Vipassana is translated by some Buddhist teachers as “insight meditation”. This is a practice that is common in both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism (in Sanskrit it is written as vipashyana) and is a practice that is consistent with the teachings of the Buddha.
The word vipassana consists of two components, the pref-fix “vi-“ which means “ through” and the word passana means “to see” or “to perceive”. So when you put the two together you get a translation of “to see through” to “see into” the nature of the self and of reality itself.
Vipassana wasn’t always widely taught in the Theravada tradition, and was reintroduced by Theravadan Buddhist monks Ledi Sayadaw and Mogok Sayadaw in the late 19th century who described it as “mindfulness of breathing and thoughts, feeling, and actions which are used to gain insight into the true nature of reality”. It was also taught and popularized by Satya Narayan Goenka and Mahasi Sayadaw.
Contemporary teachers of vipassana include Tara Brach, Joseph Goldstein, Gil Fronsdal, Sharon Salzberg, Ruth Denison and Jack Kornfield. Basically Vipassana is where the whole “mindfulness” trend has its origin.
How to Practice Vipassana Meditation
- Sit comfortably in a cross legged position (if you are unable to do this for whatever reason, then sit in a chair)
- Sit straight but not unnaturally straight, in a balanced position
- Close your eyes and repeat to yourself “May I be happy and free from suffering”
- Focus your awareness on feeling your breath moving in and out of your nose
- Now mentally note “breathing in” and “breathing out” with every breath
At this point you’ll find that various sensations and thoughts arise in our body-mind. Let them go, let them arise and pass away naturally. Don’t push anything away and try not to cling to anything.
- Move your attention to other parts of your body beginning with the navel, and pay attention to any tension in your body and breath into that area exploring the tightness, gently dissolving the tension
- Thoughts and sensations arise. Notice them, acknowledge them, but don’t identify with them, let them rise and pass away kind of like bubbles. Then return your attention to your breathing. Breathe evenly, don’t force it.
- Remain mindful of your body. Some muscles will tense up, and it’s important that you allow this to happen while breathing into it and visualizing that the tension is beginning to dissolve with every breath.
You can do this practice for as long as you’d like and it’s a great opportunity to see for yourself how everything is impermanent, constantly arising and passing away and arising again.
These instructions constitute a basic Vipassana meditation practice and I’ve also included a few videos if you prefer to follow allow with a guided meditation.
Vipassana meditation is a great practice for stress relief, concentration improvement, and for one’s health in general. This practice is the basis of most modern mindfulness meditation practices that you find out there on the market. I do this meditation as part of my daily practice, especially in the morning and it helps me deal with both physical and mental symptoms that might arise.