Pāli ) or VIPAśYANā (
विपश्यना; Burmese : ဝိပဿနာ; Sinhalese :
විපස්සනා; Chinese : 觀 guān; Standard Tibetan :
ལྷག་མཐོང་, lhaktong; Wyl. lhag mthong) in the
Buddhist tradition means insight into the true nature of reality ,
namely as the
Three marks of existence : impermanence, suffering or
unsatisfactoriness, and the realisation of non-self. Presectarian
Buddhism emphasized the practice of Dhyana , but early in the history
Vipassanā gained a prominent place in the teachings.
VIPASSANā MEDITATION in conjunction with
Samatha meditation is a
necessary part of all
Buddhist traditions. Therefore it is important
Vipassanā on the one hand, and the Vipassana movement
on the other, which was represented in the Theravada-tradition by Ledi
Mogok Sayadaw and popularized by
Mahasi Sayadaw , V.R.
S. N. Goenka
S. N. Goenka .
* 1 Etymology
* 2 Insight
* 2.1 Origins
* 2.2 Sudden insight
* 2.3 Relation with samatha
* 3.1 Theravāda
* 3.1.1 Insight in the
Four Noble Truths
Four Noble Truths
* 3.1.3 Vipassana-meditation
* 3.1.4 Stages in the practice
* 3.2 Mahāyāna
* 3.2.2 Mahāmudrā and
* 4 See also
* 5 Notes
* 6 References
* 7 Sources
* 8 External links
* 8.1 History
* 8.2 Background
* 8.3 Practice
See also: Enlightenment in
Jnana , Prajna ,
Vidhya , and
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.'
Alternatively, the "vi" can function as an intensive, and thus
vipassanā may mean "seeing deeply."
A synonym for "Vipassanā" is paccakkha (Pāli; Sanskrit:
pratyakṣa), "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
In Tibetan, vipaśyanā 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.
Henepola Gunaratana defined
Looking into something with clarity and precision, seeing each
component as distinct and separate, and piercing all the way through
so as to perceive the most fundamental reality of that thing"
Richard Gombrich a development took place in early
Buddhism resulting in a change in doctrine, which considered prajna to
be an alternative means to "enlightenment". The suttas contain traces
of ancient debates between
Theravada schools in the
interpretation of the teachings and the development of insight. In the
sutta pitaka the term "vipassanā" is hardly mentioned, while they
frequently mention jhana as the meditative practice to be undertaken.
According to Vetter and Bronkhorst, dhyāna itself constituted the
original "liberating practice". Vetter further argues that the
eightfold path constitutes a body of practices which prepare one, and
lead up to, the practice of dhyana. Norman notes that "the Buddha's
way to release was by means of meditative practices." Out of these
debates developed the idea that bare insight suffices to reach
liberation , by discerning the Three marks (qualities) of (human)
existence (tilakkhana) , namely dukkha (suffering), anatta (non-self)
and anicca (impermanence).
Sthaviravāda , one of the early
Buddhist schools from which the
Theravada-tradition originates, emphasized sudden insight:
In the Sthaviravada progress in understanding comes all at once,
'insight' (abhisamaya) does not come 'gradually' (successively -
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". This process however, meant
to apply only to the Buddha and Peccaka buddhas. Lay people may have
to experience various levels of insights to become fully enlightened.
Mahayana -tradition emphasizes prajna , insight into sunyata ,
dharmata , the two truths doctrine , clarity and emptiness, or bliss
he very title of a large corpus of early
Mahayana literature, the
Prajnaparamita , shows that to some extent the historian may
extrapolate the trend to extol insight, prajna, at the expense of
dispassion, viraga, the control of the emotions.
Mahayana are commonly understood as different
streams of Buddhism, their practice however, may reflect emphasis on
insight as a common denominator:
In practice and understanding
Zen is actually very close to the
Theravada Forest Tradition even though its language and teachings are
heavily influenced by Taoism and Confucianism.
The emphasis on insight is discernible in the emphasis in Chán on
sudden insight , though in the Chán-tradition this insight is to be
followed by gradual cultivation.
RELATION WITH SAMATHA
Samadhi (Buddhism) , Dhyāna in
Mahamudra , and
In the Theravada-tradition, but also in Tibetan Buddhism, two types
Buddhist practices are being followed, namely samatha
(Pāli; Sanskrit: śamatha; "calm") and vipassana (insight). Samatha
is a primary meditation aimed at calming the mind, and it is also
being used in other Indian traditions, notably
Raja yoga .
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. For
this innovation the Vipassana Movement has been criticised, especially
in Sri Lanka.
Though both terms appear in the
Sutta Pitaka , Gombrich and Brooks
argue that the distinction as two separate paths originates in the
earliest interpretations of the Sutta Pitaka, not in the suttas
themselves. According to Gombrich, the distinction between
vipassanā and samatha did not originate in the suttas, but in the
interpretation of the suttas. Various traditions disagree which
techniques belong to which pole.
