I just finished a ten day Vipassna in Rajasthan and thoroughly enjoyed it ( I also drove a bike – gixxer 155 – to and fro Churu!). Since Vipassna is all about experiencing first hand whatever there is to be realised (rather than talking about concepts), I will desist from saying more about it! You go and check it out, if you wish! But I must share my thoughts on what we in TISA, can learn from this global movement.
1. Truly Indigenous movement: One reason of it becoming so popular is its healthy Indian roots. It makes no compromises, does not dilute nor is it apologetic for what it believes and practices. You need not learn English, nor do you have to put on a tie and shirt, in order to attend a Vipassna session! It is offered free as a “sewa”. And yet, it utilizes modern technology to max. Its online seat booking page is very friendly and easy to use. So booking a seat anywhere in the world – or cancelling it, is very easy and intuitive. For a new pws, finding the nearest SHG, upcoming hangout, appropriate whatsapp group or online resources, still requires more than a few clicks.
2. Clear Core values : Everyone in Vipassna camp, teachers and volunteers, are always aware of Core values and they encourage students to observe these core values every moment of those ten days. One of these core values is to desist from any sectarian practice or display. This is done to remain true to original teachings of Buddha, which encouraged us to give up all concepts and search within, with an open mind, for our own realization. This helps to create a very helpful atmosphere in those ten days, which is conducive to going within and discovering our own answers. In TISA too, we need to emphasize again and again, in every forum, that self-help means relying on our own efforts, instead of surrendering to some expert or gadget. We need to remind everyone that working whole-heartedly on communication or just being OK with stammering and doing nothing – both options are open to pws and should be respected.
3. Less theory, More Practice: Instead of falling in an intellectual (and time wasting) discussion about samadhi, God, soul, after-life and rebirth, Vipassna insists on going within and experiencing for ourselves,whatever we may find in the inner silence. TISA can learn from this: we often get into this big and unproductive debate about Acceptance- is Acceptance good, is it practical, is it imperative etc.?? It ends up becoming an intellectual concept and a “party line” position. Instead, we should encourage pws to conduct a stammering interview with strangers and decide their path in the light of the answers they get during the interview (just an example).
4. Good Grounding: Vipassna teachers undergo many sessions (even six month long) over many years to get rooted into the practice and theory of it. Only then they are allowed to facilitate a session for other students. TISA “seniors”, like SHG coordinators and others, should also similarly get a good grounding by attending a few workshops or doing a mooc etc. before they decide to volunteer and help others.
5. Pass it on : Vipassna is spreading out fast by encouraging satisfied students to open new centers (even if small) in their areas. TISA too should be working with participants and encourage them to start SHG in their own towns or in their work place- even if it consists of just two members, who frequently post their meetings to the TISA blog. There is a popular saying: Never return a kindness- Pass it on!
6. Practical & Ethical approach to funds: No individual makes profits out of Vipassna. There is no FEE. But those who benefit from Vipassna often freely contribute to future courses. MANY pws have done the same in TISA. I want to sincerely thank them today! Our contribution need not always be in terms of funds, however. It can also be in the form of your hours and energies as a volunteer running TISA hangouts, website, blog, mooc, whatsapp groups and coordinating TISA events and SHGs around the country. Let us keep this trend growing so that soon a time comes when no pws in India is struggling alone and s/he has all the useful knowledge and skills to help themselves and that the society is better informed about this diversity.
And what would you gain by doing all this? Great masters believe that by serving others selflessly you find your SELF! What more could we ask for!