Vipassana Centres: Feedback

I've now attended courses at four Vipassana Centres in India. I have some recommendations for these centres which are in line with the Bangalore 2030 vision. They are fairly straight-forward recommendations for maintaining a clean, hygienic, sustainable space from which students can gain additional inspiration.


Do not burn garbage

I was shocked to see this in more than one location. Both in Jaipur and in Bangalore, garbage was burnt (either by administration or by construction workers). It is very important that every volunteer understand how burning garbage is unsanitary and to pass this message on to construction workers and other temporary visitors.


Segregate garbage

Cities like Bangalore do not have effective waste management solutions in place. The best option is to strive for Zero Waste by segregating wet (organic), dry, and sanitary waste. Mark organic waste containers in green, dry (recyclable) waste containers in blue, and sanitary waste containers in red.

Compostable items should not be used for bio fuel, but composted. Since Vipassana centres are inherently vegetarian, there is no concern with disease spreading from meat in compost. Food scraps and leftover food can be composted directly. Leaves and grass can be composted separately. Dry waste can be taken to a nearby collection centre or kabaadi waala. Sanitary waste should be given to the local waste pickers.

Instructions can be given to students to strive to bring only recyclable and reusable containers for their soap, toothpaste, and other essentials. The simplicity of life at a Vipassana centre means it should be easy to avoid producing garbage entirely.

If Zero Waste is too much of a burden for Centre Administration, 2bin1bag is the bare minimum for waste segregation in Indian cities. This approach is now law in Karnataka.


Provide soap

While I realize a surprising number of men are not in the habit of washing their hands after touching their genitals, it would be best if a shared space at least afforded soap for this occasion to encourage those who aren't in the habit. This applies to both sexes, as I have heard there is no soap available in the shared toilet in the women's side of camp, either.


Water plants efficiently

Vipassana centres are all very concerned with water usage. In Dhamma Nagajjuna, I was surprised to see new plants watered around noon. This is, without a doubt, the worst time of day to water plants. The sun is achieving its full force and the majority of the water will be evaporated before reaching plant roots. The best times of day (to my knowledge) to water plants are either first thing in the morning, before the sun is up at all... or last thing at night, after the sun has gone down. I am not a gardener or an ecologist, but I can guarantee every centre has one in attendance -- for further gardening tips, one could be consulted.


Install solar panels + batteries

This is a longer-term recommendation but comes on the heels of avoiding bio fuels and burning wood in favour of compost. While there is something romantic about a fire, it is very well understood that no act of burning is good for the health of animals or humans. Solar panels are continuously decreasing in price and when paired with large battery installations, can supply a Vipassana centre with more than enough power to heat water, light pathways, and run audio/video systems.

It would be great to see Vipassana Centres embrace sustainable energy and encouraging students to do the same.


No comments: