by Sayagyi U Goenka
A synopsis of the landmark discourse (Yoga, as seen in the light of Vipassana ) of Principal Vipassana Teacher Sayagyi U S.N. Goenka (1924 – 2013) at Kaivalyadham Yoga Academy, Mumbai, April 30, 1990
Saint Kaivalyananda, instrumental in spread of yoga worldwide, expressed a wish that India’s ancient spiritual wealth should again benefit the country and the world. During tours to different countries teaching Vipassana, I interacted with thousands of yoga practitioners and yoga teachers. I feel very happy that so many are benefiting from yoga practice that originated in India.
Reclaiming India's treasures of practical wisdom
From original Patanjali texts, we see how he gave very little importance to asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercise). He refers to asanas and pranayama in barely five sentences in his treatise Patanjali Yoga Sutra! But the rest of his treatise has been forgotten! Dedicated students of yoga must take careful note of this fact.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra refers to personal experience of the truth, to realizing rational truths i.e. ‘rt’. People have forgotten actual meaning of ‘rt’. Rt means universal truth or omnipresent reality. It is law of nature that always exists, a universal law not limited only to people calling themselves Hindus, Jains, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs etc.
For example, the intrinsic nature of fire is to burn. This is a natural law, timeless and universal, irrespective of religions.
Likewise, Patanjali treatise contains universal truths realized through experiential wisdom (paññā) i.e. wisdom gained from one’s own experience.
Suffering is an obvious reality. Sickness, unwanted things happening, the wanted not happening – all this makes us miserable. But we also find that people having much money, fame, luxuries, adulation, power are also unhappy. One may accumulate all wealth and power, but something disagreeable happens, and becomes unhappy, discontented, or insecure about losing one’s wealth and possessions.
[ here it must be carefully noted that attachment refers to attachment one's own ego, the intense attachment to 'I and 'my'. Vipassana does not lead to indifference to responsibilities and being aloof from others. Vipassana practice reduces selfishness, and related suffering]
Now you may accept these truths through lectures or literature, but after practicing Vipassana you will experience them yourself.
Eradicating the root cause of suffering
Similarly, if suffering is there and its cause i.e. craving is there, definitely the remedy to remove the habit of craving must also be in existence. That universal remedy is Vipassana - the practice of gaining wisdom through direct experience.
The wisdom filled with experiential wisdom i.e., rtambhara prajna and Vipassana are synonyms to each other.
Attaining Full Enlightenment by one's own efforts
Before we move further, let us overview eight levels of meditations (jhanas) referred to above.
For instance, the feeling of ‘sukha’ is experienced. About 2500 years ago the language was quite different to that today. Meanings of words have changed. These changes in meaning have caused confusion. Over 2000 years ago, the term sukha meant the bliss or tranquility in a very highly concentrated state of mind during meditation. In modern terminology, ‘sukha’ means happiness of the kind experienced through mundane happenings. The supra-mundane ‘sukha’ experienced through meditation is beyond compare to the current ‘sukha’ meaning in the mundane world.
[ note: 'bodily sensations' means any tangible feeling in the body - like heat, heaviness, pain, tingling, itching, cold, tickling - anything felt at the physical level. For whatever reason the bodily sensations have arisen, the Vipassana meditator uses these sensations to develop equanimity, and change the earlier habit pattern of blindly reacting to these sensations with craving or aversion]
With this wisdom of impermanence, there is no more blind reaction of craving or aversion to sensations. The habit pattern of generating new sankaras of suffering is broken. The old sankaras arise to the surface as sensations and pass away. The mind is getting purified. One is coming out of misery.
A more detailed summary : Patanjali’s Yoga - True experiential understanding through Vipassana
From the original 'Yoga - as seen in the light of Vipassana', Vipassana Research Institute