Vipassana in India – A Beginner's Guide

Vipissana is practiced in India and other Eastern countries. The term Vespasian (or vipasyana) means ‘insight into the nature of reality’ and is a Buddhist tradition. Specifically it means gaining insight into what is called alternately ‘sunyata’ and ‘dharmata’, or the inseparability of emptiness and clarity/bliss. This could be taken to mean that an empty and completely still mind, and a bottom-up perception of experience, results in a feeling of being in the moment and of compete bliss. This insight is then achieved or practiced through the use of vipassaana meditation, and often the practice is referred to in English as simply ‘insight meditation’. The term though can also be used to describe the ‘Buddhist vipassana movement’ which uses this form of meditation to explore the teachings of the Satpipa. Specifically this involves using the meditation in order to explore one’s own emotions and feelings.

The practices of vipassana meditation include reflecting on the Buddhist teaching of the ‘Four Noble Truths’ or the ‘three trainings’ and on ‘deep body awareness’ which means becoming aware of the sensations all around the body and of your position in space and experiencing phenomena directly. The latter here is achievable by the former. In essence these readings refer to abstinence from immoral behaviours such as steeling, lying, sexual misconduct and intoxication. The thought here is that avoiding these behaviours can help the individual to achieve clarity of mind necessary for unhindered perception. These forms of vipassana meditation are those used in the Theravada.

They will also use other ‘contemplative’ forms, which involve trying to either conceive of logically the nature of phenomena as transitory, and of selflessness where the concept of ‘I’ should not exist. There are forty topics related to this contemplative form of vipassana that can be meditated on, these being things such as ‘impermanence’ and ‘suffering’ which can aim to give the individual a better understanding of their transience.

Finally, the more ‘experiential’ forms of meditation aim instead to bring about new experiences through using the mind in different ways and exploring matter and the body in the view of impermanence and lack of an independent self to achieve a kind of ‘oneness’. Here the individual aims to become fully ‘present’ and exist purely in the moment.

In many ways these forms of meditation are similar to those practiced in Western cultures and the end goal in both is often a form of stillness and of unnumbered experience and clarity. The Buddhist practice of vipassana relies on some teachings that can help to guide this experience and enrich the meditative process. Someone hoping to get started in vipassana meditation then could choose to read up on the four noble truths, the forty topics, and other readings mentioned here and take their meditation from there; or they might instead decide to take the essence of trying to achieve this awareness and clarity and go about it through their own means – meditation being a highly subjective and individual experience.

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