Struggling to understand the distinction between Samatha and Vipassana, in practice.

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
nevinkamath
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Struggling to understand the distinction between Samatha and Vipassana, in practice.

Postby nevinkamath » Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:07 pm

Hi all!

I'm struggling to comprehend the distinction between concentrating on the breath, which I can do, and vipassana, or observing fabrications as they arise and pass. For example, if a fabrication (sound) leads to a series of fabrications (thought, feeling; thoughts about the though-feeling process); this may literally take more than one breathe's time, yeah? In my experience, short-circuiting that processs by hastily returning to the breathe can impede the cultivation of some insight. Where am I in my practice, please?

CecilN
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Re: Struggling to understand the distinction between Samatha and Vipassana, in practice.

Postby CecilN » Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:47 pm

nevinkamath wrote:I'm struggling to comprehend the distinction between concentrating on the breath, which I can do...

My opinion.

Samatha does not mean "concentrating" on the breath. Samatha means the calmness, tranquility & relaxation that is felt when concentrating on the breath.

nevinkamath wrote:vipassana, or observing fabrications as they arise and pass.

Not all fabrications are objects of vipassana because some fabrications are distracting thoughts & hindrances. The ideal vipassana occurs with concentration rather than breaks/impedes concentration. The scriptures teach vipassana results in dispassion & liberation therefore if dispassion & liberation is not occurring, it is not really vipassana.

nevinkamath wrote:For example, if a fabrication (sound) leads to a series of fabrications (thought, feeling; thoughts about the though-feeling process); this may literally take more than one breathe's time, yeah?

The scriptures call this the 'wrong path' (SN 12.3). It is important to understand this process of contact-feeling-perception-craving-thought-self-becoming but this is only the comprehension of suffering. It is a form of insight or wisdom but it is not the vipassana that results in dispassion & liberation, which is why it is not the highest/real vipassana.

nevinkamath wrote:In my experience, short-circuiting that processs by hastily returning to the breathe can impede the cultivation of some insight. Where am I in my practice, please?

That process is called the 'wrong path' (SN 12.3). By short-circuiting/cutting the process you are cutting the 'wrong path' and entering into the 'right path' (SN 12.3). By returning to the breath, you are creating the conditions to make the mind more clear & lucid so it can experience the real vipassana that results in liberation.

Ask yourself: "What benefit are you gaining from not cutting the process?" Does it make the mind more free?" Once this process of suffering is known, it is to be abandoned or cut. This is what the teachings say. The only reason you must know the process (of Dependent Origination) is to know it is suffering so you can stop/short-circuit the process.

In his first sermon, the Buddha taught: (i) suffering is to be comprehended; (ii) the cause of suffering is to be abandoned; (iii) the end of suffering is to be experienced; & (iv) the path to the end of suffering is to be developed. These are the four tasks and your observation of the process of suffering generation is only one task, i.e., the 1st task. Where as staying concentrated on the breathing is the start of the 2nd and 4th tasks.

At Savatthī. “Bhikkhus, I will teach you the wrong way and the right way. Listen to that and attend closely, I will speak.”

“Yes, venerable sir,” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:

“And what, bhikkhus, is the wrong way? With ignorance as condition, formations come to be; with formations as condition, consciousness…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. This, bhikkhus, is called the wrong way.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the right way? With the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of formations; with the cessation of formations, cessation of consciousness…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering. This, bhikkhus, is called the right way.”

SN 12.3

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Dmytro
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Re: Struggling to understand the distinction between Samatha and Vipassana, in practice.

Postby Dmytro » Wed Jan 04, 2017 8:15 pm

Hi,

nevinkamath wrote:I'm struggling to comprehend the distinction between concentrating on the breath, which I can do, and vipassana, or observing fabrications as they arise and pass. For example, if a fabrication (sound) leads to a series of fabrications (thought, feeling; thoughts about the though-feeling process); this may literally take more than one breathe's time, yeah? In my experience, short-circuiting that processs by hastily returning to the breathe can impede the cultivation of some insight. Where am I in my practice, please?


There's a lot of things happening, - like many people walking in a busy place.
When the mind gets calm on the basis of breath, you get at least a moment of silence, - and then, when a person appears, you can note from where he came, and where he is heading to.
In terms of fabrications, you'll get to know their prerequisites and results - http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/angu ... 6-063.html
http://dhamma.ru/lib/paticcas.htm
Which would be hardly possible, were you to observe a disordely crowd.

Best wishes!

paul
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Re: Struggling to understand the distinction between Samatha and Vipassana, in practice.

