Mahasi method and Suttas

This topic is started to address the question:

How does Mahasi method deviate from suttas?

For those not acquainted or not fully apart of what the Mahasi method is, I list a few links:

If you know of other relevant resources on Mahasi method kindly feel free to add to this topic by posting it below.

P.S.: I thank you all in advance for keeping the conversation civilized and strictly addressing the question put above, in the most ‘technical’ manner possible (i.e. pointing where the method does not match what suttas explicitly say and vice-versa).



I would just point out that the the “Manual of Insight”, his early major work, was already (mostly) translated in 1984, not as polished as the recent publication, but much closer to Mahasi Sayadaw’s own language and expression. This carries the title “THE TREATISE ON THE METHOD OF VIPASSANA INSIGHT MEDITATION” and can be found at the 5th link ( above, in 4 pdf files, starting with:

Reading this, or other of Mahasi Sayadaw’s more extensive (an less introductory) writings (or transcriptions of talk series, e.g. that on the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta can give a better impression of the impressive, IMO, dimensions of this man’s mind and mastery of dhamma.

Limiting familiarity to the expositions of the vipassana method itself, or viewed just through the eyes / writings of the followers, advocates of the “system” (or its critics) it can appear rather more dogmatic.


My mind does not have the disposition to read long books so I picked the BuddhaNet link.

I found the method started smoothly but advancing to the later stages quickly cluttered the mind.

Noting the rising & falling of the abdomen was very useful but when I had to note the ‘intention’ to note the rising & falling of the abdomen the mind exploded.

In other words, noting the intention to note the rising & falling of the abdomen caused the intention to note the rising & falling of the abandon to cease.

Compared to the suttas, I think the mind developed wrong concentration, it that noting the noting caused the mind to suppress itself.

As for right concentration, MN 117 (compared to Mahasi) states:

The Blessed One said: "Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort & right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions.

One makes an effort for the abandoning of wrong view & for entering into right view: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view…

:sparkles: :tada:

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Do you find this in the Sutta?

Isn’t this “Citte Cittanupassana”?

Yes & no. Not specifically but it is an example of method of ‘setting mindfulness to the fore’ and it does facilitate knowing of in & out breathing.

Cittanupassana sounds like knowing the impurity & purity of the citta (mind-heart) rather than constantly noting the constant functioning of intention. My reading of cittanupassana is it is not related to thinking (vitakka) but to defilement or the absence of defilement (kilesa).

The Mahasi ‘noting’ is obviously like ‘training wheels’ on a child’s bicycle, which are eventually discarded. [quote=“cjmacie, post:2, topic:5451”]
Limiting familiarity to the expositions of the vipassana method itself, or viewed just through the eyes / writings of the followers, advocates of the “system” (or its critics) it can appear rather more dogmatic.

On this topic, Ajahn Buddhadasa, who was also considered a teacher of ‘calibre’, said:

Now we shall deal with the organized systems of insight training, which were not taught by the Buddha but were developed by later teachers. This kind of practice is suitable for people at a fairly undeveloped stage, who still cannot perceive the unsatisfactoriness of worldly existence with their own eyes, naturally. This doesn’t mean, however, that the results obtained by these systems have any special qualities not obtainable by the nature method, because when we examine the Tipitaka closely, we find the nature method is the only one mentioned. Some people consider, however, that natural insight can be developed only by someone who has become so remarkably virtuous, or has such a suitable disposition, that for him to come to a full understanding of things is just child’s play. What is a person to do who lacks transcendent virtues and the appropriate disposition? For such people, teachers laid down ordered systems of practice, concise courses which start from scratch and have to be followed through thoroughly and systematically.

These systems of practice for developing insight are now known by the technical term “Vipassana - dhura.” Vipassana - dhura is contrasted with Study (Gantha - dhura), the two being considered nowadays complementary aspects of training. Vipassana- dhura is study done within; it is strictly mental training, having nothing to do with textbooks. Neither the term Study (Gantha - dhura) nor Vipassana - dhura is mentioned in the Tipitaka, both appearing only in later books; but Vipassana - dhura is nevertheless a genuine Buddhist practice, designed for people intent on eliminating suffering. It is based directly on sustained, concentrated introspection.

Handbook of Mankind

V. Sujato appears to be the monk in this video, who mentions the over-estimation that appears to be prevalent on Mahasi chatsites like Dharma Overground & how Mahasi ‘noting’ is not consistent with methods such as in MN 19:

The suttas equate jhana with the Brahma (metta) realms and I would imagine those who have actually & truly attained jhana would have boundless metta. I think this is another example of the over-estimation of Mahasi students, who seem to believe momentary concentration & momentary rapture are jhana.