[book] Why I sit – Paul Fleischman (excerpt I)

I heard about Paul Fleischman for some time now… again just before the 10-day retreat in Dhamma Dvara, then after I come out of noble silence I found his books on the library shelves in the center’s Lobby.

I took and start reading this small booklet curious about his writings… cause it came to my attention many times and never went into explore it. I noticed my mind reacting to the title (“hmm, “therapeutic  action of vipassana..””).. let got of this thought and moved on opening the book.

Here are some excerpts from the booklet… in different posts… I could just post here the whole second part of the book (the “Why I Sit” section)… I relate, resonate…

And now, as I took the adhiṭṭhāna (Pali for strong determination, decision, self determination) an effort, intentionally correct and sincere, his writings are somehow validating (don’t know if this is the correct word for what I feel and mean to say here) my efforts.

So, here it is…


Although the practice of Vipassana is not a religion in the sense of buying into or swallowing dogma, ritual, or blind faith, I think it is critical to practice “religiously”: that is, with devoted centrality of commitment. Meditation as a desultory practice, an amusement, an occasional hobby in a cluttered life, has little effect, and may stir up more confusion than it relieves. Unfortunately I have seen intermittent, self-directed meditation used to hide from reality, to devalue painful dilemmas, and, in one instance, to aggrandize the self to the point of madness and suicide.

Vipassana references itself to universal human wisdom rather than to particular culture forms. It is non-sectarian in thought. Its framework is mirrored whenever people ponder the art of living. For example, Thoreau wrote, in Massachusetts, in the nineteenth century: “Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, forever again… To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest art… no method or discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert …”

The potential therapeutic actions of Vipassana include increased self-knowledge, deepened human trust and participation, integration with and acceptance of one’s past, deepened activation of one’s will, increased sense of responsibility for one’s own fate; greater concentration, deepened ethical commitments, firm yet flexible life structures and disciplines, fluid access to deeper streams of feeling and imagery, expanded historical and contemporary community; prepared confrontation with core realities such as time, change,
death, loss, pain, leading to an eventual diminution of dread, anxiety, and delusion; fuller body-mind integration, decreased narcissism, and a fuller panorama of character strengths such as generosity, compassion, and human love. Each student starts at a different place, and progresses individually; there is no magic and no guarantees.


Meditation is most therapeutic when it is not looked upon for therapeutic effect, but is put into practice as an end in itself, an expression of an aspect of human nature. That aspect is not a single attribute, like one slice of a pie, but a sustaining, synthesizing, creative force in all other aspects, like the heat that baked the pie. It is more like the bony skeleton than like one limb. So meditation expresses something about the integrated process of a person,
rather than being merely a means to ends in other spheres of life.
Meditation expresses that aspect of us which can receive: the non-selective embracing receptor. We can know ourselves as member cells of an integrated whole.
Occasionally a person will feel this way during special hours of special days: watching a sunset from the rim-rocks of a sandstone canyon in a wilderness of pinyon pine and ancient ruins. These moments are inspirational, serendipitous interludes. Meditation entails the systematic cultivation of this formative human potential as a lifelong centering enterprise. While some activation of this receptive, inter-penetrative, non-judgmental mode is the foundation of any art or science, any significant engagement of the world, it has been most exquisitely expressed by certain writers, like Tagore, Whitman, Thoreau, the Socratic dialogues, Chinese and Japanese Zen poets, and the nameless authors of many classical Pali and Sanskrit texts from ancient India.
This equanimous, aware, unfiltered, receptivity is the sine qua non of religious experience (as opposed to mere religious membership or affiliation). Opening it up makes us feel whole and alive just as eating does. There is no need to rationalize supper as being therapeutic; it is an essential expression of life itself. Similarly, to open up and know with our being is not health-giving, but life-giving. […]

But when we open to receive the whole, a great darkness floods in too. Our previously selective, circumscribed flashlight cannot illumine it alone. We can no longer exclude the devouring mouths of time, the Hitlerian epochs cauterizing living limbs of whole centuries, civilizations, peoples; our fears for ourselves and all we love seem like ephemeral flecks of spray foaming up and vanishing endlessly on a boundless endless ocean. Human culture itself, with its religious and artistic and scientific geniuses, has provided candles, torches, even suns for us, that reveal miraculously the dry land between the seas. Vipassana is one of these. It is a technique that enables us to hear the wisdom of life itself, contained in our organism just like the wisdom of hunger, revealing the deepening shaft of vision, determination, more indomitable skill and gentleness in service of the life in which we live. Inside us and around us is the maker for whom we care. Vipassana meditation is one way to activate an enduring, sustaining love in the web of all contacts.

Students who undertake training in this discipline will find themselves walking into a large, dark hall at 4:00 AM. Around them will be one hundred silent, seated, erect friends along the way, men and women, professors and unemployed travelers, lawyers and mothers, who have been there, morning after morning, day after day, for ten days. Darkness will fade, there will be fewer stars, the crescent moon will glow alone, birds will unroll a curtain of life before the new day, and then depart. The hall will be light, yet still, motionless, silent; a chant will begin, whose twenty-five hundred year-old words simply point us towards the best in us; and even slightly bleary and dry, the students may motionlessly reach up and pluck an invisible jewel of immeasurable worth.

Excerpt from book “Therapeutic Action of Vipassana, Why I Sit”, by Dr. Paul Fleischman

This lines reminds me of the many talks we had with Ronen about Yoga,  about a personal practice, the fashionable Yoga, what’s happening now in the world with people in search for a path, a true teaching, a true teacher, a true – non-illusory mean of coming back to center, a mean of finding the teacher inside…

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