are many styles of meditation. Every major religious tradition
has some sort of procedure which they call meditation,
and the word is often very loosely used. Please understand
that this volume deals exclusively with the Vipassana
style of meditation as taught and practiced in South and
Southeast Asian Buddhism. It is often translated as Insight
meditation, since the purpose of this system is to give
the meditator insight into the nature of reality and accurate
understanding of how everything works.
as a whole is quite different from the theological religions
with which Westerners are most familiar. It is a direct
entrance to a spiritual or divine realm without addressing
deities or other 'agents'. Its flavor is intensely clinical,
much more akin to what we would call psychology than
to what we would usually call religion. It is an ever-ongoing
investigation of reality, a microscopic examination
of the very process of perception. Its intention is
to pick apart the screen of lies and delusions through
which we normally view the world, and thus to reveal
the face of ultimate reality. Vipassana meditation is
an ancient and elegant technique for doing just that.
Buddhism presents us with an effective system for exploring
the deeper levels of the mind, down to the very root
of consciousness itself. It also offers a considerable
system of reverence and rituals in which those techniques
are contained. This beautiful tradition is the natural
result of its 2,500-year development within the highly
traditional cultures of South and Southeast Asia.
this volume, we will make every effort to separate the
ornamental and the fundamental and to present only the
naked plain truth itself. Those readers who are of a
ritual bent may investigate the Theravada practice in
other books, and will find there a vast wealth of customs
and ceremony, a rich tradition full of beauty and significance.
Those of a more clinical bent may use just the techniques
themselves, applying them within whichever philosophical
and emotional context they wish. The practice is the
distinction between Vipassana meditation and other styles
of meditation is crucial and needs to be fully understood.
Buddhism addresses two major types of meditation. They
are different mental skills, modes of functioning or
qualities of consciousness. In Pali, the original language
of Theravada literature, they are called 'Vipassana'
can be translated as 'insight', a clear awareness of
exactly what is happening as it happens. 'Samatha' can
be translated as 'concentration' or 'tranquility'. It
is a state in which the mind is brought to rest, focused
only on one item and not allowed to wander. When this
is done, a deep calm pervades body and mind, a state
of tranquility which must be experienced to be understood.
Most systems of meditation emphasize the Samatha component.
The meditator focuses his mind upon some items, such
as prayer, a certain type of box, a chant, a candle
flame, a religious image or whatever, and excludes all
other thoughts and perceptions from his consciousness.
The result is a state of rapture which lasts until the
meditator ends the session of sitting. It is beautiful,
delightful meaningful and alluring, but only temporary.
Vipassana meditation address the other component, insight.
Vipassana meditator uses his concentration as a tool
by which his awareness can chip away at the wall of
illusion which cuts him off from the living light of
reality. It is a gradual process of ever-increasing
awareness and into the inner workings of reality itself.
It takes years, but one day the meditator chisels through
that wall and tumbles into the presence of light. The
transformation is complete. It's called liberation,
and it's permanent. Liberation is the goal of all buddhist
systems of practice. But the routes to attainment of
the end are quite diverse.
are an enormous number of distinct sects within Buddhism.
But they divide into two broad streams of thought --
Mahayana and Theravada. Mahayana Buddhism prevails throughout
East Asia, shaping the cultures of China, Korea, Japan,
Nepal, Tibet and Vietnam. The most widely known of the
Mahayana systems is Zen, practiced mainly in Japan,
Korea, Vietnam and the United States. The Theravada
system of practice prevails in South and Southeast Asia
in the countries of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Laos
and Cambodia. This book deals with Theravada practice.
traditional Theravada literature describes the techniques
of both Samatha (concentration and tranquility of mind)
and Vipassana (insight or clear awareness). There are
forty different subjects of meditation described in
the Pali literature. They are recommended as objects
of concentration and as subjects of investigation leading
to insight. But this is a basic manual, and we limit
our discussion to the most fundamental of those recommended
objects--breathing. This book is an introduction to
the attainment of mindfulness through bare attention
to, and clear comprehension of, the whole process of
breathing. Using the breath as his primary focus of
attention, the meditator applies participatory observation
to the intirety of his own perceptual universe. He learns
to watch changes occurring in all physical experiences,
in feelings and in perceptions. He learns to study his
own mental activities and the fluctuations in the character
of consciousness itself. All of these changes are occurring
perpetually and are present in every moment of our experiences.
is a living activity, an inherently experiential activity.
It cannot be taught as a purely scholastic subject.
The living heart of the process must come from the teacher's
own personal experience. Nevertheless, there is a vast
fund of codified material on the subject which is the
product of some of the most intelligent and deeply illumined
human beings ever to walk the earth. This literature
is worthy of attention. Most of the points given in
this book are drawn from the Tipitaka, which is the
three-section collected work in which the Buddah's original
teachings have been preserved. The Tipitaka is comprised
of the Vinaya, the code of discipline for monks, nuns,
and lay people; the Suttas, public discourses attributed
to the Buddha; and the Abhidhamma, a set of deep psycho-philosophical
the first century after Christ, an eminent Buddhist
scholar named Upatissa wrote the Vimuttimagga,
(The Path of Freedom) in which he summarized the Buddha's
teachings on meditation. In the fifth century A.C. (after
Christ,) another great Buddhist scholar named Buddhaghosa
covered the same ground in a second scholastic thesis--the
Visuddhimagga, (The Path of Purification)
which is the standard text on meditation even today.
Modern meditation teachers rely on the Tipitaka and
upon their own personal experiences. It is our intention
to present you with the clearest and most concise directions
for Vipassana meditation available in the English language.
But this book offers you a foot in the door. It's up
to you to take the first few steps on the road to the
discovery of who you are and what it all means. It is
a journey worth taking. We wish you success.