Actually, the ten-day course is the minimum; it provides an essential introduction and foundation to the technique. To develop in the practice is a lifetime job. Experience over generations has shown that if Vipassana is taught in periods of less than ten days, the student does not get a sufficient experiential grasp of the technique. Traditionally, Vipassana was taught in retreats lasting seven weeks. With the dawning of the 20th century, the teachers of this tradition began to experiment with shorter times to suit the quickening pace of life. They tried thirty days, two weeks, ten days, down to seven days--and they found that less than ten days is not enough time for the mind to settle down and work deeply with the mind-body phenomenon.
The day begins at 4:00 a.m. with a wakeup bell and continues until 9:00 p.m. There are about ten hours of meditation throughout the day, interspersed with regular breaks and rest periods. Every evening at 7:00 p.m. there is a videotaped lecture by the Teacher, S.N. Goenka, which provides a context for meditators to understand their experience of the day. This schedule has proved workable and beneficial for hundreds of thousands of people for decades.