After having such a great experience at the Bali Usada Tapa Brata Meditation Retreat, I wanted more. A good friend and fellow meditator told me about a Burmese monk that was coming to Bali to lead a Vipassana Retreat and that he was top in his field for mindfulness training. Sign me up, I said!! I had only been meditating for about 7 weeks at this point and I was very eager to learn and experience more. For those that are unfamiliar, “vipassana” actually means “insight” and a vipassana retreat traditionally is a noble silent retreat (no speaking, gesturing, or eye contact) with a very rigid schedule of alternating walking and sitting meditation. Reading, writing, listening to music, or doing any other discipline or practice (such as yoga) is usually forbidden as the journey is supposed to be fully inward and introspective.
The retreat was held at the Buddhist monastery near Singaraja in North Bali, a beautiful location atop a hill overlooking the coastline with some amazing energy; a pretty spectacular spot to practice mindfulness and have an introspective journey. Upon registering as retreat participants we were given a book of Sayadaw U Tejaniya’s teachings, which we were supposed to read during the retreat. Right then, I knew this wasn’t going to be the average vipassana. (The term Sayadaw is Burmese for senior monk or abbot of a monastery, often referring to influential teachers of the Buddhist Dhamma and also important meditation practitioners.)
Sayadaw U Tejaniya began his Buddhist training as a young teenager in Burma under the late Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw. After a career in business and life as a householder, he has become a permanent monk since 1996. He teaches meditation at Shwe Oo Min Dhamma Sukha Forest Meditation Center in Yangon, Myanmar. He is relaxed and easy to talk with and has an excellent sense of humour, always quick and easy to laugh. In fact, we all laughed a lot at this retreat!
During the opening session with Sayadaw, he explained that he does not insist on silence, noble or otherwise, as he does not want this retreat experience to be that far removed from our daily lives. He feels that the closer the retreat is to our daily activities, the easier it will be to integrate the teachings and apply the principles to our daily lives. All that he asked was that if we spoke, we spoke mindfully. In fact, everything we did, we were supposed to do mindfully and with full awareness. We were instructed to read the compilation of dhamma talks and teachings that we were presented upon registering, we could speak, practice yoga or any other discipline if we choose to, as long as we did all of the these things mindfully and with full awareness. The schedule was rather light as well, the usual wake-up gong at 4:00 am (standard at these retreats), with breakfast at 6:30am, a group meditation at 9:00am, lunch at 11:00, question and answer dhamma talks at 3:00 and 7:00 pm. (There was no dinner, following Buddha’s 8 precepts
, one of which is no food after noon when studying.) The rest of the time we were left to our own devices. We were expected to spend a good amount of time meditating and of course we were expected to read the teachings, but there were no specific requirements. This is what I am calling a ‘vipassana lite’!
Regardless of light or heavy, the experience was thought provoking, educational, stimulating, and certainly insightful, with teachings that were inspiring, challenging and most certainly interesting. The teachings of Sayadaw U Tejaniya are all about knowing the mind and recognizing how the mind works, thinks, and operates. Throughout the retreat we are told over and over again by Sayadaw that we are trying to understand the mind exactly as it is. We are observing to understand, not to achieve anything or make anything stop happening. We are simply trying to understand the mind as it is. We are trying to understand and recognize the defilements of craving, aversion, and illusion, in all their forms. They are all natural phenomena that we need to recognize and understand but that will always be present. Through vipassana meditation we can cultivate awareness and understanding of these cravings, aversions, and illusions as well as ourselves and our world. From awareness, insight arises and from insight, wisdom arises. What is the right attitude for meditation?
1- Meditating is acknowledging and observing whatever happens, whether pleasant or unpleasant, in a relaxed way.
2- Meditating is watching and waiting patiently with awareness and understanding. Meditation is NOT trying to experience something you have read or heard about.
3- Just pay attention to the present moment. Don’t get lost in thoughts about the past. Don’t get carried away by thoughts about the future.
4- When meditating, both the mind and the body should be comfortable.
5- If the mind and the body are getting tired, something is wrong with the way you are practicing, and it is time to check the way you are meditating.
7- The meditating mind should be relaxed and at peace. You cannot practice when the mind is tense.
8- Don’t focus too hard, don’t control. Neither force nor restrict yourself.
9- Don’t try to create anything, and don’t reject what is happening. Just be aware.
10- Trying to create something is greed. Rejecting what is happening is aversion. Not knowing if something is happening or has stopped happening is delusion.
11- Only to the extent that the observing mind has no greed, aversion or anxiety are you truly meditating.
14- What is the mind doing? Thinking? Being aware?
15- Where is the mind now? Inside? Outside?
16- Is the watching or observing mind properly aware or only superficially aware?
17- Don’t practice with a mind that wants something or wants something to happen. The result will only be that you tire yourself out.
18- You have to accept and watch both good and bad experiences. You want only good experiences? You don’t want even the tiniest unpleasant experience? Is that reasonable? Is this the way of the Dhamma?
20- Don’t feel disturbed by the thinking mind. You are not practicing to prevent thinking; but rather to recognize and acknowledge thinking whenever it arises.
21- Don’t reject any object that comes to your attention. Get to know the defilements that arise in relation to the object and keep examining the defilements.
22- The object of attention is not really important; the observing mind that is working in the background to be aware is of real importance. If the observing is done with the right attitude, any object is the right object.
23- Only when there is faith or confidence (saddha), effort will arise. Only when there is effort (viriya), mindfulness will become continuous. Only when mindfulness (sati) is continuous, stability of mind will become established. Only when stability of mind (samadhi) is established, you will start understanding things as they are. When you start understanding things as they are (pañña), faith will grow stronger.
For Vipassana Schedule in Bali