Vipassana (from Pali: Vipassanā, German 'Einsicht', Sanskrit vipaśyanā) in Buddhism refers to the "insight" into the Three Characteristics of Existence impermanence (anicca), suffering or non-sufficiency (dukkha), and non-self (anatta).
The practice path to develop this insight is called "Vipassana Meditation" (vipassanā-bhāvanā).
The practice path to unfold this insight is called "vipassana meditation" (vipassanā-bhāvanā), "insight meditation," or "vipassana practice." Vipassana practice is a way to overcome suffering (dukkha) caused by non-sight (avijjâ) and delusion (kilesa), or to attain the liberation of nirvana in life.
It is traced back to a commentary (Visuddhi-Magga) on the teachings of the historical Buddha handed down in the Pali canon.
The practice of Vipassana and the attainment of its goals is basically not bound to any religious affiliation. Vipassana meditation is also practiced and taught by non-Buddhists.
An essential part of the various training methods is the practice of mindfulness (sati). In psychological literature, Vipassana meditation is usually called "mindfulness meditation" instead of insight meditation.
The "Vipassana movement" is a loosely knit lay and ordained movement that originated in Theravada Buddhism. It now includes numerous teachers, students, courses, meditation centers, and communities.
The Pali word Vipassanā is composed of the Sanskrit prefix "vi-" and the verbal root "√paś" for "to see." It is usually translated as "insight," "clear-eyed," or "clear-sighted."
The prefix "vi-" primarily means "two parts" or a movement "away" from something else. Corresponding prefixes in German are "auseinander-" or "ent-". Literally, Vipassanā can also be translated as "seeing apart".
It designates an intuitively distinguishing, more deeply seeing through and thus freeing from illusions "seeing" in the sense of an immediate grasping.
This also corresponds to the other meaning of "vi-", which is an "intense" quality of discernment. Vipassanā thus means a special kind of deep seeing that directly, uncloudedly, or truthfully grasps all inner and outer processes.
By those "two parts" of "vi-" are meant illusion or falsity and reality or truth. Thus, Vi-Passanā means a higher seeing that increasingly sees through any illusion, manipulation, or delusion with the help of the intuitive discrimination of mindfulness, and thus directly grasps the reality or truth in question.
Many Vipassana teachers hold the view that if this discernment is continually cultivated, it will lead to "full liberation" (Nirvāna), the highest goal of Buddhist practice in all its forms.
In the discourses of the Buddha in the Pali Canon, there are many testimonies that the systematic practice of mere mindfulness for the purpose of liberating insights was widespread in the ancient Indian primitive community. This broad practice orientation continued to operate for several centuries.
From about the 10th century on, it seems to have played no role in Theravâda Buddhism.
This broadly based early Buddhist practice of mindfulness or insight, directed at both lay and ordained people, was increasingly pushed into the background by later Buddhist developments - above all the development of scholasticism, philosophy and institutionalization in the form of Buddhist monasteries, which made a monopoly claim to the highest path of liberation.
Revival from the 18th century
Beginning in the early 18th century, however, there was a revival in Burma (present-day Myanmar) of the early Buddhist orientation toward a liberating meditation practice for all, lay and ordained alike, through systematic mindfulness training - based on the Buddha's central mindfulness discourses in the Pali Canon.
This movement was eventually supported by the Burmese Theravâda and the royal family. It thus gained momentum.
Then, since the late 19th century, the meditation forms of Vipassanâ have again been widely taught to the (Burmese) people in the course of a great reform movement, which has been mainly influenced by probably the most learned and renowned master in the history of Burma, Ledi Sayadaw. This is where the modern Vipassanâ movement started.
Soon after, it took hold of Thailand, Sri Lanka, and in recent decades, the Western world, where it has become increasingly popular with its strong reorientation to the early Buddhist situation, that is, its relative freedom from the later culturally conditioned forms of the "religion" Buddhism.
Contributing to this are now numerous Western meditation teachers, the majority of whom are lay people - either former ordained or never ordained - and sometimes formative monks, such as Ajahn Brahm. There are also many women among these mediators.
