Vipassana Structured Study Introduction Talks
These are the most recent talks on this subject. As of December, 2019, There are more than 600 Dhamma talks on this and other teachings of the Buddha in my audio and video archives:
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Vipassana – Skillful Introspective Insight
Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha Resolved
For a useful understanding of the introspective insight intended by an awakened human being, please read this article through and then read the suttas linked inline and at the end of this article. ([x]) Inline links will open in a new window. This article introduces our 2020 32-week Vipassana Structured Study
Everything the Buddha taught was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and the ongoing stress, suffering, confusion, and distraction that results from ignorance of Four Noble Truths. 
The Buddha’s intended purpose of the Buddha’s entire teaching career is to resolve ignorance through introspective insight into the clinging relationship between impermanent phenomena and individual ignorance and the stress and suffering that follows.
Herein I use the word “Dhamma” referring to the original teachings of the historical Buddha as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. 
“Dharma” refers to any adapted, accommodated, and/or embellished Buddhist religion, lineage, and hybrid modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement practice not taught by the human Buddha. 
I intend no disrespect to these widespread practices. My intent is to provide clarity as to what an awakened human being actually taught and his simple, direct, accessible, understandable, and highly effective Eightfold Path to ending the fundamental common human problem of confusion, distraction, deluded thinking, and ongoing discontent rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
This follows Siddartha Gotama’s continuous example of clearly and directly pointing out the distinctions between his Dhamma and the common dharmas of his time, including many that have consistently re-emerged over time. 
The Buddha’s Vipassana
“All conditioned things that arise will pass away.”
The quote above describes the purpose and focus of vipassana in the context intended by an awakened human being. Upon hearing the Buddha’s very first discourse Venerable Kondanna spoke these words. The Buddha responded “You are now Anna Kondanna, the one who understands.” 
Vipassana means insight. In the context of the Buddha’s Dhamma, vipassana is not merely a popular hybrid meditation method or a distracting grasping-after insight-into-all-impermanent-phenomena practice.
In the context of the Buddha’s Dhamma, vipassana describes introspective insight into a fabricated misunderstanding of self in relation to the world. These two components of ignorance of self in relation to the world, in relation to all impermanent phenomena, results in Dukkha.
It is ignorance of self in relation to the world resulting in stress and suffering that are the three common characteristics of all human beings. These three common characteristics are and often referred to as Three Marks Of Existence. The Pali/Sanskrit words describing these three marks are:
- Anicca – all impermanent phenomena
- Anatta – fabricated views of self in relation to impermanent phenomena rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths
- Dukkha – Ongoing confusion, delusion, and distracting disappointing and unsatisfying life experiences. A subtle ongoing discontent. 
Dukkha originates in and is dependent on specific ignorance of Four Noble Truths. This is the profound knowledge the Buddha awakened to as described in the Paticca Samuppada Sutta, the primary sutta on Dependent Origination. 
In order to develop useful vipassana an authentic understanding of Dependent Origination is required. This fundamental relationship is explained in detail further on.
What Kondanna is describing to his his teacher is his development of profound vipassana – profound introspective insight into his conditioned views of himself rooted in ignorance. Conditioned by ignorance these self-referential views “condition” life experiences that obscures reality while providing seeming validity to a fabricated view of himself in relation to the world he lived in. Rooted in ignorance of a self entangled in the world, Kondanna created distracting self-referential views that brought him confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing discontent and disappointment.
Upon hearing the words of his teacher Kondanna was able to recognize that the cause of his own confusion and discontent arose not from any external force, lack of ritualistic practice, or past misdeeds. Kondanna recognized that it was his own fabricated views of himself in relation to the world he lived in as the cause of hiss stress and suffering. Kondanna’s own ignorance of Four Noble Truths was also the cause of his previous self-perpetuating and distracting grasping-after-salvation dharma practice.
This well-focused introspective insight distinguished the Buddha’s Dhamma from other dharmas of his time. This necessary clear distinction continues today.
