Day 4 (Vipassana begins. Really.)


I awake at 4am (as usual) to the sound of the bell. By 4:30 I am at the Dhamma Hall for the first meditation of the day. We are still to focus on the trapezoid above the upper lip, exploring all the subtle sensations. This goes on through the first two group sittings as well. We are then informed that from 3pm to 5pm will be a longer than usual group sitting that will introduce us to the technique. We are also informed dramatically that no one will be allowed to leave the hall during this time period. Vague visions of poisoned cool-aid dance in my head.

The technique is basically this: Having sharpened our awareness with the previous day’s exercises, we are to begin a head to toe mental scanning of our bodies, gradually becoming more and more aware of sensations (gross or subtle) ranging anywhere on the body. We are to practice patient observation of these sensations and note their everchanging characteristic. My problem is that I am only feeling the gross (read: pain in back, legs, butt) sensations and having trouble with the subtler ones).

Goenka expands on the principles and practice even more in the evening’s discourse, talking about how the Buddha recognized that all suffering was caused by cravings for pleasure and aversions to pain, and how he had discovered a technique (vipassana, natch) which could relieve this suffering “at the experiential level”. He keeps stressing the scientific, rational nature of this technique, before beginning to veer into the decididly less scientific realms of rebirth and compassion.