Guidelines for Vipassana Meditation Courses within ... ? To learn Vipassana meditation it is necessary

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The technique of Vipassana is a simple, practi-cal way to achieve real peace of mind. It leads to theeradication of mental negativities which are respon-sible for human suffering. The nonsectarian prac-tice of Vipassana can bring about a major transfor-mation in the attitude and behavioral patterns of anindividual. Those who practice it remove, little bylittle, the root causes of their suffering and begin tolead happy, healthy, productive lives.Experiences In Jails & PrisonsA striking example of this transformation is theongoing series of Vipassana courses being conductedin Asian prisons. In 1993, a program of ten-daycourses was introduced in one of the worlds larg-est prisons, Tihar Penitentiary, New Delhi. At theconclusion of a course for over 1,000 inmates, apermanent center for Vipassana meditation was es-tablished in the prison. As a result of further expe-rience with this program, the Indian governmenthas recommended implementing a program of Vi-passana courses in all its prisons.This development was the culmination of ex-periments started in 1975. In that year Mr. S.N.Goenka conducted a Vipassana course for 120 in-mates at the Central Jail in Jaipur, the first suchexperiment in Indian penal history. Subsequentcourses were conducted for life-term convicts, se-nior police officers, and correction officials. Thesecourses were the subject of sociological studiesconducted by the Gujarat Department of Educa-tion and the University of Rajasthan. The researchstudies indicated definite positive changes of atti-tude and behavior in the inmates, and demonstratedthat Vipassana enables criminals to become whole-some, productive members of society.Recently, Taiwan authorities brought Vipassanameditation to a rehabilitation center for 182 drug-addicted criminals. In the United States, Vipassanais being introduced to justice and correction offi-cials in California, Washington, and Massachusetts.A jail in Washington State has established an ongo-ing program of Vipassana courses given four timesa year within the facility.How Vipassana is TaughtTo learn Vipassana meditation it is necessary totake a ten-day residential course under the guidanceof a qualified teacher. Students follow a demandingdaily schedule, which includes approximately tenhours of sitting meditation, with numerous breaksinterspersed throughout the day. They also main-tain silence, not communicating with each other.There are three steps to the training. First, stu-dents practice abstaining from actions which causeharm. They undertake five moral precepts: refrain-ing from killing any being, stealing, lying, all sexualactivity and the use of intoxicants. These precepts,as well as observing silence, allow the mind to calmdown sufficiently to perform the task of self-ob-servation.In the second step, students develop a morestable and concentrated mind by focusing the at-tention on the natural breath.The third step is to develop insight by under-standing the direct link between body and mindthrough the observation of bodily sensations. Bydeveloping a balanced mind and learning not to re-act to these sensations, mental negativities aregradually eliminated. This direct experience has aprofound, purifying effect on the mind.Pre-Course PreparationBefore any course is held in a prison, a seniorcorrectional staff member, and as many other staffas possible must attend a ten-day course at a Vi-passana meditation center. This is an essential pre-requisite. This will enable these officials to betterunderstand through direct experience the value andrelevance of Vipassana meditation to their particu-lar correction facility. By participating in a course,one will understand more fully how to implementa course within their own facility. (To apply for acourse see the Vipassana website: www.dhamma.org)Meditation Facility RequirementsA separate area of the correction facility, shouldbe selected for the Vipassana course.The basic requirements are:1. A quiet room secluded from other nonpartici-pating inmates, for group meditation for all theparticipants and course workers.Guidelines for Vipassana Meditation Courses within Correctional Facilities2. Dormitories and/or cells with adequate bath andtoilet facilities for the participants separate frominmates not involved with the course.3. A separate room with attached bath and toiletfacilities for the teachers conducting the course.4. Adequate accommodation with bath and toiletfacilities for staff workers serving the course.5. Dining facilities separate from other inmates.6. A sufficient walking area segregated from otherinmates.7. There should be provision after the course fora place for students to meditate twice a day tocontinue the practice. Continuity of practice isimportant to maintain and increase the benefitsof this technique.8. There should be separate courses for male andfemale inmates.9. Correction officials