Monday, 17 November 2014

Reference to Vipassana on HBO's "Newsroom"

The story of Buddhist meditation getting picked up in the West has been going on for over a century now, and stretches from the early Orientalists and Transcendentalists through to the Beats and the Hippies. Today, interest in the Buddha's teachings has perhaps never been more keen, with people from all various walks of life attending meditation courses. One clear sign that this has become integrated into American culture could be seen in Sunday's surprise reference to Vipassana meditation on HBO's "Newsroom". Season Three, Episode Two features the episode "Run", in which characters Sloane Sabbith and Don Keefer are making conversation during rush hour in New York City. The conversation proceeds thus:

Sloan: You know what Vipassana is?
Don: It's a small Italian motorbike.
Sloan: Not a Vespa. Vipassana.
Don:  I know what Vipassana is.
Sloan: It's a meditation retreat in India where you don't talk for a week.
Don: But feel free to tell me anyway.
Sloan: Maybe two weeks. Think I'm gonna do it.
Don: You should. 
Sloan: You seem tense.
Don: Mm, you got that backwards, money honey. 
Sloan: No, I'm only a little tense because of what's happening at the office right now.

Although it is not entirely clear which Vipassana tradition the reference refers to, it is highly likely that it is a nod to the Sayagyi U Goenka tradition. This is because the organization is well-known for running ten-day silent meditation retreats, and their headquarters is indeed at Dhamma Giri in India.

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