I have noticed that when I write spontaneously, a lot of insight occurs. By this, I mean ideas flow in a manner generating many positive emotions as awe, joy, and movement.

In Buddhism, is such creative insight considered what is typically called 'insight' (e.g. insight meditation) or is the Buddhist version of insight something entirely different?


This Quora answer is an interesting story of a lady who was terrified of strange ghostly noises at night sounding like a woman wailing in pain. Later on, she figured out that this was the sound of cats mating. She gained insight into the nature of the noises, and this allayed her fear.

According to Merriam Webster dictionary entry of "insight":

Definition of insight

  1. the power or act of seeing into a situation
  2. the act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively

From the ATI Glossary (below), we find that Buddhist insight (vipassanā in Pali or vipaśyanā in Sanskrit) refers to insight that leads to liberation from suffering. It's not creative insight, but it's insight into the nature of how things work.

Clear intuitive insight into physical and mental phenomena as they arise and disappear, seeing them for what they actually are — in and of themselves — in terms of the three characteristics (see ti-lakkhaṇa) and in terms of stress, its origin, its disbanding, and the way leading to its disbanding (see ariya-sacca).

From Theragatha 6.6 (quoted below), we find in poetical proses, the story of the monk Sappadasa who, 25 years after going forth and undertaking the training of the holy life, failed to achieve anything. He then was about to take his own life, when in a moment of deep concentration, suddenly had awakening insight into the nature of suffering, and became liberated.

Twenty five years since my going forth,
and no peace of awareness
— not a finger-snap's worth — attained.
Having gained no oneness of mind,
I was wracked with lust.
Wailing, with my arms upheld,
I ran amok from my dwelling —
"Or... or shall I take the knife?
What's the use of life to me?
If I were to renounce the training,
what sort of death would I have?"

So, taking a razor,
I sat down on a bed.
And there was the razor,
placed ready to cut my own vein,
when apt attention arose in me,
the drawbacks appeared,
disenchantment stood
at an even keel:

With that, my heart was released.
See the Dhamma's true rightness!
The three knowledges have been attained;
the Awakened One's bidding, done.

In the Bahiya Sutta (quoted below), we find advanced ascetic Bahiya impatiently seeking the Buddha's guidance to help him understand the truth. A short explanation from the Buddha helped him gain insight into the nature of suffering.

A third time, Bāhiya said to the Blessed One, "But it is hard to know for sure what dangers there may be for the Blessed One's life, or what dangers there may be for mine. Teach me the Dhamma, O Blessed One! Teach me the Dhamma, O One-Well-Gone, that will be for my long-term welfare & bliss."

"Then, Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bāhiya, there is no you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."

Through hearing this brief explanation of the Dhamma from the Blessed One, the mind of Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth right then and there was released from effluents through lack of clinging/sustenance. Having exhorted Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth with this brief explanation of the Dhamma, the Blessed One left.

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