefully and harmoniously?
One is agitated. To come out of the agitation, one has to know the basic reason for it, the cause of the suffering. If one investigates the problem, it will become clear that whenever one starts generating any negativity or defilement in the mind, one is bound to become agitated. A negativity in the mind, a mental defilement or impurity, cannot exist with peace and harmony.
How does one start generating negativity? Again, by investigating, it becomes clear. I become very unhappy when I find someone behaving in a way which I don't like, when I find something happening which I don't like. Unwanted things happen and I create tension within myself. Wanted things do not happen, some obstacles come in the way, and again I create tension within myself; I start tying knots within myself. And throughout life, unwanted things keep on happening, wanted things may or may not happen, and this process or reaction, of tying knots--Gordian knots--makes the entire mental and physical structure so tense, so full of negativity, that life becomes miserable.
Now one way to solve the problem is to arrange that nothing unwanted happens in my life and that everything keeps on happening exactly as I desire. i must develop such power, or somebody else must have the power and must come to my aid when I request him, that unwanted things do not happen and that everything I want happens. But this is not possible. There is no one in the world whose desires are always fulfilled, in whose life everything happens according to his wishes, without anything unwanted happening. Things keep on occurring that are contrary to our desires and wishes. So the question arises, how am I not to react blindly in the face of these things which I don't like? How not to create tension? How to remain peaceful and harmonious?
In India as well as in other countries, wise saintly persons of the past studied this problem--the problem of human suffering--and found a solution: if something unwanted happens and one starts to react by generating anger, fear or any negativity, then as soon as possible one should divert one's attention to something else. For example, get up, take a glass of water, start drinking--your anger will not multiply and you'll be coming out of anger. Or start counting: one, two, three, four. Or start repeating a word, or a phrase, or some mantra, perhaps the name of a deity or saintly person in whom you have devotion; the mind is diverted, and to some extent, you'll be out of the negativity, out of anger.
This solution was helpful: it worked. It still works. Practicing this, the mind feels free from agitation. In fact, however, the solution works only at the conscious level. Actually, by diverting the attention, one pushes the negativity deep into the unconscious, and on this level one continues to generate and multiply the same defilements. At the surface level there is a layer of peace and harmony, but in the depths of the mind there is a sleeping volcano of suppressed negativity which sooner or later will explode in violent eruption.
Other explorers of inner truth went still further in their search; and by experiencing the reality of mind and matter within themselves they recognized that diverting the attention is only running away from the problem. Escape is no solution: one must face the problem. Whenever a negativity arises in the mind, just observe it, face it. As soon as one starts observing any mental defilement, it begins to lose strength. Slowly it withers away and is uprooted.
A good solution: it avoids both extremes--suppression and free license. Keeping the negativity in the unconscious will not eradicate it; and allowing it to manifest in physical or vocal action will only create more problems. But if one just observes, then the defilement passes away, and one has eradicated that negativity, one is freed from the defilement.
This sounds wonderful, but is it really practical? For an average person, is it easy to face the defilement? When anger arises, it overpowers us so quickly that we don't even notice. Then overpowered by anger, we commit certain actions physically or vocally which are harmful to us and to others. Later, when the anger has passed, we start crying and repenting, begging pardon from this or that person or from God: 'Oh, I made a mistake, please excuse me!' But the next time we are in a similar situation, we again react in the same way. All that repenting does not help at all.
The difficulty is that I am not aware when a defilement starts. It begins deep in the unconscious level of the mind, and by the time it reaches the conscious level, it has gained so much strength that it overwhelms me, and I cannot observe it.
Then I must keep a private secretary with me, so that whenever anger starts, he says, 'Look master, anger is starting!' Since I cannot know when this anger will start, I must have three private secretaries for three shifts, around the clock! Suppose I can afford that, and the anger starts to arise. At once my secretary tells me, 'Oh, master, look--anger has started!' The first thing I will do is slap and abuse him: 'You fool! Do you think you are paid to teach me?' I am so overpowered by anger that no good advise will help.