Buddhist Paths to liberation
Vipassanā can be cultivated by the practice that includes
contemplation and introspection although primarily awareness and
observation of bodily sensations. The practices may differ in the
Buddhist traditions and non-sectarian groups according to the
founder but the main objective is to develop insight.
Insight In The Four Noble Truths
According to the Theravada-tradition,
Buddhist practices lead to
insight in the
Four Noble Truths
Four Noble Truths , which can only be reached by
Noble Eightfold Path . According to Theravāda
tradition, enlightenment or
Nibbana can only be attained by discerning
Vipassanā insight levels when the Eightfold Noble Path is
followed ardently. This is a developmental process where various
Vipassanā insights are discerned; the final enlightenment may come
suddenly, as proposed by other schools.
Vipassana movement and
The term vipassana became popular due to the influence of the
Vipassana movement which started in the 1950s in Burma. It has come to
be considered a practical solution to handle emotions in a complex
Vipassanā Movement, also known as the Insight Meditation
Movement, refers to a number of schools of modern Theravāda Buddhism,
Thai Forest Tradition and the "New Burmese Method" ,
which emphasize development of insight into the three marks of
existence as a means to become awakened and enter the Stream .
The modern influences on the traditions of
Sri Lanka ,
Burma , Laos
Thailand originating from various Theravāda teachers like Ledi
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
S. N. Goenka
S. N. Goenka . The
Vipassanā Movement also includes
Buddhist teachers such as Joseph Goldstein ,
Tara Brach ,
Gil Fronsdal ,
Sharon Salzberg , and
Jack Kornfield .
Vipassanā Movement, the emphasis is on the
and the use of mindfulness to gain insight into the impermanence of
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 .
Mindfulness of breathing is described throughout the Sutta Pitaka.
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.
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.
Stages In The Practice
Four stages of enlightenment
Vipassanā jhanas are stages that describe the development of
vipassanā meditation practice as described in modern Burmese
Mahasi Sayadaw 's student
Sayadaw U Pandita
described the four vipassanā jhanas as follows:
* The meditator first explores the body/mind connection as one,
nonduality; discovering 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.
* In the second jhana, the practice seems effortless. Vitaka and
vicara both disappear.
* In the third jhana, piti , the joy, disappears too: there is only
happiness (sukha ) and concentration.
* 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
Vajrayana and Tibetan
Buddhism employed both deductive investigation
(applying ideas to experience) and inductive investigation (drawing
conclusions from direct experience) in the practice of vipaśyanā.
According to Leah Zahler, only the tradition of deductive analysis in
vipaśyanā was transmitted to Tibet in the sūtrayāna context.
In Tibet direct examination of moment-to-moment experience as a means
of generating insight became exclusively associated with vajrayāna.
Mahāmudrā And Dzogchen
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.
Atthakavagga and Parayanavagga
Global Vipassana Pagoda
* ^ Thanissaro Bhikkhu: "If you look directly at the Pali
discourses — the earliest extant sources for our knowledge of the
Buddha's teachings — you'll find that although they do use the word
samatha to mean tranquillity, and vipassanā to mean clear-seeing,
they otherwise confirm none of the received wisdom about these terms.
Only rarely do they make use of the word vipassanā — a sharp
contrast to their frequent use of the word jhana . When they depict
the Buddha telling his disciples to go meditate, they never quote him
as saying "go do vipassanā," but always "go do jhana." And they never
equate the word vipassanā with any mindfulness techniques."
Khantipalo recommends the use of the koan-like question "Who?"
to penetrate "this not-self-nature of the five aggregates": "In Zen
Buddhism this technique has been formulated in several koans , such as
'Who drags this corpse around?'"
* ^ This "gradual training" is expressed in teachings as the Five
ranks of enlightenment , Ten Ox-Herding Pictures which detail the
steps on the Path, The Three mysterious Gates of Linji, and the Four
Ways of Knowing of
* ^ See, for example:
AN 4.170 (PALI):
“Yo hi koci, āvuso, bhikkhu vā bhikkhunī vā mama santike
arahattappattiṁ byākaroti, sabbo so catūhi maggehi, etesaṁ vā
Katamehi catūhi? Idha, āvuso, bhikkhu samathapubbaṅgamaṁ
Puna caparaṁ, āvuso, bhikkhu vipassanāpubbaṅgamaṁ samathaṁ
Puna caparaṁ, āvuso, bhikkhu samathavipassanaṁ yuganaddhaṁ
Puna caparaṁ, āvuso, bhikkhuno dhammuddhaccaviggahitaṁ
Friends, whoever — monk or nun — declares the attainment of
arahantship in my presence, they all do it by means of one or another
of four paths. Which four?
There is the case where a monk has developed insight preceded by
Then there is the case where a monk has developed tranquillity
preceded by insight.
