Hans Gruber

The Principal Methods of the Mindfulness or Insight Practice Vipassana

In terms of influence and growth the different traditions of Vipassana (lit. “clear insight”) with their particular methods of mindfulness practice aiming at “liberating insight” constitute the third major form of Buddhism in the West, besides Tibetan Buddhism and Zen. The two globally most widespread methods of Vipassana in a worldwide respect are the “Body Sweeping” taught by the Indian S. N. Goenka (one of the rather different Vipassana teachers who have been authorized by the Burmese U Ba Khin) and the “Labelling” taught by the teachers in the tradition of the Burmese Mahasi Sayadaw.


These two methods clearly vary in the structural sense. In addition, the “Mahasi Method” is characterized by a mother form of practice as well as modern approaches or adaptations originally stemming from it, in opposition to S. N. Goenka´s branchless method, which he views as the “pure technique” of the Buddha. There is a considerable number of South East Asian Theravada masters who have founded modern methods of the mindfulness or insight practice Vipassana.


All these methods can be subdivided into these two categories – the “technical methods” (such as those aforementioned two most widerspred methods) and the “natural approaches” (with little emphasis on the one, clearly defined “technique” but with the overall shared aim of liberating insight according to Theravada). Other distinguishing features are the reference to different mindfulness teachings of the Pali Canon and unequal views regarding the role of the concentrative absorptions (jhanas).

Hans Gruber

received his M.A. in Indology and European History in Hamburg, followed by a three-year training in PR (DIPR) and journalism. He works in these fields as a translator, journalist and writer, e. g. of the German guide on the whole movement of Vipassana ("Kursbuch Vipassana: Wege und Lehrer der Einsichtsmeditation", Fischer Verlag) or of most of the chapter on Buddhism in the "Harenberg Lexikon der Religionen".


At present he is working on a dissertation under the guidance of Prof. Michael von Brück ("Die zeitgenössische Bewegung der Achtsamkeits- bzw. Einsichtspraxis Vipassana"). He has a long-standing practical interest in Early Buddhist meditation and in the question what Buddhism in the West means for today (undefinedwww.buddha-heute.de).