Even supposing wisdom prevails and I do not slap him. Instead I say, 'Thank you very much. Now I must sit down and observe my anger.' Yet it is possible? As soon as I close my eyes and try to observe the anger, immediately the object of anger come into my mind--the person or incident because of which I become angry. Then I am not observing the anger itself. I am merely observing the external stimulus of the emotion. This will only serve to multiply the anger; this is no solution. It is very difficult to observe any abstract negativity, abstract emotion, divorced from the external object which aroused it.
However, one who reached the ultimate truth found a real solution. He discovered that whenever any defilement arises in the mind, simultaneously two things start happening at the physical level. One is that the breath loses its normal rhythm. We start breathing hard whenever a negativity comes into the mind. This is easy to observe. At subtler level, some kind of biochemical reaction starts within the body--some sensation. Every defilement will generate one sensation or another inside, in one part of the body or another.
This is a practical solution. An ordinary person cannot observe abstract defilements of the mind--abstract fear, anger, or passion. But with proper training and practice, it is very easy to observe respiration and bodily sensations--both of which are directly related to the mental defilements.
Respiration and sensation will help me in two ways. Firstly, they will be like my private secretaries. As soon as a defilement starts in my mind, my breath will lose its normality; it will start shouting, 'Look, something has gone wrong!' I cannot slap my breath; I have to accept the warning. Similarly the sensations tell me that something has gone wrong. Then having been warned, I start observing my respiration, my sensation, and I find very quickly that the defilement passes away.
This mental-physical phenomenon is like a coin with two sides. On the one side are whatever thoughts or emotions are arising in the mind. One the other side are the respiration and sensations in the body. Any thought or emotion, any mental defilement, manifests itself in the breath and the sensation of that moment. Thus, by observing the respiration or the sensation, I am in fact observing the mental defilement. Instead of running away from the problem, I am facing reality as it is. Then I shall find that the defilement loses its strength: it can no longer overpower me as it did in the past. If I persist, the defilement eventually disappears altogether, and I remain peaceful and happy.
In this way, the techniques of self-observation shows us reality in its two aspects, inner and outer. Previously, one always looked with open eyes, missing the inner truth. I always looked outside for the cause of my unhappiness; I always blamed and tried to change the reality outside. Being ignorant of the inner reality, I never understood that the cause of suffering lies within, in my own blind reactions toward pleasant and unpleasant sensations.
Now, with training, I can see the other side of the coin. I can be aware of my breathing and also of what is happening inside me. Whatever it is, breath or sensation, I learn just to observe it, without losing the balance of the mind. I stop reacting, stop multiplying my misery. Instead, I allow the defilement to manifest and pass away.
The more one practices this technique, the more quickly one will find one will come out of negativity. Gradually the mind becomes freed of the defilements; it becomes pure. A pure mind is always full of love--selfless love for all others; full of compassion for the failings and sufferings of others; full of joy at their success and happiness; full of equanimity in the face of any situation.
When one reaches this stage, the entire pattern of one's life starts changing. It is no longer possible to do anything vocally or physically which will disturb the peace and happiness of others. Instead, the balanced mind not only becomes peaceful in itself, but it helps others also to become peaceful. The atmosphere surrounding such a person will become permeated with peace and harmony, and this will start affecting others too.
By learning to remain balanced in the face of everything one experiences inside, one develops detachment towards all that one encounters in external situations as well. However, this detachment is not escapism or indifference to the problems of the world. A Vipassana meditator becomes more sensitive to the sufferings of others, and does his utmost to relieve their suffering in whatever way he can--not with any agitation but with a mind full of love, compassion and equanimity. He learns holy indifference--how to be fully committed, fully involved in helping others, while at the same time maintaining the balance of his mind. In this way he remains peaceful and happy, while working for the peace and happiness of others.
This is what the Buddha taught; an art of living. He never established or taught any religion, any 'ism'. He never instructed his followers to practice any rites or rituals, any blind or empty formalities. Instead, he taught just to observe nature as it is, by observing reality inside. Out of ignorance, one keeps reacting in a way which is harmful to oneself and to others. But when wisdom arises--the wisdom of observing the reality as it is--one come out of this habit of reaction. When one ceases to react blindly, then one is capable of real action--action proceeding from a balanced mind, a mind which sees and understands the truth. Such action can only be positive, creative, helpful to oneself and to others.
