Sunday, January 12, 2014

What is "Vipassana?"

You don't need to ride motorcycles to understand what I am about to say, but it helps.

It is the weekend and the weather outside is gorgeous. You feel a tug inside you and you decide to go for a ride on your motorcycle. As you dress for the ride, the anticipation creates pleasant sensations in your body. You walk to your motorcycle, you note the stiffness of your walk, and remind yourself that riding boots are not meant for walking.

When you mount your motorcycle and start the engine, you feel the vibrations all over your body, some of which is from the engine and others generated from the excitement within your body. You feel something is not right about the vibrations. You lean down and adjust the motorcycle engine, ah, now it sounds right!

As you ride, you can feel the wind in spite of your helmet and riding gear. The thrill and joy of riding creates an urge to go faster, but you resist the temptation. You ride for a while, then stop to admire the scenery.

When you return to your motorcycle, you see it has fallen to the ground. You had not parked it on firm ground. Anguish rips through your body as you anxiously lift your baby and lovingly dust the chrome and leather.

This should be enough to make my point...

When you ride a motorcycle, your body generates sensations. If you are vigilant, over time, you will know each one of them. You will use pleasant sensations to enjoy yourself, the unpleasant sensations to anticipate problems, and to raise your guard, and you react instinctively to almost all of them when riding (this last point can be a boon or a curse).

You will practice Vipassana when you observe your sensations in a two step process:
  • Observe ALL your sensations, gross or subtle. It takes a lot of practice to observe the subtle sensations, trust me, they are there.
  • Observe your sensations with equanimity, without craving and aversion.
As you can imagine, all your day to day actions generate sensations, and you can practice Vipassana even if you don't ride a motorcycle. You can practice Vipassana professionally (become a monk) or practice it from time to time (go to a meditation camp) or make it part of your daily routine.

Motorcycle riders experience a range of sensations that only a fellow motorcycle rider will truly understand. This understanding creates a bond that does not require words to be exchanged when they meet. The best motorcyclists are mindful, careful, manage risks, and do not give in to urges to ride fast or dangerously. They know when to keep riding and when to take a break to stretch their legs.

Such motorcyclists are practicing a form of Vipassana.