Recently, I’ve been reading a certain book that a certain reader, “AS”, sent me a while back,1 titled Comprehensive Instructions on Mindfulness Meditation by the late Burmese monk Sayādaw U Sīlānanda. This is a detailed book on Theravada Buddhist meditation or Vipassanā. The first part of the book is a long Q&A (question and answer) section that has a lot of useful tips. I wanted to share some useful tips:
3. What can vipassanā meditation do for me?
The ultimate purpose of vipassanā is to eradicate mental impurities from your mind altogether. Before that stage, there are benefits of tranquility, peace of mind and the ability to accept things as they come. Vipassanā helps you to see things as they truly are, not as they appear to be. Things appear to be permanent, desirable and substantial, but actually they are not. When you practice vipassanā meditation, you will see for yourself the arising and disappearing of mental and physical phenomena. And you will have a clearer comprehension of what is going on in your mind and body. You will be able to accept things as they come to you with less agitation and deal with situations in a more positive way.
5. When is vipassanā needed?
Since mental impurities are almost always with us, we need vipassanā meditation almost all of the time. There is no fixed time for practice of vipassanā. Morning, during the day, before bed … anytime is the time for vipassanā. And vipassanā may be practiced at any age.
9. What gadgets do I need for vipassanā meditation?
Actually, you do not need anything at all. All you need is a place where you can sit down, close your eyes and focus on the object. But I am not against using cushions, benches or even chairs and other thing because in order to practice meditation, you need some degree of comfort. But while you do not need to inflict pain on yourself unnecessarily, you should take care not to be too much attached to comfort, or sloth and torpor will come to you and you will go to sleep.
11. Is cross-legged posture essential in sitting meditation?
Although it is customary and traditional to sit on the floor to practice meditation, it is not essential in vipassanā. If you cannot sit cross-legged, you may sit any way you like as long as it is comfortable for you. What matters in vipassanā is just the awareness, not the posture.
12. Must my eyes be closed when meditating?
It is better to keep your eyes closed, but you may leave them open if you like, whichever is least distracting for you. But if you happen to look at anything, then you will have to be aware of the “looking” and not it. The important thing is to have good concentration.
13. What should I do with my hands when meditating?
There are not strict rules as to how you put your hands in vipassanā. You may put them any way you like. The most usual position is on the lap one over the other. Or you may put them on your knees.
15. Should I practice every day?
We eat every day, care for our bodies every day. Since we almost always have mental defilements with us we need to cleanse our minds every day. I recommend the morning hours because then your body and mind are rested and you are away from the worries of the previous day. It would also do you good to meditate in the evening before you go to bed. But you may practice any time. And if you make it a habit to practice every day, it will be good and beneficial to you.
16. Do I need a teacher to practice vipassanā?
This is important. Whenever you learn a new skill, you need a teacher. With the advice of a teacher, you learn quicker and you cannot go wrong. You need a teacher who is competent to give instructions, correct your mistakes, and give guidance when you have trouble in the course of meditation. There are some meditators who think they are making progress when in reality, they are not making progress at all. And sometimes they are making progress but think they are not doing well. Only the teacher can tell, and so at such a time he or she is indispensable. If you cannot find a teacher, you may rely on books, although, no book can entirely take the place of a teacher. You may be able to do fairly well by reading the instructions and following them carefully. But even then, you may have need for discussion with a teacher occasionally.
Hope this proves useful. Good luck and happy meditating!
P.S. Accidentally posted a draft of a different post yesterday. Sorry guys for the misfire. This happens a lot when I use the mobile-phone application, not my desktop. Don’t blog and ride a bus at the same time. 😉
1 I have a long backlog of books…. :p