Information for self-courses may be downloaded as a pdf document here.
Now that Vipassana centers around the world have closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, many students are interested in sitting a self-course at home or in another non- center location. The following document was developed with input from Teachers in North America and Europe. It will be reviewed later in 2020.
What is a “self-course”?
A self-course is a Vipassana meditation course that you sit on your own, without any guidance or with minimal guidance from an assistant teacher.
Am I qualified to sit a self-course? Do I need to get permission?
In principle, anyone who has successfully completed a 10-day Vipassana course as taught by S.N. Goenka can decide to do a self-course. It’s a good idea to discuss your plans with an assistant teacher, who can help with any questions you may have. Contact your local center to be put in touch with an assistant teacher.
How many days is a self-course?
You can sit a full 10 days, starting on the evening of Day 0 and finishing on the morning of Day 11. You can also choose to sit any period shorter than that. Don’t attempt to sit longer than 10 days on your own.
Where can I sit a self-course?
Usually, people sit a self-course in their home or the home of a fellow Vipassana meditator. Do not try sitting a course at a place used for a different spiritual practice.
If I am not sitting at a center, what sort of place is suitable for a self-course?
The place should be private, quiet and self-contained, with everything you’ll need during your course: a bedroom, a meditation place (either a separate room or a corner of your bedroom), a full bathroom, a kitchen/dining area, if possible an outdoor walking area. It should be a place where you will not be disturbed. Decide on the course boundaries before you start.
As far as possible, the course area should not contain distractions. It should not contain any religious objects. Turn off and put away electronic devices that you won’t need. If you are using an electronic device as an alarm clock or for playing recordings, set it in airplane mode, disconnect from Wi-Fi and disable notifications. Put away reading matter in a place where it won’t attract your attention.
Do not go out of the course boundaries from the beginning to the end of the course. Do not communicate with the outside world until after you finish the course.
Can two or more people sit a self-course together?
Certainly, but it’s best to have separate bedrooms even if they are the same gender. If men and women are sitting together, they need separate bedrooms, bathrooms and eating areas.
What about meals?
A friend or family member may offer to cook for you, or you can have meals delivered. Otherwise, you can do your own cooking. But keep food preparation simple, and make sure it doesn’t interfere with meditation hours. Meals must be vegetarian without eggs. Have all the necessary ingredients on hand at the start of the course, or else have someone bring the groceries you need.
Is any guidance available to me in a self-course?
Some centers may give you the name of an assistant teacher to be contacted if you have questions or difficulties during your self-course. More usually, self-course students work on their own.
How do I prepare myself for sitting a self-course?
Go through the Code of Conduct and make sure you are familiar with it. This is your handbook for the course.
Make sure you have any recordings you will want to play during the course (see following question), as well as a device on which to play them.
From the start of the course until after you start practicing Metta, you’ll be observing Noble Silence. That includes not checking your phone for messages. Warn friends and family that you’ll be unavailable during this time, but arrange a way for them to contact you in case of an emergency.
What recordings can I listen to during a self-course?
You can play the following recordings:
• Goenkaji’s early-morning chanting
• group sittings
• the 10-day discourses
You can download these before the course starts from www.discourses.dhamma.org. Contact a center near you for the username and password.
Some of the material is available on CD from www.pariyatti.org.
Any other recordings with teaching instructions are for use only in a course led by an assistant teacher.
What’s the day-by-day program in a self-course?
Before you start, make a strong determination (adhiṭṭhāna) to complete the self-course, following the precepts and the timetable.
On the first evening, repeat the opening formalities (See Below) :
• Take refuge in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
• Take Eight Precepts. If you have a health issue, you can relax the Sixth Precept and have something light to eat at 5:00 and/or 9:00 p.m.
• Surrender to the Buddha and your present teacher.
• Request to be taught Anapana meditation so that you can experience the peace of
nibbāna within yourself.
Then start practicing Anapana.
Continue with Anapana for the first third of your course and then switch over to Vipassana. This will be on the afternoon of Day 4 if you are sitting 10 days. If your course is shorter, adjust the timing as appropriate.