Developing Useful And Skillful Vipassana
The compulsive manner that Dependent Origination has been adapted, accommodated, embellished, or outright dismissed by most of modern Buddhism is perhaps the best example of the corruption that follows from ignoring a Buddha’s authentic Dhamma in favor of modern fabricated dharmas. These modern dharmas lack the framework and guidance for developing useful and skillful introspective insight into the clinging relationship between Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha.
Ignoring the Buddha’s Dhamma in favor of adapted, accommodated, and/or embellished dharmas is the nature of ignorance. A mind rooted in ignorance will create subtle, powerful, and elaborate strategies to continue to ignore ignorance. For ignorance to continue, ignorance must be ignored. Realizing this, the Buddha taught an Eightfold Path to recognize, interrupt, and abandon ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
Ignoring or altering an awakened human being’s Dhamma can only continue ignorance. The Eightfold Path provides the ongoing framework and guidance to recognize and interrupt ignored ignorance and develop useful and skillful introspective insight – vipassana – into the true nature of the relationship of individual human life craving for and clinging to self-identification with impermanent and insubstantial phenomena.
It is the nature of a mind ignorant of Four Noble Truths to become confused and distracted by continually craving for and clinging to impermanent phenomena arising and passing away. This certainly includes continually adapting, accommodating, and embellishing “Buddhism” to fit ever-changing views of what Buddhism should be in relation to impermanent worldly events.
A confused and distracted mind craving for and clinging to self-identification with impermanent phenomena is the essence of discontent, stress, and suffering. A confused self, craving for and clinging to impermanent phenomena, will always manifest as ongoing distraction and unsatisfactory experiences which can only encourage continued craving and clinging and continue Dukkha.
It is this specific and well-focused introspective insight that formed the foundation for Siddartha Gotama’s awakening. It is this specific and well-focused introspective insight that is the purpose of the Eightfold Path. 
Siddartha Gotama Develops Useful and Skillful Vipassana
It is specific and well-focused introspective insight into Anicca, Anatta, and Dukka that formed the foundation for Siddartha Gotama’s awakening. The auspicious development of a human being’s useful and skillful insight into these Three Marks Of Existence occurred approximately two thousand six hundred years ago. Siddartha Gotama was born in an area of what is now southern Nepal on the border of northern India. Siddartha left a family life of comfort, luxury, and power at the age of 29 seeking understanding of himself and the stress and suffering of the world he lived in. 
Over the course of six years he methodically studied and rejected the common ascetic practices and the common philosophical, religious, and spiritual systems and beliefs of his time. He mastered the most advanced meditation practices and rejected them as well. 
Frustrated and disappointed by six years of searching outside of himself in the speculative magical, mystical, and esoteric philosophies he encountered, Siddartha left behind the distracting but comfortably familiar common dharmas and personal associations he developed during his search. Siddartha now directed his mindfulness away from abstract philosophies and abstract external salvation strategies and placed his mindfulness solely within himself.
This courageous and profound decision liberated Siddartha from continuing unskillful and distracting associations and distracting and confusing dharmas. This wise discrimination between what is skillful Dhamma practice and the ineffective, confusing, and distracting dharmas formed the basis for consistently teaching the importance of well-focused Dhamma practice and wise associations with others actually practicing his Dhamma.
Siddartha now understood the subtle but powerful conditioning that follows from ignorance and associating with any dharma that uses fabricated and confused thoughts and feelings as motivation and a common and familiar but distracting focus for practice. When seen in the context of Siddartha’s brilliant, clear, and direct Dhamma, it is the preoccupation rooted in self-identification with fleeting thoughts and feelings that cannot be resolved through dharmas that encourage validating fabricated thoughts and feelings through distracting grasping-after over-analysis, a subtle form of clinging. Grasping-after insight thorough unfocused hybrid meditation methods lacks teh framework and guidance of a Buddha’s Dhamma and creates a grassing-after hope of reconciling feelings and thoughts through fabricated “analysis” in abstract realities and imaginary non-physical realms. 
