Anapana meditation courses for special needs

Below are reports from Children’s Course Teachers (CCTs) of Anapana courses for children from the following backgrounds:

Schools for the hearing-impaired in Myanmar (Burma)
Hearing-impaired children in India
Visually challenged children in Myanmar
Institutions in Myanmar
Orphanages in Malaysia
Leprosy village in Myanmar
Areas affected by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar



Schools for the hearing impaired in Myanmar (Burma)
Students at Mandalay school for hearing impaired children

The first courses for hearing impaired children were held in Myanmar in 2006.

On July 30, at the “Youth Development Centre for Deaf”, Chanmyathazi quarter, Mandalay, Myanmar, 104 students participated. Mr Goenka’s Anapana instruction  tapes were used to help provide a good environment in the meditation hall and for those adults who could hear. The core curriculum from Goenkaji’s instructions were presented by prepared power point projections, reinforced by sign language by teachers from the centre.

Using Powerpoint and sign language to instruct hearing impaired children in Mandalay

Small groups of about 20 students were then guided and checked by one Children’s Course Teacher (CCT) and one teacher from the Youth Development Centre.  Flip charts were also used to assist in giving instructions. Children knew when to open their eyes after meditation when the CCT hit on the floor or touched one child at the corner of row and they continued successive touch throughout rows. This first course for children with special needs was an important and memorable milestone.

Students at Mary Chapman School, Yangon

The second such course was on 4 November, 2006, for hearing impaired people at the “Mary Chapman School for Deaf,” Dagon, Yangon, Myanmar. There were 103 students.
The same teaching-learning strategies were employed. The only difference was the background of the students. The students from Mandalay were Buddhists whereas the children and most teachers from Mary Chapman School were Christians, but the same instructions were used. A third course was held at the same school in January 2008 with 111 students.

Using picture charts to teach hearing impaired children

The CCTs reported: “We were apprehensive because it was the first time to deal with hearing impaired children. Also there was skepticism, but many hearing impaired people were enthusiastic. With Goenkaji’s encouragement we found that the students actively participated and practiced well. We were relieved and happy to be able to communicate with them. Their appreciation was evident in raised voices and sign language.”

Hearing impaired children in Myanmar expressing their appreciation

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Hearing-impaired children in India

A teacher in Pune with 15 years experience with hearing impaired children was encouraged by Mr Goenka to organise a course for her students. So a few teachers from the local Vipassana centre, Dhamma Punna, visited her school for a few months and became familiar with the use of sign language and hearing aids and their limitations.

The school teacher became a CCT and the first course for her students was held at the local centre in 2006. They were older teenagers in a group of 27. For orientation they were shown the video “Compass” and saw a course for 80 other students which was in progress, and then given some introductory instructions.

Hearing-impaired teenagers at Pune centre, India

In subsequent courses they were given more detailed instructions, with interaction in small groups. There are video tapes of some of Goenkaji’s instructions in Hindi and this was played in the background while the teacher showed printed signs in the local language, Marathi. The experience with the metta session (meditation of loving kindness) brought tears to the eyes of the volunteer helpers. The children sang with Goenkaji in their own way.

Since then a video has been made with the teacher covering the instructions in Marathi sign language. With every course the children, the team became more comfortable. Around 20 courses have now been held, with younger children being given a chance to join. A larger hall was built at the centre in 2009 and bigger groups could attend. A video recording was made in January for interested parties.

The team in Pune received a donation from USA to help meet the expenses of the teaching material. Sign language is not universal. There are differences in different countries. When the work in Marathi sign language is complete, this could help to prepare similar material for children in different settings.

Video of course for hearing-impaired children in Pune, India:

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Copyright, Vipassana Research Institute

A course for hearing impaired children was also conducted at the Kamak High School for the Hearing impaired,  Madurai, Tamil Nadu using instructions written in Tamil. The children were mostly destitute and their educational background was also not so good.  It was a challenge to attempt a course like this.

There were 40 children in a one-day course and 49 teenagers for two days. Using sign language and the blackboard, school teachers helped the course conducting teachers to communicate with the students. A drum was used to control the beginning and end of meditation sessions.

The body language of the children made it clear that they understood the course content and appreciated the peace that followed the concentration sessions.

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Visually challenged children in Myanmar
Anapana course for visually challenged children in Yangon, Myanmar

The “Kyi Myin Dine Blind School” held the first Anapana course for their students in July 2005. The children were excited. Although they had defective vision, they were intelligent and did not want to be lacking in knowledge, skill and wisdom. The meditation teacher assured them: “Although you have weakness of vision and sight at the physical level, there are higher intellectual and spiritual visions which can be achieved by proper practice of meditation. Those who have good vision may be living in the darkness of ignorance. They could be harming themselves and others by unwholesome thoughts, speech and actions. You can see the light of wisdom and live a fruitful and wholesome life.”