Devote at least an hour to the first sitting of Vipassana. Start by making a request to be taught Vipassana meditation so that you can experience the peace of nibbāna within yourself. Practice Anapana for a little while and then switch to Vipassana.
After you start Vipassana, the three one-hour group sittings each day are sittings of strong determination (adhiṭṭhāna). That is, you try to meditate as seriously as you can without changing your position. If it becomes too uncomfortable, move as little as possible while trying to keep your focus, and then continue meditating without any sense of defeat. Don’t try adhiṭṭhāna sittings at other times. Outside the one-hour group sittings, work at your own pace and change position or take a short break when you need to.
From 9:00 a.m. on Day 10, start practicing Metta. If your course is shorter than 10 days, start Metta earlier. Afterwards, allow yourself to relax a little in preparation for going back to ordinary life. Once you start practicing Metta, you can talk with people at the course site. Do not communicate with the outside world until after you finish the course.
At the end, share your merits with all beings.
What’s the daily timetable in a self-course?
Follow the same timetable as in a regular 10-day course:
4:00 a.m. Morning wake-up
4:30–6:30 a.m. Meditate at your own pace
6:30–8:00 a.m. Breakfast break
8:00–9:00 a.m. One-hour meditation (group sitting)
9:00–11:00 a.m. Meditate at your own pace
11:00–12:00 Lunch break
12:00–1:00 p.m. Rest
1:00–2:30 p.m. Meditate at your own pace
2:30–3:30 p.m. One-hour meditation (group sitting)
3:30–5:00 p.m. Meditate at your own pace
5:00–6:00 p.m. Tea break
6:00–7:00 p.m. One-hour meditation (group sitting)
7:00–8:15 p.m. Evening discourse
8:15–9:00 p.m. Meditate at your own pace
9:00 p.m. Take rest
If I do a 10-day self-course, can I count it as one of the courses required for me to qualify for a Satipatthana course or a long course?
Unfortunately, no. You can only count courses that were conducted by an assistant teacher.
What if I still have questions about sitting a self-course?
Contact a center where you recently sat or an assistant teacher who knows you.
Course opening formalities
Tīsaraṇa-gamanaṃ Going for Triple Refuge
Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. I take refuge in the Buddha.
Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. I take refuge in the Dhamma.
Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. I take refuge in the Sangha.
Aṭṭhaṅga-sīla The Eight Precepts
Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi. I undertake the rule of training to abstain from killing living creatures.
Adinnādānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
Abrahmacariyā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
Musā-vādā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
Surā-meraya-majjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
Vikālabhojanā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
Nacca-gīta-vādita-visūkadassanā-mālā-gandha- vilepana-dhāraṇa-maṇḍana-vibhūsanaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
Uccāsayana-mahāsayanā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
I undertake the rule of training to abstain from taking what is not given.
I undertake the rule of training to abstain from sexual activity.
I undertake the rule of training to abstain from wrong speech.
I undertake the rule of training to abstain from intoxicants, which are the causes of heedlessness.
I undertake the rule of training to abstain from eating at the wrong time.
I undertake the rule of training to abstain from dancing, singing, music and worldly entertainments; [wearing] garlands, perfumes, cosmetics; jewelry and other bodily adornments.
I undertake the rule of training to abstain from using high or luxurious beds.
Pariccajāmi The Surrender
Imāhaṃ bhante attabhāvaṃ jīvitaṃ bhagavato pariccajāmi.
Imāhaṃ bhante attabhāvaṃ jīvitaṃ ācariyassa pariccajāmi.
Sir, I surrender my life completely to the Buddha [for proper guidance and protection].
Sir, I surrender my life completely to the teacher [for proper guidance and protection].
Kammaṭṭhānā The Request of Dhamma
Nibbānassa sacchikaraṇatthāya me bhante ānāpāna kammaṭṭhānāṃ dehi.
For the sake of witnessing nibbāna, Sir, grant me the meditation object of Anapana.
Vipassana Day formality
Kammaṭṭhānā The Request of Dhamma
Nibbānassa sacchikaraṇatthāya me bhante vipassanā kammaṭṭhānāṃ dehi.
For the sake of witnessing nibbāna, Sir, grant me the meditation object of Vipassana.