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Oct 29, 2011

How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda, Gorai / Borivali, Mumbai, India

Everyone is most welcome to visit the Global Vipassana Pagoda, and benefit from practice of Vipassana meditation.
Visiting the Global Pagoda is free of charge. There is no entry fee. No charges for the tour guide.
Timings: 9.00 am to 7.00 pm. The Global Vipassana Pagoda is open all days, including Sunday.
(The last ferry leaves Gorai jetty to the Global Pagoda at 5.25 pm)

* Vipassana students - those who have taken one or more 10-day Vipassana courses as taught by Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka - are permitted to meditate inside the main dome Dhamma Hall of the Global Pagoda.

( * Food facility in the Global Pagoda premises is limited to tea / coffee, light snacks like samosas and soft drinks. Larger food stalls are there in the adjacent Essel World complex.

* Safe drinking water and very clean toilet / wash-room facilities are available in the Global Pagoda premises.

* Non-commercial photography is permitted in the Global Pagoda. There can be no copyright to any image of the Global Vipassana Pagoda, and visuals are freely available to all for non-commercial use.)

How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda, Gorai / Borivali, Mumbai, India:

The Global Pagoda can be reached overland by car, as well by ferry. Pre-paid taxi services are available at the Mumbai domestic and international airports. Ask for "Esselworld", if "Global Vipassana Pagoda" draws a blank stare. The Global Pagoda is adjacent to Esselworld Park.

Reaching Global Vipassana Pagoda by Road from Mumbai City / Domestic Airport / International Airport / Railway Stations in Mumbai
  1. Reach Western Express Highway and go North towards Dahisar/Borivali/Ahmedabad.
  2. Cross the Dahisar Toll Booth and keep going straight.
  3. When you reach the Mira-Bhayandar crossing, turn Left towards Mira-Bhayandar. The crossing has a statue of Shivaji Maharaj positioned at the centre.
  4. Keep going straight till you reach Golden Nest Circle. At the Golden Nest Circle, take a left turn and stay on the main road.
  5. Keep going straight till you take a hard right turn at the end of the road. This point will come after Maxus Mall, which comes on your right. After the hard right turn, take a left at the T point junction.
  6. Keep following directions to Esselworld or Global Vipassana Pagoda from this point forward.
  7. When you reach the Esselworld Parking Lot, go ahead a few metres and take a right turn towards Esselworld. Tell the guard at the security post that you want to go to the Pagoda.
  8. Keep going straight till you reach the Helipad. At the Helipad, take a right turn to the Global Pagoda Road through the Sanchi Arch.
The Pagoda is about 42 km from the Domestic Airport Terminal.
Hiring a car for airport pick-up to Global Vipassana Pagoda:
Private taxis and vehicles can also be hired from many car rentals in Mumbai, besides the airport pre-paid taxi service. Rates may vary. Many Vipassana students make use of the services of private taxi operator Mr Jagdish Maniyar. Contact : Tel (Res): 91-22-26391010 or cell phone 09869255079. As of February 2011, Mr Maniyar charges Rs 800 ( approx US $17, 13 Euros) for airport pickup to Global Pagoda (inclusive of road taxes). From Mumbai airport to Dhamma Giri Vipassana centre, Igatpuri, he charges Rs 2,550 (approx US $56).

From Borivali Railway station:
From Borivali Station (Western Railway, Mumbai) please use the western exit gates of the station (for the train from Churchgate, the exit is on the left). One can take Bus number 294 or hire an auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk) to Gorai Creek. The bus fare is Rs. 6 and auto rickshaw fare is approx Rs. 25 (approx US $0.50) to Rs 35.
For the auto-rickshaw, please take one heading to your right, after crossing the road from the western exit of the railway station. The Gorai jetty is approximately 10-15 minutes-ride from Borivili station. Please take the ferry for Esselworld from Gorai Jetty. The return fare for the ferry is Rs. 35/- per person.
On arrival at Esselworld, you will see signs guiding to take you to Global Pagoda (which anyway is too big to be missed !).
The Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Centre is less than five minutes walking distance from the Esselworld Jetty gate.

