This philosophical analysis of Kamalaśīla’s theories on vipaśyanā (insight meditation) explains how vipaśyanā functions on this account and why a practitioner should train in vipaśyanā. Kamalaśīla’s The Process of Meditation depicts vipaśyanā as a form of conceptual observation, where the practitioner learns how to recognize that phenomena have certain properties, such as emptiness.

Wilfred Sellars describes a similar process, where a scientist learns how to recognize an electron in a cloud chamber. This chapter uses Sellars’ explanation of that process as a model for explaining Kamalaśīla’s account of vipaśyanā. Vipaśyanā, on this account, can be explained as a technique for altering the practitioner’s dispositions to deploy particular concepts in observation. These dispositions replace the practitioner’s morally dysfunctional dispositions (kleśa), and this results in the ethical development of the practitioner. The way we observe the world is a crucial object of ethical concern for Buddhists like Kamalaśīla, so their ethical project foregrounds a practice that is intended to transform those observations, namely, vipaśyanā.