(from the Vipassana Research Institute newsletter, February, 2001.)
Every Vipassana meditator has to develop strength to face ups and downs in life. For this, it is necessary to practice Vipassana one hour in the morning and evening daily, to meditate together once a week, to take a ten-day course at least once a year. Then we keep progressing in Dhamma.
Householders face many difficulties, many obstacles. What to speak of householders, even those who have renounced household life tell me that they are not able to meditate regularly. But we must not give up in spite of all difficulties; we must meditate daily, morning and evening.
We do physical exercise - walking, yoga, jogging etc - to keep the body healthy and strong. Otherwise, the body becomes weak and diseased. In the same way, it is even more necessary to keep the mind healthy and strong. One should not allow the mind to become weak or diseased.
Vipassana is exercise of the mind. Meditating morning and evening makes the mind strong and healthy. It is not a waste of time. Vipassana practice makes the mind more efficient and strong. We live in a complex and stressful world. If the mind is not strong, we lose balance of mind and become miserable.
Those who have received this benevolent teaching of Vipassana but not using it are even more unfortunate than those yet to receive Vipassana. A great misfortune to receive this priceless gem but discard it as if a useless pebble.
Rare it is to be born a human being. A human has the special faculty to become introverted and eradicate mental defilements from the depth of the mind. This work cannot be done by animals, birds, reptiles, insects, or beings in lower planes of existence.
Even a human being cannot purify the mind at its depth if one does not know how to practice Vipassana. One gets a human birth, finds such a wonderful technique, learns to use it, benefits from it, and still discontinues the practice. What a misfortune! A bankrupt person finds a treasure. And he discards it and becomes bankrupt again. A sick person finds medicine, and discards it. A wise person does not make this very foolish mistake.
Sometimes meditators say: "I have stopped meditating. What to do, I am so busy." A poor excuse. We find time to give food to the body, three or four times a day. Or if we suffer some physical injury, we does not say, "Look, I am so busy, I have no time to attend to the wound, to stop the bleeding." Daily Vipassana practice every morning and evening is very necessary, most urgent, to heal the little wounds of blind reactions accumulated during the day. The most important work is to the make the mind healthy and strong. If we forget this, we harm ourselves. We should never make this mistake.
Even if there is too much work, it is all the more necessary to do this exercise of Vipassana. Vipassana practice helps one be free of work-related stress. Without regular daily practice of Vipassana (bare minimum of one hour each, morning and evening), the mind becomes weak. A weak mind makes us miserable because it reverts to its old behaviour pattern of blindly reacting to situations in a wrong way, reacting with craving or aversion.
Let us not be heedless. Let us not be lazy in lack of efforts in Vipassana practice. We are not doing anyone a favour by meditating twice a day. "Our teacher has told us, so we are doing it." You are not doing your teacher a favour; you are doing yourself a favour.
Vipassana is such a beneficial exercise for the mind. When one starts feeling impermanence of sensations in the body, understand the door of liberation has opened. And when one learns to remain equanimous to the impermanent, changing sensations, one has started walking on the path of liberation.
In Vipassana we experience different types of sensations in different parts of the body and maintain equanimity towards them. A wise meditator understands from experience how Vipassana practice benefits in daily life. Every step, each effort bears fruit.
Lack of awareness of sensations takes us on the path of misery. Blind reaction to them out of ignorance results in deep misery - dukkha samudaya gāminī paṭipadā.
Awareness and equanimity to sensations takes us on the path that leads to liberation from all suffering - dukkha nirodha gāminī paṭipadā.
If we react with craving to pleasant sensations and with aversion to unpleasant sensations, we are on the path of suffering. By observing sensations with equanimity, we are on the path to real happiness. This is the teaching of the Buddha, the enlightenment of the Buddha.
At the time of death, some sensation will arise, and if we are not aware and equanimous, and instead react with aversion, we will go to lower planes of existence. But a good Vipassana meditator who remains equanimous to these sensations at the time of death will go to a favourable plane. This is how we make our own future. Death can come at any time. We do not have an agreement with death that it should come only when we are ready. We are ready whenever it comes.