Other Bus Numbers to Gorai: From Kurla railway station (West) - 309 L; From Mulund station (West) - 460 L;From Ghatkopar Bus Depot - 488 L (please re-confirm before boarding bus)

Wishing you a very happy and most beneficial visit to the Global Pagoda.
For any further details and assistance, please contact:
Global Vipassana Pagoda
Telephone: 91 22 33747501 (30 lines)
Email: pr@globalpagoda.org
Pagoda Address:
Global Vipassana Pagoda
Next to Esselworld, Gorai Village,
Borivali (West), Mumbai 400091
For sending any post/courier, please use this address:
Head Office Global Vipassana Foundation
2nd Floor, Green House, Green Street, Fort
Mumbai – 400 023
Telephone: +91 22 22665926 / 22664039
Fax: +91 22 22664607
Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Centre
Inside Global Vipassana Pagoda Campus
Next to Esselworld, Gorai Village,
Borivali (West), Mumbai 400091
Tel: [91] (22) 3374 7519
Fax: [91] (22) 3374 7518
Email: info@pattana.dhamma.org

* Vipassana meditation courses worldwide, course venues, online application for beginners' 10-day residential Vipassana courses
* One-day Vipassana courses at Global Pagoda (for those who have completed a 10-day Vipassana course)

Oct 13, 2011

Vipassana and cheerfully settling past accounts

(from the Dhamma article Significance of the Pali Term Dhuna in the Practice of Vipassana Meditation, Vipassana Research Institute )

It is meaningless to like or dislike sensations that pass away as soon as they arise. It is this liking and disliking which turns into the very strong attachments, attachments that condition the mind and produce deep suffering.

How does Vipassana help us to stop tying new knots and to open up the old ones, eradicating all the accumulations of the past? 

A Vipassana meditator should sit correctly "nisinno hoti pallankam abhujitva ujum kayam panidhaya" - cross-legged and erect. Then he sits with adhitthana (strong determination) to make no movement of the body of any kind. Now at the grossest physical level, all the bodily and vocal actions are suspended so there can be no new physical kamma (kayika-kamma) or vocal kamma (vacika-kamma).

Now the meditator  is in a position to try to stop mental kamma formations (mano-kamma). For this, the mind has to become very alert, very attentive, fully awake and aware, all the time maintaining true understanding, true wisdom. Aware of what? Anicca vata sankhara, uppadavaya-dhammino -the truth of impermanence; the arising and passing of every compounded phenomenon within the framework of one's physical structure.

A Vipassana meditator soon realizes the difference between apparent and actual truth. By simply observing objectively and equanimously feeling the sensations in one's own body in a proper way, the meditator can easily reach a stage where even the most solid parts of the body are experienced as they really are: nothing but oscillations and vibrations of subatomic particles (kalapas). What appears solid, hard and impenetrable at the gross level is actually nothing but wavelets at the subtlest, ultimate level.

With this awareness, you observe and realize that the entire panca kkhandha (the five aggregates), are nothing but vibrations, arising and passing away. The entire phenomenon of mind and matter has this continuously ephemeral nature. This is the ultimate truth (paramattha sacca) of mind and matter-permanently impermanent; nothing but a mass of tiny bubbles or ripples, disintegrating as soon as they arise (sabbo loko pakampito).

This realisation of the basic characteristic of all phenomena as anicca (impermanent, changing) leads one to the realisation of the characteristic of anatta (not 'I', not 'me', not 'mine', not 'my soul').

The various sensations keep arising in the body whether one likes it or not. There is no control over them, no possession of them. They do not obey our wishes. This in turn makes one realize the nature of dukkha (suffering).

Through experience, you understand that identifying oneself with these changing impersonal phenomena is nothing but suffering.

The more you are established at this level of ultimate truth, the more strongly and more steadfastly you will be established in real wisdom.

In contrast to this, anyone entangled in ignorance will crave for the continuation of pleasant sensations and crave for the cessation of unpleasant sensations. This reaction of the mind-volition based on craving and aversion-is the strongest bondage.

