An Ode to Vipassana Centers

It can be overwhelming to think about the unfairness of life, the complexity of its problems, the impossibility of solutions, and the ignorance, irrationality, pettiness and selfishness of humans, myself included. But it helps to remember dhamma centers, places that make sense. Places that seem too good to be true. Unrealistic. A system, an environment, an organization, and a way of life that I would never believe to be true without first-hand experience.

At dhamma centers, anyone can take as many courses as they want as long as they’re willing to abide by very simple rules: stay quiet, disturb no one, and sit in the meditation hall during mandatory daily sessions without sleeping.

If you think that a virus with no vaccine is a great equalizer, you should visit a dhamma center.

There is no cost. No one is excluded. There is no way to pay for better accommodations, better teachers, or better treatment. There is no class system. A billionaire stays in the same room, sleeps in the same bed, and eats the same food as you and I.

There is no way to fast track into a class and no shortcut to finish. No hacks. No competition. No first place. No first loser.

Everyone is equally welcome regardless of race, religion, gender, age, physical appearance, bank account, and connections. I can’t claim that we always follow it but we are taught to give non judgmental love and compassion to 100% of the population and that is the ultimate goal. No exceptions. No karma police.

The teachers are not paid even though they’ve practiced for tens of thousands of hours. They rarely talk and when they do, they don’t talk about themselves. The buildings are not named for donors or teachers or anyone including the founder.

The servers volunteer their time and energy. They are former students helping to provide the same peaceful setting that they received on their courses. In between courses, former students give more time and energy to work on projects at the centers.

We don’t find this way of life in the rest of the “real world” yet dhamma centers continue to flourish without sponsorship or marketing of any kind. There are around 200 full time centers located in close to 100 countries.

This is not a call to action. I do not wish to proselytize. I just feel slightly better about our world when I remember that dhamma centers are not fairy tales and you should too. They exist.

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