What exactly is the relationship between samatha and samādhi? EBT sources?

Putting aside for the time being all the references to samatha paired with vipassana, I’d like to know exactly what the relationship between samatha and samādhi is.

Reading Ven. J’s bio of Ajahn Chah, he notes that Ajahn Chah used samatha and samādhi interchangeably (and he also used vipassana and pañña interchangeably).

CPED and PTS have:

samatha: calm; quietude of heart; settlement of legal questions. (m.)

Samatha [fr. śam, cp. BSk. śamatha] 1. calm, quietude of heart M i.33; A i.61, 95; ii.140; iii.86 sq. (ceto˚) 116 sq., 449; iv.360; v.99; D iii.54, 213, 273; DhA ii.177; S iv.362; Dhs 11, 15, 54; cessation of the Sankhāras S i.136; iii.133; A i.133; Sn 732; Vin i.5. <-> 2. settlement of legal questions (adhikaraṇa) Vin ii.93 iv.207; cp. DhsA 144; s. paṭivijjhati Pts i.180.

– yānika who makes quietude his vehicle, devoted to quietude, a kind of Arahant; cp. Geiger, Saŋyutta trsln ii.172. – vipassanā introspection (“auto – hypnosis” Cpd. 202) for promoting calm [cp. śamatha – vipaśyanā Divy 95] S v.52; A ii.157; DhA iv.140; also separately “calm & intuition,” e. g. M i.494.

But from reading the EBT, I have the impression those are not synonyms.

from SN 46.2

(6. Samādhi)

Ko ca, bhikkhave,
“{And} what, monks, [is the]
āhāro an-uppannassa vā
nutriment (for) un-arisen
samādhi-sam-bojjh-aṅgassa uppādāya,
concentration-awakening-factor's arising,
uppannassa vā samādhi-sam-bojjh-aṅgassa
(and) arisen concentration-awakening-factor's
bhāvanāya pāripūriyā?
development (and) fulfillment?
Atthi, bhikkhave,
There-is, monks,
Tattha yoniso-manasi-kāra-bahulī-kāro–
(To) that-there, wise-mental-production-frequently-done,
ayam-āhāro an-uppannassa vā
is-the-nutriment (for) un-arisen
samādhi-sam-bojjh-aṅgassa uppādāya,
concentration-awakening-factor's arising,
uppannassa vā samādhi-sam-bojjh-aṅgassa
(and) arisen concentration-awakening-factor's
bhāvanāya pāripūriyā.
development (and) fulfillment.

AN 5.73

in AN 5.73, if we take the command to “do jhana” as a proxy for samādhi, all 5 cases uses samatha in this way:

(5. Dhamma-dweller: has samatha, memorized dhamma but not too much V&V)

5. ♦ “idha, bhikkhu, bhikkhu dhammaṃ pariyāpuṇāti — suttaṃ, geyyaṃ, veyyākaraṇaṃ, gāthaṃ, udānaṃ, itivuttakaṃ, jātakaṃ, abbhutadhammaṃ, vedallaṃ. so tāya dhammapariyattiyā na divasaṃ atināmeti, nāpi riñcati paṭisallānaṃ,
5. “Then there is the case where a monk studies the Dhamma: dialogues, narratives of mixed prose and verse, explanations, verses, spontaneous exclamations, quotations, birth stories, amazing events, question & answer sessions. He doesn’t spend the day in Dhamma-study. He doesn’t neglect seclusion.
anuyuñjati ajjhattaṃ cetosamathaṃ.
He commits himself to internal tranquility of awareness.
evaṃ kho, bhikkhu, bhikkhu dhammavihārī hoti.
This is called a monk who dwells in the Dhamma.

(conclusion: do jhāna!)

♦ “iti kho, bhikkhu, desito mayā pariyattibahulo, desito paññattibahulo, desito sajjhāyabahulo, desito vitakkabahulo, desito dhammavihārī.
“Now, monk, I have taught you the person who is keen on study, the one who is keen on description, the one who is keen on recitation, the one who is keen on thinking, and the one who dwells in the Dhamma.
yaṃ kho, bhikkhu VAR, satthārā karaṇīyaṃ sāvakānaṃ hitesinā anukampakena anukampaṃ upādāya, kataṃ vo taṃ mayā.
Whatever a teacher should do—seeking the welfare of his disciples, out of sympathy for them—that have I done for you.
etāni, bhikkhu, rukkhamūlāni,
Over there are the roots of trees;
etāni suññāgārāni.
over there, empty dwellings.
jhāyatha, bhikkhu, mā pamādattha,
Practice jhāna, monk. Don’t be heedless.
mā pacchā vippaṭisārino ahuvattha.
Don’t later fall into regret.
ayaṃ vo amhākaṃ anusāsanī”ti.
This is our message to you.”

other EBT references that might illuminate exact relationship between samatha and samādhi?

add references to this discussion thread, I'll summarize results.