However, as far as making the ancient sources of the Pali canon, as the basis of the Vipassanâ movement, newly accessible to a wider circle interested in practice, Western Theravâda ordained scholars play the main role - especially Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bhikkhu Thanissaro, Bhikkhu Analayo.
But also some lay scholars should be mentioned here, such as Maurice Walshe. Analayo and Ajahn Sujato also explore the canonical fragments of other early Buddhist schools preserved in the Chinese Buddhist canon.
Ledi Sayadaw and other reform-minded Burmese monks originally opposed the cultural and scholastic over-formations of the Theravāda mother tradition, the monasteries' monopoly claim to the highest path of liberation, and Christian proselytization under British colonial rule in Burma.
The liberation-pragmatic, that is, liberation here and now in life, practical teaching of Vipassanā was the Buddhist response to the colonial power's religion of faith or a particularly effective means of making the Burmese population unreceptive to Christian missionary attempts.
This reorientation of the Vipassanâ movement is also the reason that in most forms of this movement the faith elements of traditional Theravāda have receded into the background (such as the doctrine of rebirth in a literal sense).
With its skepticism towards faith-religious aspects, the reform movement of Vipassanâ ties in with the teachings of the historical Buddha, who, for example, distinguished himself from the speculative religion of the Brahmins and the theories of the ancient Indian ascetics or forest hermits.
Therefore, the practice forms of Vipassanā are considered the oldest Buddhist meditation forms or are traced back to the historical Buddha himself. The main sources of all directions of Vipassanā are found in the Pali Canon, the textual basis of Theravāda Buddhism, which contains the oldest complete surviving collections of discourses of the historical Buddha.
Those primary sources are the Satipatthāna Sutta, the "Discourse on the Presentiments of Mindfulness" (MN 10 and DN 22), and the Ānāpānasati Sutta, the "Discourse on Conscious Inhalation and Exhalation" (MN 118).
In the Satipatthāna Sutta, mindfulness practice is referred to as the "Only Way" or "Direct Way" (ekāyana magga). This term appears in the Pali canon only in this one place, thus establishing the high status of Vipassanā in early Buddhist teaching.
The modern Vipassanā movement is primarily influenced by the "salvation pragmatism" of the Buddha's ancient practice teachings-no religion of faith, speculation, metaphysics, or philosophy, and no extreme asceticism.
Thus it conforms to his core teaching or intention, namely, "Only one thing do I teach, now as before: suffering (dukkha) and the cessation of suffering."
Vipassanā Movement in the West
Vipassanā is the most influential form of contemporary Theravāda Buddhism worldwide and forms the third mainstream of Buddhism in the West, along with Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. The countries of origin and main strongholds of the Vipassanā mindfulness or insight practice are Myanmar and Thailand.
However, influential teachers of Vipassanā in the West have also come from other Theravāda countries, for example, the American Yogavacara Rahula and the Sinhalese Bhante Gunaratana, who have been ordained Theravāda monks for decades.
Together they both lead the American "Bhāvanā Society" and have experienced their spiritual trainings mainly under masters in Sri Lanka. The same is true for the well-known German nun Ayya Khema. Yogavacara Rahula is also a master of yoga, which he teaches at his courses in conjunction with the Vipassanā. Bhante Gunaratana is a well-known scholar and author.
In the West, there has been a growing number of both male and female Vipassanā teachers since the sixties. Both sexes are similarly represented among the teachers of this tradition.
They either continue the traditional methods as representatives of a particular direction, or they blend the approaches together (sometimes with other Buddhist practices, as Joseph Goldstein did with the dzogchen of Tibetan Buddhism).
Classical Vipassanā courses are held in the form of shorter or longer retreats. In keeping with the traditional Dāna donation principle, the teacher's teachings are offered on a voluntary donation basis.
There are many connections of Vipassanā with psychology and areas of helping engagement, for example, outreach in correctional facilities, addiction treatment, or complementary medicine.