What is necessary, then, is to 'know thyself'--advice which every wise person has given. One must know oneself not just at the intellectual level, the level of ideas and theories. Nor does this mean to know just at the emotional or devotional level, simply accepting blindly what one has heard or read. Such knowledge is not enough. Rather one must know realty at the actual level. One must experience directly the reality of this mental-physical phenomenon. This alone is what will help us to come out of defilements, out of suffering.
This direct experience of one's own reality, this techniques of self-observation, is what is called 'Vipassana' meditation. In the language of India in the time of the Buddha, passana meant seeing with open eyes, in the ordinary way; but Vipassana is observing things as they really are, not just as they seem to be. Apparent truth has to be penetrated, until one reaches the ultimate truth of the entire mental and physical structure. When one experiences this truth, then one learns to stop reacting blindly, to stop creating defilements--and naturally the old defilements gradually are eradicated. One come out of all the misery and experiences happiness.
There are three steps to the training which is given in a Vipassana meditation course Firstly, one must abstain from any action, physical or vocal, which disturbs the peace and harmony of others. One cannot work to liberate oneself from defilements in the mind while at the same time one continues to perform deeds of body and speech which only multiply those defilements. Therefore, a code of morality is the essential first step of the practice. One undertakes not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to tell lies, and not to use intoxicants. By abstaining from such action, one allows the mind to quiet down sufficiently so that it can proceed with the task at hand.
The next step is to develop some mastery over this wild mind, by training it to remain fixed on a single object: the breath. One tries to keep one's attention for as long as possible on the respiration. This is not a breathing exercise: one does not regulate the breath. Instead one observes natural respiration as it is, as it comes in, as it goes out. In this way one further calms the mind so that it is no longer overpowered by violent negativities. At the same time, one is concentrating the mind, making it sharp and penetrating, capable of the work of insight.
These first two steps of living a moral life and controlling the mind are very necessary and beneficial in themselves; but they will lead to self-repression, unless one takes the third step - purifying the mind of defilements by developing insight into one's own nature. This is Vipassana: experiencing one's own reality, by the systematic and dispassionate observation of the ever-changing mind-matter phenomenon manifesting itself as sensation within oneself. This is the culmination of the teaching of the Buddha: self-purification by self-observation.
This can be practiced by one and all. Everyone faces the problem of suffering. it is a universal disease which requires a universal remedy--not a sectarian one. When one suffers from anger, it is not a Buddhist anger, Hindu anger, or Christian anger. Anger is anger. When one become agitated as a result of this anger, this agitation is not Christian, or Hindu, or Buddhist. The malady is universal. The remedy must also be universal.
Vipassana is such a remedy. No one will object to a code of living which respects the peace and harmony of others. No one will object to developing control over the mind. No one will object to developing insight into one's own reality, by which it is possible to free the mind of negativities. Vipassana is a universal path.
Observing reality as it is by observing the truth inside--this is knowing oneself at the actual, experiential level. As one practices, one keeps coming out of the misery of defilements. From the gross, external, apparent truth, one penetrates to the ultimate truth of mind and matter. Then one transcends that, and experiences a truth which is beyond mind and matter, beyond time and space, beyond the conditioned field of relativity: the truth of total liberation from all defilements, all impurities, all suffering. Whatever name one gives this ultimate truth, is irrelevant; it is the final goal of everyone.
May you all experience this ultimate truth. May all people come out of their defilements, their misery. May they enjoy real happiness, real peace, real harmony.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY
The above text is based upon a talk given by Mr. S.N. Goenka in Berne, Switzerland.
Published on Nov 6, 2012
Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. Vipassana meditation was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as an "Art of Living" .
The technique of " Vipassana Meditation " is taught at ten-day residential courses during which participants learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results.
Vipassana meditation is a way of self transformation through self observation. Vipassana meditation focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.
There are hundreds of Vipassana meditation centers all over the world, for more information visit http://www.dhamma.org/
About S.N. Goenka ( Vipassana Meditation Teacher )
Mr. Goenka is a teacher of Vipassana meditation in the tradition of the late Sayagyi U Ba Khin of Burma ( Myanmar ).
