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Template:Clone Template:Redirect Template:Mindfulness Vipassanā (Pāli) or vipaśyanā (विपश्यना, Sanskrit; Chn. 觀 guān; Tib. ལྷག་མཐོང་, lhaktong; Wyl. lhag mthong) in the Buddhist tradition means insight into the true nature of reality,[1][2] namely as the Three marks of existence: impermanence, suffering or unsatisfactoriness, and the realisation of non-self.

Vipassanā-meditation is a modern Theravada practice, reintroduced by Ledi Sayadaw and Mogok Sayadaw and popularized by Mahasi Sayadaw,Template:SfnTemplate:SfnTemplate:Sfn S. N. Goenka and the Vipassana movement, Template:Sfn in which mindfulness of breathing and of thoughts, feelings and actions are being used to gain insight in the true nature of reality. Due to the popularity of Vipassanā-meditation, the mindfulness of breathing has gained further popularity in the west as mindfulness.Template:Sfn


Template:See also Vipassanā is a Pali word from the Sanskrit prefix "vi-" and verbal root paś. It is often translated as "insight" or "clear-seeing," though, the "in-" prefix may be misleading; "vi" in Indo-Aryan languages is equivalent to the Latin "dis." The "vi" in vipassanā may then mean to see into, see through or to see 'in a special way.'[2] Alternatively, the "vi" can function as an intensive, and thus vipassanā may mean "seeing deeply."Template:Citation needed

A synonym for "Vipassanā" is paccakkha (Pāli; Sanskrit: Template:IAST), "before the eyes," which refers to direct experiential perception. Thus, the type of seeing denoted by "vipassanā" is that of direct perception, as opposed to knowledge derived from reasoning or argument.Template:Citation needed

In Tibetan, vipashyana is lhagthong (wylie: lhag mthong). The term "lhag" means "higher", "superior", "greater"; the term "thong" is "view" or "to see". So together, lhagthong may be rendered into English as "superior seeing", "great vision" or "supreme wisdom." This may be interpreted as a "superior manner of seeing", and also as "seeing that which is the essential nature." Its nature is a lucidity—a clarity of mind.[3]

Henepola Gunaratana defined Vipassanā as: Template:Quote



In the sutta pitaka the term "vipassanā" is hardly mentioned: Template:Quote

Bare insight

The suttas contain traces of ancient debates between Mahayana and Theravada schools in the interpretation of the teachings and the development of insight. Out of these debates developed the idea that bare insight suffices to reach liberation, by discerning the Three marks of existence (tilakkhana), namely dukkha, anatta and anicca.Template:Sfn This is a summation on the knowledge and insight on the Four Noble Truths which can only be reached by practising the Noble Eightfold Path. According to Theravada tradition enlightenment or Nibbana can only be attained by discerning all Vipassana insight levels when the Eightfold Noble Path is followed ardently. This is a developmental process where various Vipassana insights are discerned and the final enlightenment may come suddenly as proposed by other schools.

The Sthaviravāda, one of the early Buddhist schools, emphasized sudden insight: Template:Quote

The Mahasanghika, another one of the early Buddhist schools, had the doctrine of ekaksana-citt, "according to which a Buddha knows everything in a single thought-instant".Template:Sfn This process however, meant to apply only to the Buddha and Peccaka buddhas. Lay people may have to undergo various levels of insights to become fully enlightened.

The Mahayana-tradition emphasises prajna, insight into sunyata, dharmata, the two truths doctrine, clarity and emptiness, or bliss and emptiness:[4] Template:Quote

Although Theravada and Mahayana are commonly understood as different streams of Buddhism, their practice however, may reflect emphasis on insight as a common denominator: Template:Quote

The emphasis on insight is discernible in the emphasis in Chán on sudden insight,Template:Sfn though in the Chán-tradition this insight is to be followed by gradual cultivation.Template:Refn

Relation with samatha

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In the Theravada-tradition two types of meditation Buddhist practices are being followed, namely samatha (Pāli; Sanskrit: śamatha; "calm") and vipassana (insight).[5] Samatha is a primary meditation aimed at calming the mind, and it is also being used in other Indian traditions, notably Raja yoga.