Initially the meditator will find himself in a tug-of-war between the new knowledge of phenomena as impermanent and transitory, and the old attachment to the flow of sankhara (reactions), which is based on ignorance. With repeated practice, you learn to differentiate between what is real and what is illusory. For longer and longer periods truth will predominate. Each sensation felt is recognized as impermanent; hence the perception that accompanies each cognition is free from the self-consciousness of 'I' and 'mine'.

The truth that the sensation immediately passes away begins to predominate, instead of the tanha (craving) for it to continue, or the tanha for it to pass away.

It is meaningless to like or dislike sensations that pass away as soon as they arise. It is this liking and disliking which turns into the very strong attachments that condition the mind and produce the bhava-sankhara, the bhava-kamma (actions which are responsible to give a new birth) driving individuals along the endless rounds of becoming.

A non-reacting mind produces no new conditioning.

The law of nature is such that the old accumulation of conditioning in the flow of the consciousness (bhavanga-santati) will automatically rise to the surface to be eradicated when no new sankhara are given as input. This comes about by remaining equanimous with the direct understanding of the wisdom of anicca (impermanence, constant change), anicca-vijja-nanaa.

Here again, it is the practice of Vipassana which enables the meditator silently and attentively to observe these old bondages of the past, as they arise, in their true impermanent nature.

With heightened equanimity, based on the constant thorough understanding of impermanence at the level of bodily sensations (sampajanna), craving and aversion lose their grip. In a non-reacting mind, the latent conditions cannot multiply-rather they are progressively eradicated.

The most compassionate Sammsambuddha Gotama faced many challenging situations, including being falsely accused of sexual misconduct. He set an example and showed the way how to face such situations - with practice of perfect equanimity, being with the truth, and deep metta.
(The above engraving is part of the collection of engravings and paintings on the Buddha's life, displayed in and around the information gallery of the Global Vipassana Pagoda, Mumbai, India)

At times, however, the fruition of the old kamma is so intense, that an ordinary meditator loses all balance of mind. Wisdom fades away and the true perspective becomes blurred. The impersonal attitude towards the pain is lost, and one begins to identify with the sensations. One may try intellectually to come out of reactions, but actually one begins treating the pain as if it will never end, and the reaction continues.

To realize the impermanent nature of all phenomena and to break the apparent solidity of perceptions, a meditator must experience the stage of uppadavaya-dhammino, the instantaneous arising and passing of the vibrations or wavelets of nama-rupa (mind and matter).

This stage can be reached only by the proper practice of Vipassana meditation, the sure way to break these bondages.

In fact, Vipassana meditation is for the purpose of dhunamanassa pure katam rajam -a process of combing out all the old defilements from the fabric of consciousness.

With the process of carding and combing, knots automatically open up, and every fibre gets separated from the dirt of defilements. This vibrating string of the pure mind beats out all the impurities of the past. A Vipassana meditator working on physical sensations quite distinctly experiences this process.

This combing process is not complete while even the smallest knot remains unopened. In the same way, the practice of Vipassana must continue until all impressions of solidity anywhere in the framework of the physical and mental structure have been removed.

How can this stage be achieved?

Puranakammavipakajam dukkham tibbam kharam katukam vedanam adhivasento.

The meditator dwells enduring equanimously the fruition of his or her past actions, no matter how painful, severe, sharp and terrible they are (manifesting as bodily sensations).

How is this possible? Not enduring (that is, becoming agitated or crying because of the past habit) would be the complete opposite of the process of purification. One can only endure such intense sensations by developing awareness and the thorough understanding of impermanence (sampajanna), resulting in equanimity (upekkha).

It is by knowing perfectly the true nature (anicca) of the present phenomenon, that one is able to bear these fruits of the past without any reaction.

The meditator becomes an impartial observer of the suffering rather than the sufferer. 

This detachment allows the old bondages to get eradicated, and soon, there will be no observer but mere observation and no sufferer but mere suffering.

From time to time, slight agitation or identification with the sensation may reappear and trigger fresh craving and aversion. But with continuous practice, a vigilant meditator reaches the stage the illusion of 'I' and 'mine' is eradicated.

He or she can bear anything, even the most severe sensations, in the state of avihannamano, free from agitation.

