How much discussion of refuge is there in the modern vipassanā movement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassana_movement)? If there is significant emphasis, what is its character?

I am particularly interested in Western vipassanā circles such as IMS and Spirit Rock, but also their Eastern progenitors.

I am not speaking here of the formal ceremony or commitment of taking refuge as much as the concept and ongoing practice of refuge.

3 Answers 3


By taking refuge you are aspiring to build the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha in your self than any ceremonial right or ritual.

There are virtues can also be further used as a form of recollection meditation to gain inspiration from the qualities and develop them within oneself:

  • Thanks. However, I am looking for information on how refuge is treated in the vipassanā movement, not on refuge per se. I have clarified the question to this effect. Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 15:02
  • 2
    It depends on the linage. Above is more in consistent with the Ledi linages, i.e., U Ba Khin, S. N. Goenka, etc. Other linages will perhaps interpret it slightly differently. Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 15:28

Check out temples within the Mahasi lineage of Vipassana, or from Sri Lanka or Burma (where Vipassana has a stronger presence). Ven. Sayadaw U Pandita (Mahasi lineage) was among the main teachers of those who founded IMS.

There you will find Vipassana practiced with traditional refuge in the triple gem, monastics, meditation taught along with moral virtue, etc. Whenever on retreat in these traditions, we take refuge, pay respect, give Dana, etc. I can't speak for the retreats at IMS though, but they do have monastic teachers there sometimes.

  • Those are those who even charge their studends, right householder?
    – user11235
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 23:10
  • Checking the IMS & Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (closely affiliated) websites, it states "Each week, teachers lead yogis in a renewed commitment to the refuges and precepts."
    – Sun WuKong
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 11:16
  • In regards to charges for retreats, from the IMS website they have different tiers of charges, including one that supports the yogi who would need financial assistance to attend, as well as scholarships to attend for free. Monastic led retreats seem to be Dana-based. Most retreats there are led by lay teachers. Currently most retreats on offer seem to be Insight Meditation (Vipassana), but at other times not. I personally have only attended Vipassana retreats at proper Buddhist temples, monasteries, or meditation centers.
    – Sun WuKong
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 11:20

Householder David Lewis, interested,

be clear that you ask that here in a community that has spring from such movement here, void of those who follow the Buddha straight in all aspects.

The modern Vipassanā Movement has actually less to do with the Buddhas heritage as it has actually mostly no refuge in what is headed toward Nibbana as object but merely how to avoid suffering while still desire wandering on in the world.

Modern Vipassanā Movement came up with the decay of traditions and got inspirations for "positive" Marxist tendencies arriving at the same time those western or European modern ideal had destructed all traditional countries at their substance, leading them toward socialism, communism and democracy of which both are based on denying superiors and higher but seek refuge in cutting things down to the lowest equal.

Modern Vipassanā Movement lack not only respect as one of the main bases, but also generosity and so is at large just a huge Dhamma-industry with less success in leading people on the Buddhas Path but simply back in their homes.

As third basic lack it misses the need of virtue in patient since it is something traded similar as booking holidays or give into quick treatment.

All of that is a sign of the main basic quality of which is confidence which of cause is also a matter of lacking of touch. After the big wars on this earth some thought that they are compassionate by turning away for the Buddhas religion and started to give into alternative movements, but those movements have no, out of reason, real blessing by the founder of the original movement which is designed to escape world and suffering.

To understand the different between accessing the Noble Domain or just another household and alternative trade, the essay Respect, Confidence and Patient and Better to Give than to Consume might be of help for those with lasting Upanissaya toward the Noble Domain.

It's very very seldom that even after many years and retreats people of this movement actually turn to refuge, perceiving the Tripple Gems right and hardly ever would someone having found refuge turn toward such outwardly movements.

(Note: this is not given for exchange, stacks, trade or entertainment but as a means for liberation from this wheel.)

  • I'm not sure this describes the view of Vipassana movement. Usually if a question asks "What is the view of school X on topic Y?", then on his site a reply like "School X is wrong" (or "... is not Buddhist") is not on-topic and deleted.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 7:59
  • If someone asks in Hindu-mode and another answers in ways of Buddha, Dhamma Sangha, ChrisW would think a minute on such, right? It's not target as Secular-Buddhism, isn't it? Vipassana is part of the original path, requiring leaving house, home and follow right livelihood. This is a total new age movement, nothing not even near other "Buddhist" sects. A refuge-less movement.
    – user11235
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 8:10

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