By Sharell Cook
Vipassana meditation isn't only popular with Indians. Many travelers like to take time out to study Vipassana in India. This style of meditation is derived from Theravada Buddhism, although the course is free of religious teachings. The introductory Vipassana meditation course is a 10 day silent residential program that focuses on observing the breath and bodily sensations. Days begin at 4.30 a.m., so it's not for the feint hearted. However, the course, food, and accommodation are all free of charge.
These are the top centers for Vipassana meditation in India, as taught by S.N.Goenka.
The world's largest Vipassana meditation center, known as Dhamma Giri, is located at the Vipassana Research Institute at Igatpuri in Maharastra. It's around three hours from Mumbai. The center offered its first course to the public in 1976 and now tens of thousands study there every year. Over 400 "cells" are provided for individual meditation, which is appealing for those who want to undertake intensive practice in solitude away from other bodies. The 10 days courses are in high demand and are held twice a month, all year round.
The Dhamma Pattana Vipassana meditation center is located on a hill overlooking the beach town of Gorai, in the outer norther suburbs of Mumbai . India's newest Vipassana center, it's part of the renowned Global Pagoda complex that opened in 2009. The building is modern, and all residential rooms are equipped with western facilities and air conditioning. The distinctive feature about the Vipassana taught here is that it's geared towards business executives and professionals. The technique is the same but the course contains additional talks specifically related to using Vipassana principles for dealing with stresses of the business world.
If you fancy meditating at the place where Lord Buddha became enlightened, head to the Dhamma Bodhi Vipassana meditation center in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. The recently renovated and expanded compound is located around four kilometers west of town, near Magadha University. 10 day courses generally start on the first and 16th of every month. November to February are the busiest months. There's space for around 80 students at a time. The beneficial thing about studying Vipassana meditation in Bodh Gaya is that courses in Buddhist philosophy are also available from other local organizations. This is convenient for those with an interest in Buddhism.
Meditating in the mountains, surrounded by fresh air and towering pine trees, makes for a particularly memorable experience. If the thought of this appeals to you, the Sikhara Dhamma Vipassana meditation center in Dharamasala is the place to go. It's one of the most picturesque centers in India. 10 day courses are offered fortnightly from April to November.