In August this year, I attended a 3-day Vipassana Meditation Course at Dhammagara, Kotdanda Vipassana Meditation Center in Lalitpur, Nepal.
When I shared my experience on Facebook with some pictures and an inspired status, I got messages from people asking how they could join a similar course and how much it would cost.
I responded to their questions but realized they needed more detailed information.
That’s when I decided to create content addressing frequently asked questions about Vipassana meditation in Nepal.
Initially, I made videos in Nepali, but realizing it could help non-Nepali speakers too, I’m now sharing the 11 most common Vipassana meditation questions and answers here.
You check out the talked-about video below.
Although you can find all the information on the official website (https://www.dhamma.org/), it might take a while to locate what you need. So, I’m here to provide straightforward and concise answers to these commonly asked questions.
Let’s jump in!
1. What is Vipassana Meditation?
Vipassana is an intensive meditation technique discovered by The Buddha, and it was through this method that Lord Buddha attained nirvana.
Throughout his life, the Buddha shared this knowledge with many students in the teacher-student tradition. In this same tradition, his students then taught the meditation to many others.
Similarly, Guru Sri Satyanarayan Goenka ji also learned from a teacher and, in turn, dedicated his life to teaching Vipassana meditation.
He even developed a shorter 10-day course for the method to suit the changing needs of modern society with its busy people.
As a result, the same Vipassana meditation course designed by Goenka is now taught in various countries across the globe.
2. How to Join a Vipassana Meditation Course?
You can enroll in a Vipassana meditation course at a center near you, as there are numerous Vipassana centers across the globe.
To access details about these centers, including course schedules and the option to submit an online form, please visit their website.
You can explore the directory of all meditation centers worldwide by going to the link here: https://www.dhamma.org/en/locations/directory.
Alternatively, a quick Google search like “vipassana meditation center in <your city>” will lead you to a nearby center’s website.
There, you’ll find the course schedule, an online application form, and all the necessary information for a smooth enrollment process.
3. How Much Does it Cost to Attend a Vipassana Meditation Course?
Zero. No cost at all!
These courses are designed to be completely free, emphasizing the principle that knowledge should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial situation.
Charging a fee is avoided to keep the retreat’s purity intact and aligned with its true purpose.
The meditation centers are supported by charity from former students. They welcome both financial donations and volunteer services during the course sessions.
Once you’ve completed a course, if you feel inclined, you can contribute by making a monetary donation to the center.
Alternatively, you can choose to donate your time and labor by volunteering during another course.
It’s essential to know that Vipassana meditation centers only accept donations from individuals who have completed at least one 10-day meditation course.
4. If I’m Not a Buddhist, Can Vipassana Meditation Still Benefit Me?
The Vipassana meditation technique is beneficial for everyone, no matter their religious background – whether you’re Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Kirat, or follow any other belief.
Personally, I’m a Kirat by birth, follow Mundhum, and worship nature as part of my religious-cultural tradition. Despite this, I’ve found Vipassana meditation incredibly helpful.
The beauty of Vipassana is that it doesn’t clash with any particular religion; it’s more about understanding the natural order, discovering our true selves, and breaking free from patterns of sorrow.
No need for worshipping religious objects, chanting mantras, or anything like that in Vipassana meditation.
And it doesn’t matter what philosophy you lean towards – whether it’s communism, Marxism, spiritualism, or a specific religion.
Vipassana meditation is beneficial for absolutely everyone.
5. I’m a Family Person, Not a Monk. How Can Vipassana Meditation Benefit Me?
Absolutely! Vipassana meditation can be super helpful, especially for someone like you who values family.
Being part of a family means dealing with attachments, responsibilities, and expectations.
As Buddha wisely put it, more attachments often lead to more misery, and higher expectations can bring more sorrow. He also observed that life involves suffering.
Vipassana meditation acts like a guide, helping us understand our basic human nature tied to suffering and showing us how to change those patterns for liberation.
It deals with the root causes of misery like cravings, greed, anger, fear, and jealousy. By acknowledging and transforming these emotions through mental training, Vipassana liberates us from the cycle of suffering.
Even if achieving ultimate peace feels like an impossible task, meditation can make you a better person.
You’ll find yourself filled with love, compassion, and empathy, not just for your family but for everyone around you.
In a nutshell, meditation sharpens your focus, making you better in various aspects of life, from family and work to your community, society, country, and beyond.
That’s why I believe Vipassana meditation is something everyone should experience, at least once in a lifetime.
6. What Comes Next After You Arrive at a Vipassana Center for a Course? What Rules Should I Know?
When you arrive at the meditation center, consider it day zero.
The registration process kicks off, and you’re assigned a living space—either a bed in a dorm or your room.
After that, male and female students are separated, and you’re expected to stick to your assigned gender’s residential area throughout the course.
