How does it work?
Buddha realized that Matter and Spirit are continuously interacting and influencing each other;
- We experience this interaction through sensations ; pleasant and unpleasant ones
- We react with craving towards pleasant sensations and with aversion towards unpleasant sensations
- Craving then turns into attachment and aversion into hatred
- But sensations are impermanent (transitory), as is everything in this Universe
- So, we constantly feel agitated and miserable, because we crave for pleasurable sensations that keep passing, and have aversion for unpleasant sensations that keep arising
- This interaction is going on, every moment and one does not know what is happening
By practicing Vipassana, you start observing the sensation which has arisen. And you learn not to react to it (i.e. with equanimity). That means you do not generate craving or aversion at that particular moment. This one moment turns into a few moments, which turn into a few seconds, which turn into a few minutes, and you find that you are not as easily influenced by this flow as you were in the past. You have slowly started coming out of your misery.
So, the purpose of Vipassana is to develop the faculty of awareness. Not just the awareness at the surface level of the mind, but at the deeper level of the mind. When you start working with sensations on the body, you start moving to the deeper levels of your mind; the so-called « unconscious mind », which is actually never unconscious. It is always conscious of the sensations on the body and it keeps on reacting to the sensations. If it finds a sensation pleasant than it reacts with clinging and craving. If it finds a sensation unpleasant than it reacts with aversion and hatred. This has become a habit pattern of the deepest level of the mind. It always remains a prisoner of it. A blind habit pattern. Whatever one understands at the surface of the mind carry no meaning for this deepest layer of the mind. At the intellectual level one understands that he should not generate negativity. Every negativity goes against our own peace, our own harmony. But all that understanding by the intellect does not help this deepest level of the mind. There is a barrier between the two. Vipassana helps you to break that barrier. Whatever was being felt by the deepest level of the mind (pleasant and unpleasant sensations) is now felt by the entire mind. The whole mind is now awakened to the reality of the body sensations. And whatever was understood by the surface level of the mind ("don’t react with negativity"), now it is getting understood by the deeper level of the mind. The barrier is getting broken.
During a 10-day course, we first work with the respiration, the breath, in order to sharpen the awareness of the mind. We use the natural breath as it comes in and as it goes out, keeping attention to a limited area at the entrance of the nostrils. Then, from the fourth day onward one is trained to observe the sensations throughout the body; pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, understand their basic nature and not react to them.