The difference between samatha and vipassana?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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dan1234
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by dan1234 »

Thanks Aloka and lonewolf, helps a great deal.
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Anagarika
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by Anagarika »

Here's a lengthy, though solid, explanation of the Eighth Factor of the Eightfold Path: Jhana:

" But if you look directly at the Pali discourses — the earliest extant sources for our knowledge of the Buddha's teachings — you'll find that although they do use the word samatha to mean tranquillity, and vipassana to mean clear-seeing, they otherwise confirm none of the received wisdom about these terms. Only rarely do they make use of the word vipassana — a sharp contrast to their frequent use of the word jhana. When they depict the Buddha telling his disciples to go meditate, they never quote him as saying "go do vipassana," but always "go do jhana." And they never equate the word vipassana with any mindfulness techniques. In the few instances where they do mention vipassana, they almost always pair it with samatha — not as two alternative methods, but as two qualities of mind that a person may "gain" or "be endowed with," and that should be developed together. One simile, for instance (SN 35.204), compares samatha and vipassana to a swift pair of messengers who enter the citadel of the body via the noble eightfold path and present their accurate report — Unbinding, or nibbana — to the consciousness acting as the citadel's commander. Another passage (AN 10.71) recommends that anyone who wishes to put an end to mental defilement should — in addition to perfecting the principles of moral behavior and cultivating seclusion — be committed to samatha and endowed with vipassana. This last statement is unremarkable in itself, but the same discourse also gives the same advice to anyone who wants to master the jhanas: be committed to samatha and endowed with vipassana. This suggests that, in the eyes of those who assembled the Pali discourses, samatha, jhana, and vipassana were all part of a single path. Samatha and vipassana were used together to master jhana and then — based on jhana — were developed even further to give rise to the end of mental defilement and to bring release from suffering. This is a reading that finds support in other discourses as well." One Tool Among Many The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice
by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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mikenz66
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by mikenz66 »

In Chapter VIII of "In the Buddha's Words", "Mastering the Mind", Bhikkhu Bodhi collects some useful suttas that clarify that process of developing concentration and insight. The Introduction to that chapter is linked there, and is directly here:
Development of the mind, for the Nikāyas, means the development of serenity (samatha) and insight (vipassanā). Text VIII,2(1) says that when serenity is developed, it leads to concentration and the liberation of the mind from such emotional defilements as lust and ill will. When insight is developed, it leads to the higher wisdom of insight into the true nature of phenomena and permanently liberates the mind from ignorance. Thus the two things most needed to master the mind are serenity and insight.

Since concentration is the basis for wisdom, the Nikāyas usually treat the development of serenity as the precursor to the development of insight. However, because the aptitudes of meditators differ, several suttas allow for alternative approaches to this sequence. Text VIII,2(2) speaks of four approaches to mental cultivation:

1. The first approach, the classical one, is to develop serenity first and insight afterward. By “serenity” is meant the jhānas or (according to the Pāli commentaries) a state bordering on the jhānas called “access” or “threshold” concentration (upacārasamādhi).
2. A second approach is to develop insight first and serenity afterward. Since there can be no real insight without concentration, such meditators—presumably people with sharp intellectual faculties— must initially use concentration as the basis for acquiring insight into the true characteristics of phenomena. However, it seems that such concentration, though sufficient for insight, is not strong enough to allow for a breakthrough to the supramundane path. These meditators must therefore return to the task of unifying the mind before resuming the work of insight. Such insight, based on concentration, culminates in the supramundane path.
3. A third approach is to develop serenity and insight in tandem. Meditators who take this approach first attain a particular level of concentration, such as a jhāna or formless attainment, and then employ it as a basis for insight. Having developed insight, they then return to concentration, attain a different jhāna or formless attainment, and use that as a basis for insight. Thus they proceed until they reach the supramundane path.
4. The description of the fourth approach is somewhat obscure. The sutta says that “a monk’s mind is seized by agitation about the teachings,” and then, some time later, he gains concentration and attains the supramundane path. This statement suggests a person initially driven by such intense desire to understand the Dhamma that he or she cannot focus clearly upon any meditation object. Later, with the aid of certain supporting conditions, this person manages to subdue the mind, gain concentration, and attain the supramundane path.