I struggle with this a bit myself. In some dhamma talks I’ve heard, Samadhi is explained as Jhanas and separate from mindfulness. I other instances, it’s used to refer to the 7th and 8th factors collectively.

Perhaps, including passaddhi in this inquiry could help even more to clarify the relationship of these terms.


Imo, from my readings, samatha is a component leading to samādhi. Just as sati/mindfulness/satipaṭṭhāna is another component leading to samādhi. Samādhi is a refined state where the precipitating components are magnified — supreme stillness/calmness/serenity/samatha, sharp/penetrating sati.

I also disagree with your other post equivocating satipaṭṭhāna=jhāna. Instead, it seems satipaṭṭhāna is a major component leading to samādhi. Sammā sati immediately precedes sammā samādhi in the ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo, that alone should be enough to refute their equivalence.

Similarly, even though vipassana is used rarely it seems to be a practice leading to a resultant wisdom/paññā.


शमथ śamatha OR समता samatā

शमथ śamatha [śama-tha]
No pre-Buddhist reference.
शम śama [act. śam]
√ शम् śam

  • to toil at , fatigue or exert one’s self (esp. in performing ritual acts) RV. TBr.
  • to become tired , finish , stop , come to an end , rest , be quiet or calm or satisfied or contented TS. ŚBr.
  • to cease , be allayed or extinguished MBh.

॰थ -tha forms substantives & adjectives (ordinal).


समता samatā [ samá-tā ]

  • equality , sameness , identity with (instr. gen. , or comp.) ŚBr. MBh.
  • equableness , normal condition MBh.

सम sama [ samá ]

  • even , smooth , flat , plain , level , parallel RV.
  • always the same , constant , unchanged RV.
  • right measure or proportion ŚBr
  • equability , equanimity , imperturbability MBh.

॰ता -tā forms suffixes of state or quality.

iv. The denourishment of the enlightenment factors at SuttaCentral
SN 46.51 has a parallel in the Thaisho.

First tranqulity of citta through tranquillity of body and tranquillity of mind
(kāyappassaddhi - cittappassaddhi) .
THEN concentration ( samadhi), through the sign of (serenity ?) constancy/equableness, and the sign of nondispersal ( samathanimittaṃ -

Personally, I find constancy closer to nondispersal than “serenity” - my humble take ! (śamatha being late stuff).


Hmm, to my mind, “constancy” doesn’t have much meaning beyond something being constant. Calm/serenity/stilling are much more meaningful in context, imo.

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I’m having trouble figuring out what english word you’re associating with which pali word in that sentence.
samatha is often translated as “serenity”.
So samatha-nimitta (serenity-sign).

b.bodhi uses “nondispersal” for A-by-agga,

I have:


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For me at least, I don’t have any doubt what passaddhi is, and what its role in supporting samadhi. And we know there’s a causal sequence from #5 passadhi-sambojjhanga to #6 samadhi-sambojjhanga. Perhaps samatha can be seen as overlapping in duties with the completion of “passadhi”, if we understand samatha as “stillnesss”, that would be an advanced form of “tranquility”.

From the same sutta SN 46.2:

(5. Passaddhi)

Ko ca, bhikkhave,
“{And} what, monks, [is the]
āhāro an-uppannassa vā
nutriment (for) un-arisen
passaddhi-sam-bojjh-aṅgassa uppādāya,
tranquility-awakening-factor's arising,
uppannassa vā passaddhi-sam-bojjh-aṅgassa
(and) arisen tranquility-awakening-factor's
bhāvanāya pāripūriyā?
development (and) fulfillment?
Atthi, bhikkhave,
There-is, monks,
Tattha yoniso-manasi-kāra-bahulī-kāro–
(To) that-there, wise-mental-production-frequently-done,
ayam-āhāro an-uppannassa vā
is-the-nutriment (for) un-arisen
passaddhi-sam-bojjh-aṅgassa uppādāya,
tranquility-awakening-factor's arising,
uppannassa vā passaddhi-sam-bojjh-aṅgassa
(and) arisen tranquility-awakening-factor's
bhāvanāya pāripūriyā.
development (and) fulfillment.

I don’t think you read my article carefully. There’s a lot there, and it takes many readings to start to absorb and see the connections between the various passages. To give you a clue, look at the standard definition of 3rd jhana. S&S (sati and sampajano ) are explicitly part of 3rd jhana, while one is doing 3rd jhana. MN 119, and the MN 10 parallels in the agamas, also make this relationship between 4 jhanas and S&S very explicit.

