The complete term for insight meditation is “vipassana-bhavana.” “Bhavana” is a Sanskrit word which means a system of mental training that cultivates wisdom or concentration.
All meditation techniques can be classified into two types: insight meditation (vipassana bhavana), and tranquility meditation, or concentration (samatha-bhavana).
In tranquility practice, you fix the attention on a single object until the mind enters a deep, trance-like stillness. You develop enough concentration to quiet the mind and suppress mental impurities such as anger. When you stop meditating, however, the negative emotions eventually return.
The practice of insight, on the other hand, cultivates wisdom. The student develops systematic mindfulness in order to see the real characteristics of existence: unsatisfactoriness, impermanence, and impersonality. All the activities of daily life can be objects of mindfulness: bodily actions, feelings, thoughts, and emotions— even painful ones. Nothing is suppressed.
In mindfulness practice, a meditator notes and lets go of different objects as they appear and pass away, instead of keeping the mind fixed on one thing exclusively. Although some concentration is needed for vipassana practice, it is only the level called “momentary concentration,” which is weaker than that required for deep tranquility-states (jhana). The path of concentration results in short-term calmness, bliss, and, when fully perfected, psychic powers. The path of insight, on the other hand, leads to wisdom and permanent freedom from suffering. This freedom is called “Nibbana,” the deathless.We practice Vipassana meditation in order to see the mind, to know it rather than controlling it.
Ask yourself this: does a sick person need a special aptitude to take penicillin? No— he takes it because he is ill. Like medicine, meditation is not something for which one needs an attitude, but a prescription for illness; and the worse it tastes, the more it’s likely needed. The Buddha said that all of us suffer from the mental sickness of desire, aversion, and delusion. But anyone— repeat, anyone— can achieve mental health and happiness by “taking” vipassana.
Inspired by the Vipassana meditation text.