As a result comes sabba kammajahassa - the cessation of all kinds of new kamma formations. Now the meditator is fully engrossed in dhunamanassa pure katam rajam, or continual purification, because he or she has stopped making new sankhara, that is, new cetana (volition) or new kamma.

In this way, the old sankhara naturally get eradicated little by little (thokam thokam) so that the state of visankhara gatam cittam - or total purification of mind, is reached.

A meditator engaged in such a task needs to spend all his or her time in actual practice-attho natthi janam lapetave. Where is the time for useless talk? Every moment is precious, not to be wasted. The only ones who waste time in talking are those who do not realize the seriousness of the task, who do not work properly. The noble practice of truth-realisation is degraded to mere intellectual chatter. 

Liberation can only be gained by practice, never by discussion.

That is why the Buddha burst forth in praise of the monk who was so resolutely practising the sure path of liberation. 'Cross-legged, erect and determined, undergoing the fruition of his past actions, wracked by intense, piercing, gross bodily sensations, with sharpened awareness and the constant thorough understanding of impermanence (sati-sampajanna), making no new kammas, combing out old defilements as they arise, with nothing remaining of "I" and "mine".'

May all beings be liberated from all suffering, be happy.

Oct 8, 2011

Freedom from Addiction to Mental Impurities

(from Vipassana Newsletter article, Vipassana Research Institute)
The Buddha proclaimed that one who understands Dhamma understands the law of cause and effect. You must realize this truth yourselves. Vipassana is a process by which you can realize the truth of cause and effect.
You take steps on the path and whatever you have realized, you accept it; and step by step, with an open mind, you keep experiencing deeper truths.

It is not for curiosity that you investigate the truth pertaining to matter, mind and mental contents. Instead, you are seeking to change habit patterns at the deepest level of the mind. As you proceed, you will realize how mind influences matter, and how matter influences mind.

Every moment within the framework of the body, masses of sub-atomic particles (kalāpas) arise and pass away. How do they arise? The cause becomes clear as you investigate the reality as it is, free from the influence of past conditionings of philosophical beliefs.
The material input, the food (āhāra) that you have eaten, is one cause for the arising of these kalāpas.
Another is the atmosphere (utu) around you.
You also begin to understand how mind (citta) helps matter to arise and dissolve. At times matter arises from the mental conditioning of the past-that is, the accumulated saṇkhāras (conditioning of the mind) of the past.
These realities become clear with Vipassana practice. At this moment, that type of mind has arisen and what is the content of this mind? The quality of the mind is according to its content. For example, when a mind full of anger, passion or fear has arisen, you will notice that different sub-atomic particles are generated in the body.

When the mind is full of passion, then within this material structure, sub-atomic particles of a particular type arise, and there is a biochemical flow which starts throughout the body. This type of biochemical flow starting because a mind full of passion has arisen, is called in Pali kāmāsava- the flow of passion / lust.

As a scientist you proceed further, observing truth as it is, examining the law of nature. When this biochemical flow produced by passion starts, it influences the next moment of the mind with more passion. Thus the kāmāsava turns into kāmatanhā, a craving of passion at the mental level.
This again stimulates a flow of passion at the physical level. One starts influencing and stimulating the other, and the passion keeps on multiplying for minutes, even hours. The tendency of the mind to generate passion is strengthened because of this repeated generation of passion-filled thoughts and flow of impurities.

Not only passion but also fear, anger, hatred and craving, in fact every type of impurity that comes into the mind simultaneously generates an āsava, a biochemical flow of impurities. And this impure āsava keeps stimulating that particular negativity, or impurity. The result is a vicious circle of suffering.
You may call yourself a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jain or a Christian; it makes no difference. The process, the law is applicable to one and all. There is no discrimination.

Mere understanding at a superficial, intellectual level will not help break this cycle of suffering, and may even create more difficulties. Your beliefs from a particular tradition may look quite logical, yet those beliefs will create obstacles for you. The intellect has its own limitations. You cannot realize the ultimate truth merely by intellect because intellect is finite, while ultimate truth is limitless, infinite. Only through experience can you realize that which is limitless and infinite. If you accept this law of nature intellectually but still are unable to change the behaviour pattern of your mind, you remain far away from the realization of the ultimate truth.

