Samatha - Application


Samatha (calm) is considered to be a prerequisite of concentration. In terms of meditative practices samatha refers to techniques which assist in the calming of the mind. One of the principal techniques taught by the Buddha for this purpose is mindfulness of breathing (Pali: anapanasati). This practise is also used in order to concentrate the mind. As such, samatha meditation and concentration meditation are often considered synonymous. The goal is the establishing of mindfulness as used in conjunction with insight (P: vipassanā; S: vipaśyanā) practices, inquiry into the nature of the object, such as those encountered in the dzogchen tradition, resulting in wisdom (P: paññā, S: prajñā). Samatha is commonly practiced as a prelude to and in conjunction with wisdom practices.

Through the meditative development of calm abiding, one is able to suppress the obscuring five hindrances. With the suppression of these hindrances, the meditative development of insight yields liberating wisdom.

In the Theravada tradition there are forty objects of meditation. Mindfulness (sati) of breathing (ānāpāna: ānāpānasati; S. ānāpānasmṛti) is the most common samatha practice. Samatha can include other samādhi practices as well.

Some meditation practices such as contemplation of a kasina object favor the development of samatha, others such as contemplation of the aggregates are conducive to the development of vipassana, while others such as mindfulness of breathing are classically used for developing both mental qualities.

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