Skillful Introspective Insight Begins With Skillful Dhamma practice
The Buddha taught meditation for one purpose: to increase Jhana. Jhana means concentration. Jhana is a quality of mind resting in non-distraction. The Buddha did not teach a stand-alone or speculative meditation method hoping for direct insight during meditation. While useful insight many arise during mediation, lacking the proper frame work of the complete Eightfold Path, grasping-after insight during meditation distracts the meditator from increasing concentration. The Buddha taught meditation as one factor of The Eightfold Path.
It is through integrating the complete Eightfold Path that can then support useful and skillful introspective insight.
The Buddha understood that a mind rooted in ignorance requirers sustained distraction to continue ignoring ignorance. This is the subtle and debilitating nature of ignorance and of adopting dharma practices that encourage further ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
Seekers since the beginning of recorded history have created (often) subtle but powerfully debilitating strategies to continue ignorance, including fabricated abstract religious or “spiritual” practices. Once established by common agreement rather than direct engagement with the Dhamma, an acceptable and comfortable dharma practice becomes the means for institutionalized ignorance. Contradictory doctrines fabricate “paths” that cannot provide this fundamental self-developed ability to recognize, interrupt, and abandon ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
It is the purpose of the Eightfold Path to develop introspective insight into Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha, and recognize, interrupt, and abandon ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Most modern meditation practices diminish or dismiss the singular importance of developing Jhana in favor of using meditation for reconciling fabricated feelings and thoughts and continued self-establishment in abstract realities and fabricated non-human magical and mystical realms.
It is the ongoing distraction of grasping after continued self-establishment in fabricated non-physical realms and grasping after “insight” into fleeting, distracting, and meaningless feelings and thoughts that maintains ignorance and continues greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. As such, the beginning of a true Jhana practice resides in the Four Foundations Of Mindfulness as taught in the Satipatthana Sutta, and many others. 
After six years of grasping after frustrating and unsuccessful dharmas and severely weakened from the extreme ascetic practices Siddartha believed would liberate him, he used Jhana to deepen his concentration. This simple meditation method developed the internal poise and non-grasping focus necessary to recognize the debilitating confusion and ongoing distraction caused by his own fabricated views. 
The concentration developed though Jhana meditation supports the refined mindfulness necessary to integrate the Eightfold Path as the framework for Dhamma practice. The very foundation of refined mindfulness, Right Mindfulness, the seventh factor of the Eightfold Path, rests in Jhana.
It is a well-concentrated mind that is able to recognize the conditioned-in-ignorance distraction of preoccupation with feelings and thoughts arising from ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Grasping after fabricated abstractions as “dharma practice”can only continue ignorance. 
The Nagara Sutta – Siddartha Gotama Describes His Awakening Through Skillful Introspective Insight
In the Nagara Sutta, Siddartha described his conditioned thinking as a mental feedback loop of un-restrained thinking continually influenced by clinging to self-referential fabricated views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Siddartha realized that his mind had been conditioned by his upbringing, entanglements with the world, and most significantly, by his grasping after false dharmas. 
Siddartha described this understanding as a “breakthrough of understanding” He states in the Nagara Sutta: “This consciousness turns back at name-and-form, and goes no farther. It is to this extent that there is birth, aging, death, falling away and returning. This is where ignorance is established. From name-and-form as the requisite condition arises consciousness and from consciousness as the requisite condition arises name-and-form.”
Name-and-form (Pali: Nama-Rupa) describes self-referential fabricated views attached to form. Name-and-form is giving a fabricated form a name thereby personalizing an imagined self and everything that now occurs to this self. Consciousness in this context refers to ongoing unrestrained thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Clinging to fabricated views of self through ongoing ignorance results in confusion, deluded thinking, stress and suffering.
The Buddha understood clearly that liberation from a mind caught in a feedback loop of fabricated views of self clinging tenaciously to self-identification with impermanent phenomena required a path of practice that directly develops specific and well-focused introspective insight into this self-created process. As stated previously the Buddha taught an Eightfold Path that develops introspective insight into Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha.
