Sunday, February 19, 2017

Is Vipassana meditation a fast track to liberation?* Part V

Which things to take with you to Vipassana
·      Alarm clock (old-fashioned mechanical one, not on your smartphone)
·      Flashlight
·      Lock for your door
·      Umbrella for protection against rain or sun
·      Comfortable pants or skirt to sit in the meditation postures for long hours
·      Couple of modest T-shirts or cotton blouses
·      A hat
·      Sunglasses
·      Himalayas: rain umbrella, coat, rain pants, waterproof boots
·      Indian rupeescurrency1,000 rupees will be enough to pay for laundry and small purchases
·      Bottle for water
·      Electric kettle might be useful, if permitted

                                                                              Vipassana retreat Pushkar 

After the course 
On the tenth day of the course you will get an opportunity to buy some books about Vipassana meditation based on teachings by the founder of the technique, Gautama Buddha. 
Also for sale are DVDs and CDs with lectures of the organizer of Vipassana centers worldwide, S.N. Goenka. The main languages of the books are English and Hindu, however, DVDs and CDs are available in a number of languages.
The lectures are the most valuable asset in the methodology of Vipassana nowadays. You can download them to your laptop or smartphone and listen any time. 
The lectures are extremely helpful for refreshing your memory back home, whether you are going to continue practicing the Vipassana meditation in the future or not. Well-structured and thoughtful lessons are delivered with a calm voice of a reader with a daily teaching. 

                                                                                                      Pagoda in Mumbai 

Questions & Answers
1.Q: what is being liberated?
A: being liberated means to have a freedom from Samsara; no return back to the physical world.
2. Q: is not freedom already present?
A: The freedom, which is already present, gives you a chance to take higher risks. It's not liberation itself.
3. Q: can i liberate after attending the first course of the Vipassana meditation?
A: No. The liberation process takes much longer time.
4. Q: Does the liberation have something to do with enlightenment?
A: Yes. A person who reaches full enlightenment is liberated from Samsara.
5. Q: how long it takes to get full enlightenment?
A: For Siddhārtha Gautama, known as Buddha, it took about 6 years
6. Q: I don’t want to liberate. Is there any other advantage of Vipassana Meditation?
A: Yes. For example, Anger management.
7. Q: What anger management has in common with liberation?
A: A person who is able to control his anger does not generate new karmic nodes.
7. Q: Are foreigners and Indians have separate premises for practicing Vipassana Meditation?
A: No. All people are meditating in the same hall, getting instructions in Hindu and English (other languages are available via audio player).
 8. Q: I like to practice meditations along, is there any chance to have a private room for the meditation?
A: Yes, you will have a chance to practice Vipassana meditation in your own cell in Pagoda.

Do you have your own question?

Most Sincerely,
Jacklyn A. Lo

*Note:  This article is based on my personal experience and thoughts after my first 10-day meditation course of Vipassana, and is not presented to be an absolute truth. – Jacklyn A. Lo

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Is Vipassana meditation a fast track to liberation?* Part IV

Practical advices
Here are some practical advices below that might be helpful.
1.    Choose the place of Vipassana retreat and book it in advance.
a.    Some places such as Himalayas are booked pretty fast
b.    Not all courses have a teacher, the smaller retreats have only an assistant teacher.
c.     Check the annual temperature on the retreat. During some months, the warmth or rain could be unbearable.

 Annual Weather

2.    Support your physical fitness by exercising yoga asanas (stretching). Practice a butterfly asana regularly.
3.    Prior to attending the session, regularly sit on the floor in a meditation posture, keeping your back straight whether listening to music, watching TV, etc.
4.    Before your session, try to reduce the amount of meat you consume if you are not a vegetarian.
a.    Avoid eating meat every second day at first, slowly reducing the amount of the meat, replacing it by legumes.
b.    Fasting 24 hours once per week would be beneficial.
c.     Acquaint yourself with Indian cuisine at local restaurants. And, why not try to cook some Indian dishes at home?
5.    Apply the same rule (see number 4) to alcohol, smoking, and drugs  reduce them steadily but surely.
6.    It might be useful to acquaint yourself with any meditation methodology prior to the entering the course, however, it's not essential.
7.    To prevent unnecessary worries, prepare your relatives and friends that you are going to be away from any communication means for 10 days. Create an automatic reply on your email and/or phone.
8.    If you have time and budget travel through India’s spiritual places. I will provide a number of the spiritual places in India with hints and tips in a separate article.
9.    You can use your normal prescription medications from your doctor. In the case of the serious health problems, contact the training center for advice prior to arrival.

