"And in the interest of staying true to the tenents of Vipassana, he has abstained from sex for more than two years — a fact trumpeted on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in its May 5 issue."The Code of Discipline for 10-day meditation courses merely asks that, as a precept, students abstain from sexual activity for the duration of a course. Beyond courses, it's up to the individual to choose which precepts (and level of strictness) to employ in one's life. Nowhere does it say no to relationships or sexual activity in day-to-day, non-meditation-course life.
"But the road to happiness wasn't exactly an easy one. Vipassana is one of the strictest forms of meditation, requiring all participants to adhere to a list of precepts that includes abstaining from all sexual activity and all physical contact."Again, this is only during 10-day courses. Abstaining from these things simply helps keep one's mind clear and internally-focused — this is incredibly helpful during Vipassana courses, which are, um, kinda challening.
"Sleeping in beds is also forbidden"I have no idea where this comes from — I've never not slept in a bed at the 9-10 courses I've done.
"...all who undergo a 10-day Vipassana retreat are also required to fast after midday, taking only tea or fruit juice for nourishment."Not all - just students who've already done their first course; new students get to snack on fruit in the afternoon. This precept is there because it's easier to meditate when your stomach isn't busy churning through food...
"A vow of silence is observed, as one of Vipassana's main goals is a deep understanding of one's soul through close observation of one's own breathing patterns."Yes on the vow of silence, but again, it's only during courses. No on the soul bit, however — I would rephrase it as, "deep understanding of one's self through close observation of one's breathing patterns and bodily sensations."
Update: See Rivers' myspace blog post about Vipassana (among other things).