Knowing intellectually the three characteristics is one thing, experiencing them is another. As far as I understood, vipassana happens without will, since it is morality that leads to rapture and sukkha, which then helps to stabilize the mind, in order to facilitate clear seeing.

My question then is:

1) Are most people both generically and wrongly coining in the term vipassana to point to a "new age" technique that has nothing to do with "clear seeing" according to Buddhism?

2) In how far needs meditation development? According to AN 10.1 it is moral purity that leads to consummate concentration necessary for seeing the three characteristics.

[Ananda:] "What, O Venerable One, is the reward and blessing of wholesome morality?"

[The Buddha:] "Freedom from remorse, Ananda."

"And of freedom from remorse?"

"Joy, Ananda"

"And of joy?"

"Rapture, Ananda"

"And of rapture?"

"Tranquillity, Ananda."

"And of tranquillity?"

"Happiness, Ananda."

"And of happiness?"

"Concentration, Ananda."

"And of concentration?"

"Vision and knowledge according to reality."

"And of the vision and knowledge according to reality?"

"Turning away and detachment, Ananda."

"And of turning away and detachment?"

"The vision and knowledge with regard to Deliverance, Ananda."

— AN 10.1

With regards

  • I'm not really happy with the first part of the question, because it invites answers like, "Yes, teacher X and school Y etc. are teaching new-age nonsense that's non-Buddhist." Maybe better to reword it to ask what "clear seeing" is, and not what it isn't and whether most people are wrong.
    – ChrisW
    Sep 28, 2018 at 20:46
  • I didn't understand the syntax of "In how far needs meditation development". Are you asking what's necessary, what the prerequisites are (e.g. "virtue" etc.), and how that affects the method?
    – ChrisW
    Sep 28, 2018 at 20:51
  • This question may be or is nearly a duplicate of How do I practice ' see things as they are'?
    – ChrisW
    Sep 28, 2018 at 20:53
  • Andrei posted a really concise summary of "jhana" here (following from this previous definition of anusati and bhavana). That was posted as a comment (or chat) though ... do you have a question about something like that?
    – ChrisW
    Sep 28, 2018 at 20:59
  • Chris, you seem to feel kind of attacked by me saying "New-Age", however it is not always connotated negatively, but certainly most of the time. This said, it isn't the case that the Buddha spoke much about the wore 'vipassana' as most modern gurus nowadays teach. Vipassana is not a technique but a phenomenon that arises once the mind is advanced in the three trainings. While others might not necessarily teach non-sense, they are clearly non-buddhist, because some things were taught by the Buddha some not. If you experienced anatta it is proper to say that believing in self is non-sense.
    – Val
    Sep 29, 2018 at 5:07

2 Answers 2


1) Yes. When the Buddha spoke about vipassana, he meant it as being the direct insight into reality.

What is being taught as vipassana (depending on how it is taught) is supposed to be the training which will lead us to vipassana.

As far as the Buddha-Dhamma is concerned. Meditation training means: Abandoning, letting go, of craving and clinging. Which will lead us to vipassana "clear seeing".

The whole path of the Buddha-Dhamma can be summarized with this short sentence;

"Nothing whatsoever should be clung to".

Or as Ajahn Buddhadasa would express it: "Nothing whatsoever should be clung to as being I or mine".

The amount of training (sitting meditation) that must be done, will depend on the mental faculties, moral purity, weakening of mental defilements, equanimity, understanding, wisdom etc.

Abandoning or letting go of craving and clinging should be practiced day and night, until complete cessation of craving and clinging.


"... since it is morality that leads to ..."

The goal of Buddhism is cessation of suffering. The nature of suffering is "unsatisfied craving" for the experience to be other than it is now. The nature of cessation of suffering is suchness - when experience is experienced just as it is now, without any craving for it to be otherwise whatsoever. The way this experience-without-suffering is achieved, is through "objective" and "subjective" factors. Objective factors are things that have to do with our natural environment, our health, and our social situation. Subjective factors are things that have to do with our attention, perception, interpretation - and how these shape our experience.

The above is to put this conversation in the right context. Morality is useful only so far as it serves as a factor for eliminating "objective" and "subjective" reasons for our experience to have an element of craving to be other than it is. Like I said, it's not just morality that matters, it's the entire environment we create for ourselves, entire configuration. This includes all sort of latent causes and conditions that shape our personal subjective world.

As for "clear seeing", it refers to clearly seeing these - objective and subjective - factors at play, and clearly seeing how our choices and actions - at both macro and micro timescale - contribute.

There is no magic in Buddhism. Attaining what's called "Nirvana" requires being extremely rational and exceedingly sensitive about the causes and conditions we set in motion every second of every minute of every hour.

1) Are most people both generically and wrongly coining in the term vipassana to point to a "new age" technique that has nothing to do with "clear seeing" according to Buddhism?

Yes, I think a lot of people are confused about this. Well, there is certainly enough practitioners in all traditions, including Theravada, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism, that actually understand what this is all about and how it actually works. But there is also a lot of people that have a very naive, and I would even say mythological or fictional image of Buddhism in general and Vipashyana in particular.

Vipashyana is not something you can practice without really understanding what you're doing, and then magically get some amazing results. Vipashyana is like being a scientist, you look at your experience in real-time and you try to figure out how it works. Where does discomfort come from, where does inner conflict come from, where do expectations come from, where do interpretations come from, how does perception work with interpretations, how does evaluation and comparison works, where do frames-of-reference come from etc. And then you try to apply what you just learned to minimize and eventually stop suffering. That's Shila, Prajna, Shamatha, Vipashyana, Jhana, Bhavana, Anusati - not seven separate practices but one!

2) In how far needs meditation development? According to AN 10.1 it is moral purity that leads to consummate concentration necessary for seeing the three characteristics.

Buddhist meditation is cultivation of mind without suffering. That's what Buddhist meditation is about. Moral purity is important, it removes a huge source of suffering, but that's not enough. Seeing Three Characteristics at play is important, as it removes wrong expectations that lead to suffering, but that's not enough. Suffering is generated by the mind's interpretation and evaluation mechanisms, therefore a compete mastery of these mechanisms is required to fully eradicate all suffering.

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