I practice the Vipassana meditation in the tradition of S.N. Goenka. The organization (dhamma.org) has many centers around the world, and I participated in a few 10-day courses in various countries.
One important aspect that I like about this tradition is that the courses are taught with audio and video tapes, and in exact same format around the world. This way, I’m sure I get first-hand teachings, with no additional input from various other teachers. In this light, I was curious if there were notable differences at centers in different countries.
Here are my findings:
“Interesting cultural aspects at the meditation courses. I took courses in various countries, and while the technic is taught the same everywhere, there were some mass behaviors typical for each country:
1. Sri Lanka, Buddhist country. All local people were dressed in white. Just a spot of colors here and there divulged a foreigner. Locals had great reverence for the few monks who were there as students, with multiple bows that were completely outside of the meditation technic. It turned out that western women revered the monks as well, but in the form of sexual fantasies during the course, and taking sneaky pictures of them after (yeah, yeah, they confessed). Personally, I’m not into forbidden stuff (I like to dwell in possibilities 😉 ), but I did admire the monks as well – the fine lines under the clothes, the exposed arms, beautiful eyes of one of them, and in fact he was really hot… whatever!! I feel you, women!
2. Burma/Myanmar, Buddhist country with military regime. People were extremely submissive, acting sort of like servants. They are taught in school to bow all the time to their teachers and superiors. A woman told me her mother in law wanted her to have American babies, so she went to the US to give birth to both sons. It turns out it’s quite popular there, and they even know hot to get it for free in states like California for ex. And then they have to spend a lot of money on visas to stay in Burma, as these babies cannot have dual citizenship or residence.
3. Malaysia, majority Muslim country (75%) with large Chinese minority (23%). The courses are organized in English and Mandarin, as the Muslims do not go to meditation courses. All Chinese women were wearing umbrellas to protect from the sun. They do not like their skin to get brown, as this would be a sign of poverty and of people working the fields. In fact, all commercials in Asia display either white/Caucasian models, or extremely pale Asian models. I – no umbrella and bear foot most of the time – had a most pesantish behavior.”