Blog / February 2010

  • 22 February 2010Open Source re-release v2.01b (bis)

    I made a mistake with the open source release last month, by putting together a codebase that contained work in progress. At the end of the day, for would be contributors, I released a broken codebase.

    I will soon completely remove and then re-upload the Github project. No contributions have been sent yet, so better now than later. The new codebase will have the last stable release from November 15 as the "master" branch. Then I will add the changes I introduced since as a separate "refactor" branch.

    In summary, the new codebase will run 100% as the live site. Please check the Open Source forum topic for news about the open source project.

    JapanesePod101.com
  • 3 February 2010Back from a 10 day Vipassana course

    This Sunday I came back from a 10 day Vipassana course in Belgium. This doesn't concern the website's purpose directly, but I felt like posting something a little more personal so I'll keep the front page text short.

    Read more if you're interested, I have included a few YouTube clips including one presenting Dhamma Bhanu, a Vipassana Centre in Japan.

    Third time's the charm

    This course went much smoother than the previous two, I had a great time and worked well.

    Right at the end of the course I could already see a big change had happened. Part of the baggage I was lugging around since as long as I can remember was a feeling of abandonment and separation that would manifest itself more or less intensely in some situations. It was very painful at the end of my first two Vipassana courses. Two months after my second course I noticed a change in a similar situation, but there was still some pain. At the end of the third course (when everybody starts talking again) I found that it was totally gone: I didn't feel any pain or sadness, to the contrary I had a very light hearted 10th day. After 9 days of "Noble Silence" I very much enjoyed "Noble Chattering" with other course students and had very interesting conversations.

    I didn't want to get too personal but I hope this account will encourage some of you who may have hesitated about joining such a course in the past. As you can imagine, this pain that I was carrying with me was influencing every kind of relationships I had with others. But how do you take it out? And how do you do this for a long time, if not permanently?

    Simply put, *if you apply the technique exactly as it is taught*, you will come out of a 10 day retreat with less mental baggage than when you came in.

    On the 10th day you have the opportunity to talk with people from all sorts of backgrounds and paths in life, it can be very interesting and insightful in itself. I have talked there with people who stopped alcohol or drugs with the help of Vipassana. When you come back home you want to change things. Simply eating decent vegetarian food for 10 days for example makes you think. It really is delicious. I found myself more conscious about what I eat.

    The technique

    One does not escape "the real world" by going to a meditation retreat. To the contrary, a retreat takes you intensely in the present moment. Facing oneself fully is helped by the absence of distractions. The retreat also provides a secure environment within which one can work on very deep rooted mental complexes. The discipline and strict time schedule are necessary for Vipassana meditation to give the greatest benefits.

    Beyond the process of the technique itself which you will verify experientially you may experience changes already during the course. There may be a feeling of lightness, for some people there may be unusual and very pleasant experiences which happen due to the concentration of the mind. The concentration and retreat setting also bring a very noticeable sense of calm in the usually very agitated mind.

    But the greatest change, the one that matters most, is the one that happens within the next months and years. Unlike the benefits from heightened concentration, which are temporary, this change is more profound and lasting. As Mr Goenka says "a seed is planted", and it grows bringing fruits with it. Everyday we plant seeds of negativity that grows and multiply. At a Vipassana retreat, you can learn how to undo these and plant another kind of seed, that will generate peace of mind and tranquility instead of restlessness and anxiety.

    Ego in the spiritual sense is the accumulation of all one's past generated attachments and aversions, in other words "one's story". At a Vipassana course you learn to reestablish a non-reactive, balanced mind (equanimous mind). This equanimity coupled with bringing attention to the inside, has the effect of releasing negativities which would otherwise stay in the unconscious, often for a lifetime. Because we identify with our pains, the ego or sense of a separated self also diminishes as a by product. There is more openness, more joy, but interestingly also there is less drama, less depending on others and so on. You find yourself having new ideas, changing your lifestyle gradually..

    For those of you who may have difficulty with the references to the Pali language and culture in which the technique originated from; remember that each day the course starts with practice, and only *after* follows the discourses. That's the whole point of meditation. It is not an intellectual game: "Know thyself, not merely at the intellectual level, not merely accepting at the emotional or devotional level, but at the actual level. When you start experiencing the truth about yourself, within yourself, at the experiential level." - Goenka

    Related videos

    My Vipassana experience - an account from a student at the end of a course (another personal account of change with a real life situation).

    Speech to the United Nations by Mr. Goenka, who helped spread the technique and create Dhamma centres all around the world (he is usually referred to as "Goenkaji" where "ji" is very much like a suffix in the Japanese language, meaning "teacher").

    And finally a beautiful video of Dhamma Bhanu , a Vipassana center in Japan.

    Last thoughts

    This world will change for the better not by trying to fix something outside, but by changing ourselves first. That is why I am convinced now that Dhamma centers all around the world are playing a great part in bringing a positive change to the world. The extent to which the centers have spread, all offering instructions, accommodation and food for free is a testament to their authenticity.

    The courses may come for free, but change doesn't. One has to work: "diligently, patiently and persistently". Those are words spoken by Mr.Goenka which you will hear a lot during those 10 days ;-)

    PS: I am currently chilling at home for an extra week after the course. I highly recommend anybody taking such a course to reserve at least a couple days after the course before getting back to your day job. It can be a very positive time for reflections, for making changes around your place, make new plans and so on.

    PPS: the reason for this "blog like" post is that I wanted to do my part to spread the word, I hope this didn't upset anybody. It would also have been much better to have a blog for the site news where people can directly comment and share their thoughts and experiences, but well, there isn't. If you'd like to comment on this very subject of course feel free to post a related topic in the Community forum.