In the evening, an orientation introduces you to the course rules, including:
- Noble Silence: This means total silence of body, mind, and speech. No chatting, gesturing, reading, or writing. Focus on the present moment and meditation. There are only minimal exceptions for necessary conversations with your vipassana teacher or a dhamma server.
- Food: You’ll be served well-cooked vegetarian meals that suit your meditation schedule. You can’t choose what you eat; you graciously accept what’s provided. Meals are at 6:30 AM, 11:00 AM, and light snacks at 5 PM. Express gratitude for the donated food.
- Clothing Guidelines: Wear comfortable and modest attire that fully covers your body. Avoid transparent or revealing clothing, as well as any jewelry or cosmetics. Valuables such as phones or jewelry should be deposited at the center’s counter for the duration of the course. Phone usage is not allowed until the course concludes.
- No Other Religious Activities: Avoid any other religious practices like chanting, worshipping, or engaging in meditation or yoga. The sole focus is on learning the Vipassana meditation technique.
Adhering to these rules creates an environment conducive to the transformative experience of Vipassana meditation.
7. What’s the Daily Routine Like at a Vipassana Meditation Course?
Each day, you’ll spend around 10 hours practicing meditation.
Here’s a breakdown of the daily routine:
- 4:00 AM: The wake-up bell rings. Get up, freshen up, and head to the Dhamma Hall, the group meditation space.
- 4:30 AM to 6:30 AM: Meditation time.
- 6:30 AM: Breakfast in the dining hall followed by a rest period.
- 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM: Morning meditation with a 5-minute break at 9:00 AM.
- 11:00 AM: Lunchtime, followed by a rest period until 1 PM. If you have questions, you can meet your Vipassana teacher between 12:00 noon to 1:00 PM.
- 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM: Afternoon meditation with short breaks at 2:30 PM and 3:30 PM.
- 5:00 PM: Tea-time with tea and light snacks like fruits.
- 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM: Evening meditation.
- 7:00 PM to 8:15 or 8:30 PM: Discourse time, featuring recorded lectures from Guru Goenka Ji.
- After the Discourse to 9:00 PM: Short meditation session.
- 9:00 PM: Lights out and bedtime.
A good night’s sleep is crucial to prepare for the next day’s meditation.
8. What to Bring for a Vipassana Meditation Course?
When heading for a 10-day Vipassana course, pack these basics:
The center provides the rest. Here’s what not to bring:
Contact the meditation center beforehand and get the list of items to bring.
9. What is the Vipassana Meditation Technique Like?
Being a beginner, I can’t provide a comprehensive explanation, but I can outline the three key steps in Vipassana Meditation based on my understanding:
a) Sila or the Precepts:
Also known as Panchasila, this step involves following five principles to prepare for meditation.
- To abstain from killing
- To abstain from stealing
- To abstain from sexual activity
- To abstain from lying
- To abstain from intoxicants
These principles form the foundation of good conduct essential for the path of liberation.
b) Samadhi or Meditation:
In this step, we dive deep into meditation to understand our inherent nature linked to suffering. We recognize impurities in our unconscious mind, such as anger and lust, and observe them with equanimity.
c) Pragya or Wisdom:
The final step is the journey from recognizing our true nature to changing the patterns bound to suffering. It’s about achieving ultimate freedom from all forms of suffering.
In essence, Vipassana meditation is a practical mental training learned through experience, focusing on acknowledging and transforming our mental patterns.
10. Why Should You Learn Vipassana Meditation?
In my personal opinion, everyone should try Vipassana meditation at least once in their life. In short, there are two main reasons.
a) It makes you a better person.
You realize that by putting aside your selfishness, you can make a positive impact on others, even in small ways, leading to a more meaningful life.
b) The experience of a Vipassana meditation course is incredible.
In our busy lives, we rarely get a chance to focus on ourselves and understand who we are.
During the course, you disconnect from phones and all forms of communication, giving you a unique opportunity to reflect and get to know yourself better.
Taking breaks at the right time, whether it’s a meditation retreat, hiking in the mountains, or a vacation, helps us refresh and move forward in life.
11. Is Vipassana Meditation Easy?
In my experience, Vipassana meditation isn’t isn’t all that easy. It varies from person to person, but for most, it’s quite challenging, especially the first time.
While Vipassana meditation is a valuable practice, it’s important to approach it with a clear understanding and a strong commitment. Here’s why it can be tough:
- Firstly, there are rules to follow, like the Panchasila and other guidelines during a Vipassana meditation course. This means maintaining complete silence, no talking, no phone calls, and strictly sticking to the camp’s schedule.
- Secondly, you’ll be meditating for more than 10 hours every day, which can be physically demanding, especially if you’re not accustomed to it. This can lead to discomfort and stiffness in your legs from sitting for extended periods.
- Thirdly, Vipassana requires intense mental focus and concentration, which isn’t always easy to achieve.
So, before you dive in, make sure you fully understand what’s involved and are ready to commit.
Thank you! Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam! 🙏