Vipassana (insight meditation) is the ultimate expression of Socrates’ dictum, “know thyself.” The Buddha discovered that the cause of suffering can actually be erased when we see our true nature. This is a radical insight. It means that our happiness does not depend on manipulating the external world. We only have to see ourselves clearly— a much easier proposition (but in the ultimate sense, knowing oneself with clarity reveals there is no permanent self, as the Buddha taught).
Vipassana meditation is a rational method for purifying the mind of the mental factors that cause distress and pain. This simple technique does not invoke the help of a god, spirit or any other external power, but relies on our own efforts.
Vipassana is an insight that cuts through conventional perception to perceive mind and matter as they actually are: impermanent, unsatisfactory, and impersonal. Insight meditation gradually purifies the mind, eliminating all forms of attachment. As attachment is cut away, desire and delusion are gradually diluted. The Buddha identified these two factors— desire and ignorance— as the roots of suffering. When they are finally removed, the mind will touch something permanent beyond the changing world. That “something” is the deathless, supramundane happiness, called “Nibbana” in Pali.
Insight meditation is concerned with the present moment— with staying in the now to the most extreme degree possible. It consists of observing body (rupa) and mind (nama) with bare attention.
The word “vipassana” has two parts. “Passana” means seeing, i.e., perceiving. The prefix “vi” has several meanings, one of which is “through.” Vipassana-insight literally cuts through the curtain of delusion in the mind. “Vi” can also function as the English prefix “dis,” suggesting discernment— a kind of seeing that perceives individual components separately. The idea of separation is relevant here, for insight works like a mental scalpel, differentiating conventional truth from ultimate reality. Lastly, “vi” can function as an intensive, in which case “vipassana” means intense, deep or powerful seeing. It is an immediate insight experienced before one’s eyes, having nothing to do with reasoning or thinking.
Accommodation is divided between male and female dorm areas and buildings with bathing rooms, toilets, and clothes washing facilities conveniently nearby. New-style concrete dorms contain shared rooms for two people with a bunk-bed. Older-style wooden dorms are single rooms. Rooms, mattresses, pillows, sheets and mosquito nets are allocated to retreatants in order of arrival at the centre upon registration. Towels and personal toiletries are not provided.