Your acceptance is only superficial, while your behaviour pattern continues at the depth of the mind. What is called the 'unconscious' mind is actually not unconscious. At all times it remains in contact with this body. And with this contact a sensation keeps arising.
You feel a sensation that you label as pleasant, and you keep reacting. At the depth of your mind you blindly react with craving or aversion. You keep generating different types of saṇkhāras, negativities, impurities, and the process of multiplying your misery continues. You can't stop it because there is such a big barrier between the conscious and the unconscious mind. Without the practice of Vipassana, this barrier remains.

At the conscious, intellectual level of the mind, one may accept the entire theory of Dhamma, truth, law, nature. But still one keeps rolling in misery because one does not realize what is happening at the depth of the mind. But with Vipassana your mind becomes very sharp and sensitive so that you can feel sensations throughout the body. Sensations occur every moment. Every contact results in a sensation: in Pali, phassa paccayā vedanā. This is not a philosophy; it is the scientific truth which can be verified by one and all.

The moment there is a contact, there is bound to be a sensation; and every moment, the mind is in contact with matter throughout the physical structure. The deeper level of the mind keeps feeling these sensations, and it keeps reacting to them. But on the surface the mind keeps itself busy with outside objects, or it remains involved intellectual games, imagination, or emotion. Therefore you do not feel what is happening at the deeper level of the mind.

By Vipassana, when that barrier is broken, one starts feeling sensations throughout the body, not merely at the surface level but also deep inside. By observing these sensations, you start realizing their characteristic of arising and passing, udaya-vyaya. By this understanding, you start changing the impure habit pattern of the mind.

For example, you are feeling a particular sensation that may be caused by the food you have eaten, or by the atmosphere around you, or by your present mental actions, or due to old reactions that are now giving their fruit. Whatever the cause may be, a sensation has occurred. With your training in Vipassana, you observe it with equanimity, without reacting to it.
In those few wonderful moments of equanimity, you have started changing the habit pattern of your mind at the deepest level, by observing sensation and understanding its nature of impermanence.
You have stopped the blind habit pattern of reacting to the sensation, and stopped multiplying your misery.
Initially you may be able to do this only for a few seconds or minutes. But by practice, you gradually develop your strength. As the habit pattern becomes weaker, your behaviour pattern changes. You are coming out of your misery.

Addiction is not merely to alcohol or to drugs, but also to passion, anger, fear or egotism. All these are addictions to your impurities. At the intellectual level you may understand very well, "Anger is not good for me. It is dangerous. It is harmful." Yet you are addicted to anger, and keep generating it. After the anger has passed, you are remorseful, "Oh! I should not have generated anger. I should not have behaved in such a manner." Yet the next time a stimulus comes, you again become angry.
You are not coming out of anger, because you have not been working at the depth of your mind.

By practicing Vipassana, you start observing the sensation that arises because of the biochemical flow when you are angry. You observe but do not react to it. That means you do not generate anger at that particular moment. This one moment turns into a few minutes, and you find that you are not as easily influenced by this flow as you were in the past. You have slowly started coming out of your anger - or any other impurity.

Those who regularly practice Vipassana try to observe how they are dealing with different situations. Are they reacting or remaining equanimous?
The first thing a Vipssana meditator will try to do in any difficult situation is to observe sensations.
Because of a situation, maybe a of the mind has started reacting, but by observing the sensations, one becomes equanimous.
Then whatever action is taken is wise, positive action, not harmful negative reaction. And action is always positive. It is only when one reacts that one generates negativity and becomes miserable. A few moments of observing sensations makes the mind equanimous and able to act. Life is then full of action instead of reaction.

With regular, daily practice and application of the technique, the behaviour pattern starts to change. Those who used to roll in anger for a long time find their anger diminishing in intensity or duration. Similarly, those who are addicted to sexual passion find that it becomes weaker and weaker, and so do those who are addicted to fear. The amount of time that is needed to rid oneself of a certain impurity may vary, but sooner or later the technique will work, provided it is used properly.

Whether you are addicted to craving, aversion, hatred, passion or fear, the addictive aversion or craving is not to any external object or person, but actually to particular sensations that have arisen because of the biochemical flow.