Where to go for retreat
·      India versus homeland
Thanks to Mr. Goenka, Vipassana meditation has been spread all over the world, and people can attend the training even in their own country. However, due to continuously increasing popularity of the technique, there might be a problem to book a place in your own country. In some countries. the places are all gone in the first 20 minutes after the opening a registration.
Personally, I prefer to get the meditation technique in the country of origin India.

                                                                                                            Vipassana retreat near Pushkar, India

·      Big versus small size retreats
There are tens or maybe hundreds of Vipassana meditation centers throughout India, and I divide all of them into two main groups: the smaller meditation centers and the bigger ones.
In the small meditation centers, such as Pushkar, there are around 50 men and 25 women. The advantages of a smaller place are: cozier atmosphere with less noise, perhaps bigger space for fresh-air walking, and more time of an assistant teacher to dedicate to each student. The food preparation is outsourced, which is also positive because of reduced extra activities around you and noise.
The advantages of a bigger center are: larger variety of the people with different geographical backgrounds, you will be taught by a fully credentialed teacher (not an assistant teacher) with his high spiritual awareness in the Vipassana.
·      Himalayas
Very many foreigners, as well as locals, are attracted by gorgeous views of the Himalayas, nice weather and desire to participate to Vipassana meditation there. However, please be aware that the retreat is closed for the winter season; it might be not as warm as you think in spring and autumn seasons, and during the summer, the premises are pretty badly infected by mold.

*Note:  This article is based on my personal experience and thoughts after my first 10-day meditation course of Vipassana, and is not presented to be an absolute truth. – Jacklyn A. Lo

Next article will tell about which things to take with you to Vipassana and after the course.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Is Vipassana meditation a fast track to liberation?* Part III

Terms and conditions
In order to achieve the objectives of Vipassana meditation, a student should follow the terms and conditions of the course.
There are five important precepts included in the Code of Discipline for new students:
1.    To abstain from killing any being.
2.    To abstain from stealing.
3.    To abstain from all sexual activity.
4.    To abstain from telling lies.
5.    To abstain from all intoxicants.

In addition to the Code of Discipline, a student is expected to accept a teacher (or assistant teacher), the Vipassana technique, and execute all other meditation techniques, rites, and/or any form of worship. Religious objects, crystals, and talismans are strictly prohibited during the course, as well as any form of intoxicants and drugs.
Clothes worn during the meditation should be clean, modest, and comfortable. Music, reading, and writing are not permitted.

Meditation hall
All students must observe Noble Silence. The Nobel Silence has been invented in accordance to prevent telling lies. The Noble Silence will be started at the end of zero day and ends at the afternoon of day ten. During this time you will have a right to communicate with teacher (or assistant teacher) during two periods per day. In the case of questions concerning practical issues, you will have the opportunity to make a written request and leave it in the appropriate place. The usage of cell phone, Tablet PC, laptops is strictly prohibited.
The Noble Silence is not as awful as it might seem. In fact, it helps to save your energy for concentration on the training.

The Vipassana meditation courses, accommodations, and food are free of charge. A small expense fund is required if you are going to outsource your laundry or purchase bottled water or juice.

Vipassana courses depend on voluntary donations from the people who have attended the course. You can use donation boxes for donations in smaller amounts of money, or deliver a donation to administrator who will be on the premises on the last day of the training. 

I advise you to ask for a receipt for your donation and prepare a printed visit card with your name and email address, because he might tell you that he will send the receipt by email. Ask him when he will be able to send the receipt and take his personal telephone number to call him in case he forgets to do it.


The most critical for me was the first day of the course. I choose the Vipassana meditation center close to Pushkar, Rajasthan State, and attended the course at the end of September.
I wasn’t used to the heat at over +35 degrees C (+95 degrees F) overall, and especially in the premises without air conditioning. The temperature one degree higher would make impossible for me to continue the training.

Another huge constraint for me was long hours sitting in the meditation postures. I used to stay in meditation postures for 30 minutes or so, but a 12-hour training session at the Vipassana felt like torture.

So, to be able to successfully succeed in a Vipassana course, it’s essential to start preparation for it as early as possible, at least one-month prior.

*Note:  This article is based on my personal experience and thoughts after my first 10-day meditation course of Vipassana, and is not presented to be an absolute truth. – Jacklyn A. Lo, Author of Redemption novel,

Next article will tell about practical advices and where to go for retreat.