What's the difference between insight (mindfulness) meditation and zen (zazen) meditation?
They both seem so similar.
- P'angLv 71 decade agoFavorite Answer
Although Insight meditation and Zen meditation take a practitioner to the same place, there are differences in technique - sort of like the differences between a Toyota Camry and a Honda Accord.
Insight meditation, sometimes called Vipassana meditation, cultivates insight into what the Buddha described as the three characteristics of all mental phenomena: transience, non-self, and suffering. Traditionally, Insight meditation is preceded with samatha meditation, a technique that develops a stable mind. With this stability, the practitioner can more easily develop insight into the true nature of phenomena. While there are many Insight meditation techniques, the basic practice involves developing awareness of the the mind and body.
Mindfulness is frequently used as a synonym for Insight/Vipassana meditation and this can be appropriate. However, the term can also refer to a particular Insight meditation technique, especially that taught by Thich Nhat Hanh. This technique may involve labeling of mental phenomena (e.g., "thinking," "wanting," etc.)
Zen refers to a collection of meditation techniques. Of these, most Zen teachers employ one of the following:
- Mantra practice - the silent repetition of a particular phrase.
- Koan practice - introspection into a short, often puzzling story ("the sound of one hand")
- Shikantaza - the practice of "just sitting" and not doing anything special with the mind
- Counting - counting the breath in one of several ways
Zen teachers sometimes say that Insight meditation can too easily become analytical and sterile. Insight meditation teachers sometimes say that Zen meditation fails to illuminate how we produce suffering.
In truth, all these meditation techniques are quite wonderful. And any of them, if practiced with sincerity and constancy, will result in the cessation of suffering. That's the point of Buddhism.