Vipassana Samadhi confusion

I’m not taking a side or even for sure it’s a debate. But some how I got the idea that there are two camps when it comes to formal or meditation proper. Literal sitting with eyes closed… Vipassana or insight meditation and Samadhi or concentration meditation with the former being based off the Satipattana sutta and the latter on the Anapanasati sutta So I always go with consentration leads to insight and the Buddha taught both. How far off am I? Probably far and I won’t be offended when corrected, thanx guys

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I found this book by Bhante Sujato very helpful understanding the role of Vipassana and Samatha. (Link is to PDF.)
A Swift Pair of Messengers


Did you mean vipassanā & samatha, rather than vipassanā & samādhi?

Vipassanā samādhi is a whole different multiverse of confusion. See A Swift Pair of Messengers, p. 21.


The term, vipassana ‘insight’, is a noun form. It combines two elements, vi and the verbal form, passati ‘see’, in the sense that ‘seeing completely and perfectly’, on ‘things (phenomena) as they really are’ (yathabhūtaṃ), essentially for the cessation of dukkha. For the practical meaning of vipassana, one needs to look at the verbal form, passati, in the suttas (particularly in SN/SA suttas).
The term passati is also always come together with another verb, jānāti ‘know’.

Regarding seeing and knowing ‘things as they really are’, there are in the SN/SA suttas altogether ‘seven’ things that one has to know (pp. 34, 36), and ‘two formulations’ that one has to see (pp. 53-4) for ending of dukkha; e.g.:
Pages 34-6 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (187.5 KB)
Pages 52-4 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000-3.pdf (226.0 KB)

So, samatha ‘calm’ (for samādhi ‘concentration’) and vipassanā ‘insight’ (for paññā ‘wisdom’) are not the same practice.

Is samatha mean tranquility?

Yes. It is a result of samadhi rather than samadhi itself. MN 149 says:

When the noble eightfold path is developed…
Tassa evaṁ imaṁ ariyaṁ aṭṭhaṅgikaṁ maggaṁ bhāvayato…

And these two qualities proceed in conjunction:
Tassime dve dhammā yuganandhā vattanti—

serenity (tranquility) and discernment (insight).
samatho ca vipassanā ca.

MN 149

The above is a common interpretation, it seems particularly by the Burmese. The problem with the above theory is the literal instruction in the Satipatthana Sutta may possibly be not so easy to practice with clarity. It seems its not so easy to have clear insight (vipassana) without concentration (stillness; clarity; non-distraction).

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Okay folks I’m a complete idiot. I’ve been practicing for 2 years and have been calling samatha meditation samadhi meditation. No wonder I was confused. Always grateful for my friends in the Dhamma at sutta central to straighten me out. So in a nut shell is there m? and what is the debate. Let’s take Thanissaro for instance because he is whom I am used to. He teaches body contemplation through meditation, so would that be Samatha par active or am I still way off. Again thanx guys


Well… in my opinion… if the body contemplation is too busy it may not result in samatha (tranquility). Personally, I have little experience in various body scanning practices as taught by Thanissaro or Goenka.

AN 2.31 is a nice explanation of how samatha and vipassana work together.

Samatha ‘calm’ is the training of mind, emphasizing ‘right concentration’ (samma samadhi), whereas vipassana ‘insight’ is the training of wisdom, emphasizing ‘right view’ (samma ditthi). By practicing samatha one attains the meditative state of samadhi; by practicing vipassana one attains insight or panna (p. 45):
Pages 44-5 from Notion of Emptiness in Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat.pdf (1.1 MB)

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Is this available as a .MOBI or .EPUB? A google search wasn’t helpful.

Bhante’s books are on Internet Archive and from there you can choose a whole range of options including .MOBI and .EPUB:

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Though note that samatha and vipassana are qualities, not methods.

Thank you, Danny; much appreciated.

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I think the method of practicing samatha is mainly anapana-sati and sati-patthana; and the method of practicing vipassana is passati, samma-passa, samma-ditthi.

People confuse the Vipassana and Samatha mediation techniques with the states that these terms express. To understand, in practice, what these terms mean you have to abandon the idea that insight is only obtained via the vipassana technique, or the peacefulness is only obtain through a samatha technique.

Vipassana happens when the meditator investigates the meditation object as being impermanent, suffering or not-self. To do this with any penetration, peacefulness is required and this is achieved as the investigation becomes one-pointed. Eventually, for the experienced practitioner, the mind will need a rest from this investigation and will, by itself, withdraw from the mediation subject and become still/calm/tranquil. This is where the meditation object is the heart itself. This is samadhi.

Samatha not only includes the states referred to above but also the states of Jhana. The difference between Jhana and the Samadhi states above is that Jhana tends to be obtained by simply gazing (in the mind) at the meditation object i.e., no investigation.

In reality, the meditator can flip between these states, often without thinking. This makes a bit of a mockery of any notion that one has to practise a vipassana “technique” if one wants to gain insight. If you view any of the meditation subjects, such as the elements, or the breath, or loathsomeness of the body, as impermanent, suffering or not-self, you are practising vipassana.

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Samma-samadhi is the four jhanas.

The meditator that experiences both of these samatha states will notice a difference between the calm that is the mind withdrawing from investigation and the calm that is Jhana. The mind that is still after investigating is untroubled by any anything. Jhana on the other hand, can have have a range of experiences. Both states are calm. Both states are withdrawn from the outside world. They are very similar, but not identical.

I should also say that Jhana is only included in Samma-samadhi when it is accompanied by Samma-ditthi. Jhana is not unique to Buddhism. When used without Samma-ditthi, it is not Samma-samadhi. The samadhi states that I referred to are Samma-samadhi because they are always associated with the investigation of the 4 Noble Truths.

There is still a shorter text to the topic by Ajahn Brahmali:

:heart: :smiley:

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