Is there more focus on samatha / Vipassana in last few centuries

A comparison to the other teachings of the Buddha, only a smaller portion of the suttas cover Vipassana / meditative practices.
Have Vipassana / meditative practices,gained more popularity than the Buddhas other teachings in the last few centuries.

What we popularly call vipassana today generally refers to a collection of reform movements—largely originating in Burma, and transposed to Sri Lanka early on—sometimes called the Vipassana Reform, which occurred around the 19th century. It was a revitalization movement that made use of various simplified methods to cultivate vipassana, and either de-emphasized or outright jettisoned jhana practice, but made meditation practices easily accessible to layfollowers.

The first couple chapters of Kate Crosby’s recent release, Esoteric Theravada, goes into this history, although largely focuses on how this affected the boran kammathana (“old meditation”) practices. It’s a good read to familiarize yourself at a high level on this.

Note, because it’s sometimes misconstrued: just because it’s a relatively recent “reform movement” doesn’t make it illegitimate or less authoritative than other methods, it’s just part of how the tradition has developed over the years


Kate Crosby’s book is very good so far I am close to finishing.

This is also helpful


A pretty thorough treatment of the subject can be found in Erik Braun’s The Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw (University of Chicago Press, 2016).

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  1. In the presentation of the suttas there is a marketing strategy where vipassana is played down because it’s new to the public, which also today results in an under-appreciation of it. This is seen in the “three higher knowledges” which figure in the awakening discourses, and are a capitalization on “the three vedas” of the Brahmins. Here the removal of the cankers (vipassana) is the final and sole supramundane knowledge, but receives only a rudimentary description in those suttas. To read about vipassana requires a more thorough search of specialized suttas particularly the Anapanasati and Satipatthana suttas, that’s why they receive so much attention today. There is a difference in intent between the “banner” suttas and the practicality of these latter ones. The former are to advertise the religion, the latter are instructions for practice, they relate to two different levels of entry into the teaching. Not only was absorption more familiar to the general public in ancient India, but it is simple to explain, easy to understand, and is dramatized by super-normal abilities and easily depicted in murals. Vipassana involving the interaction of sila, samadhi and panna was not only a ground-breaking concept diffentiating Buddhism from Hinduism, but requires knowledge and practice to understand.

  2. The resurgence of vipassana accompaning the closure of the Christian era signifies a return to the practice as it was in the Buddha’s time and up until the time of Christ. The millennium we are now in has more in common with that of the Buddha’s era according to the alternating sequence of opposites (SN 14.11), so it is a progressive reconnection with the practice.

One of the founding fathers of vipassana in western Buddhism is Ven Nyanatiloka:

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In recent years mindfulness meditation is popular for mental health, which can be linked to insight/vipassana meditation.

For vipassana in EBT, it is better to look at the verbal form, passati ‘seeing, to see’ in the SN/SA suttas, not the noun form, vi-passana. It is not “only a smaller portion of the suttas”.


Vipassana in the suttas is abound, with SN material and elsewhere, though it is not mentioned as vipassana. Anything on aggregates, sense doors, nama-rupa, paticcasamuppada, anicca,dukkha, anatta is ‘vipassana’.


Hi Mat. It’s so nice to see you back.


Nice to see you too, Gillian.

with metta

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