Vipassana Meditation & Its Type

vipassana-meditation-and-its-type

Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana is often described as a form of meditation that seeks insight into the true nature of reality.

Let's break down the word itself, vi - multiple, passana - to see something in a unique way or seeing more closely.

It has one main objective  - to help us train ourselves to see things as they truly are, which only happens when we are fully in the present moment and no where else. We are then able to accept that everything in this world is impermanent and breakthrough illusions or Maya and work towards Moksh or liberation.

Vipassana can be further divided into two parts, Observation, and Control. To be able to emphasize control over anything, you first have to study the object, understand it carefully, and only then will you be able to form an opinion or pass judgment and then achieve any sort of control over it. In this case, the observation we are referring to is Self Study.

Take for example: How do you leave your bedroom after you have finished your morning rituals? Do you make your bed or leave it messy? Do you depend on the housekeeper to make your bed for you? Studies show that making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being and stronger skills at sticking to a budget. If you start your day by making your bed then you have already accomplished one task for the day. Some studies even show this habit leads to better sleep at night.

Let's take the example a step further:

When you wake up, do you need an alarm to wake you up? If so, how many times do you have to press the snooze button before you eventually get out of bed?

It’s the little things that we do that say a lot about ourselves.

Only we can be the judge of ourselves and for this, we need to study our own patterns better.

Once we observe the patterns, then we can start to decipher how to change them and bring our minds under our control.

Control is the result of awareness. Buddhism has a very famous Sutra: SatipatthanaSutta.

Sati means awareness or jagruktha ,Pathan comes from the word plateau so it can be interpreted as a foundation. Awareness is the foundation by which we can oversee sorrow, extinguish suffering and walk the path of truth towards realization.



Our bodies are controlled by our minds.

Our minds are controlled by our soul.

The body, mind, and soul are all interdependent on each other. 



Vipassana can further be divided into 4 parts:

  • Kayanupassana- kaya - body
  • Vedananupassana - vedana - feelings / sensations / pain
  • Chittanupassana - Chitta - mind
  • Dhammanupassana - dhamma - uplifting

Nu from nupassana means single-pointed focus.

Let's delve further into each from the perspective of Observation and Control.

kayanupassana

1. Kayanupassana

a) Observation:

What you can see. Since kaya refers to the body, we are also referring to what you can actually see in/on the body. The observations collected by every individual will be different. The first data that we collect will always be a bunch of multiple observations. Eg: if you ask 3 different girls to wear a bindi in the center of their forehead, each may have a different spot where they put the bindi. One may wear it between the eyebrows, another just above the midpoint, and the last still above.

So if there are multiple observations, then what can be considered as the truth?

The truth is what you already know and also what you don’t know yet.

As you keep observing you will keep finding new things.

What you can see. Since kaya refers to the body, we are also referring to what you can actually see in/on the body. The observations collected by every individual will be different. The first data that we collect will always be a bunch of multiple observations. Eg: if you ask 3 different girls to wear a bindi in the center of their forehead, each may have a different spot where they put the bindi. One may wear it between the eyebrows, another just above the midpoint, and the last still above.

So if there are multiple observations, then what can be considered as the truth?

The truth is what you already know and also what you don’t know yet.

As you keep observing you will keep finding new things.

Some observations of our bodies:

  • The body behaves differently every single day. Eg: one day our legs may hurt, the other day our hands hurt.
  • Our bodies have limits. Eg: I can walk 5 km but someone else walks 2kms and gives up. How much do we allow this pain to affect us instead of letting it go?
  • Our bodies have needs without it cannot work, needs like food, water, and adequate rest. So our bodies have limits. Our minds are constantly working. Even when we sleep, our bodies shut down, but our minds continue to process information. Our bodies are controlled by our desires and this tends to get in the way most of the time.

Let's understand this with a story.

One day Harry meets God who granted him anything that he wished for. Harry was so thrilled and had only one wish- to own as much land as he could see on his horizon. So God agreed to grant his wish and asked him to walk wherever he pleased for one day and all the land that he stepped on would belong to him. God had only one condition, Harry had to be back by sunset.  Harry felt super thrilled and from sunrise the next day, with all his energy he started walking and felt super happy that wherever he went, all the land was his. He walked and walked, very fast, for many km. By the afternoon his energy levels started to decline and he started to feel tired. But he knew that if he stopped walking then he would not be able to take over all the land. So he continued and did not stop for food or water. At around 4 pm, he realized there were two hours left to sunset. He had walked so far away from home, he was exhausted, so he started to drag himself back home. Soon it was sunset time and he was still a long way from home. He kept staggering and eventually died on the road itself. God appeared and told the man that the land he now owned was the one on which his body rested, asleep for good.

