Filed in Vipassana

Vipassana or vipassana: Clear Seeing in Ten Years

The last thirty years have seen an exponential growth of the Western Vipassana community. As every indication is that this will continue, what developments can we expect over the next ten years?Gil Fronsdal

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The term vipassana means "clear insight" and traditionally refers to meditative insight into the impermanent, not-self, and stressful characteristics of our experience. Vipassana has a central role in the rich and developed system of liberation found in Theravada Buddhism, the Buddhism of Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. Historically, many methods have been taught for developing vipassana. The method that has become most prevalent in the West equates vipassana with mindfulness practice, that is, the development of our capacity to see clearly and nonreactively into the present. This method is the one that most Westerners think of when they hear the word vipassana, and is the one that I will here identify as vipassana.

When equated with mindfulness, vipassana does not depend on doctrines, rituals, and religious institutions. It is like pure and transparent water that can take the shape of any container it flows into or the color of any dye mixed with it. As the practice has come to the West, it has easily been separated from its Theravada container. In the West, not only the Theravada container, but even the Buddhist container for vipassana is optional.

Because of vipassana's fluidity, one of the most important and controversial developments over the next decade may be the appearance of a new form of Buddhism called "Vipassana Buddhism." When Westerners list the three Buddhist meditation traditions most popular among Westerner convert Buddhists, Theravada is seldom mentioned; rather, Vipassana is mentioned alongside Zen and Vajrayana. Certainly to the uninformed, Vipassana might already seem to be a Buddhist tradition equal in status to the other two, rather than a meditation practice. With time it may well grow into such stature . . .

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