Torture and Vipassana

A lot of news reports have talked about how the Bush administration authorises torture. But in many cases, they do not mention exactly what sort of torture is going on. I was kind of curious about this, but did not find out the preferred methods until I watched Taxi to the Dark Side.

It is about an innocent man that died in US custody. Initially, a lot of the torture was physical, but the CIA preferred to do psychological torture, since it leaves no obvious signs of what had happened after the fact.

I was thinking along the lines of forcing people to watch videos and shows they don’t want for long periods of time.

It is actually much simpler than that – the torture the CIA prefers to use is sensory deprivation. Black goggles are put over the eyes, earmuffs are fitted over the ears, then an opaque bag is put over both of those. The person is then tied up and left that way.

When university psychological experiments were done in the 1960s, simply putting on goggles and earmuffs like that led people to start going insane within 48 hours. The CIA picked it up after that. I am not sure how that helps the CIA get information from the people they are holding, but that is not what interested me about the technique.

When I saw that, I thought… perfect Vipassana meditation opportunity! When I first did the 10 day Vipassana course, other people in the end thought they were losing their minds. That was exactly what I wanted, to lose that sense of self, and I thought it was great. Obviously, it could very well be hell if that is the experience you don’t want to have. Then again, part of meditation is in large part about just observing, not forming opinions about the sensations you feel. Those people were still forming opinions. It is people’s reactions to their surroundings that make it heaven or hell to them.

In Vipassana Meditation, one closes the eyes as not to be distracted, and does well in a quiet place where sounds will not disturb the meditation either. Then the meditator can simply pay attention to the sensations on the body. If somebody is tied up all over, that would help the mind not focus on one point on the body, also helpful for the meditation. If one was good at Vipassana, I wonder if the sensory deprivation technique would even be useful on a Vipassana meditator.

If the people tied up by the CIA weren’t so fixiated on the fact being tied up is uncomfortable, they might find it to be an extremely spiritually rewarding experience. Just as a fast is great for people that voluntarily decide to go without food, but not those who want food but just can’t get it because of their circumstances. I am very curious as to what would happen if I tried this – though doing experiments on oneself is hardly an adequate sample to make a scientific paper with.


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