Moral: the man’s desire - greed, overcame him and he eventually met his end.

If he had put a full stop to this desire, he would have saved his own life and lived happily for many years.

Exercise:

Take some time alone with yourself, minimum 20 minutes, maximum any. This should be a time in which there are no other distractions, no phones, no pets, no other people, no need to go to the toilet or anything. Sit in silence and observe your own body. Some suggestions to help you start: What is the temperature of your body? Is the temperature the same on all parts of your body or is it different in parts? How does your body feel? What is the speed at which your heartbeats? Are there tingling sensations or stiffness anywhere?…. Feel free to add to this list of questions. Use a journal to write down your observations yourself. Create a “YOU” journal.

I will not elaborate on how you should feel as each person’s experience is different and your experience should not be clouded by mine.

b) Control:

Once we become aware of different sensations in our bodies, how do we exert control over them?  Vipassana uses a technique called Anapanasati. Anapana - inhalation and exhalation, sati - awareness/mindfulness. So we can say that it is the awareness of our breath.

In this technique, we choose to focus on our breath, every time the mind wanders, bring it back under our control by concentrating on our breath. Note that we do not try to manipulate our breath or make it flow a certain way either. We just bring our attention to it, as a way to distract our mind from being distracted ( with thoughts).

Thoughts usually are of two types - the past and the future. We want to bring our mind back to the present moment and the most present part of our body is our flow of breath. So we train our minds by just the simple act of bringing the attention back to the breath. Your thoughts do not consume you, they pass you by like the clouds in the sky. And you are entirely focused on your breath.

We have to be able to understand the nature of our bodies in order to connect the body to the mind and eventually hear the voice of our souls.

Kayanupassana is the first and toughest step in Vipassana. That is why it is necessary for us to elaborate so much on it. In order to understand the relationship between your body, mind, and soul, lets us use another example.

A car - your body.The car’s driver - your mind.The passenger in the car - your soul.

The car needs to be maintained and cared for, for it to be able to function properly. The car has limits, depending on the kind of car, it can only travel on certain types of roads, within certain km and in certain conditions. It needs to be routinely checked upon and given fuel and rest.

The driver has the ability to drive. He can go in whichever direction he pleases and is constantly wandering and exploring because he has the ability to do so. If left to his own, he would never stay in one place. It is his responsibility to take care of the car. The car’s maintenance is the only thing that makes the driver slow down, stop and take notice. He does have a habit of really testing the car to it’s limit though and making it undergo all sorts of conditions until the car breaks down.

The owner doesn’t know how to drive but he has a sense of direction and can guide the driver on how to get to a specific location and how to take care of the car as well. He is unable to do the work himself but he the knowledge of how to do it. For this, the driver needs to be able to hear the owner when he speaks. He can only do this when he not so distracted by all the things he sees out the window and desires.

We are easily influenced by our senses. Our eyes, being the closest sensory organ to our brains take in the most information and send the signals fastest to our brains. So what the eye sees, the mind desires. Mind;’s nature is to explore. To control this and bring the emend back, we use our breath. It is constant and with us all the time.  Without our breath, we would be alive.

vedananupassana

2. Vedananupassana

a) Observation:

What you cannot see.ie. feelings, sensations, pain.

Acc. to Buddha - vedana means feelings and sensations. Acc to Sanskrit ,vedana means pain

Pain has a tendency to stop the body.

eg: you wouldn’t go for a walk with an ankle sprain.

Feelings or sensations can either stop or motivate the body to do more.

Feelings create sensations in the body to perform a task or a desire.

Eg: you feel tired so you choose to rest your body. Or you are tired but you just ate a heavy lunch and now your tongue makes you crave a sweet taste in your mouth. So you walk to the shop downstairs and get sweet.

