In 2002, the first 10-day course in Michigan was organised by a small group of old students from Michigan. They were inspired by the Dr. Bhogilal and Dr. (Mrs.) Kamala Gandhi, who encouraged and supported this endeavor. Before they moved to the United States in February 2002, the Gandhis were responsible for conducting and organizing courses held all over Europe for 20 years.
A suitable site was found near Brighton, Michigan where the course was held from 17th to 28th April 2002. Thirty-three new students, five old students and nine full-time dhamma servers attended the course. The course was conducted by Dr. and Mrs. Gandhi, Vipassana teachers appointed as acharyas by Goenkaji.
On July 19, 2002, during the 2002 tour of North America, Goenkaji honored the MVA by visiting the group in Brighton, Michigan. Goenkaji decided to give Anapana to the students attending the course. Goenkaji was very keen on the prospects for developing a Vipassana meditation center in Michigan. During the brief visit he recommended that the site be secured for conducting courses and establishing a center.
The Michigan Vipassana Association (MVA) is a registered non-profit, charitable organization whose sole purpose is to provide Vipassana courses to the public. It attempts to fulfill this obligation by organizing meditation courses for adults and children on a continued basis.
Vipassana is an ancient technique of India, as old as 2500 years and it means to see things as they really are.
It aims at the total eradication of mental impurities, resulting into the highest happiness of full liberation. Its main purpose is healing, not merely the curing of diseases, but the essential healing of human suffering.
Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. Its focus is on the deep interconnection between mind and body, that can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body. They also continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. The mental impurity can thus be dissolved through this observation based, self-explanatory journey to the common root of mind and body, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.
The scientific laws that operate one’s thoughts, feelings, judgements and sensations become clear. The nature of how one grows or regresses, how one produces suffering or frees oneself from suffering is understood through direct experience. Increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control and peace characterize life.
What Vipassana is not:
- It is not a rite or ritual based on blind faith.
- It is neither an intellectual nor a philosophical entertainment.
- It is not a rest cure, a holiday, or an opportunity for socializing.
- It is not an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.
What Vipassana is:
- It is a technique that will eradicate suffering.
- It is a method of mental purification, which allows one to face life’s tensions and problems in a calm, balanced way.
- It is an art of living that one can use to make positive contributions to society.
It aims at the highest spiritual goals of total liberation and full enlightenment. Its purpose is not to cure physical disease. However, many psychosomatic diseases are eradicated as a by-product of mental purification. In fact, Vipassana eliminates the three causes of all unhappiness: craving, aversion and ignorance.
The Code of Discipline
The foundation of the practice is sīla — moral conduct. Sīla provides a basis for the development of samādhi — concentration of mind; and purification of the mind is achieved through paññā — the wisdom of insight.
All who attend a Vipassana course must conscientiously undertake the following five precepts for the duration of the course:
- to abstain from killing any being;
- to abstain from stealing;
- to abstain from all sexual activity;
- to abstain from telling lies;
- to abstain from all intoxicants.
There are three additional precepts which old students (that is, those who have completed a course with S.N. Goenka or one of his assistant teachers) are expected to follow during the course:
- to abstain from eating after midday;
- to abstain from sensual entertainment and bodily decorations;
- to abstain from using high or luxurious beds.
Old students will observe the sixth precept by having tea without milk or fruit juice at the 5 p.m. break, whereas new student may have tea with milk and some fruit. The teacher may excuse an old student from observing this precept for health reasons. All the old students will observe the seventh and eighth precept.
Acceptance of the Teacher and the Technique
Students must declare themselves willing to comply fully. The students must observe discipline and meditate exactly as the teacher asks, without ignoring or adding any part of the instruction. This acceptance should be one of discrimination and understanding, not blind submission. Only with an attitude of trust can a student work diligently and thoroughly. Such confidence in the teacher and the technique is essential for success in meditation.
Interviews With the Teacher
The teacher is available to meet students privately between 12 Noon and 1:00 p.m. Questions may also be asked in public between 9:00 and 9:30 p.m. in the meditation hall. The interview and question times are for clarifying the technique and for questions arising from the evening discourses.
The technique is taught at ten-day residential courses during which participants follow a prescribed Code of Discipline as mentioned above, learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results.
The entire practice is actually a mental training. Vipassana can be used to develop a healthy mind.
Because it has been found genuinely helpful, great emphasis is put on preserving the technique in its original, authentic form. It is not taught commercially, but instead is offered freely. There are no charges for the courses – not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. All expenses are met by donations from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to benefit from it also.
Ten days is certainly a very short time to penetrate in the deepest levels of the unconscious mind and learn how to eradicate the complexes lying there. Continuity of the practice in seclusion is the secret of this technique’s success. Rules and regulations have been developed keeping this practical aspect in mind. These rules are based on the practical experience of thousands of meditators over the years and are both scientific and rational. Abiding by the rules creates a very conducive atmosphere for meditation; breaking them pollutes it.
A student once entered will have to stay for the entire period of the course. The other rules should also be carefully read and considered. Only those who feel that they can honestly and scrupulously follow the discipline should apply for admission. A prospective student should also understand that it would be both disadvantageous and inadvisable to leave without finishing the course upon finding the discipline too difficult. Likewise, it would be most unfortunate if, in spite of repeated reminders, a student does not follow the rules and has to be asked to leave.
THE COURSE TIMETABLE
The following timetable for the course has been designed to maintain the continuity of practice. For best results students are advised to follow it as closely as possible.
|4:00 am||Morning wake-up bell|
|4:30-6:30 am||Meditate in the hall or in your room|
|6:30-8:00 am||Breakfast break|
|8:00-9:00 am||Group meditation in the hall|
|9:00-11:00 am||Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions|
|11:00-12:00 noon||Lunch break|
|12noon-1:00 pm||Rest and interviews with the teacher|
|1:00-2:30 pm||Meditate in the hall or in your room|
|2:30-3:30 pm||Group meditation in the hall|
|3:30-5:00 pm||Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions|
|5:00-6:00 pm||Tea break|
|6:00-7:00 pm||Group meditation in the hall|
|7:00-8:15 pm||Teacher’s Discourse in the hall|
|8:15-9:00 pm||Group meditation in the hall|
|9:00-9:30 pm||Question time in the hall|
|9:30 pm||Retire to your own room–Lights out|
Do Not Bring
For course application visit http://www.mi.us.dhamma.org/course_app.shtml