Although Indian by descent, Mr. Goenka was born and raised in Burma. While living in Burma he had the good fortune to come into contact with U Ba Khin, and to learn the technique of Vipassana from him. After receiving training from his teacher for fourteen years, Mr. Goenka settled in India and began teaching Vipassana in 1969. In a country still sharply divided by differences of caste and religion, the courses offered by Mr. Goenka have attracted thousands of people from every part of society. In addition, many people from countries around the world have come to join courses in Vipassana meditation.
Mr. Goenka has taught tens of thousands of people in more than 300 courses in India and in other countries, East and West. In 1982 he began to appoint assistant teachers to help him to meet the growing demand for courses. Meditation centres have been established under his guidance in India, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Nepal and other countries.
The technique which S. N.Goenka teaches represents a tradition that is traced back to the Buddha. The Buddha never taught a sectarian religion; he taught Dhamma - the way to liberation - which is universal. In the same tradition, Mr. Goenka's approach is totally non-sectarian. For this reason, his teaching has a profound appeal to people of all backgrounds, of every religion and no religion, and from every part of the world.
Mr. Goenka was the recepient one of the prestigious Padma Awards from the President of India for 2012. This award is the highest civilian award given by the Indian Government.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Vipassana Meditation In American Prisons
Background and Introduction
Public opinions and policies about incarceration in the United States are varied and contentious. Advocates of rehabilitation are perceived as naive and indulgent while proponents of more punitive measures are accused of being cynical and vindictive. Even those facilities that do view rehabilitation as a viable alternative or adjunct to punishment are often hesitant to try programming that falls outside of the kinds of interventions typically used in the West. However, there is almost universal agreement that the system as it is does not serve us well. On December 31, 2001, nearly two million prisoners were held in Federal or State prisons or in local jails. In all, nearly 6.6 million people in the United States were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole -- about one in every 32 adults. Although prison sentences have become increasingly severe, recidivism rates are alarmingly high -- about 67.5% within three years of release according to a study of almost 300,000 prisoners released in 1994 (U.S. Department of Justice). Vipassana has brought to the American correctional system a way out of the debate about how to administer change from the outside by giving directly to the inmate the responsibility and means to change from within. As of 2003, only a few correctional facilities in the U. S. have opened their doors to Vipassana, but these have created a strong foundation for the future. Following is an overview of the history of courses in the United States to date. Each course is described a little differently, to highlight different perspectives and experiences.
King County North Rehabilitation Facility, Seattle, Washington
The King County North Rehabilitation Facility (NRF) was the first correctional facility in North America to hold Vipassana courses in this tradition, and the only facility to hold ongoing courses. Already committed to rehabilitation as a form of enlightened self interest, NRF was a receptive site. Nonetheless, there were many concerns on the eve of NRF's first course in November of 1997. Recidivism rates are typically very high in jail populations, and cynicism among inmates and staff alike can be pervasive. Many in the institution lacked confidence that the inmates would be able to sustain ten continuous days of silence, long-hours in a sitting posture, and the rigorous course schedule. Moreover, the course would bring them into a different cultural milieu that some might find difficult and alienating. For those inmates with limited reading skills, even the routine course signage presented a barrier. One can only imagine what it was like for this first group of inmates as they gathered up their bedding and walked down the long hallway into the course area. At the end of the course, staff, inmates, and the families and friends of the 11 men who had completed the course gathered in the gymnasium to greet them. As the men filed in, the assembled inmates and staff stood and cheered. One felt that they cheered not just for the inmates who had completed the course, but for the possibility for change and hope that they represented.
From November 1997 to August 2002, a total of 20 courses were held at NRF at intervals of every three to four months. Courses were served by "Dhamma workers" (volunteer course teachers and assistants) from all over North America including several NRF staff members who had themselves taken courses. In all, 130 men and 61 women completed at least one course at NRF. Over time, pre-course orientation classes were introduced to familiarize interested inmates with course requirements and protocols. This greatly reduced barriers associated with illiteracy and learning disabilities, cultural and religious identification, and generalized feelings of distrust and doubt. Vipassana courses and daily meditation at NRF became a part of the institutional routine and an ongoing exercise in teamwork across all staff disciplines. The receptions on Day 11 were often attended by staff on their day off, including the head of security who always "just happened to be in the neighborhood."