I was thinking about a placid, not varying citta (spirit) . Viz. the equability of the “mind” (citta). Free from change and variation.
As in equanimity.

Passaddhi is much closer to serenity than samatha.
The progression is passaddhi > samatha > samadhi > upekkha.
What is upekkha ?

Note below, that upekka (upa + īkṣ) does not really look like “equanimity”.
The only pre-Buddhist lexical references, that crossed over Buddha’s time are:
उपेक्ष् upekṣ [ upa-√ īkṣ ] )

  • to look at or on - ŚBr. & MBh.

√ ईक्ष् īkṣ

  • to see , look , view , behold , look at , gaze at ; to watch over AV. AitBr. ŚBr.
  • to see in one’s mind , think , have a thought ŚBr. ChUp. MBh.

When his mind is thus concentrated, purified, cleansed, unblemished, rid of defilement, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to upekkha , he directs it to the knowledge of…
AN 3.58

Here we see that upekkha underlies the meaning of investigation (looking at, having a thought) .
Like upaparikkhati [upa + pari + īkṣ] > investigate.
(see SN 22.57 : “And how, bhikkhus, is a bhikkhu a triple investigator?”.

All this to say that equanimity is more to be found in samatha, than in upekkha.

He dwells upekkhako (looking on/observing with attention,) and mindful and clearly comprehending,…
upekkhako ca viharati sato ca sampajāno,…
AN 3.58

If he should wish: ‘May I, avoiding both the repulsive and the unrepulsive, abides in upekkhako, mindful and fully aware,’ he abides (in equanimity ? or, ) looking towards that , mindful and fully aware.
MN 152

Note that, in this extract, upekkha is established when the bhikku realizes that "there has arisen in me what is agreeable, there has arisen what is disagreeable, there has arisen what is both agreeable and disagreeable.
But that is conditioned, gross, dependently arisen;
this is peaceful, this is sublime, that is, looking on/watching over/guarding (equanimity?) ’ .
Let’s not forget that MN 152 (SA 282) is about the development of the indriya(ni) ; and that the indriyani have a lot to do with restraining them (through mindfulness, for instance).

May I add an important remark on the side.
In the Pali about the above,

Idhānanda, bhikkhuno cakkhunā rūpaṃ disvā
uppajjati manāpaṃ, uppajjati amanāpaṃ, uppajjatimanāpāmanāpaṃ. So evaṃ pajānāti: ‘uppannaṃ kho me idaṃ manāpaṃ, uppannaṃ amanāpaṃ, uppannaṃ manāpāmanāpaṃ.
Tañca kho saṅkhataṃ oḷārikaṃ
paṭiccasamuppannaṃ. Etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ

The Sanskrit रननाप manāpa [mana_āpa] means lit. “reach the manas”.
So what is agreeable (manāpa,) or disagreable (amanāpaṃ) , or both ( manāpāmanāpa,) seems to be related to “reaching the mano”.

If that ceases in the bhikkhu (viz. in the mano,) then upekkha should be a purely citta “looking on” the dhammas thing.

Moreover, MN 54 version stands alone (viz. with no counterpart in its MA 203 parallel,) in describing that the noble disciple avoids diversified equanimity and instead develops unified equanimity.
Yā ’ya! upekhā nānattā nānattasitā ta! abhinivajjetvā yā ’ya! upekhā ekattā
ekattasitā … bhāveti.
Despite having no counterpart, how one could probably translate upekhā as equanimity in this context ?
“diversified equanimity” - what that could probably mean ?

Equanimity must be somewhere else. And samatha seems to be the place.

Therefore, let’s see what samadhi has to do between that sort of equanimity (samatha), and the “looking on/watching over” the dhammas (upekkha), by the citta.

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I don’t think there should be one word only, to express several meanings within different contexts.

Again, this should help having a general underlying meaning about samatha.

In the above, समता samatā shoud be considered, with its english translations, in context.


thanks to Dmytro for referring this sutta,

The title of the sutta is suggestive “samādhi”. Taking into consideration MN 44’s definition of samadhi-khandha, that is in the 8aam (noble eightfold path), the 3 last factors of right vigor, right remembering, right undistractable-lucidity together form the undistractable-lucidity (samadhi) group (khandha).

So in the context of all the EBT passages on samatha and samadhi, it seems samatha is part of samadhi, not equivalent to it, as Ajahn Chah asserts (although based on some sutta passages it can be taken that way).