Siddartha’s experience with the common dharma practices of his time brought the realization that grasping after abstract fabricated views could only continue the trance-like mental state required by dharmas that encourage ignoring ignorance of Four Noble Truths. (or subtle ore not-so-subtle misapplication of Four Noble Truths)
As taught in an authentic translation of Dependent Origination it is precisely ignorance of Four Noble Truths as the “requisite condition” for fabricated views of self clinging to all impermanent phenomena that can only lead to greed, aversion, and deluded thinking resulting and all manner of confusion, distraction, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory life experiences.
Ignorance is compulsively maintained by adaptation, accommodation, embellishment, or outright dismissal of Dependent Origination. This compulsion for continued ignorance is made necessary by the need for establishing fabricated salvific dharmas that ultimately hope to resolve in some variant of a non-dual non-physical self-establishment. 
Siddartha’s understanding of the primary need for using meditation solely for increasing Jhana was and is a direct counter to a mind conditioned towards ignoring its own ignorance by grasping after and clinging to distracting abstract practices and behaviors. This includes modern insight practices that encourage grasping after insight in fleeting, insubstantial, meaningless, and distracting feelings and thoughts without the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path. This type of grasping-after meditation practice can only lead to, at best, a familiar and comfortable trance-like quality of mind with no possibility for useful and skillful introspective insight into Thee Marks Of Existence.
Prior to developing Right Meditation Siddartha’s mind was prone to distraction from the unrestrained continuous flow of mundane feelings and thoughts. Siddartha realized that his distracted mind resulted from clinging his self-referential views to impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas through self-referential fabricated views. In short, he realized that clinging to the fabricated thoughts, feelings, and magical and mental realms he created had the debilitating effect of defining his “self” and his life experience based on these self-created fabrications.
The most common general fabrication within Buddhism is fabricating a hybridized dharma practice from the confusing and contradictory array of modern Buddhist practices and new-age non-dual doctrines that only encourage the modern phenomena of Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement.
Common among seekers of his time and continuing today, Siddartha initially believed that liberation would be found in salvific religions or salvific philosophical belief systems that combined blind faith, vivid unrestrained imagination, unfounded conjecture and speculation, and unrestrained and un-focused insight. This type of grasping-after dharma practice can only result in continued fabricated views that conveniently provide a subtle and commonly acceptable means of continuing ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
In simpler terms, Siddartha understood that everything he studied, mastered, and dismissed up until his awakening only served to further distract his mind while obscuring his ignorance.
Siddartha realized that this debilitating ignorance is self-perpetuating. He understood that when a mind is stuck in the feedback loop of confused thinking compulsively creating clinging associations with impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas, any new experience will always be adapted, accommodated, and/or embellished to fit and continue the self-referential views established in ignorance.
Siddartha realized that ignorance of Four Noble Truths and the conditioned views that follow must be directly recognized and abandoned. The Buddha’s entire Dhamma is developed through fidelity to the Fourth Noble Truth, the truth of the path leading to the cessation of ignorance. Rather than encouraging an “insight-focused” meditation with no framework and guidance, the Buddha taught a simple and direct Eightfold Path that develops specific insight into the relationship of self-referential views clinging to impermanent phenomena.
Jhana meditation is for increasing concentration. It is a well-concentrated mind that is able to develop the refined mindfulness necessary to integrate, to hold in mind, the entire path as the means for establishing an initial “Right View” for beginning Dhamma practice that culminates in the profound Right View of an Arahant, another human being awakened aBuddha’s Eightfold Path.
It is the Eightfold Path that provides the framework and guidance necessary to recognize the bondage to ignorance that is obscured by conditioned thinking distracted by self-identification with impermanent objects events views and ideas. Any dharma practice that diminishes in importance, or dismisses outright Jhana meditation and the other seven factors of the Eightfold Path cannot be seen as a Dhamma practice taught by the Buddha.