Knowing the limits of anecdotal accounts, NRF personnel began to collect objective data on the effects of these courses. In 2002, the NRF Programs Manager (Dave Murphy) completed a Vipassana Recidivism Study which included data collected from courses 1-8. Final outcome results from this study revealed that approximately half (56%) of the inmates completing a Vipassana course at NRF returned to the King County Jail (KCJ) after two years, compared with 75% in a NRF General Population Study of 437 inmates. In other words, 3 out of 4 NRF inmates were re-incarcerated within two years, while only 2 out of 4 Vipassana inmates were reincarcerated. Moreover, the average number of bookings declined from 2.9 pre-Vipassana to 1.5 post Vipasssana/post-NRF release.
Using the encouraging indicators from the early stages of this study, and their experience studying meditation, alcohol problems and criminal conduct, a team of researchers at the University of Washington received funding in October 1998 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to conduct a two-year study of the effects of the NRF Vipassana courses on relapse, recidivism, psychosocial functioning and spirituality. The preliminary results of this study indicate that all study participants improved from their baseline measures but that Vipassana course completers had a significantly better outcome than the comparison group including reductions in drug use, anxiety, depression and hostility.
Additional information from this study will be released in the near future, but no further courses will be held at NRF. On November 1, 2002, the King County North Rehabilitation Facility closed its doors after 21 years as an alternate detention site. In the summer of 2002, as part of his North American Meditation Now tour, Mr. S. N. Goenka principal teacher in this tradition of Vipassana, came to NRF and addressed the assembly gathered on the last day of the last men's course to be held at NRF. Many former inmates who had taken their first Vipassana course at NRF returned to see Mr. Goenka and to thank him. Staff and inmates, even those who had never taken a course, appreciated the extraordinary nature of this event and found a shared sense of gratitude and optimism.
San Francisco Jail Course, Jail #7, San Bruno, California
The first ten day course at the San Francisco County Jail was held from January 25 - February 5, 2001. This was the second corrections facility and the first medium security jail in the U.S. to undertake a Vipassana course. The course started with 14 students, four full time Dhamma workers, and Sheriff's staff of one deputy and one sergeant, each having sat one ten-day course. The course was held in a small building next to the main jail, normally used as a computer learning lab for prisoners and staff offices. Staff moved out of their offices = for the creation of a Dhamma center with three dormitories for inmates, teacher and course assistants' quarters, and separate dining and walking areas. A deputy sheriff was assigned to a locked control room 24 hours a day to open and close doors and provide general security. Both sworn and civilian staff worked closely together in the planning and implementation of the program. Sheriff's staff stopped at nothing to make the course a success. The staff attitude was that these inmates were doing very hard work and the more support they got the better they could work.
The Dhamma community provided critical support by providing daily hot lunches to augment the jail food which was quite limited. Community Dhamma workers also provided much support in setting up the course site, bringing in things needed during the course, arranging for the end of course reception and for clean up.
When silence was broken the 13 students who completed the course expressed their gratitude to everyone involved. They described the technique of meditation, how it helped with their problems and how it can help make better choices for their lives.
The jail accommodated the inmates so that they could maintain their daily meditation practice and allowed established meditators from the community to come meditate with the inmates once a week. . The first week, all 13 meditators came to sit and discuss their experiences. They all felt that they had found a tool to help them in their lives. Most had used their new skills to handle difficult situations in a positive way and to avoid problems. One or two had slipped in their practice but were happy to learn that they could start again.
This first course was a very strong beginning and the Sheriff's staff was clearly impressed with the ability of inmates to learn and benefit from Vipassana. The staff seemed particularly impressed with the fact that the Dhamma community had no agenda other than to help inmates learn Vipassana meditation. Although by all accounts the course was a great success, no further courses have been planned at this time. The facility has faced some extraordinary challenges since that first course, but there is confidence that they will have additional courses in the future.