Buddhist Mindfulness Practice
Sammā Sati - Apt Mindfulness
The traditions of Vipassanā with their different methodological approaches all serve the development of a higher, so-called "Treffliche Mindamkeit" (sammā sati), which goes beyond the simple concentration function of attention.
Vipassanā - Clear Vision
The practice of this "Excellent Mindfulness" is about the increasing penetration or "liberating seeing" of the "Truth", "Supreme Reality" or "Nature of Things", which is always and everywhere given through sensual experience, but usually hidden by delusions or "not seeing" (avijjā).
Vipassanā-bhāvanā - insight meditation.
The proponents of Vipassanā teach that the sole key to the "Supreme Reality" is simple mindfulness that can be developed at any time, not concepts or studies that have only a preparatory function.
It is a methodically developed mere mindfulness that does not lead via systematic studies or strong states of concentration ("deepenings" or Jhānas), but proceeds (as viewing of natural phenomena) directly.
The purpose of traditional Vipassanā in all its forms is an unclouded, penetrating "Clear View" (vipassanā), an immediate grasping, beyond discursive thinking, of the transient, insufficient, or "self"-less nature of phenomena - namely, sensually perceived phenomena and bodily sensations, feeling reactions, emotions, or thoughts.
With this immediate grasping, the unconscious grasping or identifying oneself with the transient phenomena as "I (am that)" or "mine" and with it all fears and sufferings are supposed to disappear. S.N. Goenka (see below) sums up Vipassanā as "seeing things as they really are."
The prerequisite for successful progress in Vipassanā meditation is always also the development of the "qualities of the heart," that is, of ethics-in particular, the practice of the "Five Guidelines of Conduct" (Silas).
Vipassanā-Nyāna - The Step Path
"Vipassanā" is usually rendered as "mindfulness practice" or "insight meditation. The process of insight development usually proceeds in stages. Therefore, in some influential directions of Vipassanā, there is the doctrine of successive levels of "insight knowledge," the so-called "Vipassanā-Nyānas."
Vipaśyana - Sanskrit
Vipaśyana is the Sanskrit spelling of the Pali word vipassanā, by which, however, not the early Buddhist Vipassanā described here is meant, but other, namely original forms of meditation of Mahāyāna Buddhism.
The Mahāyānic "Vipaśyana" (Tib. Lhagthong) is based on thought- or concept-based methods, whereas the early Buddhist "Vipassanā" is based on mindfulness- or intuition-based methods. The teaching and practice of a mere, non-conceptual or intuitively seeing "Treffliche Achtsamkeit" does not have a comparably central position in the Mahāyāna as in the Theravāda.
However, there are certain parallels between the practice of Vipassanā in Theravāda Buddhism and certain forms of meditation in the Mahāyāna. In particular, Zen, Mahamudra, and Dzogchen should be mentioned here, which also involve the practice of a non-conceptual perception of things.
Samatha - Deepening
In general, the teachers of Vipassanā on their courses or with their writings hold the view that a certain "flexible" degree of concentration (samatha), which arises with the continuous focusing on the natural body-mind processes - namely the so-called "instantaneous concentration" - is the best basis for realizing the liberating, higher insights (vipassanā).
If the concentration becomes too strong by focusing on a naturally "static" concept or mental construct (such as visualizations, inner sounds, ideas, thoughts or reflections), it hinders the liberating intuitive insights.
For these could only result from an increasing penetration of the natural, everywhere given realities or processes through seeing mindfulness on the basis of a flexible, that is not too strong or static concentration.
The four main approaches of Vipassanā (see below) follow this path, which is also represented by well-known individual teachers who combine different main approaches (for example, the monk Bhante Sujiva).
If the path to the liberating insights is taken via the static states of rest or concentration of the recesses (Jhānas), which is possible in principle, one must first come out of the recesses and see through the factors or phenomena connected with them as equally transient, insufficient or as a non-self like all other phenomena.
The central discourse frequently quoted by the representatives of this Vipassanā path on the recesses is the Anupada Sutta (MN 111) in the Pali Canon.