When we are sitting down and attempting mediation, our main focus is to bring our attention back to our breath. During this process, we have many feelings, sensations, and also pain that commands our attention from the signals created in our body. When these occur, again we bring our attention back to our breath. We observe the feelings as existing, but our motive is not to get attached to them and hence allow them to pass. With every feeling/sensation/ pain, we bring our attention back to our breath; the present moment. Sure, this will be difficult at first. Our natural impulse or reflex to pain is to react.

Eg: after sitting in a cross-legged position for a long time, at a certain moment, our knees start to hurt. Our reflex reaction would be to stretch our legs, shake, or massage out the cramps. How about instead we notice that there is pain, and not react. Don’t focus your attention on it, instead bring your attention back to your breath. After continued practice, you may start to notice that although you feel the pain, your lack of attachment, means it doesn’t bother you so much anymore.

b) Control:

Neither feelings, sensations nor pain are permanent. They come and go. We can bring all of these under our control with awareness. The mind tends to get attached to all three. The mind is addicted to the attachment. The soul however does not get attached to anything; it is fully in the present moment and just witnesses the moment as is. It embraces the moment completely while simultaneously accepting it as what it is, a moment that will eventually pass. I will explain this again with an example.

Eg: Imagine yourself sitting on the banks of the Ganga. A part of you will be taking in the breathtaking river, mesmerized by its beauty and magic, you will watch the rivulets of the water, feel the wind, and many other things. When you leave the spot where you are sitting, then you just focussed on the walk ahead and leave the Ganga behind. Another part of you may start wondering how far the river goes, you may get annoyed when the shouting rafters pass by and disturb your silence, you may start to notice some garbage in the river, and your mind may wander about the state of the world. That part of you may also start to wish you were staying in that moment forever, and even as you leave the spot, your thoughts are still back there. The first part of you is your soul, it took in the magic of the river and left it behind too after the moment was over. However, the second part was your mind and its addiction to making moments (especially the happy ones) last forever.

On the contrary, if the moment was a sad one, the mind is conditioned to want that moment to end immediately. We have been taught that pain is bad instead of just accepting pain for what it is.

Task:

Draw a rough sketch of your whole body. Sit with yourself for some time and observe your body. Where do you feel pain, any kind of sensations, how does it make you feel? How do you react? Write this all down in your “YOU” journal. Make sure you are in a quiet place devoid of all distractions.

How often do we spend time with ourselves just to observe how our own bodies behave and how they influence our minds. Remember that the body, mind, and soul are all interdependent on each other.

chittanupassana

3. Chittanupassana

a) Observation:

According to Yoga, our mind can be divided into 4 different parts:

Mana - the overall mind, has many layers and is connected to every single cell in our bodies. It is memory and intelligence. It is not intellect.

Buddhi- intellect. This is the logical mind and functions based upon the data that already exists.  ahankara- ego. It is our sense of identity. Once the ahankara assumes an identity, the intellect functions only in that context. It is important to function beyond the intellect because the intellect is enslaved to identity.

Chitta - the conscious mind (chetana), is a mind without memory. It is pure intelligence which is like cosmic intelligence. It is the way it is without reason and connects you to your consciousness. 

Our Chitta is always suctioning whether we are awake or asleep. The buddhi comes and goes, can often fail us, especially when we are awake (our mind travels). The Chitta is our present, it is our breath. If we used buddhi to control our breath, we lose focus.

According to a more western view, you may have heard the mind is divided into

The Conscious mind - this part is focussed on the present moment only.

Subconscious mind - our mechanical memory. Eg: when we first learn to ride a bicycle, it takes a lot of our conscious mind to be fully present, to maintain balance, to ride well and use the breaks, etc. After some practice, the process gets stored in our subconscious mind and becomes part of our mechanical memory where the movement happens automatically without us having to focus on even action all of the time.

Superconscious mind - here, events are stored deep inside our brain for every single thing that has happened in our life, including every single thing that our eyes have glanced at. However, these are stored like folders and sub-folders inside our brain and are usually not available to us in the present moment until something causes the memory to be triggered and its necessary to remember. eg: how you spent your 5th birthday.

Chittasnupassana focuses only on the present moment only. Breath is the best and easiest tool to bring our minds back to the present moment. When we have gained control of our minds during Kaya and Vedana, eventually our minds start to make observations in the present moment only while we are meditating and then eventually all of the time.

b) Control:

Imagine yourself flying in the sky on either of these two vehicles, a plane and a flying carpet.

