Vipassana is a method of Buddhist Meditation which has been practiced for 2,500 years in East Asia and which arrived in the West in the last century. Vipassana means "clear-seeing" or insight into (the nature of phenomena). Within the body of teachings taught by the Buddha (the "Dharma") is illuminated the "unsatisfactoriness" of existence and the way to freedom. This way, which includes the practice of meditation and Vipassana, enables the release from thought patterns and behaviors which imprison us in a cycle of reactivity and its painful consequences.
Through a calm and alert observation of the body's processes, while being conscious of the present moment, the practitioner develops an awareness of the changing nature of all things. There is also a direct experience of the "Three universal characteristics of existence": impermanence, suffering and impersonality. Awareness of reality as it presents itself, as it is studied in Vipassana, enables the experience of the true nature of reality in the universe and through this develops understanding, acceptance, calm and compassion in our lives. Vipassana meditation encourages the development of these attributes and directs us towards a life of liberation and enlightenment.
The Course and Daily Schedule:
In these courses we will learn Vipasssana meditation as it is practiced up to the present time in monasteries in East Asia as well as in different places in the West. This practice includes direct observation of the breath as well as focusing on bodily sensations, the senses and awareness states. The daily schedule is organized in a way that furthers receiving the optimum benefit from the course:
Most of the day is devoted to practicing, in turn, walking and sitting meditation, in specifically determined time periods. Each day detailed instructions are given in meditation techniques, as well as dharma talks given by teachers which expound the principles of meditation and the dharma and its application to reality in our daily and personal lives. As part of the course there will be group discussions with the teachers in which there is a chance to share and explore our experiences. An opportunity is given, as well, for individual meetings with the teachers.
Regulations of the course:
Respect for the quiet space in which the course is held is essential in order to receive the maximum benefit from the meditation practice, and the students are asked to observe certain rules. Observing these rules supports the Vipassana practice and enables the student go inward and deepen the states of awareness experienced as part of the course. Full participation in the entire course from beginning to end is a requirement. Partial participation is not permitted in the course. If you know in advance that you won't be able to fulfill this requirement and you are signed up for the course, please cancel so that you'll be able to find a later date which will allow your full participation.
Respect for the five basic ethical rules:
- To refrain from killing any living being.
- To refrain from taking anything which is not freely given.
- To refrain from inappropriate sexual activity (during the course, to refrain from all sexual activity)
- To refrain from inappropriate speech.
- To refrain from the use of any intoxicants (drugs or alcohol).
Respect for silence:
This course is held in complete silence, aside from group discussions which are arranged at specified times In addition, students are requested not to read, write or participate in any other distracting activity, so they will be able to further a state of internal and external quiet which supports the practice of meditation for self as well as others.
This course is held without cell phones. Students, therefore, are requested to hand their cell phones at the beginning of the course (you can bring a watch). If necessary, contact can be made through us - the telephone number of "Tovana" can be used as an emergency contact (054-5695934) and messages will be checked twice a day.
Participants in the course are asked not to smoke, which is a distraction for the smoker as well as a disturbance to the other participants.
Participants are asked to remain in the course until the end. If you know in advance that you won't be able to please let us know.
Cost of the course:
"Tovana" is a volunteer non-profit organization which organizes Vipassana courses and additional activities and is funded entirety by donations from course participants. There is no commercial organization or any other body which supports "Tovana".
The organization is supported by the principle of Dana. No money is charged for the course. In accordance with the Buddhist tradition the teachers and staff offer their services voluntarily, and don't receive any salary. At the end of the course there will be an opportunity to give a donation to the organization and the teachers (separate donations are given). Many of the teachers who teach in "Tovana" courses devote their lives to spreading the dharma and don't have any other source of income. The donations enable the teachers to continue to teach and for others to receive the benefits of their practice.
During the year Tovana offes a small number of courses which are relatively expensive and for these we do need to request partial or full payment for the course beforehand. These fees are used to cover basic costs of rental and food and not for the teachings. In these courses as well, the basic principle is upheld. No one need refrain from participation in the course because he or she lacks sufficient funds. In the case of financial difficulty, please speak to the person in charge of sign-up for the course.
About our course teachers:
"Tovana" invites a wide variety of experienced teachers, from Israel and outside of the country, to teach in our courses. Each teacher's different style is a direct result of many years of experience both in teaching and practice. The variety of teachers enables the practitioner to benefit from different teaching styles and this tradition enables the deepening and expansion of practice. Therefore, the style and characteristics of the teaching differs in each course. There are courses which are better suited to beginners and others more suited to seasoned practitioners. It is advised to speak with the person in charge of sign-up for the course about the suitability of the particular course to your level of practice.
Note: Most of the courses require an age of participants to be age 20 and above. Beginning in 2005 there will separate courses for youths.
Participation for religious persons in the course:
There is no disparity between course participation and religious observance. With prior arrangement with the teachers it is permissible to apply Tfillin and to pray while observing silence and other rules which support the meditation practice.
The kitchen is kosher and dairy. Not Glatt kosher and there is no mashgiach (person who oversees the kosher kitchen) but the kitchen utensils have never been used for meat or fish. The plates and silverware have been brought from different homes so for those whose observance requires this it is suggested to bring your own utensils or to use the glass plates which are available.
On Shabbat there is the possibility for warming on a Shabbat hotplate to be used for food for religious participants. Grape juice and challah will be provided. If the course ends before Shabbat is over religious participants are invited to remain until Shabbat has ended.
Food and special needs:
The food on retreats is healthy, vegetarian and kasher, and there will be food and hot drinks available on Shabbat that is not cooked on Shabbat. Only genuine medical special needs can be accommodated regarding food, and this needs to to be requested in writing before the retreat.
Vipassana Meditation, the practice of which has far-reaching and deep effects, offers tools for dealing with the vicissitudes of life, on the basis that as humans we share similar experiences and problems, which stem from identical sources. Meditation is not a religious ritual and is not connected to religious conversion in any way.
May all beings receive benefit from the practice offered in this course.
May all living beings be free from pain and suffering.
May all living beings live a life which is free, happy and authentic.