Well-known representatives of this path in Asia are the Burmese master Pa Auk Sayadaw and in the West (especially in Germany) the teachers in the tradition of the German nun Ayya Khema as well as individual monks such as the Czech bhikkhu Dhammadipa (a disciple of Pa Auk Sayadaw).
Satipatthāna-Sutta - Discourse on the Realizations of Mindfulness
The Four Realizations of Mindfulness are, as briefly mentioned above, the subject of the historical Buddha's Fundamental Mindfulness Discourses. They are explained in detail with the Satipatthāna Sutta (discourse on the presences of mindfulness).
In the basic mindfulness discourses, the distinct concentrative deepenings "Jhānas" are not mentioned. Here, as in most Vipassanā methods, only that certain flexible concentration on the changing moments or processes is assumed, which develops with the consistent focusing on the natural conditions of body and mind, in order to realize the liberating insights on this basis.
According to the Satipatthāna Sutta, there are four such realizations:
Realization of the physical (kāyānupassanā). Realization of the sensations (vedanānupassanā) Realization of the mind and its changing states (cittānupassanā)
Envisioning the "natural truths" (dhammānupassanā). Others argue that this reading leads to contradictions in content, because "objects of mind" are explicitly only one of various contents of the wording of the fourth realization in the Satipatthâna Sutta and thus cannot be an umbrella term for this fourth realization. Klaus Mylius translates dammas here as "circumstances".
For Anālayo these dhammas are "not the object of meditation itself". Rather, like "glasses," they form a "frame" or "reference points" that are applied to what is experienced during meditation practice.
Hans Gruber understands the dhammas as "natural truths", since these would correctly encompass all the contents of the wording on the fourth realization in the Satipatthâna Sutta. For Buddhadasa, on the other hand, they are only aspects of the truth of the one greatest Dhamma.
The "Dhammā" (plural of Dharma/Dhamma) in "Dhammānupassanā" are translated by some teachers as "mind objects". The term "Dhamma" in Pali is particularly complex and has different meanings depending on its context. From the description of the fourth realization in the Satipatthāna Sutta, the meaning emerges.
It enumerates the various aspects of the Buddha's fundamental teachings on bondage and liberation from the world. For example, "thus he knows whether any of the "Five Inhibitions" is present in him or not; knows how it arises, how it is overcome, how it does not appear in the future, etc."
Ānāpānasati-Sutta - Talk of Conscious Inhalation and Exhalation.
The other foundational text for Buddhist mindfulness practice is the "discourse of conscious inhalation and exhalation" (MN 118). This is about a path to liberating insight through a systematically developed breath awareness, the individual stages of which are described in detail in the discourse.
In the course of this increasingly developed breath awareness, the "Four Presence of Mindfulness" and the Seven Enlightenment Limbs (bojjhanga) are unfolded on their own, culminating finally in the liberating insights.
The practice forms of Vipassanā can be divided into structurally open nature approaches and clearly structured technique methods. Scientifically, none of these practice forms can claim to be the method of the historical Buddha.
This is because the relatively open-to-interpretation mindfulness teachings of the Buddha's discourses handed down in the Pali canon can be used to justify all approaches of Vipassanā.
In the nature approaches, which are based more on the Ānāpānasati sutta, the focus is on the contemplation of breath as a complete path of liberation within which tranquility and insight successively unfold.
In Ajahn Buddhadāsa, for example, the entire process of breathing is considered with a certain systematicity, both the sequence of breathing (via the sensations around the nostrils to the movement of the chest and abdominal wall with each inhalation and exhalation) and the subtle effects of increasingly conscious breathing on both body and mind.
There are also natural approaches in which breathing is considered a phenomenon that encompasses the whole body (namely, in the form of oxygen transported through the blood to all cells, which is accompanied by certain subtle sensations in all areas of the body).
Therefore, here the systematic consideration of breathing is combined with the systematic consideration of the whole body (for example, in the Thai master Ajahn Lee Dhammadaro).
There are extensive commentaries on the Ānāpānasati sutta by the founding masters of the nature approaches.
