Author Topic: Samatha vs Vipassana?  (Read 568 times)

Offline Estelwen

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Samatha vs Vipassana?
« on: October 25, 2016, 05:31:02 am »
I'm new to Buddhism and I'm trying to decide on a meditation practice to develop. I've tried both, when I do samatha I feel very calm and peaceful, and centered. Whilst when I do vipassana a lot of fear arises for me and I feel like I'm sort of drifting in the current of my own nightmares, but at the same time it doesn't really 'affect' me. Fear is really the reason I want to meditate, I have anxiety disorder and I'm tired of the anxiety controlling me. I want to be able to either calm it, or realise it's not 'real' through detached witnessing and so let it dissolve.

I'm wondering based on my circumstances which you lovely people out there would recommend for me? My goal really is to be rid of anxiety, at the same time to experience a unifying of my consciousness or just feel innately whole.

I've read sometimes you develop Samatha first and then go onto Vipassana. Can the two be practiced side by side?

Or would it be better I stick to one at first? And which one would that be for me?

Thank you all!

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Samatha vs Vipassana?
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2016, 12:13:59 pm »
Hi, Estelwen.

When responding to questions from new meditators, my standard suggestion is to focus simply upon  learning how our mind works.  No pressure or angst required.  Don't try to control the mind, but just observe it and what goes on naturally within.  Stay in the present by observing the breath.  As you observe thoughts, feelings, emotions, and memories arise, simply relax and smile to acknowledge them as you would nod to someone walking into a room which you occupy.

Keep it simple, friendly, and in the present.

As for fears, anxieties, and other uncomfortable feelings:  accept these as just mental factors:  thoughts, memories, ideas and etc.  Let them arise, dwell and pass away as if they were clouds passing overhead.  Be at peace and enjoy the view.

 :hug:
« Last Edit: October 26, 2016, 07:32:56 am by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Samatha vs Vipassana?
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2016, 09:43:39 am »
Traditionally the practice is like a three-legged stood with Sila (behavior), Samatha (samadhi or concentration) and Vipassana (prajna or insight) being the three legs. It's said that without one of the legs the stool falls over. The three are also traditionally practiced in that order, but they tend to overlap so that all three end up being practiced together as well. These days in the West Sila is often skipped over, with bad consequences.

In actual practice I would go with what works, which in your case it sounds like the calming practices of samatha.

Zen tends to emphasize samadhi or samatha, which, in my experience, does lead naturally to insight or prajna (wisdom). I think that practices that try to skip right to vipassana or insight, end up being superficial and intellectual.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline pinit29

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Re: Samatha vs Vipassana?
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2016, 08:02:31 am »
From my understanding, it is normal that when you do samatha or vipassana, your fears sometimes arise.  This happens because you are not focused enough.  When you are lack of concentration, your mind will try to free itself from samatha or vipassana.  When that happens, what you can do is to observe it.  Face it, watch it, observe it, don't try to avoid it.  And when your mind realizes that it is being observed, it will stop creating imagination thought.  That's when it is a good time to pull your mind back to samatha or vipassana.

Some says you cannot do vipassana without samatha.  So, many will start with samatha first, then vipassana later.  However, you can actually do both side by side.  I want to explain how to do it but my english skills is limited.  Hopefully, you will find some help on this matter.

Offline lucidity

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Re: Samatha vs Vipassana?
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2016, 06:53:27 am »
Traditionally the practice is like a three-legged stood with Sila (behavior), Samatha (samadhi or concentration) and Vipassana (prajna or insight) being the three legs. It's said that without one of the legs the stool falls over. The three are also traditionally practiced in that order, but they tend to overlap so that all three end up being practiced together as well. These days in the West Sila is often skipped over, with bad consequences.

In actual practice I would go with what works, which in your case it sounds like the calming practices of samatha.

Zen tends to emphasize samadhi or samatha, which, in my experience, does lead naturally to insight or prajna (wisdom). I think that practices that try to skip right to vipassana or insight, end up being superficial and intellectual.

Hi zafrogzen,

I had never heard of this 3 legged stool analogy.. but i like it :-)
And as you suggest, I didn't know about 'Sila'.. and so naturally i have not given it any attention.

I'm guessing that Sila basically says things like: 
 -> don't disrespect people,
 -> dont fight,
 -> dont steal,
etc... common sense 'good behaviour'  (but i'm guessing).   
Is there anything in Sila that suggests how often and for how long we are to meditate ?

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Samatha vs Vipassana?
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2016, 01:02:28 pm »
Hi Lucidity,

That you've never heard of Sila is indicative of how we've neglected that aspect of training.

Sila is disciplined behavior based on the various rules and precepts that different sects adhere to. How long one ought to meditate could possibly fall into that category but I think Sila applies more to morality and ethics -- or "virtue" as they say in Theravada.

In zen it's been said that one must first train until good or "right" behavior becomes automatic, so when a later stage is reached where there is no "ultimate" good or evil, one will already be established in non-destructive behavior so as to avoid bad consequences. Even further along the path one realizes the interconnectedness of all beings, not just in theory but as experiential reality. At that point the "golden rule" kicks in and one becomes naturally compassionate and moral -- so that rules and precepts become easier to follow.

I'm sorry I don't have time to look up sources for the above, but I think right behavior runs throughout Buddhist writing.

In a famous dialogue a governor asked the "Birds Nest Monk" (who lived in a tree), what the essence of Buddhism was.

The Master replied, "Just do good and avoid evil."

The Governor said, "Even a three year old could say that!"

"Yes," the master said, "but even an 80 year old man can't carry it out."

I think that "Just do good and avoid evil," is an echo of what the Buddha said in one of Suttas.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline lucidity

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Re: Samatha vs Vipassana?
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2016, 03:59:31 pm »
hey zafrogzen,

I enjoyed reading 'Crazy Wisdom' on your website.
Good story, well written.  Do it more :)

You are absolutely right... fasting _is_ supremely good for you.
It's the only intervention that reverses the otherwise steady
progression of diabetes... specifically, the only thing that's been
shown to lower a person's basal insulin level is fasting.

best wishes :)

 


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