Samatha and Vipassana Meditation

Samatha and Vipassana Meditation

Meditation in the world can be divided into two main categories. One is Samatha meditation, and the other is Vipassana meditation. These two meditations are different. We will tell you what the difference is, which one is more popular, and why is necessary to know about Vipassana meditation.

What is Samatha Meditation?

Samatha meditation is also known as concentration meditation. In other words, it is a meditation during which one focuses one's attention on a single object. The object varies from meditation to meditation. For example, a candle flame, a piece of paper, a wall, a mantra, an incantation, a sutra, music, or the breath.

By focusing your attention on one point, you should not be bothered by anything else. Like being protected by a shelter, concentration blocks out the outside world. This calms the mind and increases one’s concentration. Deep concentration can lead to inspiration, etc.

What is the difference between Samatha meditation and Vipassana meditation?

Samatha meditation is like a battery by analogy. The battery stores electrical energy inside. However, it is meaningless, unless you put it into a battery-powered appliance and use it. Samatha meditation is not yet ready to use the stored energy. It recharges but does not discharge. Other key words about Samatha meditation are "Don't fight dirt. Do not look at dirt. Hide. Defend.", etc.

In contrast, Vipassana meditation goes all the way to discharge. Batteries are used in electrical appliances, and electrical energy is used to power the appliances. In Vipassana meditation, the accumulated energy can be used to dispel the defilement of the mind.

Other key words about Vipassana meditation are: "Fight the defilements of the mind. See the dirt and erase it. Face the dirt head-on.", etc.

Another major difference is that while Samatha meditation focuses the mind on a single object, Vipassana meditation looks at the action of the change. The object is the inner man: changes in the body, sensations, emotions, memories, thoughts, and understandings. It observes how they are changing in the present moment, as they are.

Vipassana meditation never targets outer things. This is because it is a meditation to cleanse the mind of defilement. Samatha meditation can calm the mind through concentration, but it cannot completely dispel the defilement of the mind. That is the big difference.

Why is Samatha meditation by far the most widespread?

In fact, the worldwide known meditation is Samatha meditation, but just few people practice Vipassana meditation. One of the reasons why Samatha meditation is more widespread is that Samatha meditation can be used to create a wide variety of meditation techniques due to the variety of objects of concentration.

For example, there are many mantras, incantations, sutras, and music that can be created anew. Concentration on an object can also become a new meditation if the object is changed. That’s how the number of meditation methods continues to increase.

Samatha meditation is easy to approach even for beginners because it focuses the mind on a single point. Usually when we concentrate, we focus on some single object.

In a sense, Vipassana meditation is a very difficult meditation because the object of concentration shifts, and one must adjust one's awareness on the shifting objects and concentrate on them. The state of having multiple objects to focus on would normally lead to distraction.

For this reason, the concentration of Vipassana meditation requires deeper concentration than that of Samatha meditation. The mind must be able to shift its attention to the shifting object without losing it. This is the reason why I said earlier that Vipassana meditation uses energy in discharge.

Aren't you tired of concentrating all the time?

This is a question we are often asked. Usually, we are accustomed to focusing on what is on the outside. We are, almost exclusively, focused on such things. For example, if you are a student, you concentrate on your studies. You will concentrate on the words on a piece of paper, such as English, math, social studies, etc. If you are an adult, you will concentrate on your work. Depending on the type of work, you may concentrate on a computer screen or on words written on a document.

All these concentrations are outside of our own bodies. We are concentrating on things in the outside world. This kind of concentration is very tiring. Vipassana meditation, on the other hand, concentrates inwardly. Inside means inside the body. Concentrating inwardly, one does not care about the outside world. Therefore, there is no stress. (There is also Samatha meditation, which concentrates inwardly, such as observing the breath.)
Also, using Vipassana meditation’s concentration, you can see changes, because it is a very smooth concentration, unlike the hard concentration of Samatha meditation. Once you master this smooth Vipassana meditation’s concentration, you will not feel tired. Rather, you will experience a pleasant sensation.

Is Samatha meditation enough?

The main reason why people prefer Samatha meditation to Vipassana meditation is that they want to get some results or inspiration in their work or private life, but not to eliminate their desires. Many people want to calm their minds, but do not want to completely cleanse their minds.

This society is built on greed. This is especially true in capitalist countries. We make good use of greed to develop our economy. It may be difficult to completely deny greed in such a society. However, if you are suffering or troubled, the root cause is greed.

I want to be something, but I can't. I want to do something, but I can't. You want something, but you can't get it. When this happens, people suffer. Suffering may not sound like the right word to describe the situation, but at the very least, it is stressful.

To overcome greed, it is not enough to have a calm mind. It is necessary to be willing to try to fundamentally eliminate greed, i.e., Vipassana meditation. As we incorporate Samatha meditation into our daily life, we should also incorporate Vipassana meditation, as well.