Contemporary Theravada orthodoxy regards samatha as a preparation for vipassanā, pacifying the mind and strengthening the concentration in order to allow the work of insight, which leads to liberation. In contrast, the Vipassana Movement argues that insight levels can be discerned without the need for developing samatha further due to the risks of going out of course when strong samatha is developed.Template:Sfn For this innovation the Vipassana Movement has been criticised, especially in Sri Lanka.Template:Sfn[6]

Though both terms appear in the Sutta PitakaTemplate:Refn, Gombrich and Brooks argue that the distinction as two separate paths originates in the earliest interpretations of the Sutta Pitaka,Template:Sfn not in the suttas themselves.Template:SfnTemplate:Refn According to Gombrich, the distinction between vipassanā and samatha did not originate in the suttas, but in the interpretation of the suttas.Template:SfnTemplate:Refn Various traditions disagree which techniques belong to which pole.Template:Sfn


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Vipassanā can be cultivated by the practice that includes contemplation, introspection and observation of bodily sensations, analytic meditation and observations on life experiences like death and decomposition. The practices may differ in the modern Buddhist traditions and non-sectarian groups according to the founder but the main objective is to develop insight. [1]


Vipassanā movement

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The term vipassana became popular due to the influence of the Vipassana movement which started in the 1950s in Burma. It has become a practical solution to handle emotions in a sophisticated society of the West.

The Vipassanā Movement, also known as the Insight Meditation Movement, refers to a number of schools of modern Theravāda Buddhism, especially the Thai Forest Tradition and the "New Burmese Method", which emphasize development of insight into the three marks of existence as a mean to become awakened and enter the Stream.

The modern influencesTemplate:Sfn on the traditions of Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos and Thailand originating from various Theravāda teachers like Ledi sayadaw, Mogok Sayadaw who was less known to the West due to lack of International Mogok Centres, Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Chah, and Dipa Ma, as well as derivatives from those traditions such as the movement led by S. N. Goenka. The Vipassanā Movement also includes contemporary American Buddhist teachers such as Joseph Goldstein, Tara Brach, Gil Fronsdal, Sharon Salzberg, and Jack Kornfield.

In the Vipassanā Movement, the emphasis is on the Satipatthana Sutta and the use of mindfulness to gain insight into the impermanence of the self-view.


Vipassanā-meditation uses mindfulness of breathing, combined with the contemplation of impermanence, to gain insight into the true nature of this reality. All phenomena are investigated, and concluded to be painful and unsubstantial, without an immortal entity or self-view, and in its ever-changing and impermanent nature.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn

Mindfulness of breathing is described throughout the Sutta Pitaka. The Satipatthana Sutta describes it as going into the forest and sitting beneath a tree and then to simply watch the breath. If the breath is long, to notice that the breath is long, if the breath is short, to notice that the breath is short.[7][8]

By observing the breath one becomes aware of the perpetual changes involved in breathing, and the arising and passing away of mindfulness. One can also be aware of and gain insight into impermanence through the observation of bodily sensations and their nature of arising and passing away.[9]

Stages in the practice

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Vipassanā jhanas are stages that describe the development of vipassanā meditation practice as described in modern Burmese Vipassana meditation.[10] Mahasi Sayadaw's student Sayadaw U Pandita describes the four vipassanā jhanas as follows:[11]

  1. The meditator first explores his body, then his mind, discovering the three characteristics. The first jhana consists in seeing these points and in the presence of vitakka and vicara. Phenomena reveal themselves as appearing and ceasing.
  2. In the second jhana, the practice seems effortless. Vitaka and vicara both disappear.
  3. In the third jhana, piti, the joy, disappears too: there is only happiness (sukha) and concentration.
  4. The fourth jhana arises, characterised by purity of mindfulness due to equanimity. The practice leads to direct knowledge. The comfort disappears because the dissolution of all phenomena is clearly visible. The practice will show every phenomenon as unstable, transient, disenchanting. The desire of freedom will take place.

Eventually Vipassanā-meditation leads to insight into the impermanence of all phenomena, and thereby lead to a permanent liberation.Template:Sfn



Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism employed both deductive investigation (applying ideas to experience) and inductive investigation (drawing conclusions from direct experience) in the practice of vipaśyanā.Template:RefnTemplate:Refn According to Leah Zahler, only the tradition of deductive analysis in vipaśyanā was transmitted to Tibet in the sūtrayāna context.Template:Refn

In Tibet direct examination of moment-to-moment experience as a means of generating insight became exclusively associated with vajrayāna.[12]Template:RefnTemplate:Refn

Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen

Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen use vipaśyanā extensively. This includes some methods of the other traditions, but also their own specific approaches. They place a greater emphasis on meditation on symbolic images. Additionally in the Vajrayāna (tantric) path, the true nature of mind is pointed out by the guru, and this serves as a direct form of insight.Template:Refn

See also



  1. Template:Cite web
  2. 2.0 2.1 Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in plain English, Wisdom Publications, pg 21.
  3. Ray (2004) p.74
  4. Template:Cite web
  5. Template:Cite web
  6. Robert H. Sharf, Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University
  7. Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta No. 118, Section No. 2, translated from the Pali
  8. Satipatthana Sutta
  9. Template:Cite web
  10. Ingram, Daniel (2008), Mastering the core teachings of the Buddha, Karnac Books, p.246
  11. Sayadaw U Pandita, In this very life
  12. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named TR




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