Vipassana is not an ordinary technique. It is a priceless gem that can liberate us from the cycle of birth and death. Vipassana practice benefits us not only in this life but also in future lives, ultimately leading to full liberation, full enlightenment.
"But I do not have time. I have too much work" - by saying so to avoid daily Vipassana meditation, we delude ourselves making these invalid excuses. Whenever there is sorrow or despair or dullness in daily life due to any reason, Vipassana will help us. Just understand, "At this moment there is sorrow or despair or dullness in my mind," and start observing breath or sensations. The external reason is not important.
Vedanā samosaraṇā sabbe dhammā. Whatever arises in the mind is called Dhamma. A sensation arises in the body with whatever Dhamma arises in the mind: this is the law of nature. The mind and the body are interrelated. When a defilement arises in the mind, along with it some sensation will arise in the body. Whatever sensation arises in the body at that time is connected to the defilement in the mind. This is what the Buddha taught. One understands that there is a defilement in the mind and observes sensation in the body. One practices this thoroughly, not just once or twice, but again and again - every sensation is impermanent. So the defilement that is connected to it is also impermanent, how long will it last? We are observing sensations and also observing how long the defilement lasts. It becomes weak and ceases, like a thief who enters a house, and finding that the master of the house is awake, runs away.
For instance, when anger arises due to any reason, one understands, "At this moment there is anger in the mind. Now let me observe what sensation has arisen in the body." It does not matter what is the external, apparent cause of this anger. One is observing sensation and understanding that it is impermanent. This anger is also impermanent. It would have increased and overpowered one completely. Now it becomes weaker and weaker and passes away.
Vipassana practice brings great benefits. No matter what defilement arises - lust, ego, envy, fear or anything else - one does not get overpowered by it. Now that we have learned how to practice Vipassana, the art of living. All that we have to do is to accept, "this defilement has arisen. Let me face this enemy. Let me see what is happening in my body. It is impermanent, anicca, anicca." The enemy starts getting weaker and runs away.
Defilements will keep arising, for this or that reason. When you fully eradicate all defilements, you become a fully liberated person, an arahant.
Now in ordinary life, one has to face these difficulties of arising defilements. We have found a very effective weapon in the form of observing these sensations. With Vipassana practice, no enemy can overpower us in life, and at the moment of death. We are the master of this moment. Vipassana is the technique for becoming own master of one's life, by becoming master of this moment, from moment to moment.
With Vipassana, we have learned the art of living happily. Sorrow is caused by defilements in the mind. An external event has occurred, we generate a defilement and we become miserable. To the same event, we do not generate a defilement and we do not become miserable. We are responsible for our misery, and our happiness.
Unfavourable external events will continue to occur, and if we are strong and do not generate defilements, our lives will be filled with happiness and peace. We do not harm others; we help ourselves and help others.
Practice Vipassana regularly, not just two hours a day but as often as possible, to be happy and peaceful the whole life. All who have received Vipassana should understand that we have received an invaluable jewel. It is our responsibility to make best use of it, for one's own welfare and welfare of all others.
Questions and Answers
Goenkaji: Fight out your battle. Lust is something that keeps on following you from life to life. It is a very deep saṇkhāra. Whenever lust arises in the mind, don't get involved in the object of the lust. Just accept the fact: lust as lust. "At this moment my mind is full of lust." Accept this, and see what sensation you have. At that moment whatever sensation you are feeling predominantly anywhere in the body, start observing it-understanding anicca, anicca, this is not permanent, this is not permanent. This lust that has come is also not permanent, let me see how long it lasts. If you do this, the lust becomes weaker and weaker and passes away.
Question: Lack of will-power and laziness are obstructing my meditation. Could you kindly give me some advice.
Goenkaji: Develop will-power, strong will-power. If you are so weak that you keep on breaking your decision to meditate every day in the morning and evening, then decide that you won't take your breakfast without having sat for one hour. How many days will you miss your breakfast? You will start practicing daily. And so far as laziness or drowsiness is concerned, just examine yourself. If the laziness is because of lack of sleep, then sleep for some time. Get refreshed. But if you find this laziness is because of your mental impurity, which has become a barrier for you, then fight it out. Have hard breathing for some time, sprinkle some cold water on the eyes, stand up, walk. Somehow or the other, get rid of it.
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