W.E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, Bessemer, Alabama
The first ten-day Vipassana course to be held in a U.S. state prison and a U.S. maximum-security facility was held January 14 - 25, 2002 for 20 inmates at the W.E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama, just southeast of Birmingham. There are approximately 1500 inmates at Donaldson, which also houses a death row. The W.E. Donaldson state prison is the highest security-level prison in Alabama and has a history of being Alabama's most violent and brutal prison. Once known as the West Jefferson State Prison, it is now named after a correctional officer who was stabbed to death several years back. Approximately half of the 20 inmates taking the course were under a life sentence, some with the possibility of parole, others without hope of parole. Most of them had been incarcerated for violent crimes and a number were in there for non-violent crimes such as robbery and drug trafficking. Among the students were two Imams (prayer leaders) of the prison inmate's Shiite and Sunni Muslim traditions as well as two devoted Gospel and Baptist followers.
The ten-day course was held in the prison's gymnasium, and several of the inmates who were enrolled for the course helped construct a makeshift Vipassana course site. Partitions made out of blue tarps strung on wires created divisions within the large gym space for a meditation hall, a dorm room, and a dining hall. The teacher and course assistants slept in an adjacent room that overlooked the gym that was locked down each night by the officer. They slept on mattresses on the concrete floor just like the inmates. There was an open toilet and sink for them that provided the basic requirements, but little privacy. Each night the correctional officer (CO) locked them in after the inmates had themselves retired. They were well aware that this was possibly the first time ever that "free world people" had entered a maximum security prison and been locked down with inmates for such a long period of time.
Three correctional officers, one of them a Vipassana meditator, took turns guarding the course site. The COs were amazed with what was going on before their eyes and their respect and admiration for the inmates grew as the days continued. They became important allies in protecting the silent and focused atmosphere. Vegetarian food was prepared a quarter mile away from the facility at a correctional staffing house. The food was shuttled to the facility, trolleyed through security gates and down long corridors each day to the gym. The correctional officers were intrigued by the vegetarian food being served to the inmates. Barriers were lowered, at least for a while, when the COs began to serve themselves food and sit down at the tables and eat with the inmates. When the weather turned cold, COs throughout the facility scrambled to find cardboard to block a drafty vent close to the students' beds. These correctional officers, who may well have used force on some of these inmates, were now supporting them with such care. During a particularly quiet group sitting one afternoon, an announcement crackled over the radio from the on-duty correctional officer during a routine head count..."West Gym reporting... 20 inmates, all meditating".
One can only guess at just how difficult it was for most of these students to face their past and present predicament. Yet, in spite of the enormous obstacles within and crude living conditions (one shower, two toilets and a sink were shared among the 20), there were few disciplinary problems and all 20 students completed the course demonstrating great determination and tenacity. At the end of the course, the inmates related their course experience with heartfelt respect and gratitude to an audience of about 20 other inmates and about 15 administrative and treatment staff present at a "graduation" ceremony. After the course, the administration provided the inmates with a designated room for daily practice and weekly "group sittings".
The second ten-day Vipassana meditation course at the Donaldson facility was held from May 5 - 16, 2002. Eighteen men started and 17 completed the course, one of them a returning student from the first course. Three inmates trained up as managing servers for the course. At the conclusion of the course, in May of 2002, Goenkaji visited the correctional facility as part of his North American Meditation Now Tour and concluded a group sitting attended by Vipassana students from both the prison courses. Mr. Goenka spoke to the men expressing how happy he was that they had taken the ten-day course and telling them that they had now a big responsibility to help others in the prison to purify their minds and to be an example to them. After meeting with prison managers, Mr. Goenka then gave a longer talk about Vipassana meditation to both groups of inmate students, DOC officials and Donaldson's administration as well as a group of 20 general population inmates interested in attending the next course.
The program was temporarily shut down from July 2002 until January 2006 when the Alabama DOC’s director of treatment persuaded a new commissioner, a new warden and one of the drug counselors at Donaldson to hold a 3-day course for 17 of the men who had previously participated. This course represents the hope for an ongoing program which is still in the planning stages. Donaldson inmates have the support of the prison administration for their daily practice. Meanwhile, another prison in Alabama, a facility for the aged and infirm, plans to hold Vipassana courses in 2007.
Pilgrims climbing Mount Hua Shan, Chin
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
I know the path.
I know the path. It is straight and narrow. It is like the edge of a sword. I rejoice to walk on it. I weep when I slip. God's word is: 'He who strives never perishes.' I have implicit faith in that promise. Though, therefore, from my weakness I fail a thousand times, I will not lose faith, but hope that I shall see the Light when the flesh has been brought under perfect subjection, as some day it must.
