MEDITATION IS A WORD. You have heard this word before, or you would never have picked up this book. The thinking process operates by association, and all sorts of ideas are associated with the word “meditation.” Some of them are probably accurate, and others are hogwash. Some of them pertain more properly to other systems of meditation and have nothing to do with vipassana practice. Before we proceed, it behooves us to blast some of that residue out of our neuron circuits so that new information can pass unimpeded. Let us start with some of the most obvious stuff.
We are not going to teach you to contemplate your navel or to chant secret syllables. You are not conquering demons or harnessing invisible energies. There are no colored belts given for your performance, and you don’t have to shave your head or wear a turban. You don’t even have to give away all your belongings and move to a monastery. In fact, unless your life is immoral and chaotic, you can probably get started right away and make some progress.
Sounds fairly encouraging, wouldn’t you say?
There are many books on the subject of meditation. Most of them are written from a point of view that lies squarely within one particular religious or philosophical tradition, and many of the authors have not bothered to point this out. They make statements about meditation that sound like general laws but are actually highly specific procedures exclusive to that particular system of practice. Worse yet is the panoply of complex theories and interpretations available, often at odds with one another. The result is a real mess: an enormous
jumble of conflicting opinions accompanied by a mass of extraneous data. This book is specific. We are dealing exclusively with the vipassana system of meditation. We are going to teach you to watch the functioning of your own mind in a calm and detached manner so you can gain insight into your own
behavior. The goal is awareness, an awareness so intense, concentrated, and finely tuned that you will be able to pierce the inner workings of reality itself.
There are a number of common misconceptions about meditation. We see the same questions crop up again and again from new students. It is best to deal with these things at once because they are the sort of preconceptions that can block your progress right from the outset. We are going to take these misconceptions
one at a time and dissolve them.