I will start this by telling you, gentle reader, that I am writing about my personal experience and make absolutely no claim of expertise. The subject is deep, deeper than I would ever have imagined.
There are many types of meditation. Many use mantras, external sounds and other methods to allow the meditator to concentrate. These types of meditation offer moments of peace and often bliss. The effect is not long lasting after the meditation period ends. I’m not suggesting they are bad in any way, I am suggesting that the results may not be a permanent as one might hope for. Then there is Vipassana meditation. Vipassana means insight. Vipassana is said to be passed down from Gautama the Buddha. By the way the word Buddha means enlightened; Buddha was the enlightened one.
The popularity of Vipassana meditation has waxed and waned. The writings of Buddhaghosa were very influential, especially his exegesis “The Vissidhimagga” written in 412, which was the basis for the current revival of Vipassana started by Sayadaw Mahasi in Burma in the 1930’s. The flame of Vipassana was preserved by a small following in Burma who kept the practice alive for several hundred years. Recently it has spread and is particularly prevalent in Thailand as well as in the West. You can find a lot of information about sites and so forth on line. Just google Vipassana. Also I have collected some information I am willing to share. Just contact me by email if you are interested.
Vipassana is more about awareness than concentration. Of course there needs to be a bit of concentration to achieve any awareness. As taught at the mediation center I attended each session consists of three parts, mindful prostration, walking meditation and sitting meditation. The idea is to become aware of self. Self awareness is truth. And as Jesus said “the truth will set you free”. Who should take this path? Only those who really want to know the truth. Vipassana is not for spiritual wimps, it’s for people who want to know a new happiness and a new freedom. I’m reminded of a sign I once saw in the back offices of the U.S. State Department. It read “Toil is the price of greatness and the Gods have deemed that you pay in advance”.
In the United States and other countries there are several centers. There is a comprehensive list in the back of the book “The Art of Living – Vipassana Meditation”. I’m happy to share this list with you for the asking. Here in Thailand there are also several centers. I chose the International Meditation Center at Wat Chom Tong a few kilometers South of Chiang Mai. This choice I made solely based on the recommendation of a good friend who had been there. I recommend the center to you based on several factors:
a. a. My experience was all positive. The teacher was excellent and the facility totally appropriate.
b. b. The location is convenient, assuming you are in Thailand.
c. c. Wat Chom Tong is the home of Ajahn Tong who created this center. He is a true master, considered to be enlightened my many Thais and foreigners. His presence is felt. People who choose a site based on a master often come here, as did my teacher Jonathan.
d. d. The proper name of the Wat is Prathat Sri Chom Tong. The preface Prathat Sri indicates that the wat has a relic of the Buddha and is therefore of great significance. It’s a very cool place to meditate.
|The Temple in the evening|
Most of the internet sites and books suggest that a first course should be 10 days. At Wat Chom Tong they recommend 21. I thought 21 days was a long time, but signed up and went. I’m glad that I took their advice. In the future I can go back and do 10 day retreats when it suites me. I’m already trying to schedule my next retreat. There must be a combination of concentration and awareness in this meditation. Ajon Tong teaches with great emphasis on awareness because that is how the mediator will gain self awareness. Mindfulness is a key word at Wat Chom Tong. It’s amazing how much of life I have gone through totally unaware. To be mindful of my surroundings helps me to learn about me. Getting to know me is a good thing.
|Ajon Tong receives alms|
To give alms to the enlighted one is deemed most excellent merit
While there, we are introduced to a little Dharma and allowed to go make merit in the same way the Thai Buddhists do.
There are three refuges; Buddha (enlightenment), Dharma (teaching) and Sangha (community). The key to everything is the concept of anatta, which means no-self or no-ego. Does this mean I’ve become a Buddhist? Not really, but I’m grateful that my teachings of the past allow me to accept their wisdom and incorporate it into my own philosophy.