I think it's probably long overdue, but perhaps it's time to tease out the meaning of the word vipassanā
in the suttas.Samatha
has a fairly uniform meaning associated with the stilling of the defilements, but vipassanā
and its verbs vipassati
seem to have 3 slightly different ranges.
1. You have the bare observational sense of knowing the rise and fall of states, such as the usage of -
in the 2 major Satipaṭṭhāna suttas (eg ‘dīghaṃ assasāmī’ti pajānāti
in MN 111 (anupadadhammavipassanaṃ vipassati
) or vipassanti
in Iti 2.18
2. Against that, you have a slightly more discursive form of vipassana
that knows in a more complex fashion, ie understanding the rise and fall in accordance with idappaccayatā
. These can typically be identified by the standard phrase yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti
or yathābhūtaṃ passati
(too many to be listed here and many times more frequent that the bare observation passages). The absence of the adverb yathābhūta
does not necessarily connote the first type of vipassana
. Eg in SN 36.7, you have -
so evaṃ pajānāti; uppannā kho myāyaṃ sukhā vedanā, sā ca kho paṭicca no apaṭicca ...
He discerns that 'A feeling of pleasure has arisen in me. It is dependent on a requisite condition, not independent....
3. Finally, there are passages in the suttas that employ the very common pericope of the event of Stream-Entry itself, where one "sees" the 4 Noble Truths -
idaṃ dukkha’nti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ‘ayaṃ dukkhasamudayo’ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodho’ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā’ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti.
For the 2nd type of vipassanā
, I suppose the ideal would be the inherent ability of a Trainee to frame all of his/her observations within idappaccayatā
. That being said, I don't think the suttas suggest that wordlings cannot do the same on an intellectual level, even if they have not personally "seen" the 4 Noble Truths under scenario 3.
So, which sense of vipassanā
might be intended by the suttas that discuss it in the context of samatha