Devgeloping Useful And Skillful Insight
It is only from a well-focused and authentic Dhamma practice that the skillful disciple is able to recognize, interrupt, and finally abandon all conditioned views rooted in ignorance. It is the Eightfold Path the Buddha taught that provides the necessary framework and guidance for well-focused introspective insight into this self-created feedback loop.
The Eightfold Path develops profound understanding of the stress and suffering that follows from clinging fabricated self-referential views of self to impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas.
Hoping for useful introspective insight when the focus of insight is on external objects, events, views, and ideas lacks introspection. Focusing on fabricated feelings and thoughts lacking the proper frame and guidance of the Eightfold Path is not Dhamma practice. This can only continue fabricated views now intentionally attached to an external projection of self clinging to ordinary phenomena – a deeply and profoundly distracted and debilitating quality of mind.
Siddartha’s profound breakthrough of understanding brought the realization that the problem of human suffering was the result of individual ignorance of Four Noble Truths. He realized that no external force or fabricated dharma could resolve individual ignorance. He realized that a mind rooted in ignorance will constantly cling to views that ignore this initial ignorance – the common internal feedback loop.
The Buddha realized that every human being has only six properties that accurately describe a human being. He realized that making anything more of one’s individual humanity is a fabricated attachment to these six properties and can only obscure the basic reality of a human being and lead to further craving for and clinging to fabricated realities. 
As today, the common dharmas of the Buddha’s time were presented as unique, divinely inspired and dispensed, and similar though culturally superior to all other dharmas. Rooted in ignorance and prone to continual fabrications, these dharmas, then and now, would often claim that all dharmas reach the same culmination of some sort of vague universal “understanding”or salvation from this physical world through self-establishment escape in fabricated and speculative non-physical realms. Just as today, this form of compulsive non-dual thinking encourages picking and choosing bits of different fabricated dharmas creating a personalized and further fabricated “personal dharma” 
This unfocused trance-like grasping ignores the very Dhamma that provides liberation from ignorance. This type of grasping-after dharma practice was common during the Buddha’s lifetime and continues today with modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement. 
Siddhartha found the dharmas of his time common, uninspired, confusing, distracting, and without substance. He found these dharmas heavily influenced not by introspective insight knowledge but by unexamined blind faith, culture, class, hierarchy, and unproven and unprovable imaginary supernatural abstractions.
All fabricated dharmas offered some form of “salvation” or taught complete annihilation with misguided doctrines of emptiness, nothingness, and similar non-dual trance-based imaginary self-establishments, none of which resolve in an individual current human life. 
Liberation From Ignorance
Siddartha understood that fabricated self-referential views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths could only further ignorance and the stress and suffering that is dependent on origination in this initial ignorance. He realized that he was seeking understanding where no understanding could be found. 
Once formed in ignorance, a mind will grasp after, and cling tenaciously to fabricated views despite the confusion, distraction, and ongoing unsatisfactory experiences. This self-inflicted discontented quality of mind will continually grasp after contentment where contentment cannot be found – in fabricated experiences and fabricated “insight.”
Siddartha’s breakthrough of understanding resulted in his profound Right View that it is due to a misunderstood and fabricated view of self in relation to the world that results in all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and stressful life experiences.
It is the stressful relationship between a fabricated “self” craving continual establishment in an impermanent environment that Siddartha’s “breakthrough of understanding” coalesced on. This well-focused insight is the culmination of his search for understanding.
Rather than continuing his distracting grasping after the speculative results of severe asceticism or craving for and clinging to the speculative and imaginary non-dual doctrines common to his time and ours, this brilliant and courageous man realized that all common spiritual pursuits only encouraged continued ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Continued ignorance of Four Noble Truths could only continue distraction, confusion, delusion, and ongoing disappointing life experiences.
