Vipassana can be translated as ‘insight’, a clear awareness of exactly what is happening as it happens. In Vipassana meditation, the meditator uses his concentration as a tool by which his awareness can chip away at the wall of illusion that cuts him off from the living light of reality. It is a gradual process of ever increasing awareness into the inner workings of reality itself. Vipassana is the oldest Buddhist meditation technique. It is a gentle but thorough technique. It is an ancient codified method of training your mind, a set of exercises dedicated to becoming more and more aware of your own life experience. It is attentive listening, mindful seeing and careful testing.
Here at the top 15 locations in India where you could pursue Vipassana Meditation, get trained in it. You can relax, rejuvenate and rewind at these centres and de-stress yourself using this ancient Buddhist technique of meditation to empower you. The technique involves no religious teachings at all and anybody is free to pursue it.
At most places, the Vipassana Meditation course is a 10 day silent residential program that focuses on observing the breath and bodily sensations. The days begin at 4:30 AM and it is not for the faint of heart. The food and accommodation are free of charge. These courses are generally conducted twice a month across all centres.
1. Dhamma Giri, Igatpuri
The Dhamma Giri in Igatpuri, Maharashtra is the largest Vipassana meditation centre in the world. There is also a research institute at this centre. Accessible by train, Igatpuri is about three hours journey from Mumbai. This centre offered its first course back in 1976 and its 10 day courses are very high in demand. There are over 400 cells here for individual meditation. Accommodations range from individual single occupancy rooms to dormitory rooms.
2. Dhamma Pattana, Mumbai
Part of the Global Pagoda complex that opened in 2009 in the northern part of Mumbai, the Dhamma Pattana Vipassana centre is a modern centre where all rooms have the latest Western facilities and even air conditioning. The 10 day course offered here is specially designed for business executives and professionals. The basic technique is the same, but the course also includes additional talks helping people to deal with the stress of the business world. The courses must be booked well in advance as they fill up very quickly.
3. Dhamma Bodhi, Bodh Gaya
If meditating at the very place where Lord Buddha himself attained enlightenment excites you then Dhamma Bodhi in Bodh Gaya is where you should be. The compound here has been recently expanded and is surrounded by the agricultural fields of Magadha University. The 10 day courses usually start on the 1st and the 16th of every month. November to February are the busiest months, and foreign nationals flock here in large numbers. Accommodations are in single or double occupancy cottages with attached bathrooms. Courses in Buddhist philosophy are also provided by local organisations, if one is interested.
4. Dhamma Sikhara, Dharamsala
Imagine yourself meditating in the mountains, fresh air and pine trees around you. If that appeals to you, enrol yourself at the Dhamma Sikhara in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. The centre conducted its first course in 1994 and is immensely popular with the foreigners as Dharamsala is very close to McLeod Gunj. About 70% of the students here are generally non-Indian. Facilities are minimal, there is no pagoda here. You could get a private room, however, the restroom facilities are shared and common for all. Weather could be cold and damp, and the place is in need of better ventilation, the lack of which leads to frequent mould growth. The 10 day courses are conducted fortnightly from April to November.
5. Dhamma Thali, Jaipur
Established in 1977, Dhamma Thali in Jaipur, Rajasthan is one of the oldest and largest Vipassana centres in India. In the surroundings you would find the famous Monkey temple of Jaipur. The place is frequented by peacocks and friendly monkeys, which is often to the joy of the students here. The centre has two large and two small meditation halls, a pagoda and 200 individual meditation cells.
6. Dhamma Paphulla, Bengaluru
Dhamma Paphulla, meaning ‘cheerfulness of truth’, is situated in Alur village on the outskirts of the city of Bengaluru in Karnataka state in southern India. The centre was founded in 2004 and the construction took place over the succeeding years. There’s space for about 100 students in the main hall, plus 30 students each in the smaller halls. The centre doesn’t have a pagoda yet but the development is on the cards.
7. Dhamma Setu, Chennai
Situated on the outskirts of the city of Chennai, Dhamma Setu is a harmonious tropical haven. The place where the centre is situated was earlier a rice plantation. The golden pagoda has 150 individual meditation cells for the students, and the main meditation hall has space for 120 students. There are also three other smaller halls. This centre also offers courses for children. They have double occupancy rooms here with attached bathrooms and solar heated hot water.
8. Dhamma Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai
Tiruvannamalai, a town about 4 hours away from Chennai in Tami Nadu in southern India lies the Mount Arunachala, known for its powerful energies. Dhamma Arunachala conducted its first course in 2015 and is being developed in an eco-friendly manner. The centre can accommodate 100 students and it has its own pagoda with individual meditation cells. The weather here can get really hot and humid, so visiting in the winter is the best.
9. Dhamma Sota, Haryana
Situated just an hour south of Delhi, in the Sohna district of Haryana, the Dhamma Sota was established in 2000 close to the Aravali Hills. The centre accommodates about 130 students in single rooms with attached rooms. There is also a pagoda with 108 meditation cells. March is an ideal time to visit this centre. Hot water may not be available here. The weather here gets really very hot in the summers.
10. Dhamma Salila, Dehradun
Another beautiful Vipassana centre located in the mountains, and a great retreat in the summer. Nestled in the Doon Valley of the Himalayas, close to Dehradun in Uttarakhand, this centre is by the river and has a beautiful setting. The centre was established in 1995 and is relatively quite small. It can accommodate about 40 students in double occupancy rooms that have communal sharing bathrooms. It also has a pagoda with separate meditation cells. The 1- day courses are held twice a month throughout the year except in January. If you are in a mood to avoid the cold, November to March are times you should completely avoid.