Postby paul » Wed Jan 04, 2017 11:17 pm

Samatha is a synonym of samadhi (concentration) and is one-pointedness developed through repeatedly bringing the mind back to the subject of meditation (and there are 40 subjects- the subject should be interesting to the meditator), and it is a skill separate from vipassana. Concentration can also be developed through other methods, such as reading and study. The practice of vipassana requires some modicum of concentration for insight to occur, so samadhi is a tool used in vipassana. Insight occurs when mundane daily events are seen in the light of impermanence, suffering or non-self through the application of concentration, because they are ultimate reality. But there is an essential foundation to this process and that is sila- morality.
Samatha meditation is where you sit for a matter of hours concentrating on the subject whereas vipassana is something you do throughout the day.

Suffering in and of itself is a very good thing to focus the vipassana attention on without worrying about the three other Truths, which will take care of themselves. All of life is suffering "except craving and states free from cankers"...(Vism. XVI:86)
"Although the texts list four separate duties appropriate to each of the truths, in actual practice these duties are four aspects of a single process. When stress is comprehended, the second noble truth — craving — has no object to latch onto and so can be abandoned. The full realization of what is happening in the process of that abandoning constitutes the realization of the third noble truth, the cessation of stress. Both the abandoning and the realization are accomplished by developing the path, which destroys any trace of ignorance concerning the four noble truths at the same time that it abandons craving. This is how the practice cuts the chain of dependent co-arising simultaneously at its two most crucial factors [§§210-211], thus unraveling the causal chain and opening the way for an experience of the Unfabricated."--"Discernment- The Four Noble Truths", Thanissaro Bikkhu.
Last edited by paul on Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:23 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Mkoll
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Re: Struggling to understand the distinction between Samatha and Vipassana, in practice.

Postby Mkoll » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:31 am

Personally, I don't distinguish between the two in practice, meaning I don't think, "When I do this, it is vipassana and when I do that, it is samatha." There's nothing wrong with that of course, I've just found it doesn't work for me. As long as my mind is on a wholesome theme or object, I don't worry about it. For me, this helps calm down the hindrance of restlessness. My approach is probably closest to the third case, below.

AN 4.170 wrote:On one occasion Ven. Ananda was staying in Kosambi, at Ghosita's monastery. There he addressed the monks, "Friends!"

"Yes, friend," the monks responded.

Ven. Ananda said: "Friends, whoever — monk or nun — declares the attainment of arahantship in my presence, they all do it by means of one or another of four paths. Which four?

"There is the case where a monk has developed insight preceded by tranquillity. As he develops insight preceded by tranquillity, the path is born. He follows that path, develops it, pursues it. As he follows the path, developing it & pursuing it — his fetters are abandoned, his obsessions destroyed.

"Then there is the case where a monk has developed tranquillity preceded by insight. As he develops tranquillity preceded by insight, the path is born. He follows that path, develops it, pursues it. As he follows the path, developing it & pursuing it — his fetters are abandoned, his obsessions destroyed.

"Then there is the case where a monk has developed tranquillity in tandem with insight. As he develops tranquillity in tandem with insight, the path is born. He follows that path, develops it, pursues it. As he follows the path, developing it & pursuing it — his fetters are abandoned, his obsessions destroyed.

"Then there is the case where a monk's mind has its restlessness concerning the Dhamma [Comm: the corruptions of insight] well under control. There comes a time when his mind grows steady inwardly, settles down, and becomes unified & concentrated. In him the path is born. He follows that path, develops it, pursues it. As he follows the path, developing it & pursuing it — his fetters are abandoned, his obsessions destroyed.

"Whoever — monk or nun — declares the attainment of arahantship in my presence, they all do it by means of one or another of these four paths."

So in your example, I may go back to the breath (samatha) or contemplate and investigate what has arisen in terms of the 3 characteristics, 4 Noble Truths, etc. (vipassana). Usually I'd go back to the breath more in the beginning of a meditation session because the mind is still restless and the breath calms it down. When the mind is more settled, I might do more contemplating or investigating because it goes deeper the more settled the mind is. Of course, any time in the meditation the mind may become restless again and I'd adjust accordingly. During this whole time, I'm not delineating what is samatha and what is vipassana.

To be clear, I'm not saying you should follow my approach. I'm just offering it for some perspective. Find what works for you. If you're a beginner, it takes practice and patience to figure that out. But don't get discouraged. Things get smoother.

Hope some of that helps.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

SarathW
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Re: Struggling to understand the distinction between Samatha and Vipassana, in practice.

Postby SarathW » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:36 am

:goodpost: Mkoll
I can relate to this.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

pegembara
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Re: Struggling to understand the distinction between Samatha and Vipassana, in practice.

Postby pegembara » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:07 pm

Samatha meditation can have different outcomes -

"Monks, these are the four developments of concentration. Which four? There is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to a pleasant abiding in the here & now. There is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the attainment of knowledge & vision. There is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to mindfulness & alertness. There is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

nevinkamath
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Re: Struggling to understand the distinction between Samatha and Vipassana, in practice.

Postby nevinkamath » Wed Jan 11, 2017 3:25 pm

Thank you.


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