In modern times this type of Buddha’s spiritual exercise is taught in many ways and, most of the time, a title prefixed by a personal name instead of the Gautama Buddha. The Pali term ‘vipassana’ obviously denotes Buddha’s system.
In many meditation centers ‘vipassana’ and’ ‘satipatthana are considered as entirely different systems of meditation. This certainly has distorted the way of teaching Buddhism. Many times this mistake is made by non-Buddhists out of ignorance.
Vipassana means ‘insight’ which has been taught by the Buddha in two discourses, Maha Satipatthana sutta found in Digha Nikaya of Suttapitaka, and Satipatthana sutta found in Majjhima Nikaya. But a very interesting point is to be noted that in these discourses, Buddha has never uttered the term ’vipassana’.
Buddha is a scientific person who takes the practitioner from his gross physical body to the subtle spiritual state of Nibbana slow by slow so that a practitioner can get spiritual experiences in sixteen stages instead of sitting and thinking in the name of so-called ‘meditation’.
According to Buddha, Vipassana should be practiced at 4 levels with supplementary techniques expounded in the following major divisions such as ‘KAYANUPPASSANA’ which means contemplating the gross physical body and its activities.
The breathing mechanism is taken for contemplation technically called ‘ANAPANA SATI’. The next step is all bodily movements taken for meditation such as walking, moving the body backward, or forward even up to the mild movement of ‘blinking of eyelids’. There is a practice called ‘cemetery observation’ seeing’ a corpse from its first day to one complete year.
In modern days throwing a dead body in the cemetery, the ground is not practiced as done in Buddha’s time so it is impossible to practice the cemetery observation. But in Sri Lanka, a drawing is used as depicted in the ‘satipatthana sutta’. Finally, the practitioner is given the training to observe the presence of four major elements air, fire, water, and earth functioning in his own body.
In the next step, Buddha switches over to the field of sensation and feeling. The Pali term ‘Vedanta’ means sensation such as ‘seeing’, ’hearing’,’ tasting’, ’smelling’, and ‘touching’. As far as feeling is concerned there are three types of feelings called ‘pleasant feeling’ ‘unpleasant feeling’ and finally neutral feeling. This is taught to practitioners explaining all the Pali terms.
The Pali ‘Citta’ means mind and its objects. This can be given by a sequence of terms such as thinking, thought, fear, anxiety, planning the future, worrying about past and future, and expectations, likewise, we can give long sequences of words. But in Buddhist terminology, there is only one word ‘Citta’.
Contemplating righteousness such as hindrances of meditative life, positive qualities for developing concentration, Buddha’s teachings of four-noble truth, etc., are taught. Shortly speaking only Buddha’s training methodology was taken for teaching instead of some ‘individuals’ system.
Vipassana can be practiced as meditation for spiritual elevation.