In a time of worldwide social transition and upheaval, more and more people
throughout the world are seeking concentration, purification and peace of mind
through the practice of Vipassana meditation. Vipassana means "to see things as
they really are" and is a logical process of mental purification through
self-observation. Many come to Vipassana later in their lives, wishing they had
found this technique sooner because it is so effective in learning the art of
living peacefully and harmoniously.
The ideal time to begin the first steps of this mental training is in
childhood when children as young as eight years old can easily learn the
technique of Anapana meditation. Anapana is the first step in the practice of
Vipassana meditation. It is the observation of natural, normal respiration, as
it comes in and as it goes out. Anapana is a simple technique that helps develop
concentration of the mind. It is easy to learn, objective and scientific.
Observation of the breath is the ideal object for meditation because it is
always available, and it is completely non-sectarian. Anapana is very different
from techniques that are based on artificial regulation of the breath. There are
no rites or rituals involved in the practice or presentation of Anapana. It is
presented in a non-sectarian format, making it ideal for introducing it to
children at school programmes throughout the world. This approach is traced back
to the Buddha, who rediscovered and taught this technique nearly 2,600 years
ago. The Buddha never taught a sectarian religion; he taught Dhamma-the way to
liberation-which is universal. Following this tradition, this technique is
presented in a totally non-sectarian approach. For this reason, it has had a
profound appeal to people of all backgrounds, of every religion or no religion,
from every part of the world.
Besides helping them to calm and concentrate their minds, Anapana helps
children to better understand themselves and how their minds work. As they learn
to calm and concentrate their minds, they gain mastery over their impulses and
actions. They develop an inner strength that helps them to choose right and
appropriate actions over wrong actions. This is a natural by-product of the
technique. For this reason, Anapana provides them with a tool to deal with the
fears, anxieties, and pressures of childhood and adolescence. Because of its
simplicity, they find the technique easy to practise and understand and they
appreciate its scientific and universal nature.
Objective Over the past 15 years, hundreds of Anapana courses have been conducted
exclusively for children around the world. These courses have yielded substantial
benefits for the thousands of children who have attended them. Many of them have
experienced a positive change in their outlook, behaviour and attitude. Many
have found their ability to concentrate has improved and that their memory has
strengthened. And above all, these children have acquired a tool that is of
immense value to them for the rest of their lives.
Children are, by nature, active and enthusiastic, with an eagerness to learn
and explore. For this reason, it is appropriate to offer them an opportunity to
explore themselves and their mind with all its hidden faculties, latent abilities
and subtle complexities. Learning Anapana plants a wholesome interest in
self-introspection and meditation, which may open an entirely new dimension of
life for them later on.
Anapana courses for children have been conducted since 1986. These courses
have been offered to children of various ages and socio-economic and cultural
groups. They have been conducted in Vipassana meditation centers as well as at
schools and other institutions, and have been both residential and non-residential.
Whether a children's Anapana course is held at a school or at a Vipassana
meditation center, it is essential that the students be given an opportunity to
continue to practice Anapana for a short period each day after the course to
yield the true benefits of the practice.
Eligibility Students from the ages of eight to sixteen years are eligible to attend the
courses. Separate courses should be organized for the two different age groupings,
one for younger children: ages eight to twelve; and one for the older ones: ages
thirteen to sixteen. These are ideal groupings but slightly different groupings
are also sometimes considered. Students less than eight years of age and more
than sixteen years may not be admitted to a children's Anapana course.
The recommended number of children per course should not exceed fifty. For
courses larger than fifty children, additional Children's Course Teachers (CCT) may be
required to conduct the course.
Timetable Various schedules have been developed and successfully implemented in schools
over the years. One-day or two-day non-residential courses can easily be
conducted during the school hours. In residential schools, three-day residential
courses may be held. The timetable is determined by the length of the course and
whether it is residential or not. The timetable should be modified to avoid the
times when other students who are not participating in the course could interact
with the children taking the course. Enough time should be scheduled for
meditation periods, counseling (when the CCT meets with small groups of children
to reinforce the practice), discourses and stories, lunch, rest, play, etc. The
total duration of a one-day course is about six hours.
The timetable will be decided by the teacher conducting the course in consultation with the organizers and school administrator.
Prerequisites for Institutions To begin the process of having a children's Anapana course held in a school,
the administrator or the head of the school should send a formal request to
either the Regional coordinator of Children's Courses, a Children's Course
Teacher or a local Vipassana meditation center.
At least one person from the teaching staff or administration should have
completed a ten-day Vipassana course in this tradition. Apart from this, there
should be a firm commitment by the school or institution to provide an
opportunity for the children to continue their practice of meditation for a few
minutes every day. The school management may decide the time to implement this
program within their daily routine, with the minimum of about ten minutes a day
The limit on the number of students participating in a course should be
carefully determined. A very large group may be difficult to manage and a very
small group may have difficulty in creating a cohesive and inspirational
atmosphere. Generally, courses with between twenty-five to fifty participants
work well. However, depending on the infrastructure, facility and circumstances,
the number may vary. Ideally, a course should be organized for all of the
students from the participating classes. All the teachers of the participating
classes should also participate in the course. The teachers of the participating
classes may sit as observers.
Besides organizing courses during the regular school week, courses may also
be organized to take place at the school on a weekend or during vacation periods.
Guidelines for Courses in Institutions
For a residential Anapana course, separate and adequate sleeping accommodations, showers, and toilets should be available for boys and girls. A dining facility where boys and girls can sit separately is also required.
The course should be organized in a way that no other students or staff are present in the area where the course is being conducted or where the attending children will be residing. Organizing on weekends or during holidays can be helpful in insuring this separation.
A large enough room or hall should be available for seating all the meditators on the floor on cushions or comfortable mats.
A suitable sound system, a VCR and TV should be available for playing instruction tapes and discourses.
The place for meditation and the accommodations should be at a sufficient distance from main roads and traffic in order to have the quiet, peaceful atmosphere required for meditation.
A few course servers, who are experienced Vipassana meditators, may be required to help in running and managing the course.
If there are children who are old students and have been doing courses regularly, they may serve on the course, having minor responsibilities. (They should never be put in a counselor role).
Requisition Form (From school administrators and heads of institutions, for conducting
Anapana courses in their institutions)
Name and address of the sponsoring authority
Name and address of the school/institution participating
Name/s of the person/s in the institution who has/have done a ten-day course previously and their position in the school (i.e., head/principal/trustee/teacher)
Dates of his/her first and last course
Proposed duration of course (one/two/three-day)
Age group of participants and break-up of male/female participants
Details of facilities available:
Hall for meditation
Residence and amenities
Food and dining facilities
For more information on children's courses, please contact:
Tim & Karen Donovan c/o Dhamma Mahavana, California Vipassana Center
P.O. Box 1167
North Fork, CA 93643