Vipassana and Mindfulness Meditation

The SIY ( Search Inside Yourself) organization founded by Chad Meng Tan had recently organized a small competition in which we had to share a story of how meditation has impacted our lives. The most liked story on the forum was expected to win a free copy of SIY book written Chand Meng Tan and guess what? I won the book!!

I wrote a parable and it was the most liked story. I received the copy of SIY. The book is about a course on Mindfulness meditation program developed at Google. The book contains theory and practice of Mindfulness meditation. In recent times, I met lot of people who mistaken Vipassana for Mindfulness meditation and hence after understanding what is Mindfulness meditation, I would like to confirm that Vipassana is not a mere Mindfulness meditation. Some of the principles of both meditation technique are similar but the basis of both meditation technique is fundamentally different.

Let me explain with an example. The Mindfulness meditation model explain in SIY by Chad Meng Tan contains – Intention – Attention – Cognitive Process – Attitude. Fundamentally the model starts with “ Intention” a motive to start meditation – it can be stress reduction, better relationship management, happy life, peace or for that matter weight reduction but it starts with a motive.

Now, this first principle is exactly opposite to philosophy of Vipassana or philosophy of Buddha. The very First Universal truth depicted by Buddha is – “Trishna ( desire) is root cause of all misery in this world.” Vipassana recommends to focus solely on breathing ,natural breathing – nothing should be attached to breathing. No motive i.e. experiencing something or attaining a state of mind is not recommended in Vipassana. The motive and default attachment that follows motive disturbs purity of the mind and hence not at all recommended in Vipassana.

Mindfulness refers to a process of body scan but it is mainly perceived as a tool for body relaxation. Vipassana is much deeper and surely more than mere body scan. It is non judgmental observation of sensation in the body and maintaining perfect equanimity towards them. Although some of the procedure recommended in the book may sound similar but the logic and understanding behind performing those actions is fundamentally different.

Third and perhaps most important, Vipassana is completely volunteer run organization. Those who are asking you for $$ to teach you any meditation technique are not teaching REAL meditation. In India, meditation has always been taught in Guru- pupil tradition and true meditation would always remain so.

There are many points I can talk about but the pithy is Vipassana is fundamentally different practice from Mindfulness meditation. I am sure that people who have not heard of Vipassana are attracted towards Mindfulness meditation because this is closest technique to Vipassana.

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4 thoughts on “Vipassana and Mindfulness Meditation

  1. anonymous

    HI! I have been practicing mindfulness meditation for 5 years and just did my first 10-day Vipassana retreat. I wanted to take issue a little bit with what you have said here, based on my understanding (which is limited). I think that mindfulness meditation is a blanket term that encompasses a lot of different ways of meditating, but the techniques that I have learned all emphasize equanimity, awareness, and what is, rather than what you would like to be. I didn’t find any contradiction between what I learned in the Vipassana retreat and what I have learned elsewhere. In fact, many of Goenka’s phrases were exactly what my teachers had used in our sittings. The body scan was so similar (something I learned in my mindfulness class and practiced every day before the retreat, just laying down rather than sitting up due to chronic pain) that when we were finally trained in the Vipassana technique, I had to refrain from jumping ahead to scanning over the subtle sensations throughout my whole body. The emphasis of the body scan I learned has never been on total relaxation, rather on “opening to an awareness of what is already there” (to quote one of my teachers).

    I’m not familiar with the SIY organization or it’s meditation technique, but one organization definitely doesn’t represent the entire field of mindfulness practice, how could it?! On the other hand, I wonder if the SIY practice is organized the way it is to make it as accessible as possible to people who have never considered the possibility of mediation?

    Just some thoughts! Thanks for your post.

    1. I’m so glad anonymous wrote this. I’ve been following this blog for a while and mostly find it inspiring. However lately I’ve been feeling a bit alienated by the implication that only those who have been on a 10 day course can fully understand this practice. I can’t comment on SIY and I know there are books out there that claim to explain mindfulness without even mentioning meditation. So while its useful to point out any differences, I think it’s a shame to be exclusive – not everyone can give up 10 days of their lives easily. Like anonymous I came to Vipassana via a different route (which took eight weeks) but the end result was very similar and I also believe that no one organisation could ever represent the entire field of mindfulness practice. Surely if we agree the world would be a better place with more meditators in it, we should encourage people who show any kind of interest in mindfulness and lead by explanation and example. So please don’t circle the wagons’ guys, it’s such a waste of a great blog.

      1. Ryan Shelton

        Thanks Anonymous and ramblingrosemaryanne! I think you both make great points! Thanks for reading and helping our blog stay on track! We’ll make efforts to keep the focus on inspiring and sharing personal experiences and not on “circling the wagons.” I can only speak for myself and my experiences. I hope everyone finds experiences that bring them closer to truth and happiness.

    2. If one digs deeper into Vipassana, deeper into Buddha’s teachings, one realizes that everything one calls ‘oneself’, all the physical AND MENTAL phenomenon are constantly burning up, combusting, changing. This is Buddha’s teaching, this is what can be experienced at a Vipassana Course. A Dhamma Center is the gifted space to realize truth. Human life is an invaluable opportunity to experience direct truth, it’s a birth in which an opportunity exists to expel blindness to mind and matter.

      Who possesses the constantly burning consciousness? Who possesses the constantly burning up perception and evaluation parts of the mind? The body? Burning is mere burning. Nothing but burning. It’s without personality, without definite form. When a teacher prescribes us to open up awareness to what already is there, we need to understand how every experience of awareness too is burning up. There is no ‘I’. Fixating an idea and set of words (i.e. mindfulness/awareness) to an experience in meditation or otherwise is incorrect. Understand, Vipassana is not ‘Mindfulness’. Rather Vipassana is a process by which mind is emptied and realized, then transcended…

      Now, grow in Dhamma. Multiply in true Dhamma. Buddha’s arising is so valuable. Be aware!

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