In the present paper, I intend to bring out key aspects of the practical dynamics that underlies insight meditation as it is practiced in modern day Theravāda tradition, in particular in the way this is taught by Mahāsi Sayādaw, S. N. Goenka and Pa Auk Sayādaw. (I) I start with a brief survey of these three modern day insight meditation traditions, describing basic aspects of their meditative practice in relation to the scheme of the four satipaṭṭhānas and comparing the importance given in each of these three traditions to the development of mental tranquility. (II) Then I examine the common roots of these three traditions in the medieval scheme of insight-knowledges, comparing the versions of this scheme found in the Abhidhammatthasaṅgaha, the 解脫道論, and the Paṭisambhidhāmagga with each other. (III) In the last part of my paper I trace back the essential aspects of the scheme of insight knowledges to the early discourses in the Pāli Nikāyas, in particular to their teachings on impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not self, whose meditative development – with impermanence leading on to unsatisfactoriness and then unsatisfactoriness in turn leading on to not self – I see as the key aspect of the practical dynamics underlying the development of insight.
Theravāda Buddhism; Vipassanā; Insight-Knowledges; Early Buddhism; Three Characteristics