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10 best Vipassana centres in India

अत्तदीपा विहरथ अत्तसरणा अनञ्‍ञसरणा।

धम्मदीपा विहरथ धम्मसरणा अनञ्‍ञसरणा।।

-Make an island of yourself, make yourself your refuge; there is no other refuge.

-Make truth your island, make truth your refuge; there is no other refuge.

Covid-19 feels as though it’s paused the passage of time. During the lockdown, instead of change, there is sameness laced with an all-pervading anxiety. The pandemic has turned into commonplace behaviour, like going for a walk or giving someone a hug, and it feels dangerous. It’s taken away our sense of freedom. “There is no real time to unwind. It isn’t so much because of lack of clear demarcation between work days and weekends as much as the constant uncertainty we all are living in From time to time, we all experience agitation, frustration and disharmony. When we suffer, we do not keep our misery limited to ourselves; instead, we keep distributing it to others.

Vipassana enables us to experience peace and harmony by purifying the mind, freeing it from suffering and the deep-seated causes of suffering. Step by step, the practice leads to the highest spiritual goal of full liberation from all mental defilements. It is a type of yoga exercise, a guided Meditation retreat.

The practice of Vipassana meditation involves following the principles of Dhamma/ Dharma, the universal law of nature. It involves walking on the noble eightfold path, which is broadly categorised into Sila (Morality), Samadhi (concentration) and Pañña (wisdom, insight). To learn Vipassana, it is necessary to take a ten-day residential course under the guidance of a qualified teacher. The courses are conducted at established Vipassana Centers and other non-center locations.

During the entire duration of the retreat, students remain within the course site having no contact with the outer world. They refrain from reading and writing, and suspend all religious practices or other disciplines. During the course, participants follow a prescribed Code of Discipline.

There are many people like Swami Sivananda, Ramdev baba and famous actor like shilpa shetty who practises yoga, meditation and fitness yoga. With the hit of the world pandemic, everything is uncertain. One surely can try your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle at your home. But that also means added work pressure, household chores and a definite toll on mental health. So for the purification of the mind, It is the highest form of awareness—the total perception of the mind-matter phenomena in its true nature is much needed. Here are the top ten vipassana centres we need to unwind post covid.

  1. The Dhamma Pattana Vipassana, Mumbai.

The Dhamma Pattana Vipassana meditation center is part of the magnificent Global Pagoda complex that opened in 2009 near the beach-side Gorai, in the outer northern suburbs of Mumbai. The building is modern, and all rooms are equipped with western facilities and air conditioning. The distinctive feature of the 10-day course taught here is that it's specifically geared towards business executives and professionals. The technique is the same but the course contains additional talks related to using Vipassana principles for dealing with stresses of the business world. The courses fill up very fast and must be booked well in advance.

2. Dhamma Giri, Igatpuri- Nashik.

The world's largest Vipassana meditation center, known as Dhamma Giri, is located at the Vipassana Research Institute at Igatpuri in Maharashtra. It's around three hours from Mumbai and is accessible by train. The center offered its first course to the public in 1976, and now tens of thousands study there every year. The 10-day courses are always in high demand. Despite the center's substantial size, there's a pervasive feeling of peace all around. Over 400 cells are available for individual meditation, which is appealing for those who want to undertake intensive practice in solitude away from other people. The accommodations range from dormitory rooms to single occupancy rooms. Dhamma Thali has the largest capacity after Dhamma Giri in Igatpuri and can accommodate 200 students. This center is also one of the oldest ones in India. Its sprawling campus was built in 1977, amid hills on the outskirts of Jaipur near the Galta Monkey Temple. Students appreciate the center's serene location, and the fact that it's frequented by peacocks and friendly monkeys. About 20% of students are foreigners. The center has a rustic appeal with stone walkways running through it, four meditation halls (two large and two small), and a pagoda with 200 meditation cells. There are single and shared accommodations of varying standards. The newer rooms have western toilets and showers, while you can expect buckets and squat toilets in the others. Make sure you arrive early to increase your chances of getting a good room.

3) Dhamma Bodhi, Bodh Gay- Bihar.