The plane has a fixed view from the cockpit. It cannot look beyond what it sees from the windows. So it stays focusses on what is visible from here and this helps the pilots to tuned in to the direction in which they need to fly.

Now, imagine yourself flying on a carpet. You have the ability to look all around you, change positions, you can stand on the carpet, you can sit, fall asleep, you can have a 360-degree view. Wouldn’t you be constantly fascinated by everything around you and always distracted by the next thing in your vision?

Now apply this same theory to your own self. Your eyes have a cockpit view and your mind is flying on a carpet. We can train our minds to focus on the view we are currently seeing, staying in the present moment with the help of our breath. When our eyes are closed though, our minds start to fly. Again, we use our breath, train our eyes to focus on a single point even while they are closed. The brings our minds back to the present moment.

However, there is someone who is always watching the mind. This is the Soul.

The observer is also the one who is being Observed.  - J. Krishnamurti

dhammanupassana

4. Dhammanupassana

a) Observation:

In Kaya and Vedana, you work on removing the negatives. In Chitta, your practice helps you get connected to the print moment all of the time. So in dhamma, we move higher. In 1 & 2, you remove the negatives.

Task: in your “you” journal, write down all the things that you do just for you. The things make you feel good about and with yourself. You don’t do it for any other reason besides the fact that it gives you happy feelings.

eg: feeding a stray dog. It makes you feel happy to do it. You don’t do it because you will acquire good karma by doing so but just because you want to. It's an unselfish act.

Playing music when you're alone and just dancing, with no care of thought to how you look, the way you move, or anything. You dance cops the act of moving to rhythm makes you feel good.

b) Control:

Here it is important to understand three things:

Dharm - responsibility

Karma - every action has a reaction

Bhagya - destiny - this is the result of your karma

Karma and Dhamma are both related to Intention.

Karma is a highly misunderstood term. Every action that we make, whether in thought or deed, results in some form of a reaction. This reaction may be instantaneous, it may occur after some time has passed, or it can be in another life.

Karma is of two types:

Good(Punya) Karma, further subdivided into small and big karma.

Bad(pap/sin) Karma, also further subdivided into small and big karma.

Destiny is the storehouse of all your Big good and bad karma. This destiny can always be changed depending on how your karma circle is completed. Let us understand this further with some examples.

-  Jack loans Jill some money. After some time has passed, Jill pays back the money. So the circle is complete and jack also earned some good karma which will come back to him at some point most likely from Jill itself. Their destiny is not affected.

-  John loans George some money. John doesn’t pay the money back and eventually dies. The circle is left open. So in the next life, a situation will occur in which George will have to pay John back in some form.

The above was an example of Big Karma

-  Imagine a friend comes and slaps you. That friend now has bad karma. So you slap him back. If you don't, he will receive a slap at some point in his life. So this doesn’t get accumulated and does not affect his destiny. This is an example of small karmas.

-  Intention is very important in both these.

- Suppose it's your friend's birthday and you want to buy them the best chocolates because they have a sweet tooth. So you gift them a box of the best chocolates. The next day you find out that your friend ate all the chocolates in one go and was now very sick in the hospital. Your action had a bad reaction. But that was not your intention. Your intention was to give your friend the best. It is not your fault that he/she is in the hospital, because his reaction is the result of his own actions.

Time is the X factor. Karma can be fulfilled in any life, but it always fulfilled between the same individuals, especially in the case of Big karma.

Yamraj is the first department that you encounter when you die and go to heaven. In this, you are given your Yamloka which is the judgment that takes place after you die. Things that were not recorded in your destiny, such as the small karmas discussed and evaluated over here. This way you don’t carry them forward into your next life.

Big Good and Big Bad karma get added into the next life.

Small good and small bad gets sorted out in the same life or at your Yamlokha.

Summary:

Vipassana is the practical teaching of the Buddha. It is not intellectual, emotional, entertaining or philosophical, or devotional in any way. It is rational, scientific, and reality-based. By practicing Vipassana, one experiences the truth within oneself and understand how the mind, body, and soul work together. It leads one from an impure scattered mind to a pure, calm, and peaceful state.

I hope that this article will help you get started on the path to self-study and actualization and guide you on your Vipassana journey.

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