Sri Satyanarayanji Goenka was born in Mandalay, Myanmar in
1924. Although he topped the list of all successful candidates in the
whole of Myanmar in the tenth class he could not continue his
studies further because of financial constraints of his family. At a
very early age he set up many commercial and industrial institutions
and earned fabulous wealth. He also established many social and
cultural centres. Because of tension he became a victim of migraine,
which could not be cured by doctors of Myanmar and of other
countries in the world. Then some one suggested him to take a
course of Vipassana. Vipassana has done well not only to him but it
has also been benefiting many others.
He learned Vipassana from Sayagyi U Ba Khin in 1955. Sitting at
the feet of his teacher he practices it for fourteen years He also
studied the words of the Buddha during this period. He came to India
in 1969 and conducted the first vipassana course in Mumbai. After
that a series of courses were held. In 1976 the first residential
course of vipassana was held in Igatpuri and the first centre of
vipassana was established here. Up till now 167 centres have been
established all over the world. New centres also are coming up. At
these centres 1200 trained teachers teach vipassana in 59
languages of the world. Not only ten- day courses are conducted at
these centres but also at some centres 20-day, 30-day, 45-day and
60-day courses are conducted. All courses are free of charge. The
expenses on food and accommodation etc. are met by the self-willed
Dana given by those who benefited from the course. Seeing its
benevolent nature vipassana courses are held not only for the
inmates of jails and school children in the world but also for police
personnels, judges, government officers etc.
Despite the greater availability of meditation courses in re-
cent times, the term Vipassana meditation and Its potential
remain largely unknown in the West. This book, featuring
accounts by practitioners leading everyday lives, aims to
make Vipassana both better known and more clearly. under-
Two decades back, I had the good fortune to learn the
technique of Vipassana directly from S.N. Goenka, a modern lay meditation master In a tradition dating back to the
time of the Buddha, Since then, like countless others, I have
come to appreciate what a priceless gift Vipassana is. I know
through my own experience, personally and professionally,
that the benefits I have received from this meditation practice today are indeed enormous. I am profoundly indebted to Mr. Goenka, whose teaching suffuses this book, and who
is a tireless and exemplary ambassador for Vipassana around
Realising Change has been five years in the making.
Many people worldwide have generously given their time,
energy and skill to helping the Project come to fruition. I
am particularly grateful to the dozens of meditators—students and teachers—who submitted stories about their own
experience of Vipassana. It has only been possible to include
a sample here. In making this compilation, I have also been
fortunate to have a wealth of existing source material in different media to draw upon: the Vipassana Research Institute
(India) and Partyatti (USA) and their authors for an extensive list of books, articles and seminar papers; Karuna Films, Film-makers David Donnentield, Michael Norton and Gerald
Frape and transcribers for scripts and camera interviews;
Michael Green and Kirk Brown for photographic images;
Paul Fleischman for permission to extract from Cultivating
My job has been more anthologist, than originator—
to weave personal narratives into a straightforward account
of Vipassana meditation and its relevance to contemporary,
life. Special thanks to editors Rick Crutcher ot Pariyatti and
to Bill Hart for their perceptive comments, suggestions and
patient guidance. By repeatedly driving us back to the basics their advice undoubtedly improved the text. Thanks too due to the U.K. Vipassana Trust for invaluable access to
staff and facilities at the Hereford meditation centre.
Friends Kirk and Reinette Brown and my wife Shelina
also read everything and were unfailingly encouraging—the
ideal support team.
Vipassana has been a central part of my lite for the
past twenty-four years and the text naturally reflects my
own experience and understanding, both as a meditator and
in my role as an assistant teacher. Where there are short-
comings, they are mine alone and no reflection on the
teaching, which is flawless.
Deepest thanks to all who have contributed to this
joyful work. May its merits be shared with every one of
Where to now?
Hurricane-force changes characterise the times. Forever
raising or dashing our fortunes, they test us to the limit. Is
there shelter in the storm? The world won’t stop to let us
off, so what to do and which route to go? Do we bend or
break? Vipassana is a practice of experiencing change—face
to face with full understanding—moment by moment
throughout our days. By realising change—face to face with
full understanding—we can be doers rather than done-tos.