If you fancy meditating at the place where Lord Buddha became enlightened, head to Dhamma Bodhi Vipassana meditation center in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. The recently expanded compound is set on 18 acres of grounds to the west of town, surrounded by agricultural fields near Magadh University. 10-day courses generally start on the first and 16th of every month. There's space for around 80 students at a time. November to February are the busiest months, with foreigners from all over the world attending. Accommodations are provided in single or double cottages with attached bathrooms. The beneficial thing about studying Vipassana meditation in Bodh Gaya is that courses in Buddhist philosophy are also provided by other local organizations. This is convenient for those with an interest in Buddhism.

4) Dhamma Sikhara, Dharamasala

If the thought of meditating in the mountains, with fresh air and towering pine trees, appeals to you then try Sikhara Dhamma Vipassana meditation center near Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. Nestled into three acres of forested land, it's one of the most picturesque centers in India. The center conducted its first 10-day course in 1994 and is popular with foreigners due to its proximity to McLeod Ganj. About 70% of the 90 or so students are non-Indian. There are a few drawbacks to keep in mind though. Facilities are quite minimal, and there's no pagoda. Most students will get a private room to themselves but toilets and showers are shared. The weather is consistently cold and damp, and lack of ventilation in the buildings leads to mold growth. In addition, monkeys are often a menace. 10-day courses take place fortnightly from April to November. The center is closed from December to March.

5) Dhamma Paphulla, Bangalore.

Meaning "Cheerfulness of Truth", Dhamma Paphulla is situated on 10 acres of land in Alur village, on the northwest outskirts of Bangalore. The location is calm yet convenient, as buses from Bangalore go right to the center's gate every hour. The center was founded in 2004 but construction took place over a number of subsequent years. The main meditation hall was built in 2008, followed by new accommodations (single and double occupancy rooms with attached bathrooms and hot water). There's space for 100 students in the main hall, plus 30 students in each of the smaller halls. Future plans include a pagoda with individual meditation cells.

6) Dhamma Setu, Chennai

Situated amid paddy fields and farmland on the outskirts of Chennai in south India, Dhamma Setu is a harmonious tropical haven. The center's lush land was previously used for rice cultivation. It's another relatively new center, with 10-day courses commencing in 2005. The impressive golden pagoda has 150 individual meditation cells for students, and the main meditation hall has space for around 120 students. There are three smaller halls as well. The accommodations consist of double occupancy rooms, with attached bathrooms and solar-heated hot water. Children's courses are also offered.

7) Dhamma Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai - Chennai.

Dhamma Arunachala is an outstanding new Vipassana meditation center at one of the most spiritual places in India. Tiruvannamalai, about 4 hours from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, is renowned for the powerful energy of its holy Mount Arunachala. The visibility of the mountain from the center adds to the experience. Dhamma Arunachala conducted its first course in 2015 and is being developed in an eco-friendly manner on nearly 7 acres of land. Bricks made from the clay soil on the property have been used in construction. The center can accommodate 100 students and has its own pagoda with individual meditation cells. Do note that the weather in Tiruvannamalai gets very hot and humid. Hence, it's best to visit in winter, when it's coolest.

8) Dhamma Sota, Haryana.

Dhamma Sota's refreshing campus of whitewashed buildings is situated just over an hour south of Delhi, in the Sohna district of Haryana. It was established in 2000 on about 16 acres of farmland close to the Aravali Hills. The center accommodates up to 130 students in single rooms with attached bathrooms. Be aware that there may not be any hot water though. It also has a pagoda with 108 meditation cells. In terms of weather, March is an ideal time to visit this center.

9) Dhamma Salila, Dehradun.

Dhamma Salila is an alternative to Dhamma Sikhara for those who'd prefer a mountain setting, especially during summer. It's nestled into the Doon Valley of the Himalayas not far from Dehradun in Uttarakhand, and has a soothing riverside location. This center was established in 1995, and is relatively small. It can accommodate about 40 students in double rooms with communal bathrooms. However, it has a pagoda with separate meditation cells. 10-day courses are held twice a month throughout the year, except in January. If you don't like the cold, avoid going there from November to March.

10) Vipassana Meditation Centre, Delhi.

There are as many as 4 Vipassana centers in the NCR region of northern India. The nearest Vipassana center to Delhi is located in Logicstat Farms at Chhatterpur, around 30 Km from New Delhi Railway station.This center is spread across 10 acres of land near Village Bhatti. You can experience a peaceful meditation retreat in the picturesque surroundings of this location.

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