The āsava, or flow, of ignorance is the strongest āsava. Of course, there is ignorance even when you are reacting with anger, passion or fear; but when you become intoxicated with alcohol or drugs, this intoxication multiplies your ignorance. Therefore it takes time to feel sensations, to go to the root of the problem.
When you become addicted to liquor or drugs, you cannot know the reality of what is happening within the framework of the body. There is darkness in your mind. You cannot understand what is happening inside, what keeps on multiplying inside.
We have found that in cases of alcohol addiction people generally start benefiting more quickly than people who are addicted to drugs. But the way is there for everyone to come out of misery, however much addicted or ignorant they may be.
If you keep working patiently and persistently, sooner or later you are bound to reach the stage where you start feeling sensations throughout the body and can observe them objectively.
It may take time. In a ten day Vipassana course, you may only make a slight change in the habit pattern of your mind. It doesn't matter; a beginning is made. If you keep on practicing daily morning and evening and take a few more courses, the habit pattern will change at the deepest level of the mind. You will come out of your ignorance, out of your reaction-out of your suffering.

We keep advising people who are addicted even to tobacco: if an urge arises, do not take a cigarette. Instead, wait a little. Accept the fact that an urge to smoke has arisen in the mind. When this urge arises, along with it there is a sensation in the body. Start observing that sensation, whatever it may be. Do not look for a particular sensation. Anything you feel at that time is related to the urge to smoke. And by observing the sensation as impermanent, anicca, you will find that this urge passes away. This is not a philosophy, but experiential truth.

The same advice applies to those who are addicted to alcohol or drugs: when an urge arises, do not succumb immediately. Instead, wait ten or fifteen minutes. Accept the fact that an urge has arisen, and observe whatever sensation is present at that time.

Those who follow this advice find that they are coming out of their addictions. They may be successful only one time out of ten at first, but they have made a very good beginning. They are striking at the root of their problem.

It is a long path, a lifetime job. But even a journey of ten thousand miles must start with the first step. One who has taken the first step can take the second and third; and step by step, one will reach the final goal of liberation.

May you all come out of all your addictions - and not only to drugs and alcohol - the addiction to mental impurities is stronger than these.
May you change this strong negative behaviour pattern, to come out of your misery-for your own good, your own benefit, your own liberation. And the process is such that when you start to benefit from the technique, you cannot resist helping others.
Your goal becomes the good and benefit of many. So many people are suffering all around: may all come in contact with pure Dhamma and come out of misery.
May all beings experience peace and harmony, the true peace and harmony of a mind liberated from all defilements.


Vipassana meditation courses worldwide, course venues, online application for Vipassana courses

Directions to reach Global Pagoda, Gorai / Borivili, Mumbai

Benefits of Pure Volition of Dāna

Oct 4, 2011

Universal Heart of Compassion

by Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka
(The following is based on the Dhamma article 'Compassionate Goodwill', published in the Vipassana Newsletter, Vipassana Research Institute)
Compassion (karuna) is a very noble, necessary state of the mind.
Like pure selfless love (mettā), sympathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha), compassion is also a brahmavihara (sublime state of mind).

But merely talking about compassion, discussing compassion or praising it - all these are far away from true brahmavihara. It is good to accept compassion at the intellectual level as an ideal sublime state. But this is also far away from true brahmavihara.

Brahmavihara means nature of a brahma (the highest being in the order of beings). It is practice of superior qualities, practice of Dhammic qualities. Only when the mind is suffused and overflows with such brahmic qualities can we call it brahmavihara.

The mind can overflow with compassion, mettā, mudita and upekkha, only when one is completely free from impurities at deepest level of the mind. This purity of mind and resulting sublime states are fruits of dedicated practice of Dhamma, i.e. practice of Vipassana to purify the mind.

The most compassionate SammasamBuddha Gotama rediscovered and shared Vipassana, the universal path to experiencing laws of nature, or Dhamma, leading to liberation from all suffering. He was not founder of any religion as is widely misrepresented.
(The painting is part of the Information Gallery in the Global Vipassana Pagoda)

Life becomes meaningful only when one lives a Dhamma life. A Dhamma life means living a life of morality, that is, to abstain from performing any mental, vocal and physical action that will harm oneself and others.