Text VIII,2(3) again confirms that both serenity and insight are necessary, and also indicates the skills needed for their respective practice. The cultivation of serenity requires skill in steadying, composing, unifying, and concentrating the mind. The cultivation of insight requires skill in observing, investigating, and discerning conditioned phenomena, spoken of as “formations” (saṅkhārā). In line with the preceding text, this sutta confirms that some meditators begin by developing internal serenity of mind, others by developing the higher wisdom of insight into phenomena, others by developing both in tandem. But while meditators may start off differently, eventually they must all strike a healthy balance between serenity and insight. The exact point of balance between the two will differ from one person to another, but when a meditator achieves the appropriate balance, serenity and insight join forces to issue in the knowledge and vision of the Four Noble Truths. This knowledge and vision—the world-transcending wisdom—occurs in four distinct “installments,” the four stages of realization which, in sequence, permanently destroy ignorance along with the affiliated defilements. Text VIII,2(2) subsumes these defilements under the expression “the fetters and underlying tendencies.”
It is clear from the variety in the suttas that there is no one "right approach". There are a variety of ways and sequences to develop the concentration and insight needed for liberation.

:anjali:
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dan1234
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by dan1234 »

Thanks for both these replies, Mike and Anagarika.
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Vanda
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by Vanda »

1.
SAMATHA AND VIPASSANA ARE ONE

"When we say "samatha-vipassana for the nuclear age," we ought to realize the significance of joining the words samatha (tranquility) and vipassana (insight) together. Samatha-vipassana is one thing, not two separate things. If they were two things, we would have to do two things and that would be too slow. When tranquility and insight are united as one thing, there is only a single thing to do. Both samatha and vipassana are developed at one and the same time."

From: http://www.buddhadasa.com/naturaltruth/samatha1.html (Bhikku Buddhadasa)

2.
"Q: You have said that samatha and vipassanā… are the same. Could you explain this further?

A: … It's like this. Once you were a child. Now you are an adult. Are the child and the adult the same person? You can say that they are, or looking at it another way, you can say that they are different. In this way samatha and vipassanā could also be looked at as separate. Or it is like food and feces. Food and feces could be called the same and they can be called different. … These days many people cling to the words. ... All this is silly. Don't bother to think about it in this way. …"

From: http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Questions_Answers1.php (Ajahn Chah)

3.
"The commentaries and sub-commentaries have divided "concentration" [samatha] and "vipassana" into different forms of meditation. This kind of "separation" does not appear in the suttas. Although it is mentioned in the Anggutara Nikaya that the first part of the practice is samatha and the second part is vidassana (developing wisdom), it is not saying that they are two different types of practices or meditations. The practice is the same! …

When one starts to differentiate and categorize meditation practices, the situation becomes very confusing. This is also evident in the popular commentaries like the Visuddhi Magga and its sub-commentaries. One begins to see inconsistencies when they make a comparison with the suttas."

From: http://www.budsas.org/ebud/anpnst-vim/part1.htm (Bhikku Vimalaramsi)

4.
"Not all modern meditation traditions accept this dichotomy of samatha and vipassanā. For example, the teachers of the Thai forest tradition often emphasize the complementariness, rather than the division, of samatha and vipassanā."

From: http://santifm.org/santipada/wp-content ... ujato.html (Bhikku Sujato)

5.
"In the Pāli canon, the Buddha never mentions independent samatha and vipassana meditation practices; instead, samatha and vipassana are two "qualities of mind" to be developed through meditation. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu writes,

"When [the Pāli suttas] depict the Buddha telling his disciples to go meditate, they never quote him as saying 'go do vipassana,' but always 'go do jhana.' And they never equate the word "vipassana" with any mindfulness techniques. In the few instances where they do mention vipassana, they almost always pair it with samatha — not as two alternative methods, but as two qualities of mind that a person may 'gain' or 'be endowed with,' and that should be developed together." [12] -One Tool Among Many, Thanissaro, 1997

Similarly, referencing MN 151, vv. 13-19, and AN IV, 125-27, Ajahn Brahm (who, like Bhikkhu Thanissaro, is of the Thai Forest Tradition) writes that:

"Some traditions speak of two types of meditation, insight meditation (vipassana) and calm meditation (samatha). In fact the two are indivisible facets of the same process. Calm is the peaceful happiness born of meditation; insight is the clear understanding born of the same meditation. Calm leads to insight and insight leads to calm."[13] - Brahm (2006). Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond. Wisdom Publications, Inc. p. 25. ISBN 0-86171-275-7."

