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The Vipassana Movement includes a number of Theravada Buddhist branches that stress insight (vipassana) into the three marks of existence (impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, non-self) as the means of achieving awakening.

Although an active concept of early Buddhism, vipassana was no longer practiced in the Theravada tradition by the 10th century, due to the belief that Buddhism had degenerated to the point where liberation would not be attainable until the coming of the promised Maitreya. However, the idea was reintroduced in the 18th century by a Burmese monk by the name of Medawi, who became the author of the Vipassana manuals.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the actual practice of vipassana meditation was reinvented, using simplified techniques and with an emphasis on bare insight (satipatthana). During this period, the Theravada traditions in Burma, Sri Lanka, and Thailand were rejuvenated, as a means of retaining traditional Buddhist culture in the face of Western colonialism.

The Burmese practice of Vipassana gained influence in Sri Lanka and Thailand, as well as in Burma, and was spread by Mahasi Sayadaw, a Burmese Theravada monk, who became popular throughout Asia and in the West, and who had studied under U Nārada. The Vipassana tradition spread throughout South and Southeast Asia and into Europe and North America.

Although Zen Buddhism has largely eclipsed Vipassana in many areas, the Vipassana movement continues to have several active sects.

These include the Insight Meditation Society, based in the United States, as well as the New Burmese (Mahasi) Method, the Ledi Lineage, Pa Auk Sayadaw, Mogok Sayadaw, Anagarika Munindra, and Ajahn Tong. Although the Thai Forest Tradition has much in common with the Vipassana movement, we are including it in a parallel category.

The Insight Meditation movement has been a popular form of Buddhist meditation in the United States since the 1980s, after its introduction in a series of courses at Naropa University in 1974. Major branches of Insight Meditation in America are the Insight Meditation Society and Spirit Rock Meditation Center.

The New Burmese Method of Buddhist meditation is that which was developed by U Nārada, and popularized by Mahasi Sayadaw. After its development in Burma, it spread to Sri Lanka in 1939 and has been influential in the evolution of the Vipassana traditions in the West.

The origins of the Ledi Lineage was in Ledi Sayadaw and others, such as Satya Narayan Goenka, who taught that vipassana techniques were non-sectarian and that there was no need to convert to Buddhism in order to practice the meditation techniques.

Pa Auk Sayadaw is based on Visuddhimagga, a Theravada meditation manual developed in the 5th century. Earth, water, fire, and wind are significant elements in the insight element of Pa Auk Sayadaw.

Named for Mogok Sayadaw (U Vimala), a Burmese monk and meditation master of Theravada Buddhism, Mogok Sayadaw emphasizes the importance of having a right understanding. This method of meditation is largely confined to Burma.

Anagarika Munindra is a method of vipassana meditation developed by Anagarika Shri Munindra, a Bengali teacher of meditation who taught several other notable teachers. As a Buddhist discipline, Anagarika refers to a practicing Buddhist who lives a nomadic life without attachment.

Venerable Ajahn Tong Sirimangalo devoted his life to the practice and teaching of Satipatthana Vipassana Kammatthana, which is insight meditation based on the four foundations of mindfulness. Meditation centers based on his teachings are found throughout Thailand.

Appropriate for this category, or its subcategories, are any of the Buddhist traditions, sects, or movements based on vipassana medication techniques or practice, which may include some that are not covered in this description.


Insight Meditation



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