One needs mastery over the mind to live a life of morality - i.e being free from even evil thoughts of immorality that become seeds for one's harmful actions. The mind should be fully restrained, fully disciplined, not given to blindly reacting to impure impulses.

Gaining mastery over the mind needs ardent practice of concentrating the mind. This can be only achieved with a universal, non-imaginary object of meditation. Such an object of meditation neither generates raga (attachment) nor dosa (aversion). It is based on direct experiential truth and is free from ignorance: such as in Ana-pana meditation, the objective observation of the natural incoming, outgoing breath, as it is.

Why concentrate the mind? This is to sharpen the mind to remove deep-rooted defilements within, by practice of insight meditation, or Vipassana.

With Vipassana practice - i.e, objective observation of impermanent sensations in the body - one develops experiential wisdom (pañña) at depths of the mind. Eradicated by purity of pañña are ingrained negative conditioning and harmful habit-patterns of the mind (sankharas). Sankharas arise from ignorance of blind reactions with craving and aversion, every moment.

The old accumulated sankharas are gradually eradicated with wisdom and purity gained from Vipassana practice. The wisdom is not to react blindly to constantly changing mind-matter phenomena - i.e. the bio-chemical flow of sensations that arise with thoughts. Equanimity is purity. The body is perfectly still during observation of sensations within, making no small movements; the mind is a mere observer of the arising, passing sensations and not reacting with craving or aversion.

The Vipassana practice of equanimity to sensations gradually weakens dangerous negative conditioning in the mind. This is law of nature. Like fire consuming old stock of fuel, the mind consumes accumulated impurities of sankharas when no new fuel of impurities are added each moment.

With correct and consistent practice of Vipassana, the mind is completely freed of all impurities. Then purer mind is naturally filled with the brahmic qualities of mettā, karuna, mudita, and upekkha.

As long as the mind carries the old stock of defilements, and new defilements are added, it is not possible for brahmavihara to arise in the mind.

Ego plays a role in the arising of all defilements.

A ego-centred, self-centred mind may only talk about the four brahmaviharas and praise them highly; but unless one humbly accepts necessity to remove impurities within the mind, and makes all effort to ardently purify the mind, it will not be able to cultivate true brahmavihara.

The purer mind grows stronger in brahmavihara. When a meditator is fully liberated, he dwells continuously in the pure brahmavihara. Therefore, for developing the brahmaviharas of mettā, karuna, mudita, and upekkha, it is absolutely essential to become established in sila, samadhi and pañña.

No individual of any caste, colour, class, society, community or religion has a monopoly on the practice of sila, samadhi and pañña. The practice is universal. Anyone can cultivate them by exerting sufficient effort. One who cultivates them and purifies his mind becomes naturally suffused with love, compassion and goodwill.

The defilements of an impure mind cannot be labeled as Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Jain defilements; similarly love, compassion, goodwill and other wholesome qualities of a pure mind cannot be given any sectarian label. The malady of misery is universal. The remedy too is universal.

Just as the pure Dhamma of sila, samadhi and pañña is universal, eternal, absolute, timeless, so also the brahmaviharas arising from practice are universal, eternal, absolute and timeless.
None of the religious traditions-Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jewish-reject the importance of morality, concentration of mind and purification of mind, and the resultant compassion and goodwill towards all beings.

Different societies, communities and sects have different ways of worship, different places of worship, different rites and rituals, different festivals, different vows and fasting days. Their philosophical beliefs are different. Actually, different communities or sects originate and flourish on the basis of these differences.

But the Dhamma of morality, concentration, wisdom, and love, compassion and goodwill is universal. It is the same for all societies, communities and religions. This universal Dhamma and the resultant compassion unite all religious sects. While continuing to maintain their distinct sectarian features, they can unite at the level of universal Dhamma. All can become one in the practice of the brahmaviharas of love and compassion.

This is why people from all religions, including religious leaders, often say with pleasant surprise after taking a Vipassana course: "Vipassana is only putting to actual practice the teachings of my religion." 

May all beings be happy, peaceful, be liberated from all suffering.