"Everyone seeks peace and harmony... How are we to remain harmonious with ourselves, and to maintain peace and harmony around us, so that others can also live peacefully and harmoniously?"
So asks Vipassana Meditation leader S. A. Goenka in the treatise, The Art of Living. Mr. Goenka goes on to describe the physical trappings of disharmony in the body, and its ancient solution. When a person experiences frustration, he will normally start to feel unhappy or angry, and the body evidences this feeling with tension. The breath will become short and ragged, other bodily sensations may appear. These are the manifest symptoms of mental distress or "defilement."
"An ordinary person cannot observe abstract defilements of the mind--abstract fear, anger, or passion. But with proper training and practice, it is very easy to observe respiration and bodily sensations--both of which are directly related to the mental defilements."
The idea is that by simply observing one's own respiration and changing sensations with equanimity, one is in fact observing the mental distress. It is the teaching that this technique of non-judgemental observation is what allows the distress to dissipate and disappear.
Instead of acting out one's anger at someone or something, one can instead see the ultimate truth of the upset, and thus let it pass away.
"The more one practices this technique, the more quickly one will find one will come out of negativity. Gradually the mind becomes freed of the defilements; it becomes pure. A pure mind is always full of love--selfless love for all others; full of compassion for the failings and sufferings of others; full of joy at their success and happiness; full of equanimity in the face of any situation."
As Mr. Goenka explains it, this technique and philosophy is the essense of the ancient Buddha's teaching. It is neither religious in nature, nor meant to encourage or discourage the practice of existing ritual, or belief in God. It may be a little known fact, but the Buddha was more like Norman Vincent Peale, than Jesus Christ or Mohammed, and never set out to found a religion.
"May you all experience this ultimate truth. May all people come out of their defilements, their misery. May they enjoy real happiness, real peace, real harmony."
MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY
The Art of Living essay by Mr. Goenka can be found at the Vipassana Meditation website