Mahasi Sayadaw (1904-1982)


  • Influential Burmese Theravada monk in vipassana style.
  • Notable Western students: Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein.
  • Some publications:
    • Practical Vipasana Exercises: mahasi (pdf)
    • Satipatthana Vipassana Meditation: Satipatthana_Vipassana (pdf)
    • The Progress of Insight can be found here. It outlines experiences meditators could be expected to have along the way — something the first wave of vipassana practitioners (read: notable Western students above) chose to leave out of their version of vipassana to the West, out of concern people would become fixated on their levels of progress, and engage in endless comparison.
  • Piece at Buddhist Geeks: The Practical Dharma of Mahasi Sayadaw. which highlights one of the gulfs between Western and Eastern Vipassana practice, approach, outlook.


I could quote Willoughby Britton all day, because she’s a fresh voice in a sea of hype. I think there’s fairly strong support for benefits in practicing meditation — but this lecture given at the 2012 Buddhist Geeks Conference, presents some very down-to-earth insight. The inteview is so pithy and remarkable — if you like the excerpt I strongly suggest you check out the whole thing. Here’s some of her speech:

And they say as a whole firm conclusions on the effects of meditation practices in health care cannot be drawn based on the available evidence. Basically, there’s no effect in meditation. The central problem: confusion over what constitutes meditation.  So how can this be the case? I think for a lot of people we think that there’s so much proof that science is proving that meditation works and all these things. That’s way over hyped compared to the actual reality of the situation.

So how could this have happened. And I think that it’s not all our fault as scientists. I think there’s a deeper cultural phenomenon going on which I’m going to try to illustrate with what I call the Blobology effect. The Blobology effect very simply said is that when you show people….when people see colorful blobs on a brain scan, they can be convinced of anything. They can be convinced of anything even if what you’re saying makes no sense or if it’s absolutly preposterous. And even further people will believe brain scans over their own experience.

If you do check it out, you might as well check out the Buddhist Geeks website, it’s a treasure trove.