The technique methods that are more strongly based on the Satipatthāna Sutta are rather detailed or precisely structured techniques in the narrower sense, in which breath observation has only a preparatory concentrative function, that is, it is not considered the actual path of liberation of Vipassanā.
In the systematic observation of sensations in the tradition of U Ba Khin or its most influential representative S. N. Goenka, in order to calm the mind before the actual Vipassanā, the sensations around the nostrils are observed with increasing precision with each inhalation and exhalation.
Only then is one's own body systematically wandered through with mindfulness in order to grasp the various bodily sensations more and more directly until their impermanence, insufficiency, or non-self is understood on a deeper level. Thus, the unconscious grasping of things increasingly fades away.
"Consider and do not react" or "remain equanimous in the understanding of transience, transience, transience" are frequently recurring instructions of S. N. Goenka.
In "labeling" in the tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw, the anchor object is taken to be the up and down movement of the abdominal wall with each inhalation and exhalation.
On the basis of this anchor or main object, the range of phenomena considered is then gradually expanded (to include the stronger sensations in the body, the sounds, and finally the perceptual, thought, or affective processes in the mind) until gradually an "indiscriminate awareness" occurs.
The main means of increasingly conscious contemplation here are "labels" spontaneously appearing in the mind. They have the function of inner snapshots. They are, as it were, intuitive "flashes" of understanding, not thoughts in the proper sense.
Only a small part of the attention is to flow into the labels, so that they are not specifically "brought forth". To the extent that in this way the connection to the processes of body and mind succeeds, they fall away and a liberating "choiceless awareness" develops.
From the founding masters of the technique methods there are detailed commentaries on the Satipatthāna-Sutta, but relatively few statements on the Ānāpānasati-Sutta (the same is true for S. N. Goenka, who today mainly spreads the observation of sensation; in his tradition, for instance, the first course building up is the "Satipatthāna-Sutta-Course", on which Goenka exclusively interprets this sutta).
Reason for the difference
The nature approaches are based more on the Ānāpānasati sutta, and the technique methods are based more on the Satipatthāna sutta. Accordingly, the techniques or approaches used in each case for the purpose of viewing the natural processes of both body and mind are different.
According to the Satipatthāna sutta, the Four Mindfulness Presentations each stand largely on their own, because each of these presentings can function as a full liberation path in its own right (according to the sutta's frequently recurring "refrain," common in oral traditions, with which the liberating insights appear after each section).
Moreover, with this sutta, the Buddha gives precise methodological instructions on how the contemplation should be accomplished (although they are not methods in the sense of contemporary Vipassanā approaches).
According to the Ānāpānasati Sutta, on the other hand, all Four Mindfulness Presentations unfold within the "umbrella awareness" of conscious inhalation and exhalation, which is the very focus here, that is, the actual path of liberation.
Moreover, with this sutta, the Buddha is less giving precise methodological instructions, but more describing the deepening states of calm and insight as they develop within a kind of "umbrella awareness" of conscious inhalation and exhalation.
The representatives of the nature approaches of Vipassana from Thailand, such as Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Buddhadasa or Ajahn Lee Dhammadaro, do not or hardly consider the Abhidhamma, the ancient commentaries on the discourses of the Buddha and the Visuddhi Magga.
Among the representatives of the technique methods of Vipassana from Burma, the third basket of the Pali Canon (Abhidhammapitaka), which originated later than the other two baskets (Vinayapitaka and Suttapitaka), the ancient commentaries on the discourses of the Buddha and the scholastic work Visuddhi-Magga also play a role in the justification of their approaches.
Nevertheless, they too ground their techniques primarily in the discourses of the Buddha.
The appropriate method
The different practice approaches are aimed at specific personality types. For example, the Bodysweeping approach of the highly pragmatic U Ba Khin, the head of Burma's post-colonial administration, or today of Mother Sayama and S. N. Goenka with numerous centers worldwide, is aimed at people with a strong bodily or sentient disposition.
The "naming" of Mahasi Sayadaw, also famous for his erudition, is especially suitable for personalities with a strong disposition for thinking.