The aim of this book is to introduce Vipassana meditation
as a tried and tested way of solving our everyday problems.
The book 1s written both as celebration and invitation;
a celebration of a living tradition of meditation which is being
practised around the world today, positively transforming
people’s lives in great ways and small, as it has unfailingly
for over two thousand years; an invitation to journey together into a fascinating realm of feeling, thought and action.
Vipassana is an ancient meditation technique of India.
The Buddha discovered it, attained full enlightenment using it and made it the essence of his teaching, which spread
throughout the Indian sub-continent and then on to neighbouring countries. For five hundred years Vipassana flourished in India but then eventually it became polluted
and was lost there.
However in Burma (now Myanmar) a chain of devoted
teachers maintained the theory and the practice of the technique in its original form over the centuries. Sayagyi U Ba
Khin, a respected lay meditation teacher and high government official, was the person directly responsible for relaunching Vipassana in the modern era. At his centre in
Rangoon he taught foreigners as well as native Burmese.
Amongst his closest students was S.N. Goenka, a Burmese
businessman of Indian origin whose family had settled in
Myanmar some generations before. In 1969, after fourteen
years studying meditation and assisting his teacher, Mr
Goenka returned to India. The mission entrusted to him by
U Ba Khin was to take Vipassana back to its birthplace, the
land of the Buddha, and from there to spread it around the
world. Accordingly Mr Goenka started to give courses 1n
Vipassana, first in India and then abroad. In time, meditation centres exclusively devoted to the teaching were
Although Vipassana has its origin in India and has been
preserved in the Buddhist tradition, it contains nothing of a
sectarian nature and can be accepted and applied by people
of any background. In the West people often feel uneasy at
the mention of meditation. Various negative associations are
made: with "cults"; with "other religions"; with "mysticism".
In sum, people often feel about meditation, "This is not for
us". By its progress over the past thirty years Vipassana has
shown how unfounded these anxieties are. The approach is
practical, rational and scientific—an objective investigation _
of our own minds and bodies, free from any ritual or blind
belief. Members of all religions and none, coming from every
part of the world and every walk of life, are successfully —
practising Vipassana. This should come as no surprise. Our
problems are universal and the solution must likewise be
universal. Now, as in the past, East and West are ultimately
One. Tangible evidence of the technique’s effectiveness 1s
offered here in anecdote and research. Through the practice
of Vipassana and across all cultural boundaries, we will see
how individuals are not only developing their own potential as human beings but are able to make a. greater
contribution to society as a whole.
The invitation, dear reader, is this. You’ll find an out-
line description of the technique in these pages so that you
know what’s involved. However the book is not a do-it-
yourself meditation manual and shouldn’t be used as such.
There’s no substitute for learning Vipassana by your own
personal experience. For this you need to undertake a ten-
day course with an authorised teacher in a supportive
environment. These courses are designed so that you can.
discover first-hand how to meditate and get the best results.
Alongside the account of the technique is a sampling of
the voices of meditators from different communities: young
and old, female and male, simple and sophisticated. Some
contributors’ names have been altered by request. Each has
his or her own story—how they came to Vipassana, what
they’ve learned, the struggles, the gains; all humanity at the
water’s edge, finding common refreshment in a practice focused on peace, happiness, compassion and loving kindness.
This is the terrain we’ll be travelling.
The book is arranged in three parts:
Section A: "Vipassana—Meditating on Change" looks
at the impact of change on our lives today, what Vipassana meditation is and what happens on a ten-day
Section B: "Vipassana—Changing Everyday Life" de-
scribes the various ways that individuals and
organisations are applying the teaching in everyday
situations, at home, with friends and in settings such
as education, business and administration, social re-
form and health.
Appendices provide information for those wanting to
find out more about Vipassana and how to set about
joining a course.
May what you read here give encouragement and direction to your own search for happiness and truth.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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