who have previously com-pleted a course should be assigned to staff thecourse, when possible.Each correctional facility is laid out differently,so adjustments may need to be made in individualcases.Security1. Security in the correctional facility is of utmostimportance. Course staff and participants shouldadhere to all security requirements.2. During the course, all the participants are un-der the supervision of the teacher and withinthe security constraints of the correctional fa-cility.3. During the course, inmates will not have anycontact with prisoners outside of the course site,with prison staff who are not on duty at thecourse, or with visitors.4. Inmates should be free to participate in the pro-gram from 4:00 am to 9:30 PM. After thosehours, they may be racked back, but should stillhave access to meditation course staff if the needarises during the night.5. There shall be frequent contact between thecourse teachers, prison officials and the prisonstaff on duty to resolve problems and ensurethe smooth functioning of the course.Food1. Simple, wholesome, vegetarian food should beserved.2. Teachers and Vipassana servers will have thesame food as the inmates.Medical Requisites1. Medical staff must be available in case any medi-cal problem arises during the course. When pos-sible, medical problems should be handled on-site, with as little contact with non-course staffas possible.2. Most medications do not interfere with courseparticipation. Certain drugs with psychoactiveproperties are not compatible with intense medi-tation however, so these cases will need to bereviewed by Vipassana staff well before he be-ginning of the course.Discipline for Participants1. All participants shall agree to follow the Codeof Discipline during the course.2. Participants will forego all contact with the outerworld during the course, including visits, phonecalls, mail, commissary (except required hygieneitems), and reading materials.3. The Code of Discipline includes abstaining fromkilling any being, stealing, lying, all sexual activ-ity and intoxicants, including abstinence fromtobacco.4. Inmates are required to put aside all rites andrituals and other meditation practices during thecourse.5. For the first nine days there will be completesilence among the participants; they should notcommunicate verbally, nor by notes or gestures.Participants may speak to the teachers for guid-ance at any tim and to the managing staff forany material needs.Selection of Inmates1. As pre-course preparation, it has been usefulto have a series of informal classes to reviewdifferent aspects of the course and give adequatetime for various questions and issues to be raisedwith Vipassana staff. These meetings also helpbuild rapport and trust between staff and in-mates, and the beginnings of a working relation-ship. Videos introducing Vipassana are availableand may be presented to inmates, followed by aquestion and answer session. Basic informationalliterature, including the Code of Discipline andThe Art of Living, will be distributed.2. A selection of participants will be made after theintroductory talks through an application pro-cess conducted by prison authorities and the as-sistant teachers. Every participant will fill out acourse application and student data form.3. It is essential that participation in the course becompletely voluntary. It is important that therebe neither any secondary gains acquired for par-ticipation (such as reduced sentencing, visits,etc.) or any disincentives, such as loss of jobs,room space, etc. This will ensure that theparticipants motivation is purely to benefit fromthe technique.4. Applications will be carefully reviewed, afterwhich Vipassana staff will interview each par-ticipant for suitability and readiness to under-take the course.5. Corrections staff will ensure that each partici-pant is free to attend the complete course andwill not be called out for hearings, visits, medi-cal appointments, etc.6. After the above steps have been taken, a final listof participants should be prepared with the fol-lowing details: name, age, education, profession,and duration of sentence. This informationshould be prepared by the corrections staff and acopy given to the teacher prior to the course.January 2003Further InformationFor more information about the North Ameri-can Vipassana prison program, the following maybe contacted by prison personnel:Vipassana Prison Website:www.prison.dhamma.orgVipassana general website:www.dhamma.org.Lucia Meijer, Projects DirectorVipassana Prison Trust(360) 379-8292info@prison.dhamma.orgBen Turner / Kathy Henry206/463-6385;benturn@attglobal.netTwo documentary videos are available fromPariyatti Book Service: www.pariyatti.com or 800/829-2748. Doing Time, Doing Vipassana showsthe challenge and results of introducing Vipassanain a large Indian jail. Changing From Inside docu-ments a Vipassana course for women at SeattlesNRF.These course are taught under the auspices ofS.N. Goenka, in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin.