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Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question - Dhamma Wheel

Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
DorjePhurba
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Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby DorjePhurba » Wed Feb 10, 2010 9:10 pm

As the subject says, I'm having trouble deciding whether to focus on shamatha or vipassana. I've read a lot lately on jhana, but I'm still confused as to whether it's necessary or not for awakening. I can't seem to get a straight answer on whether vipassana can be done while in a state of jhana. Some say yes some say no. So I don't know whether to leave jhana alone and do dry insight meditation or to go down the path of cultivating the jhanas. Could anyone offer any advice because I'm not sure how to make a good decision here?

With metta,
Chris

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RayfieldNeel
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby RayfieldNeel » Wed Feb 10, 2010 9:20 pm

My understanding is that samatha "sharpens the tool", exercises your concentration so that it will be strong enough for you to make good progress with vipassana. I have seen it recommended that you try to attain 1st Jhana prior to attempting much with vipassana...but this doesn't seem to be mandatory.

Do you feel that you have access concentration? (Can stay focused on your object of meditation pretty well for long'ish periods of time) If so, and you're interested in insight, you are probably on safe ground to go ahead with that meditation.

I know very little/nothing about attempting insight on the samatha jhana's themselves.

Good luck. I'm on a very similar path, and in a similar place. :)


edit: Disclaimer: I'm not a meditation teacher...for "real" answers you should probably seek one out.

Kenshou
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Kenshou » Wed Feb 10, 2010 9:25 pm

Though I'm not nearly as learnéd as some of our members here, I'll offer my perspective.

From what I've gathered, samma-samadhi is generally defined in the suttas as the 4 rupa-jhanas, sometimes with the 4 aruppa jhanas included as well. "And what, monks, is right concentration? Herein, secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a monk enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by initial and sustained application of mind and filled with rapture and happiness born of seclusion..... (and the other 3)" This passage occurs many, many times. Reading through the suttas and seeing how many times jhana and right concentration as jhana is mentioned, I find it hard to believe that jhana was/is not meant to be a vital aspect of the path.

The problem with the contemporary split between samatha and vipassana practices stems from the issue of the commentarial/abhidhammic jhana, which requires a depth of absorption that few can reach, though this definition is accepted in mainstream Theravada. Because of jhana being put on a pedestal above the reach of most, it makes sense that an alternative had to be developed.

But the suttic/earlier jhana most likely is not a state of complete absorption, completely secluded from the senses and thrown into a trance. It's a practical method of calming and sharpening the mind in order to utilize it for the gaining of insight, as well as helping to wean the mind off of sensual pleasures and help dull the emotional aspect of dukkha, and with this calm clear mind, work on the wisdom that will get rid of the root causes of dukkha as well, which can be done while in the jhana (Look at the Anupada Sutta for an example of Sariputta doing just that). In other words, samatha and vipassana can be practiced in tandem, no need for the split.

If you haven't read it, there is a particular article by a member of websangha that covers this subject really well, highly recommended. http://www.forum.websangha.org/viewtopi ... &sk=t&sd=a

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RayfieldNeel
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby RayfieldNeel » Wed Feb 10, 2010 9:32 pm

Wow, great response, Kenshou. That actually clarifies some things for me as well.

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baratgab
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby baratgab » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:06 pm

Last edited by baratgab on Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Just as in the great ocean there is but one taste — the taste of salt — so in this Doctrine and Discipline there is but one taste — the taste of freedom"

Kenshou
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Kenshou » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:21 pm

The one bit of bharatgab's post that to the OP I would point out, is that if you decide to start working on the jhanas, to not make Ajahn Brahm your only source. He ascribes to the extreme end of the spectrum opposite that of the pure-vipassana-wallas, advocating extremely deep trance-like jhanas akin to those of the visuddhimagga. He was the first information source I ran into about samatha meditation, and in all honesty his methods confused me more than they helped. He's a good teacher worth listening to, but as for Brahm and jhana, I would look elsewhere. Or rather and more importantly, always compare and contrast all information you get with your own experience and don't get too hung up about it you aren't experiencing what one teacher says you ought to be.
Last edited by Kenshou on Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

seanpdx
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby seanpdx » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:25 pm


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baratgab
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby baratgab » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:35 pm

"Just as in the great ocean there is but one taste — the taste of salt — so in this Doctrine and Discipline there is but one taste — the taste of freedom"

seanpdx
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby seanpdx » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:43 pm


Kenshou
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Kenshou » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:06 pm

Last edited by Kenshou on Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

seanpdx
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby seanpdx » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:09 pm


Kenshou
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Kenshou » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:17 pm


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Cittasanto
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:44 pm



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Dan74
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Dan74 » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:56 pm

I recall Ajahn Chah likening shamatha and vipassana to two wings of a bird. Without either of the wings, the bird won't fly, without developing both the meditation will not take off. Both need to be developed at the same time, from what I understood.

Maybe someone has the actual text?

_/|\_
_/|\_

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bodom
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby bodom » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:02 am

To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With mindfulness immersed in the body
well established, restrained
with regard to the six media of contact,
always centered, the monk
can know Unbinding for himself.

- Ud 3.5


https://www.dhammatalks.org/index.html
http://www.ajahnchah.org/

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retrofuturist
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:03 am

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

meindzai
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby meindzai » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:58 am

I agree with Retro. Personally I think there is a bit too much made of vipassana vs. samatha as a style of meditation. They are qualities of mind, not methods. Some techniques will emphasise one aspect more than the other - so vipassana methods are ok, but I think insight comes out of a mind that is settled, and a mind that is settled comes from sila. (And I believe that the best way to practice sila is to "sit down and shut up" but that's my opinion).

-M

seanpdx
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby seanpdx » Thu Feb 11, 2010 8:25 am

Yeah, what retro and meindzai said... =)

PeterB
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby PeterB » Thu Feb 11, 2010 9:16 am


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tiltbillings
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 11, 2010 9:19 am



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