Siddartha understood that all of these fabricated doctrines required an ongoing trance-like state induced by the fabricated beliefs associated with the particular doctrine. This self-induced trance-like state is obscured by the fabricated doctrines that encourage continued ignorance by first validating the view of self as needing salvation and then providing salvation through typical means of the beliefs themselves including hybrid meditation methods, distracting “insight”, rites, rituals, and ascetic practices hoping to gain notice and favor from a personalized arbitrary “spiritual” system activated by blind devotion seeking direct favor from more advanced or more accomplished “gods” and other supernatural beings.
These doctrines, then and now, provided convenient mindless distraction within the doctrine itself from life as life occurs. Siddartha realized that constantly seeking salvation through speculative and impossible-to-experience future rewards or non-physical self-establishments in mystical realms of nothingness and emptiness arose from the compulsive need to ignore the reality of ongoing ignorance.
The doctrines that Siddartha studied, mastered, and discarded were primarily based on the Vedas, the doctrinal foundation for modern Hinduism. As described in the Ariyapariyesana Sutta, and in the numerous suttas on Right or Jhana meditation, seeking this constant distraction from reality through a fabricated and speculative dharma practice “does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, or to unbinding. This dharma only seeks to establish a reappearance in the dimension of nothingness, or infinite space, or infinite consciousness, or neither perception nor non-perception.” 
When seen in the the context of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths, most modern Buddhist religions, hybrid practices, and lineages have more in common with the Vedic-based Hindu practices Siddartha dismissed as they lacked the clarity and true introspective focus for his awakening.
The common philosophical thread of most of the spiritual philosophies of ordinary human construction reflect this convenient distraction from ignorance provided by the underlying philosophy itself. This common distraction is convenient to a mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths craving for any method of preserving its own ignorant or wrong views.
Many who feel a lack of understanding of human life or a pervasive lack of meaning in their lives will seek out doctrinal philosophies that provide the appearance of a “spiritual” practice but in relation to the Buddha’s Dhamma only distract the mind outside of its own body by clinging to fabricated beliefs while hoping for “insight” into the underlying fabrication.
Whether the goal or culmination of a doctrine is “insight” into fleeting thoughts and feelings or self-establishment in a vague Buddhist heaven or any non-physical and non-dual realm through any external means contradicts there Buddha’s Dhamma. An external means is any practice that seeks to establish a “self” in any state other than the present human state.
A typical non-dual philosophy is any belief system that resolves in a common non-physical environment. Non-dual philosophies seek to reinforce the underlying and often ignored non-dual view common to all religious and spiritual philosophies. Non-dual phlosophies look for understanding within fabricated views that resolve in a common respiratory for “self” in a vague nondescript environment of nothingness or emptiness, or as common universal reward for proper behavior. The Buddha’s Dhamma finds no value in these distracting pursuits. The Buddha’s Dhamma directly develops insight through introspection into what one is mindful of.
Mindfulness means to recollect or to hold in mind. If what is held in mind is seen by a mind continually distracted by speculative dharmas no useful and skillful introspective insight is possible. If what is held in mind is framed by the Eightfold Path then useful and skillful introspective insight is possible and likely.
An authentic Dhamma practice is framed by the Eightfold Path. The meditation method taught within this framework is Jhana. The insight developed is specifically introspective insight into the clinging relationship between ignorant views of self in relation to physical phenomena resulting in stress and suffering.
We are all fortunate indeed that the Buddha’s Dhamma in its pure form continues to be available, highly relevant, and highly effective in developing useful and skillful insight into Anicca, Annette, and Dukkha and an unwavering calm and peaceful mind..
For Further Study
- Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
- Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
- Pail Canon
- Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views
- Right Mindfulness And Authentic Dhamma
- The Personal Experience Of Ignorance – Dukkha Sutta
- Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
- A Prince Becomes A Buddha
- Satipatthana Sutta – Four Foundations of Mindfulness
- The Noble Search For The Noble Path
- Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhana
- Nagara Sutta – The Buddha Describes His Awakening
- Dependent Origination, Anatta, And The Myth Of Non-Duality
- Nothing Personal – A Buddha’s Analysis Of Self
- Shunyata – Emptiness
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