(YI, 17-6-1926, p215)
My soul refuses to be satisfied so long as it is a helpless witness of a single wrong or a single misery. But it is not possible for me, a weak, frail, miserable being, to mend every wrong or to hold myself free of blame for all the wrong I see.
The spirit in me pulls one way, the flesh in me pulls in the opposite direction. There is freedom from the action of these two forces, but that freedom is attainable only by slow and painful stages.
I cannot attain freedom by a mechanical refusal to act, but only by intelligent action in a detached manner. This struggle resolves itself into an incessant crucifixion of the flesh so that the spirit may become entirely free. (YI, 17-11-1921, p368)
Search for Truth
I am but a seeker after Truth. I claim to have found a way to it. I claim to be making a ceaseless effort to find it. But I admit that I have not yet found it. To find Truth completely is to realize oneself and one's destiny, i.e., to become perfect. I am painfully conscious of my imperfections, and therein lies all the strength I posses, because it is a rare thing for a man to know his own limitations.
If I was a perfect man, I own I should not feel the miseries of neighbors as I do. As a perfect man I should take note of them, prescribe a remedy, and compel adoption by the force of unchallengeable Truth in me. But as yet I only see as through a glass darkly and, therefore, have to carry conviction by slow and laborious processes, and then, too, not always with success.
That being so, I would be less than human if, with all my knowledge of avoidable misery pervading the land and of the sight of mere skeletons under the very shadow of the Lord of the Universe, I did not feel with and for all the suffering but dumb millions of India. (ibid, p377)
Trust in God
I am in the world feeling my way to light 'amid the encircling gloom'. I often err and miscalculate… My trust is solely in God. And I trust men only because I trust God. If I had no God to rely upon, I should be like Timon, a hater of my species. (YI, 4-12-1924, p398)
I will not be a traitor to God to please the whole world. (H, 18-2-1933, p4)
Whatever striking things I have done in life, I have not done prompted by reason but prompted by instinct, I would say, God. (H, 14-5-1938, p110)
I am a man of faith. My reliance is solely on God. One step is enough for me. The next step He will make clear to me when the time for it comes. (H, 20-10-1940, p330)
I have no secret methods. I know no diplomacy save that of truth. I have no weapon but non-violence. I may be unconsciously led astray for a while, but not for all time. (YI, 11-12-1924, p406)
My life has been an open book. I have no secrets and I encourage no secrets. (YI, 19-3-1931, p43)
I am but a poor struggling soul yearning to be wholly good-wholly truthful and wholly non-violent in thought, word and deed, but ever failing to reach the ideal which I know to be true. I admit it is a painful climb, but the pain of it is a positive pleasure for me. Each step upward makes me feel stronger and fit for the next. (YI, 9-4-1924, p126)
When I think of my littleness and my limitations on the one hand and of the expectations raised about me on the other, I become dazed for the moment, but I come to myself as soon as I realize that these expectations are a tribute not to me, a curious mixture of Jekyll and Hyde, but to the incarnation, however imperfect but comparatively great in me, of the two priceless qualities of truth and non-violence. I must, therefore, not shirk the responsibility of giving what aid I can to fellow-seekers after truth from the West. (YI, 3-10-1925, p344)
I claim to have no infallible guidance or inspiration. So far as my experience goes, the claim to infallibility on the part of a human being would be untenable, seeing that inspiration too can come only to one who is free from the action of opposites, and it will be difficult to judge on a given occasion whether the claim to freedom from pairs of opposites is justified. The claim to infallibility would thus always be a most dangerous claim to make. This, however, does not leave us without any guidance whatsoever. The sum-total of the experience of the sages of the world is available to us and would be for all time to come.
