I am no stranger to the Dipa center. I`ve been a student at the center in two courses in the past prior to making my decision to serve there.
I`ve been practicing Vipassana for some time now and have participated in several courses in the past before I became familiar with Dipa center. I always described Vipassana meditation and the teaching of the Buddha as a life changing event for me. Since I became familiar with the teaching of the Buddha, and thereafter with Vipassana meditation that follows the five precepts and the eightfold path, my life changed drastically and I found in myself energies, talents and creativity like I never experienced it before.
As a result of this tremendously positive experience I decided to give service in return to one of the centers where I practiced the meditation as a student although Dhamma Dipa was not the first center that I visited nor where I became familiar with the practice of Vipassana, I decided nevertheless, to give my service to the Dipa center as I wanted to give service for more than 10 days, the classic length of a 10 day Vipassana course as an expression of my gratitude to what I thought to be one of the best Vipassana centers that I came across. Unfortunately, this idea very quickly came face to face with the reality of how the center`s servers are treated and who is this population of servers exactly and how they are selected.
My first surprise was when I started to notice that the people who are so called "long term servers" are basically lost souls, individuals who have one thing really in common and that is that: all of them need very thorough and serious help and guidance in life. I have not met one person who had an idea who he is, or what he wants in life. This is not merely feeling undecided about making one choice or another, rather it is a matter of identity.
These were also people who already spent 6 months to 3 years at the center, and nevertheless feeling lost and unhappy.
Good number of servers suffer from serious mental illnesses such as bipolar and severe clinical depression. We as servers would sit at evening sometimes and talk. At the beginning of my service I was very much sincere and committed to my service and took it very seriously. I approached the teacher about one server who I noticed that she is mentally unstable. Very quickly this server`s mental issues became known to most servers and I caught her several times talking non stop about the racing thoughts that she have. After than mental instability seems to be the norm and not the exception at the center.
During the first two weeks of my 3 weeks service I was sure that the teacher will be there for servers and that the center is well equipped and the staff is well trained to notice any mental problems, and to guide or share with the teacher. This was merely a hope that I had but it had very little to do with the reality of the center.
It turned out that after the 10 days course ends, servers at the center are on their own pretty much as long as they do the work they are required to do on site which over time becomes robotic and had very little to do with meditation.
I was deeply disappointed when I saw many behaviors that go against the principles of the teaching of the Buddha. Despite all this negative atmosphere I was very happy to form a great friendship with several servers who were not long term servers and left the center few days before I did. After I left the center, we exchanged few emails and we all came to realize that we were surprised and disappointed from the center. One of them opened my eyes to another aspect of the problematic center Dipa and thought that the center had became hierarchic on one hand and sectarian and for the special and "chosen ones" that is "us", on the other hand.
After some time at the center I started to sense that too and so my friend`s additional observation was very true. She decided that she never going back to the center and I most likely will not go back again. I would hope to clarify that I do not blame specific person. I think that the service needs some revision and the acceptance of servers should be more selective rather than "the more, the better" policy so "we would look popular on paper".
The policy of “lets be close minded as much as possible” I am not sure if it is helpful to any organization. Why mentally ill people find the center attractive??. The answer to this question hides the secret to the revisions and improvements that the center management can benefit from in my opinion.
Some of the things that I heard from servers that left me extremely sad were from servers who served for 6 months or more and concluded that "they are doing and feeling worse than when they arrived at the center”. Or "I forgot how society looks like. I have been at the center for 3 years", "The center changes you not always in a good way, "and "I feel less interest in people and in life".
These are few of the sentences that servers said during a mere 3 weeks of service I spent there!. While the teacher would feel more comfortable to believe that servers` complains are a result of asking them about their feelings, these servers responses generated by servers out of free will and based on freedom of expression and not because they have been asked by me to tell their experiences. Sometimes human being talk to prevent going crazy or to explode believe it or not. In other words, many servers leave the impression that they feel every negative feeling, but they don’t feel happiness especially the ones who have been there for more than 4 months. The question is what is the goal of service once again, please?
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Map showing Vipassana Trust Meditation Centre on Dhamma Dipa