Is satipatthana a synonym for vipassana? If not, what is the difference between both?

4 Answers 4


Vipassana is a compound of two words: vi - and passana. Vi means various, i.e. the three characteristics (transiency, unsatisfactoriness, non self). Passana means right understanding or realization by means of mindfulness of mentality and physicality. Vipassana therefore means the direct realisation of the three characteristics of mentality and physicality.

Vipassana or the right understanding requires the right awareness(Satipattana).

In other words, 'Satipattana' is the meditation you do to gain Vipassana. It is of 4 kinds:

  1. Kayanupassana(awareness of the body): the movements and postures.
  2. Vedananupassana(awareness of feelings): bodily and mental sensations of pain, happiness, calm, etc.
  3. Cittanupassana(awareness of the mind): thoughts that arise in the mind – of the past or future, good or bad;
  4. Dhammanupassana(awareness of phenomena): groups of mental and physical phenomena that are of specific interest to the meditator, including the mental states that cloud one’s awareness, the six senses by which one experiences reality, and many others

More at http://www.sirimangalo.org/text/how-to-meditate/chapter-one-what-is-meditation/


Satipatthana is firmly established mindfulness / heedfulness. The four satipatthana are Kayanupassana-satipatthana, Vedananupassana-satipatthana, Cittanupassana-satipatthana, Dhammanupassana-satipatthana. It is extremely important for a disciple of the Buddha to know the connection / relationship of Satipatthana to Vipassana. The Supreme Buddha said in the Satipatthāna Sutta that a Bhikkhu would become an Arahant or an Anāgāmii within 7 days if he practices the path in the exact way the Buddha advised. (Anāgāmii: the 3rd fruition, which is one step lower to Nibbāna).

One who meditates should have a sharp mindfulness, if he/she wants to gain the Vipassanā Paññā (wisdom of contemplating the true nature of things). It is said that a person who practice samatha and vipassana (calm and insight) without first coming to kayagata-satipatthana (mindfulness as regards the body), resembles the owner who yokes the still untamed bullock (a young male cow) to the cart or plough without the nose-rope. Such an owner would find himself unable to drive the bullock (male cow/steer) at his desire, as the steer is wild. Having no nose-rope, the steer will either try to run off the road, or break loose by breaking the yoke. A person who first trains his mind with kayagata-satipatthana (contemplation of the body) before turning his mind to the practice of samatha and vipassana (calm and insight), his attention will remain steady and his meditation will be a success.

In the Ananda Sutta the Blessed One said that, Anapanasati, which when developed and pursued brings the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (Cattaro Satipatthana) to completion. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness, when developed and pursued bring the Seven Factors of Enlightenment to completion. The Seven Factors of Enlightenment, when developed and pursued bring Clear Knowing and Release to completion.”

This tells us that the thirty-seven bodhipakkhiya Dhamma in included in the Vipassana. The bodhipakkhiya dhamma consist of seven kinds: the Four Satipatthana; the Four Sammappadhana Viriya; the Four iddhipada; the Five Indriya; the Five Bala; the Seven Bhojjhanga; and the Noble Eightfold Path. When contemplating on the Dhamma thus, the meditator comes to realize the absence of a permanent and unchanging self (identity) or soul in any or all of the constituents of empirical existence, and beyond skandhas, there is no actual self. He she comes to the understanding that what is normally thought of as "self" is a collection of constantly changing physical and mental components [of clinging] ([upadana-]skandhas). Then the meditator realizes the true nature and detached him/herself from what is mistakenly regarded as his or her self.


Satipatthana is not a synonym for vipassana. However, countless satipatthana retreats are advertised as "vipassana retreats".

Vipassana is often translated as 'special insight'. According to Mahayana, any analytical meditation belongs to the class of vipassana. Whether one engages in analytical meditation on death and impermanence, or the three types of suffering, etc. this belongs to the class of vipassana. Actual vipassana, however, is analytical meditation on emptiness.

In the Lam Rim Chen Mo, Tsongkhapa says:

Nevertheless, all the meditative stabilizations starting from a single-pointed mind placed on a virtuous object are included in the class of calm abiding, and all the virtuous wisdom minds individually analyzing the meaning of the mode or varieties are included in the class of special insight.

Satipatthana is often translated 'four placements of mindfulness'. Placement of mindfulness on the body, feelings, minds, dharmas. Some argue that placement of mindfulness on dharmas imply placement of mindfulness on the sixteen aspects of the four noble truths, including "empty" and "selfless". Such a placement might be vipassana, analytical meditation on emptiness.


Vipassana is seeing with wisdom, the three marks of existence - anicca, dukkha and a anatta of conditioned existence ( sankhata dhamma).

Satipattana is establishing mindfulness in - body ( can be done in 14 ways) -feeling -mind -mental objects ( can be done in 5 ways)

When mindfulness is thus established in accordance with the guidance given in maha Satipattana sutta( samma sati), it leads to defilement free state of mind or jhana ( samma samadhi).

only when that state of calmness or purity of mind reached, is the mind suitable for vipassana.

The vipassana yogi can now contemplate on the scary and repulsive nature of mind and body, as taught by The Buddha in various ways... Aniccato, dukkhato, anattato, rogato, gandato, sallato etc.. Upto 40 ways are given as expansions of the 3 marks of existence in chatthalisakara vipassana bhavana . Such contemplations lead to nibbida ( revulsion of all forms of existences), viraga ( non attachment) and nirodha ( cessation) or nibbana .

This is the Therawada teaching

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