Possibly excluded because of a meditation practice?

Since I’m new here I just want to give a brief explanation of my practice, it is relevant to the story. I started meditating, reading suttas and practicing Buddhism as a faith over ten years ago. Discovered through the internet, I mostly followed teachers in the Ajahn Chah tradition. (also why I joined this forum) Since, in my experience, they tend not to use the terms vipassana or samatha for their anapanasati practice, I never learned which is which.

Where I live, there are few Buddhists and it is hard to find a group or teacher. I found a local teacher and group who practice samatha meditation on buddho, and I started this meditation alongside what I was already doing and I found it very helpful on my path.

Because they don’t meet often and my work schedule is very irregular I was looking for another Theravada group to meet some more Buddhists. But when I sent an email enquiry I got the following response: we do vipassana, you do samatha, you might have very different ideas of buddha, dhamma and sangha and if you’re not dedicated to a sangha what does that mean?

So my response was that I do not understand the response, since I only vaguely understand what the big difference could be. In my understanding, these are both Theravada practices, I don’t have a totally different idea of buddha etc. and I don’t understand why I could not learn from both practices. Also in my understanding, the sangha means all of us as monks, nuns, laity etc. And I do try my best to help and donate.

My question is this: are vipassana and samatha meditation practices so incompatible as to warrant this type of exclusion? And following from that: Are you supposed to just have one meditation practice and group?

Edit: added “nuns”


Sounds like a Goenka group, is it? They tend to be very strict about not mixing meditation practices (a problematic attitude, as we’re discussed on here before).


I cannot find Goenka anywhere on their website information, but they mention Mahasi. If I search for that name, I guess I can find that their practice is somewhat related. Thank you so much Bhante for your reply and giving me some peace of mind. And if I understand your implication correctly, having some different practices might not be such a problem.


I see. Yes, Mahasi people can also be… erm… cliquish.

I mean, it is problematic, but I also understand where they’re coming from: they want to meditate with like-minded people who have had the same experience and style of practice as they do.

It’s the same in many Tibetan and Zen groups too, for example, where you have to complete some “preliminary” practices first before you can join their core sessions. It seems to happen whenever a tradition formalizes their practice into a System™️

For all such groups, my advice is to (if you’re interested) find out what their preliminaries / prerequisites are and respect them (whether you do them or not.)

The Buddha himself taught with an open hand, but also it’s not up to us (as outsiders) to demand things from a tradition.

Best of luck in your search! :slight_smile:


Thank you again, Bhante. In this case they did ask for some preliminary work, which I actually was willing to try and that was my first response, and then afterward came this mysterious message from them. So I will be more careful next time.

I grew up in a town that had 27 different churches who all didn’t get along, so I guess this is still a theme in my current life. :smile:


Analayo’s courses have entry conditions:

"This program is intended for experienced practitioners of meditation who wish to deepen their understanding of the canonical Buddhist source material. Participants are expected to commit to all three retreats, which build on each other as one continuous program. In order to register, you will need to have already sat at least two week-long meditation retreats or have already taken a residential or online meditation course with Bhikkhu Anālayo.

"Participation in this program requires a commitment which is similar to in-person retreat practice. In case you do not meet the Path prerequisites, or if it will be difficult to make adequate space in your life for an intensive online retreat, we recommend that you consider taking Bhikkhu Anālayo’s 9-week Satipaṭṭhāna Meditation course, which meets just once per week and is easier to integrate into your work and family life. "

One of the differences in aims between tranquillity and insight practice is the former is limited to within conditioned realms and that has broad ramifications. There are instances where the Buddha referred to tranquillity meditation as "when there was still more to be done, having established Dhanañjanin the brahman in the inferior Brahma world " and “in the case of one who has penetrated to no higher release.” (MN 97, SN 46.54). Jhana meditation teachers include Ajahn Brahm and Leigh Brassington.

Hi paul1 thank you for your response and the information. As far as I understand, aren’t both insight or wisdom, as right view, and concentration factors on the eightfold path? So far my internal reaction to the vipassana / samatha split has been: Can’t we have both? :sweat_smile:

While some modern traditions focus on training in vipassana or Samantha methods of meditation, teachers who come from the Thai Forest tradition and teachers who follow Early Buddhism don’t do so. They see samatha and vipassana, peace and insight, as developing concurrently as we meditate.

You can access teachings from the Buddhist Society of Western Australia at https://bswa.org/

Or Bhante @sujato’s Friday evening sits live at https://lokanta.github.io/, recordings at Monks in Cyberspace – recordings of Dhamma talks at Lokanta Vihara


That’s correct, and a good starting point, but did you understand the accent on insight with quotes and references? The noble eightfold path is composed of two threads which are dynamically opposite, passive and active. Focus is on one or the other at different stages of the practice according to need. The development of insight grows right view, while tranquillity suppresses the emotional hindrances of anger and desire. As stated above insight and the development of right view is the overriding concern, so tranquillity assists insight.

"These two qualities have a share in clear knowing. Which two? Tranquillity (samatha) & insight (vipassana).

"When tranquillity is developed, what purpose does it serve? The mind is developed. And when the mind is developed, what purpose does it serve? Passion is abandoned.

"When insight is developed, what purpose does it serve? Discernment is developed. And when discernment is developed, what purpose does it serve? Ignorance is abandoned.

“Defiled by passion, the mind is not released. Defiled by ignorance, discernment does not develop. Thus from the fading of passion is there awareness-release. From the fading of ignorance is there discernment-release.”—AN 2.30

1 Like

You can access teachings from the Buddhist Society of Western Australia at https://bswa.org/

Thank you so much Gillian. I’m familiar with the BSWA, I think they’re great. I just now learned there is actually a bhikkhuni monastery in the tradition which is not too far away from where I live, I might visit someday.

Thanks again paul1. I’m still not entirely sure how the development of insight should be accented above concentration. And the passages from AN (I think it’s 2.31?) you’re citing seem to possibly indicate they are both equally important.

1 Like

Hi Gillian, a question for you - if all a person “does” is some kind of “do nothing” and “letting go” during a meditation session, how does it fit into the traditional vipassana / samatha discussion? With metta, David.

1 Like

That is a question better answered by V @sujato.

But I don’t see (and for clarity didn’t actually describe) meditation as doing nothing. I do find the advice from some teachers to “Do nothing“ or “Stop!” helpful at the start of a sit. I take them as advice to let go of my worldly concerns so that some mental space can open up. Then it becomes easier to watch the breath, and by watching the breath the mind calms, and both samattha and vipassana can arrive in their own time.



Out of curiosity, did you use samarthan instead of the usual samatha for some specific reason? It kind of works because samarthan can mean support.

Typo! Will correct. :wink:

Thank you for your answer.

1 Like