Then there is the case where a monk has developed tranquillity in
tandem with insight.
"Then there is the case where a monk's mind has its restlessness
concerning the Dhamma well under control.
AN 2.30 VIJJA-BHAGIYA SUTTA, A SHARE IN CLEAR KNOWING:
"These two qualities have a share in clear knowing. Which two?
Tranquility (samatha) as a result of such inductive reasoning, the
meditator progresses through the Hearer paths of preparation, seeing,
and meditation. It seems at least possible that both
Asaṅga presented their respective versions of such a method,
analogous to but different from modern Theravāda insight meditation,
and that Gelukpa scholars were unable to reconstruct it in the absence
of a practice tradition because of the great difference between this
type of inductive meditative reasoning based on observation and the
types of meditative reasoning using consequences (thal 'gyur,
prasaanga) or syllogisms (sbyor ba, prayoga) with which Gelukpas were
familiar. Thus, although Gelukpa scholars give detailed
interpretations of the systems of breath meditation set forth in
Vasubandu's and Asaṅga's texts, they may not fully account for the
higher stages of breath meditation set forth in those texts it
appears that neither the Gelukpa textbook writers nor modern scholars
such as Lati
Rinpoche and Gendun Lodro were in a position to conclude
that the first moment of the fifth stage of Vasubandhu's system of
breath meditation coincides with the attainment of special insight and
that, therefore, the first four stages must be a method for
cultivating special insight .
* ^ This tradition is outlined by Kamalaśīla in his three
Bhāvanākrama texts (particularly the second one), following in turn
an approach described in the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra . One scholar
describes his approach thus: "the overall picture painted by
Kamalaśīla is that of a kind of serial alternation between
observation and analysis that takes place entirely within the sphere
of meditative concentration" in which the analysis portion consists of
* ^ According to contemporary Tibetan scholar
Thrangu Rinpoche the
Vajrayana cultivates direct experience. Thrangu Rinpoche: "The
approach in the sutras is to develop a conceptual understanding of
emptiness and gradually refine that understanding through meditation,
which eventually produces a direct experience of emptiness we are
proceeding from a conceptual understanding produced by analysis and
logical inference into a direct experience this takes a great deal of
time we are essentially taking inferential reasoning as our method or
as the path. There is an alternative which the Buddha taught in the
tantras the primary difference between the sutra approach and the
Vajrayana (secret mantra or tantra) is that in the sutra
approach, we take inferential reasoning as our path and in the
Vajrayana approach, we take direct experience as our path. In the
Vajrayana we are cultivating simple, direct experience or "looking."
We do this primarily by simply looking directly at our own mind."
* ^ Khenchen
Thrangu Rinpoche also explains: "In general there are
two kinds of meditation: the meditation of the paṇḍita who is a
scholar and the nonanalytical meditation or direct meditation of the
kusulu, or simple yogi. . . the analytical meditation of the
paṇḍita occurs when somebody examines and analyzes something
thoroughly until a very clear understanding of it is developed. . .
The direct, nonanalytical meditation is called kusulu meditation in
Sanskrit. This was translated as trömeh in Tibetan, which means
"without complication" or being very simple without the analysis and
learning of a great scholar. Instead, the mind is relaxed and without
applying analysis so it just rests in its nature. In the sūtra
tradition, there are some nonanalytic meditations, but mostly this
tradition uses analytic meditation."
Thrangu Rinpoche describes the approach using a guru: "In the
Sūtra path one proceeds by examining and analyzing phenomena, using
reasoning. One recognizes that all phenomena lack any true existence
and that all appearances are merely interdependently related and are
without any inherent nature. They are empty yet apparent, apparent yet
empty. The path of Mahāmudrā is different in that one proceeds using
the instructions concerning the nature of mind that are given by one's
guru. This is called taking direct perception or direct experiences as
the path. The fruition of śamatha is purity of mind, a mind
undisturbed by false conception or emotional afflictions. The fruition
of vipaśyanā is knowledge (prajnā) and pure wisdom (jñāna).
Jñāna is called the wisdom of nature of phenomena and it comes about
through the realization of the true nature of phenomena.
* ^ A B C Gunaratana 2011 , p. 21.
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* ^ Koster 2009 , p. 9-10.
* ^ Ray (2004) p.74
* ^ Gombrich 1997 , p. 131.
* ^ A B Thanissaro
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* ^ Bond 1992 , p. 167.
* ^ Bond 1992 , p. 162-171.
* ^ Robert H. Sharf, Division of Social and Transcultural
Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, McGill
* ^ "AN 4.170 Yuganaddha Sutta: \'\'In Tandem\'\'. Translated from
Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu". Accesstoinsight.org. 2010-07-03.
* ^ "AN 2.30 Vijja-bhagiya Sutta, \'\'A Share in Clear Knowing\'\'.
Translated from the
Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu". Accesstoinsight.org.
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