Vipassana, aka: Vipassanā; 7 Definition(s)


Vipassana means something in Buddhism, Pali. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

Vipassana in Theravada glossary... « previous · [V] · next »
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 lakkhana) and in terms of stress, its origin, its disbanding, and the way leading to its disbanding (see ariya sacca).Source: Access to Insight: A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms

F (Observation from moment to moment, multiplied). Direct vision into reality developed by the mere fact to turn ones attention to that which is perceived, the way it is perceived.

Buddha does teach that the training into the developement of the direct vision into reality (vipassana bhavana) is the unique path leading to nibbana, as this is the only way to directly contemplate phenomena at time of their appearance, and consequently, to achieve a right knowledge of reality.

See also: vipassana

Source: Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary

Aversion (vipassanā):—(from existence), contemplation of: s. vipassanā (VI . 5)

Source: Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines

'insight', is the intuitive light flashing forth and exposing the truth of the impermanency, the suffering and the impersonal and unsubstantial nature of all corporeal and mental phenomena of existence. It is insight-wisdom (vipassanā-paññā) that is the decisive liberating factor in Buddhism, though it has to be developed along with the 2 other trainings in morality and concentration. The culmination of insight practice (s. visuddhi VI) leads directly to the stages of holiness (s. visuddhi VII).

Insight is not the result of a mere intellectual understanding, but is won through direct meditative observation of one's own bodily and mental processes. In the commentaries and the Vis.M., the sequence in developing insight-meditation is given as follows:

  • 1. discernment of the corporeal (rūpa),
  • 2. of the mental (nāma),
  • 3. contemplation of both (nāmarūpa; i.e. of their pair wise occurrence in actual events, and their interdependence),
  • 4. both viewed as conditioned (application of the dependent origination, paticcasamuppāda),
  • 5. application of the 3 characteristics (impermanency, etc.) to mind-and-body-cum-conditions.

The stages of gradually growing insight are described in the 9insight- knowledge (vipassanā-ñāna), constituting the 6th stage of purification: beginning with the 'knowledge of rise and fall' and ending with the 'adaptation to Truth'. For details, see visuddhi VI and Vis.M. XXI.

Eighteen chief kinds of insight-knowledge (or principal insights, mahā-vipassanā) are listed and described in Vis.M. XXII, 113:

  • (1) contemplation of impermanence (aniccānupassanā),

  • (2) of suffering (dukkhānupassanā),

  • (3) of no self (anattānupnupassanā),

  • (4) of aversion (nibbidānupassanā).

  • (5) of detachment (virāgānupassanā),

  • (6) of extinction (nirodhānupassanā),

  • (7) of abandoning (patinissaggānupassanā),

  • (8) of waning (khayānupassanā),

  • (9) of vanishing (vayānupassanā),

  • (10) of change (viparināmānupassanā),

  • (11) of the unconditioned (or signless, animittānupassanā),

  • (12) of desirelessness (apanihitānupassanā),

  • (13) of emptiness (suññatāupassanā),

  • (14) insight into phenomena which is higher wisdom (adhipaññā-dhamma-vipassanā),

  • (15) knowledge and vision according to reality (yathā-bhūta-ñānadassana),

  • (16) contemplation of misery (or danger, ādīnavānupassanā),

  • (17) reflecting contemplation (patisankhānupassanā),

  • (18) contemplation of turning away (vivattanānupassanā).

Through these 18, the adverse ideas and views are overcome, for which reason this way of overcoming is called 'overcoming by the opposite' (tadanga-pahāna, overcoming this factor by that). Thus

  • (1) dispels the idea of permanence.

  • (2) the idea of happiness,

  • (3) the idea of self,

  • (4) lust,

  • (5) greed,

  • (6) origination,

  • (7) grasping,

  • (8) the idea of compactness,

  • (9) karma-accumulation,

  • (10) the idea of lastingness,

  • (11) the conditions,

  • (12) delight,

  • (13) adherence,

  • (14) grasping and adherence to the idea of substance,

  • (15) attachment and adherence,

  • (17) thoughtlessness,

  • (18) dispels entanglement and clinging.

Insight may be either mundane (lokiya) or supermundane (lokuttara). Supermundane insight is of 3 kinds:

  • (1) joined with one of the 4 supermundane paths,

  • (2) joined with one of the fruitions of these paths,

  • (3) regarding the extinction, or rather suspension, of consciousness (s. nirodha-samāpatti).

See samatha-vipassanā, visuddhi, III-VII.


  • Manual of Insight, by Ledi Sayadaw (WHEEL 31/32).
  • Practical Insight Meditation, Progress of Insight, both by Mahāsi Sayadaw (BPS).
  • The Experience of Insight, by Joseph Goldstein (BPS).

Source: Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines


Source: Dhamma Study: Cetasikas
context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

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Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

Vipassana in Pali glossary... « previous · [V] · next »

vipassanā : (f.) insight.

Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

Vipassanā, (f.) (fr. vi+passati; BSk. vipaśyanā, e.g. Divy 44, 95, 264 etc. ) inward vision, insight, intuition, introspection D. III, 213, 273; S. IV, 195, 360; V, 52 (samatha+); A. I, 61 (id.), 95; II, 140, 157 (samatha+); IV, 360; V, 99, 131; Ps. I, 28, 57 sq. 181; II, 92 sq.; Pug. 25; J. I, 106; Dhs. 55, 1356; Nett 7, 42 sq. 50, 82, 88 sq. 125 sq. 160, 191; Miln. 16; Vism. 2 (with jhāna etc.), 289 (+samādhi), 628 sq. (the 18 mahā°); PvA. 14 (samāhita-citta°), 167; VvA. 77; Sdhp. 457, 466.

Source: Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

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Relevant definitions

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On insight as to the path which leads to the Uncompounded. S.iv.362.
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