Insight Meditation Background Insight Meditation is a contemporary form of Buddhism with practices on ethics, meditations and ways of looking at and understanding experience based on the wise and compassionate teachings of the Buddha. It is one of the major forms of Buddhist practice to have taken root in the West.
The term ‘Insight Meditation’ is a translation of the ancient Pali Buddhist word ‘Vipassana’ from the Theravada Buddhist Tradition which means, ‘seeing deeply’ or ‘insight into the nature of existence’. Insight Meditation is one of the original forms of Buddhist meditation with its practices grounded in the comprehensive outline provided by the Buddha approximately 2,500 years ago in the Satipatthana sutta.
Insight Meditation was central to the Theravadin tradition of south-east Asia, along with Shamatha, or tranquillity meditation. It first came to the attention of the West in the late nineteenth/early 20th centuries as westerners began to engage with Buddhism, particularly in Sri Lanka and Burma. Interest in the West grew further after the Second World War with westerners such as Nanavera Thera and Nanamoli Bikkhu, and with others that followed in the early 1970’s. As more western spiritual seekers travelled to south-east Asia to study and explore Buddhism and vipassana (the Theravadin variant of the practice) it has developed new forms in the West.
Five people who were particularly instrumental in bringing Insight Meditation to the west in the 1970’ were: Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, Christina Feldman and Christopher Titmuss. They all studied in monasteries in Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka, with some taking robes (in Asia it is common to take robes for a period of time to study with a teacher). They studied under a number of South East Asian teachers in particular; Ajahn Chah in Northern Thailand, Ajahn Buddhadasa in South Thailand near Phuket and Mahasi Sayadaw in Burma. In addition some were strongly influenced by the teachings of: U Ba Khin also from Burma and Anagarika Shri Munindra from Bengal. On their return to their homelands these five became influential teachers, authors and Insight Meditation leaders; as they went on to teach widely in America, the UK, Australia and other parts of the western world. They published numerous books, and supported the establishment of meditation centres and meditation societies.
The Insight Meditation teachers at the Insight Meditation Institute Australia are qualified lay Dharma teachers with many years of experience and training. The organisation is a not for profit, developed with principles of egalitarianism, gender inclusiveness, collaboration and transparency.
The Insight Meditation Institute is connected to Sydney Insight Meditators, local Sydney groups, Blue Gum Sangha, Golden Wattle, Beaches Sangha and Australia wide Insight Meditation Sanghas. The Australian Institute is aligned with the philosophy, practices and teaching of the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts, US; Spirit Rock Meditation Centre near San Francisco in California, US and Gaia House in the UK.