When I first arrived as a very young man at my teachers monastery in England I had already trained in the practices of Transcendental Meditation and Rinzai and Soto Zen. I had been content with my practice of some years, but at the same time felt that there was something missing. I didn't know what it could be but my training and my path felt incomplete.
On the first evening in the Dhamma Hall, in the half light of candles and the fragrance of incense the man who would be my teacher for the next thirty years entered and took his place next to the statue of the Buddha.
The meditation ended and the Dhamma talk began. Here came the words that changed my life.
'If you want to be completely happy, you must cultivate love.'
That was it!
Intuitively I recognised the missing component from my practice, it was love and the moment I heard those words every part of my life fell into place. Explanations and justifications of my fear and my anger now became empty and I realised that my view of the world and everyone in it was only a reflection of my own empty heart.
We do not see the world as it is, we see the world as we are. An obvious and easy truth, but truth nontheless.
With this deep insight my training to put down the fear that overwhelmed me, manifesting as anger, criticism and irritation, could really begin.
For the first two years with my teacher I practiced a style of Vipassana that was named after its founder, a Buddhist monk known as Mahasi (great bell).
Mahasi Sayadaw was a Burmese Buddhist monk and master of meditation. He was friend of my teacher and they travelled together in their younger years to share this particular practice. The Mahasi style is based in a very precise noting format, refining and identifying physical sensations and mental impulses.
It is very popular and many students like this way of training very much.
At the end of this two year period I arrived at the monastery one Friday evening to being another ten day retreat when my teacher called me to his room. By this time I had been accepted as a disciple and felt the unconditional privilege of being trained and guided by this man.
As I knelt on the floor in front of him he told me that my training would now change and we would begin another style of Vipassana practice known as U Ba Khin, after the Burmese government minister who had made it known to a small group of people in Burma. This style was brought to the west and made very popular primarily by an Indian millionaire and is often know by his name of Goenka.
Goenkaji and my teacher had been boyhood friends in Burma and like Sariputa and Moggalana, remained so until my teachers death some years ago.
This particular style of Vipassana involves a very precise form of body sweeping, again being aware of sensations (all Vipassana goes to the awareness of subtle sensation) as they arise and pass away in the body.
Once more I trained in this way for about two years.
One Friday evening at the end of this time, I arrived a the monastery yet again to begin another ten day retreat when my teacher called me to his room.
'Now,' he said, 'I will show you what we believe the Buddha really taught. The practice which is beyond technique.'
And so I began the practice of 'Letting go'.
From that moment until now, acting only upon the direct instruction of my teacher, I travel and share this most beautiful practice of Vipassana, surrendering into the moment and simply being with the mind, body as they manifest. Not choosing or selecting only pleasant or interesting conditions of mind, and not rejecting unpleasant or difficult conditions of mind, but letting go of any desire to control or influence the moment and so be at peace with, 'what is.' Never trying to create special experiences, and not holding on to the interesting experiences that do occur.
The foundation for this practice is awareness of course, but the environment for this deep awareness is love - unconditional acceptance of this moment as it arises and passes away.
There is a structure, but no technique, and when understanding is complete we will see that awareness and love are as two hands that wash each other resulting is the wisdom of liberation and awakening.
Vipassana is a word that means, 'to see things as they really are' and it is this beautiful yet difficult practice that carries one to the end of unhappiness.
This road may look long at the beginning, but if we don't begin to walk it, when will we ever arrive?
Vipassana is the gift to the world and so it is said;
With awareness we see.
With love we accept.
With wisdom we respond.
This is the whole of Dhamma.
May all beings be happy.
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