The "Way of the Monastic Community" of the nature master Ajahn Chah is aimed at community-oriented people with a strong feeling or heart disposition, and Ajahn Buddhadāsa's "Nature Method or Emptiness of All Things" at personalities with a strong disposition to intuition or inspiration.
The main representatives for the most important approaches of Vipassanā today are U Ba Khin and Mahasi Sayadaw ("technical" methods from Burma), and Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Buddhadāsa ("natural" approaches from Thailand).
Ajahn Chah is the main representative of the "Way of the Order" with about 500 monasteries in Thailand as well as a larger branch in the West where alone occidental men and women are ordained. It refers in particular to the Vinayapitaka basket of the Pali Canon, which contains the rules of the order.
Ajahn Buddhadāsa with his disciples, such as the British Christopher Titmuss and Martin Aylward, who runs the Moulin de Chaves center in southern France, is the main exponent of the "nature method or the emptiness of all things."
The main Western disciple of Ajahn Buddhadāsas is his long-time translator and the former monk Santikaro. He now runs Liberation Park, a center and Dharma community in rural Wisconsin/USA.
In keeping with the approach of Ajahn Buddhadāsas, who is also strongly engaged in the world and is considered one of the founding fathers of worldwide "Engaged Buddhism," Liberation Park's self-description states, among other things:
"We are committed to building a community of liberating practice. To this end, we provide a natural environment for individual meditation retreats and live a Buddhist ethic of environmental and social responsibility."
The nature approach refers specifically to the second basket of the Pali Canon (Suttapitaka), which contains the Buddha's teaching discourses.
Other important representatives of nature approaches are, for example, the Burmese master Sunlun Sayadaw ("Touch and Awareness"), originally a simple farmer who became famous for his insight. He names as a key concept of a liberating practice:
"Make yourself aware of every bodily sensation as it is, without name; until only pure knowing remains in the sensation itself"; that is, a knowing without concepts of oneself and others, such as "my" or "your body", "I" or "a self".
Other representatives of nature approaches from Thailand include a master of the forest tradition, Ajahn Lee ("The Way of Breath Sensations in the Whole Body"), who teaches as the secret to liberation "Holding Breathing in Sensation"; and Ajahn Dhammadaro ("Sensations at the Heart-Base"), who teaches as the way to liberation to see through all sense experiences as "Clear Sensations" that "arise and pass away at the heart-base."
The tradition of Ajahn Lee includes, for example, the particularly influential American Theravâda monk Bhikkhu Thanissaro. To the tradition of Ajahn Dhammadaro (and also to the tradition of Ajahn Buddhadâsa) belongs for instance the Englishman Christopher Titmuss.
U Ba Khin with his most formative disciples Satya Narayan Goenka and Mother Sayama with Saya U Chit Tin is the main exponent of the technique method centered on the immediate understanding of impermanence through the contemplation of all fine or gross bodily sensations "Vedanā."
U Ba Khin has authorized various Asians and Westerners to pass on his particularly body or sensation-oriented Vipassanā method.
The best known are S. N. Goenka and Mother Sayama. But also the German-American Ruth Denison is to be mentioned here, who differs strongly in her meditation approach from the previously mentioned two main representatives of U Ba Khins direction.
This does not speak for the fact that U Ba Khin was strictly fixed in his meditation approach.
Mahasi Sayadaw is the father of the technique method of naming or labeling "Labelling". He refers not only to the discourses of the Buddha in the Pali Canon, but also to the commentaries, the Abhidhamma Basket of the Pali Canon, which contains extensive classifications of a psychological and epistemological nature, and the scholastic work Visuddhi-Magga.
From this tradition come some teachers who, after their spiritual training, have taken their own paths, albeit based on "naming," such as the Chinese-born monk Bhante Sujiva from Malaysia, increasingly popular in Europe and fluent in English, who combines bodysweeping with naming, as well as teaching other forms of meditation of the Buddha.
He has a growing reputation as a facilitator of Vipassanā meditation and its centrally complementary practice of "loving kindness" (mettā) because of his coupling of a profound knowledge of the Palikanon with a clear practice orientation. He does not mix early Buddhism with secondary teachings.
