There are many Theravada Vipassana traditions according to this wikipedia page and more according to this answer.

My questions are:

  • Are any, or all, of these traditions suited to beginners? And why?
  • Are any of them more especially suited for beginners?
  • If you recommend a tradition for beginner, how can one begin it: books; weekly lessons with a teacher; ten-day retreats; Youtube; ... ?
  • Please reference (i.e. quote, cite, or link to) advice, from any of them, that's especially intended for beginners.

Some of the traditions include:

  • Ledi Lineage (Ledi Sayadaw, U Ba Khin, S.N.Goenka, Anagarika Munindra, Dipa Ma)
  • Mahasi Lineage (U Narada, Mahasi Sayadaw, Nyanaponika Thera, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Goldstein, Salzberg)
  • Thai Forest Tradition (Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Kornfield)
  • Pa Auk Sayadaw Lineage (based on Visuddhimagga)
  • Mogok Sayadaw
  • Anagarika Munindra (combined Goenka and Mahasi methods)
  • and more
  • I'm pretty sure each of the traditions mentioned will claim they are for beginners... I can't imagine you getting an objective answer to this question. Jun 7, 2015 at 16:49
  • 1
    I'm going to make this a wiki and ask contributors to post information helpful for beginners in each tradition - please only talk from experience/authority/citable sources, and please don't brag about your tradition! Objective info only please. Jun 7, 2015 at 16:53
  • I'm personally very interested in this. In my tradition - Triratna - we say that insight isn't suitable for beginners at all. I'm aware this is controversial. So I'm interested how different traditions approach this Jun 7, 2015 at 16:54
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    I agree with yuttadhammo. I'd also add that far more important than nit picking over the vipassana tradition, would be picking one and actually committing to it and being consistent with your practice. Don't get so caught up researching and learning that you forget to practice.
    – Ryan
    Jun 7, 2015 at 16:55
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    @yuttadhammo I edited the question to try to match your suggestion.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 7, 2015 at 17:32

2 Answers 2


Beginners would benefit most from having an attitude of being a beginner. According to the Zen tradition of the Soto branch, the object of practice is not to achieve great knowledge, powers or concentration but to discover and weed out things that block the experience of what Shunryu Suzuki calls beginners mind. He is not talking to Soto Zen students. He is talking to Buddhists everywhere in all traditions. Every Buddhist tradition can lead to that fresh perception of reality that awakening reveals. If a tradition only provides you with a set of beliefs and does not point the way to awakening then keep looking. Everyone has the right to choose their own path, and if it serves its purpose or does not help you, move on. www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/zenmind.pdf

I ask myself daily, am I ready to be a beginner. There are no advanced students in Buddhism. We are all beginners. Some beginners have walked the path longer and are aware of the inner mysteries to a greater degree. The Buddha never said I am enlightened and you are just mere mortals. He recognized the Buddha consciousness in all.

When I came to Buddhism I attended meditations in as many traditions as possible. Sometimes I clicked when I read a book but did not click at a local meditation. It does not matter what path you choose as long as it is one that is in harmony with your inner self and one that you practice every day in your meditation and in your living. It is a path of yielding and melting away any sense of separate self so we do not need to attain or accomplish great things "just flow like the river going to the sea, flow around every bend and turn Until all that's left is eternity."


Especially if you are a beginner it is extremely important that you get the basics right. Vipassana is the insights that you make in the Dhamma Path, and for that you have to have a very good grasp of the True Dhamma. We should not think that we have the ability to do it our way. There are places where the Buddha has stated directly: “Do it this way and the result will be this.” In this present era we are at a disadvantage when it comes to the practice of Dhamma. The wisdom to see this ‘otherness ’started deteriorating from the time of the Buddha.

Therefore we must think of approaching the Dhamma from a convenient place. The best method of approaching Dhamma is to use a system indicated by the Buddha. There are places where he has directly indicated, “If done this way, these will be the results”. We should act thus.

The Supreme Buddha said that there are five factors which if practiced extensively will result in being unemotional (with the world at large), to ridding oneself of egoism, to perfect wisdom and to Nibbana. What is it that prevents us from coming to this? We have still not distanced ourselves from the ways of the world. We have been adopting a methodology which does not give rise to dispassionateness or profound disapproval.

Many people claim to be meditating. They claim to be studying the Dhamma. They are carrying out the four activities of listening to Dhamma, discussing Dhamma, Samatha and Vipassana. In spite of performing those four activities pride, arrogance, thinking too much of themselves, looking down on others surface in them. That means although they claim to be performing the aforementioned four activities they have been doing something else. Something appearing as those four.

What happens if they had correctly done the four activities of listening to Dhamma, discussing Dhamma, Samatha and Vipassana? it is a upward path to progress up to Arahantship for the individual who practices these four activities. To proceed up to Arahantship one must establish in himself with understanding the quality of dispassionateness. This quality has to get built up.

If one practised listening to Dhamma, Dhamma discussions, Samatha and Vipassana properly, dispassionateness with understanding should take place in him. That should happen. But in case of some people the dispassionateness with understanding does not take place while vanity and pride surface. Then what has gone wrong? Doing something which appears as correct thinking or correct thing. That is where the mistake arose.

It is due to not accepting what is given in the preaching. Or not carrying out what the Buddha has preached. Something which appears like that is carried out. If what the Buddha preached had been done, the results preached by him should materialize. Why doesn’t the anticipated result materialize? What has been done is not the relevant thing. Something else appearing like that has been done. That is why the mind turns towards aspects like vanity and pride.

If vanity, pride placing oneself above others, looking down on others arise in a person developing concentration after meditation it is due to his not doing the correct thing. That would not have happened if he had done the correct thing. If one practices the five factors indicated in this preaching he will invariably develop dispassionateness with understanding. The Buddha has stated ‘definitely’. It happens invariably.

That is what we should get done. If we practise the five Dhamma factors dispassionateness will definitely arise with understanding. If dispassionateness arises in one’s mind Vi-raga arises. Raga starts to fade away. Desire fades away. Bonds that tie you down starts to unravel. His mind starts to calm down. That is referred to as Upasamaya.

If the mind someday becomes calm, it is possible to develop special wisdom in such a mind. Developing special wisdom in that manner is referred to as Abhinna. Understanding the four Noble Truths completely with such a calmed mind is called Sambodhaya. One who understands the Four Noble Truths in its entirety attains Nibbana. That fortune dawns on the person who trusts this Dhamma with confidence.

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