Myanmar volunteers help visually challenged children find their places in meditation hall

Initially, they encountered the same difficulties that all meditation students face like wandering of the mind, agitation, physical pain, sleepiness etc. However with encouragement and guidance they were successful by the end of the day.

After a course for visually challenged children in Myanmar

Here are some of their comments:

"Previously I was always angry and my mind was in a mess. Now I am not angry. I feel light and happy."

"How I wish, I could teach my parents so that they get the benefits as well."

"Now I can see a ray of "light" in my life. I am neither sorry nor depressed now."

"Previously I thought that we could not practice because we are blind. Now we know we can do it!"

“We have found the light! We are not in darkness any  more.”

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Institutes in Myanmar

Various institutions under the Department of Social Welfare have hosted courses for children. They cater for children who are orphans, abandoned or stray children and problem children, some with criminal offences.



Hnet-aw-san in Myanmar is a training centre for boys who are serving sentences for various criminal offences. Children from other training centres of the Ministry of Social Security are also sent to Hnet-aw-san if they are unmanageable or when they become over the age 18 years. A teacher from Hnet-aw-san said: “Definitely we can see the difference. The children from the Kaba Aye Training School for Boys who have attended Anapana courses are more manageable and more polite than the boys who have not the opportunity of attending the course. I am glad that the boys from Hnet-aw-san will be getting the chance to attend the course and get the same benefits.”

Course at a training school for boys run by Department of Social Welfare in Myanmar.

An Anapana course for 169 young male inmates was held at the Insein Central Prison in Yangon on 27 July 2008, following the closing session of the first Vipassana course in the jail. Twelve teachers and two Dhamma workers served them. The feed-back from the youngsters was very touching.

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Orphanages in Malaysia

The Taman Megah home in Kuala Lumpur accepts orphans, handicapped and abandoned children. It is located in three ordinary suburban houses in a row and relies heavily on volunteers to spend time to help the children feel secure and loved. The children come from all races but because the home was started by a Tamil couple, all the children can speak Tamil.

Therefore a 1-day Anapana course was organized in Tamil language in December 2006 and taught by a CCT from Singapore. There is wide range of physical, mental and social ability amongst the children in the home. However about ten children were considered able to understand and participate. The teacher was able to communicate well with the children and was happy with their progress. The volunteers who supervised other activities during the course spoke with them in a variety of languages as is usual in Malaysia.

In May 2008 children from the same home were invited to attend a 1-day course along with children from the Ti Ratana orphanage. It was held at the community centre in Sierramas where regular Anapana courses are held. There were 40 children attending.

Tamil children’s course at Sierramas, Kuala Lumpur

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Leprosy village in Myanmar

In May 2007, the first children's Anapana course was conducted at the primary school in "Myayadanar" village at Sagaing in upper Myanmar, where there are 160 families segregated for leprosy. After several moves finally they were settled at this village in 1992.

The primary school for children of the village was founded in 1997 and in 2006 it was recognized and supported by the Government as the official primary school.

Primary school at leprosy village in upper Myanmar

A small clinic serves the community, and the children are given free preventive measures. Their parents however are in an advanced stage of the disease and some have deformities. They are also treated and cured. However they are already deformed cases, and they cannot always be cured. They naturally have complexes and their work for a living is mostly collecting garbage and selling items that can be recycled.

The 1 day Anapana course team was led by Dr. Saw Mya Yee and Daw Win Kyi from Yangon.  Pre-counseling was done in the open space of the school compound. Then they were given places in the hall to listen to Goenakji's instructions, and practiced Anapana Sati as instructed.

After the instructions, they were grouped into small groups lead by one CCT for each group for checking and counseling. These small groups reassembled in the hall for group sitting.

Question and answer group at primary school in leprosy village


At 3.00 PM, there was final group sitting at the hall, followed by meditation on loving kindness and compassion. The children's' faces were beaming with joy and happiness. They appreciated the care and needless to say the teachers were very happy to be able to help.

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Areas affected by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar

After the cyclone on the 2nd and 3rd May 2008, relief workers came in to help villages where lives were lost, buildings were destroyed and there was disruption to food and water supplies. A team of CCTs were able to donate and give a helping hand in these areas by coordinating with local meditators. In addition they were able to give six one-day children’s courses. These were conducted during June and July in affected villages with a total of 1010 young students. This helped to alleviate the suffering of deep fear and anxieties, boost the morale of the children, and strengthen their minds.

Slide-show of courses held after Cyclone Nargis
(click on the image below to view the slideshow)

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