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samatha
Sources quoted:
- Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond. Wisdom Publications (Ajahn Brahm)
- One Tool Among Many, 1997. accesstoinsight.org (Thanissaro Bhikkhu)
“Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness’ — then you should enter and remain in them.”
- Kalama Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya
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tiltbillings
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by tiltbillings »

Vanda wrote: . . .
And your point is?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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Vanda
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by Vanda »

The question was ~ What’s “the difference between samatha and vipassana?”

So my point and answer is: they are the same. Additionally, there is one practice. When the Buddha nourished himself with rice-milk and decided to sit he didn’t jump around every few hours to sit under different trees to practice different types of "meditation" techniques.
“Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness’ — then you should enter and remain in them.”
- Kalama Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya
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tiltbillings
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by tiltbillings »

Vanda wrote:The question was ~ What’s “the difference between samatha and vipassana?”

So my point and answer is: they are the same. Additionally, there is one practice. When the Buddha nourished himself with rice-milk and decided to sit he didn’t jump around every few hours to sit under different trees to practice different types of "meditation" techniques.
So, what meditation "technique" did he clearly, without question teach?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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Vanda
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by Vanda »

No technique or device, no embellished vedic practices. No elaborate mandalas were carved out. No mantras were chanted to drone out the world around him. According to the suttas he thought back to his time under the rose-apple tree. Samma sati, laid out in the Eight-fold path as taught by the Buddha in the Suttas. Satipatthana.

He also taught anapanasati as an anchor, and as a way that is helpful in leading to the perfection of satipatthana.

Do you not read what the Buddha taught? Do you not read the suttas? This is the Theravada section of the forum.
“Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness’ — then you should enter and remain in them.”
- Kalama Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya
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tiltbillings
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by tiltbillings »

Vanda wrote:No technique or device, no embellished vedic practices. No elaborate mandalas were carved out. No mantras were chanted to drone out the world around him. According to the suttas he thought back to his time under the rose-apple tree. Samma sati, laid out in the Eight-fold path as taught by the Buddha in the Suttas. Satipatthana.

He also taught anapanasati as an anchor, and as a way that is helpful in leading to the perfection of satipatthana.

Do you not read what the Buddha taught? Do you not read the suttas? This is the Theravada section of the forum.
"[N]o embellished vedic practices?" Who teaches "embellished vedic practices?" Satipaṭṭhānā? And just exactly how does one actually practice that? And ānāpāna-sati, do you control/manipulate the breathing?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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Vanda
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by Vanda »

Over time some ideas were influenced by brahmanism, that is just the reality when religion and culture within close proximity of each other coexist for centuries. Superstition also plays a part, as well as native religious beliefs. In Tibet for example, reincarnation is accepted. Mantras are another example.

In the Anapanasati sutta nowhere does it mention to alter, control, or manipulate the breath, but only to be aware of it, to understand what it is doing at that present moment.

If you wish to learn satipatthana, there are some great suttas that can instruct you. The Maha Satipatthana sutta and the Satipatthana sutta are two great places to start. These will help if you have a desire to learn how to establish mindfulness.
“Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness’ — then you should enter and remain in them.”
- Kalama Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya
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Vanda
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by Vanda »

Just to clarify. I do not wish to negate or be disparaging of other practices in any way. I only wish to state what is in the suttas, the discourses of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama), and give the point of view as seen and practiced by many of those in the Thai Forest Tradition as well as those who practice shikantaza.
“Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness’ — then you should enter and remain in them.”
- Kalama Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by daverupa »

Back in Iron Age Magadha before the Buddha took to the streets, everyone was doing all sorts of samatha. The prime example are the jhanas and the formless attainments - all the wanderers were already doing these sorts of things, many people were well-versed in their variety, some were being invented/discovered, and so forth.

Then of course, you had different explanations from wanderers about what was going on in the world & how their livelihoods and attainments functioned in that world. Let's call these different explanations "paradigms".

So vipassana is the pursuit of an experiential understanding of a given paradigm, usually preceded by a cognitive understanding. This can be pursued first or second, just as the jhanas can be pursued first or second, given the proper foundations in each case (suitable environment and so on).

---

So Buddhist vipassana is the practice of the Dhamma, but there is no "Buddhist samatha", there is only a Buddhist way of doing samatha. In other words, samma-samadhi integrates samatha with right view, which is another way of saying that samma-samadhi yokes jhana and Buddhist vipassana together.

The fourth tetrad of the satipatthana instructions are exactly this, in fact.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The difference between samatha and vipassana?

Post by simsapa »

From AN 4:94:
'How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated?'
What are the precise definitions of "steadied", "made to settle down", "unified", and "concentrated"? How does one know these states have been achieved?
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