Vipashyana

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Kamalashila whose Stages of Meditation describe vipashyana practice

Vipashyana (Skt. vipaśyanā; Tib. ལྷག་མཐོང་, lhaktong, Wyl. lhag mthong; Pal. vipassanā) — 'clear seeing' or 'insight' meditation. It is one of the two main aspects of the practice of meditation on the Buddhist path, the other being shamatha, or 'calm abiding' meditation.

While the practice of shamatha allows to settle and stabilize the mind, it does not in and of itself uproot ignorance and delusion. It is vipashyana that allows us to gain insight into the real nature of all phenomena though the wisdom that properly distinguishes the meaning of an object of knowledge.

As it says in Ratnamegha Sutra:

Shamatha is the one-pointed concentration of the mind;
Vipashyana is perfect discernment.

Etymology

  • Vi is short for vishesa (Skt. viśeṣa), which means ‘special’, ‘superior’, or ‘particular’
  • Pashyana (Skt. paśyanā) means ‘to see’ or ‘to look’
  • Lhak (Wyl. lhag) is ‘unique’ and
  • tong (Wyl. mthong) is ‘seeing’.

So, it means ‘to look at things in a very direct and especially clear way’.

Prerequisites for Vipashyana

Kamalashila’s second Stages of Meditation (Skt. Bhāvanākrama) mentions three prerequisites for developing vipashyana:

  1. Reliance upon a spiritual teacher
  2. Genuinely engaging in extensive study
  3. Appropriate reflection

Alternative Translations

  • superior seeing
  • unique seeing
  • intense insight (Dharma Publishing)
  • superior insight
  • penetrative insight
  • transcendent insight
  • wider vision

Teachings Given to the Rigpa Sangha

Edited Teachings of Sogyal Rinpoche

  • Vipashyana—Preliminary Practices, Dzogchenlink January 2004

Further Reading

  • Philippe Cornu, Dictionnaire Encyclopédique du Bouddhisme, vipaśyanā article
  • The Dalai Lama, Stages of Meditation, translated by Venerable Geshe Lobsang Jordhen, Losang Choephel Ganchenpa and Jeremy Russell (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2003), Chapter 9, 'Actualizing Special Insight'
  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, 'Shamatha and Vipashyana', in View: The Rigpa Journal, July 2010, pages 18-22.
  • Andy Karr, Contemplating Reality (Boston: Shambala Publications, 2007), chapter 17
  • Mingyur Rinpoche, Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom, Harmony Books, April 2009, Chapter 8 'Insight'
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, A Treasury of Dharma (Lodeve: Rigpa, 2005), Part IV 'Meditation'.
  • Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, The Practice of Tranquility and Insight—A Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Meditation (Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1993).
  • Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso, Mahamudra Vipashyana, trans. Jules B. Levinson, Michele Martin, and Jim Scott (Halifax, N.S.: Vajravairochana Translation Committee, 1993)