I will continue collecting passages to confirm this, but also note these two words that appear in the definition of samatha, saṇṭhapeti sannisādeti, (in part 2 of AN 4.94), also appear, along with “samadaham” and “ekodi”, as part of the instructions for attaining first and second jhana in MN 19, MN 20.

MN 122 explicitly tied to 4 jhānas

(thanissaro trans.)
♦ 188. “kathañc-ānanda, bhikkhu
And how does the monk
ajjhattameva cittaṃ
get the mind
saṇṭhapeti sannisādeti
steadied right within, settled,
ekodiṃ karoti samādahati?
unified, & concentrated?
idhānanda, bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi ... pe ... paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati ... pe ... dutiyaṃ jhānaṃ... tatiyaṃ jhānaṃ... catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati.
There is the case where a monk—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities—enters & remains in the first jhāna… the second jhāna… the third jhāna… the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain.

It would be good to use suttas with parallels only. Then we could use extracts, like here , to work on their possible occurence in the said parallels.
I think it is about time that a serious endeavour like this takes place.
Suttas like AN 4.94 are just a waste of time for the moment.

Also, extracts like this on upekkha - while changing the meaning of “equanimity” to the more proper and enlarged meanings seen above (upa + īkṣ), could bring some right comprehesion on the liberation, and use of the liberated citta, to attain the 3rd and the above 5th jhanas. And some right comprehension on the role of samadhi at arriving to that upekkhāsambojjhaṅga.

Also this.

I have been battling lately with √ शम् śam - and also, in a way, with the word and concept “equanimity”. Uselessly.

The problem originated from having considered the present passive participle = śamyamāna m. n. śamyamānā f. ; instead of the past passive participle = śānta m. n. śāntā f.

I could not figure out where “santo” was coming from in the following extract:
Tasmiṃ pahīne tasmiṃ byantīkate athāparaṃ dhammavitakkāvasissanti.
So hoti samādhi na ceva santo na ca paṇīto nappaṭippassaddhaladdho na ekodibhāvādhigato sasaṅkhāraniggayhavāritagato.

So it seems that the शमथ śamatha option is definitely preferable; and that “equanimity” seems a bit of a common concept, that has not much to do in the all process - and not in upekkha anyway.

Samatha, from √ शम् śam

  • be quiet or calm or satisfied or contented TS. ŚBr.

Interesting! So you are saying upekka means ‘observing with attention’/‘looking on’? Has there been any scholarly debate on this, or other people holding this view also?

I have that view as well, with lots of evidence, that the ikkhati (upekkha = up + ikkhati) is doing something, not just passively sitting “equanimously” .

That is a worthy topic starting another thread, for another day.


Yes that sounds certainly interesting enough for a whole topic on it! I am wondering how it would change the understanding of the 4th jhāna for example.

Has Ajahn Sujato shared his opinions on this view?


There’s a thread with detailed discussion of ‘upekkhā’:


Anything in ikṣ*, imperfect aikṣ*, or the aorist aicikṣ* will be ok in the Vedic text. Like in the Satapatha Brahmana:

sa aikṣatārikṣyaham
He thought within him

sa aikṣata prajāpatiḥ
Pragâpati bethought himself.

There is a sense of causing oneself to consider something within. To ponder something carefully. To think over from mano + citta, or from the liberated citta (viz. outside the realm or the internal salayatana) .

An internal bethinking (mano + citta) ; or a genuine liberated citta bethinking.

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Maybe talking about the fifth jhana would be even more proper.
A quick look at the meanings of the different words in the following extract, in the Vedic texts, will give a better translation than the usual more than cryptic renderings.

Fifth jhana:

  1. sabbaso rūpasaññānaṃ samatikkamā,
  2. paṭighasaññānaṃ atthaṅgamā,
  3. nānattasaññānaṃ amanasikārā
  4. ‘ananto ākāso’ti
    ākāsānañcāyatanaṃ upasampajja viharati.
  5. with the complete overstepping of perceptions of form (matter),
  6. with the vanishing of perceptions (based) upon the organs of senses (viz. ajjhattikāni āyatanāni [including mano]),
  7. not striving with the mind (manasa/mano) to perceptions of manifoldness (lit. (what is) differently than one),
  8. aware that ‘space is boundless,’
    he attains and seizes distinctively, the field of boundless space.
    * - JustPaste.it

#2 & 3 are the relevant ones.
There is no more inquiries upon the organs of senses. The perception is “upekka”, so to speak. Purely (liberated) citta wise.
The inquiries and assumptions (sañña) - the perception - is not made through the mano (+ the bounded citta ) anymore; but through the (liberated) citta; which is not concerned anymore by manifoldness.