Moreover, there are not many fundamental truths, but there is only one fundamental truth which is Truth itself, otherwise known as Non-violence. Finite human being shall never know in its fullness Truth and love which is in itself infinite. But we do know enough for our guidance. We shall err, and sometimes grievously, in our application. But man is a self-governing being, and self-government necessarily includes the power as much to commit errors as to set them right as often as they are made. (YI, 21-4-1927, p128)
I deny being a visionary. I do not accept the claim of saintliness. I am of the earth, earthly . . . I am prone to as many weakness as you are. But I have seen the world. I have lived in the world with my eyes open. I have gone through the most fiery ordeals that have fallen to the lot of man. I have gone through this discipline. (SW, p531)
I am asking my countrymen in India to follow no other gospel than the gospel of self-sacrifice which precedes every battle. Whether you belong to the school of violence or non-violence, you will still have to go through the fire of sacrifice and of discipline. (ibid, p532)
I want to declare to the world, although I have forfeited the regard of many friends in the West - and I must bow my head low; but even for their friendship or love, I must not suppress the voice of conscience, - the promptings of my inner basic nature today. There is something within me impelling me to cry out my agony. I have known humanity. I have studied something of psychology. Such a man knows exactly what it is. I do not mind how you describe it. That voice within tells me, "You have to stand against the whole world although you may have to stand alone. You have to stare in the face the whole world although the world may look at you with blood-shot eyes. Do not fear. Trust the little voice residing within your heart." It says: "Forsake friends, wife and all; but testify to that for which you have lived and for which you have to die." (MN, pp201-2)
Defeat cannot dishearten me. It can only chasten me..... I know that God will guide me. Truth is superior to man's wisdom. (YI, 3-7-1924, p218)
I have never lost my optimism. In seemingly darkest hours hope has burnt bright within me. I cannot kill the hope myself. I must say I cannot give an ocular demonstration to justify the hope. But there is no defeat in me. (H, 25-1-1935, p399)
I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following…
It is true that I have often been let down. Many have deceived me and many have been found wanting. But I do not repent of my association with them. For I know how to non-co-operate, as I know how to co-operate. The most practical, the most dignified way of going on in the world is to take people at their word, when you have no positive reason to the contrary. (YI, 26-12-1924, p430)
I believe in trusting. Trust begets trust. Suspicion is fetid and only stinks. He who trusts has never yet lost in the world. (YI, 4-6-1925, p193)
A breach of promise shakes me to my root, especially when I am in any way connected with the author of the breach. And if it cost my life which, after all, at the age of seventy has no insurance value, I should most willingly give it in order to secure due performance of a sacred and solemn promise.
(H, 11-3-1939, p46)
To my knowledge, throughout my public and private career, I have never broken a promise.
(H, 22-4-1939, p100)
They say I claim to understand human nature as no one else does. I believe I am certainly right, but if I do not believe in my rightness and my methods, I would be unfit to be at the helm of affairs.
(YI, 1-1-1925, p8)
As for my leadership, if I have it, it has not come for any seeking, it is a fruit of faithful service. A man can as little discard such leadership as he can the color of his skin. And since I have become an integral part of the nation, it has to keep me with all my faults and shortcomings, of some of which I am painfully conscious and of many others of which candid critics, thanks be to them, never fail to remind me.
(YI, 13-2-1930, p52)
It is a bad carpenter who quarrels with his tools. It is a bad general who blames his men for faulty workmanship. I know I am not a bad general. I have wisdom enough to know my limitations. God will give me strength enough to declare my bankruptcy if such is to be my lot. He will perhaps take me away when I am no longer wanted for the work which I have been permitted to do for nearly half a century. But I do entertain the hope that there is yet work for me to do, that the darkness that seems to have enveloped me will disappear, and that, whether with another battle more brilliant than the Dandi March or without, India will come to her own demonstrably through non-violent means. I am praying for the light that will dispel the darkness. Let those who have a living faith in non-violence join me in the prayer.
(H, 23-7-1938, p193)
I am content with the doing of the task in front of me. I do not worry about the why and wherefore of things… Reason helps us to see that we should not dabble in things we cannot fathom.
(H, 7-9-1935, p234)
My work will be finished if I succeed in carrying conviction to the human family, that every man or woman, however weak in body, is the guardian of his or her self-respect and liberty. This defense avails, though the whole world may be against the individual resister. (Hst, 6-8-1944)
It will be time enough to pronounce a verdict upon my work after my eyes are closed and this tabernacle is consigned to the flames. (YI, 4-4-1929, p107)
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Russia has a Frankenstein's chapel that includes influence from almost all the major faiths. http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/temple-of-all-religions …