The Americans Bhante Vimalaramsi and Daniel M. Ingram as well as the in Thailand very respected tutor of the Thai king, Ajahn Thong, whose Vipassanā approach is represented by some centers in Europe and in Germany primarily by the "Dhammacari Vipassana Meditation Center", have also taken their own paths.
Ajahn Thong teaches a sequence of 28 inner "touching points" for mindfulness, which can awaken energy and concentration to a special degree.
Influential Western exponents of traditional "naming" include the German monk Vivekananda, who runs the renowned Panditarama Lumbini International Vipassana Meditation Center in Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha in what is now southern Nepal.
He regularly comes to the West to give classes. The English monk Bodhidhamma is also among the classical Western exponents of "naming." He directs Satipanya Buddhist Retreat, a new center in Wales in the United Kingdom.
The leader of the Burmese opposition movement, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, professes the practice of naming as her source of strength.
The well-known American teachers Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg also come from this tradition (they were still authorized to teach by Mahasi Sayadaw himself; Jack Kornfield has also been strongly influenced by Ajahn Chah).
In Germany, Marie Mannschatz, a disciple of Jack Kornfield, is active as a meditation teacher and is a well-known author. The Swiss Vipassanā teacher Fred von Allmen is well versed in both Theravāda and Mahāyāna. Kornfield's and Goldstein's approaches are among his main influences.
A main feature of the "American" Vipassanā taught or emanating from Kornfield, Goldstein, and Salzberg is a relatively strong syncretism, that is, the blending of Vipassanā with other teachings under the term "Vipassanā" without always making this blending transparent.
Such syncretisms exist in Goldstein with Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen, in Kornfield with therapy, psychology, and the doctrine of the "True Self," in Mannschatz with psychology and Focusing, or in von Allmen with the Mahāyāna.
Pa Auk Sayadaw from Burma developed another important method of technique, primarily oriented on texts from the Abhidhamma. He teaches the classical methods of concentration to awaken liberating insights based on tranquil meditation.
In the West, the approach of Pa Auk Sayadaw is spread mainly by the Czech monk Dhammadipa, who is fluent in various languages.
Mindfulness practice for non-Buddhists
Practically all representatives of Vipassana emphasize the extensive independence of Vipassana from culturally conditioned forms by limiting themselves to teaching the essential practice methods of early Buddhism and the background teachings that explain them.
Vipassana is comparatively strongly oriented towards this world, because this tradition is always concerned with the highest possible degree of liberation in this life, or the methods and teachings that correspond to it.
In this, Vipassanā differs from an otherworldly faith religion. In this, it also differs from pre-Buddhist and some Buddhist beliefs present in the countries of origin.
The basic Vipassanā methodology of systematic awareness of natural realities, or of phenomena that are continually arising and passing away (as opposed to mind-made, conceptual, merely imagined, and thus relatively static realities), finds its way into various modern contexts - for example, mindfulness therapies, new psychological theories, esoteric currents, or inner-practice oriented, reformed modern Christianity.
Popular modern applications of Vipassanā include, most notably, American molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn's complementary medicine treatment program MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), which is based primarily on the two major technical Vipassanā methods of Bodysweeping and Naming.
The goal of the program is to train mindfulness. This promotes stress reduction and can aid in the treatment of psychosomatic conditions. MBSR is now used at many American clinics and increasingly in Europe.
A typical MBSR program lasts eight weeks and consists of breath observation, "body scan" (body contemplation), sitting meditation, and simple body exercises, with participants committing to practice at least 45 minutes per day.
The "body scan" is based on the Vipassana method of bodysweeping, and the sitting meditation comes from the Vipassana method of "naming."The program incorporates elements from other Buddhist traditions in addition to these Vipassanā methods.
For example, the training of mindfulness in everyday tasks is inspired by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. The physical exercises are taken from Hatha Yoga. Within MBSR, Buddhist terminology is largely avoided. The training of mindfulness can thus take place largely independent of the cultural and religious backgrounds of the participants.