In this post, I will quickly and efficiently teach you everything you need to know about Samatha Meditation. To begin, there are two primary methods of meditation that the Buddha taught. Additionally, the two methods are not mutually exclusive. As a result, Samatha meditation will become a powerful tool to support your insight meditation practice. However, Samatha meditation is a good starting point because the benefits are nearly immediate, which is very encouraging for newcomers.
How to Practice Samatha Meditation
The general characteristics of Samatha meditation are very similar to Vipassana. Indeed, if you saw someone meditating it would be very difficult to tell which method they were using. This is because the difference is mostly mental and that only exists inside the mind of the practitioner.
Essentially, the primary difference is that Samatha meditation uses a single point of concentration. This single focus point most commonly used is respiration (anapanasati). Specifically, for beginners it is recommended to use the air as is passes through the tip of your nostrils. However, the movement of air is very subtle and it is important to be very perceptive.
While practicing Samatha meditation you remain focused on that single point for your entire session. If there is any unexpected disturbance such as thoughts, noise, smell or physical sensations then you must block it out and only concentrate on the single point of focus.
Samatha vs Vipassana
This is the crucial difference between the two methods, because Samatha takes a single point of concentration, while Vipassana meditation takes multiple points of concentration. As a result, this is all you need to know for your first Samatha meditation practice session. Simply find a quiet place in your home, sit cross legged on the floor with the right hand resting in the palm of the left hand, flat in the lap, close your eyes and focus on air passing through the nostrils. It really is that simple! Go ahead and get started if you wish, or continue reading to learn more….
Additional Single Point Concentration Objects
Although using your respiration as a focus point for Samatha meditation practice is the most common, it certainly is not the only method. In fact, Buddha taught that there are 40 points of concentration which can be used. They range from physical sensations (rupa) to mental images (nama).
Alternatively, some meditation teachers may suggest Buddhist mantras, the recollection of the Buddha’s attributes (buddhanussati bhavana) or loving kindness meditation (metta bhavana).
Monastic Method of Samatha Meditation
One monastic method that was taught by Sayadaw Pannananda was to use a a colored circle as the point of concentration. Therefore, draw a circle on the floor about 1 foot in diameter. Additionally, around the edge of the circle use different colors that make the circle stand out from the surrounding area.
Sit in your meditation posture about 4 feet away from the circle. Additionally, it is important to sit the appropriate distance away from the circle in order to form the appropriate mental image.
At the beginning of your practice session look at the image with open eyes. When you have a firm mental image of the circle then slowly close your eyes and use the image as your focus point for meditation. However, if the mental image begins to fade, then open your eyes and refresh the image in your mind. Repeat this process as necessary throughout your meditation session.
As a result, you will gain strength in your concentration and focus for longer periods of time without having to refresh the mental image. Indeed, as you progress will begin to strongly feel the Samatha meditation benefits. Additionally, you can begin to use Samatha meditation techniques to enhance your Vipassana practice.
Benefits of Samatha Meditation
As a result of sustained uninterrupted concentration you will begin to appreciate the calm abiding meaning of Samatha meditation. This is because of unhindered concentration which has blocked the defilements out of your mind for an extended period of time.
Buddhists call this sensation appana samadhi (absorption level concentration). Psychologically, this is the equivalent of breathing pure oxygen. As a result, dedicated practitioners will greatly enhance their mental health. Additionally, you could even be reborn into a sphere of higher consciousness.
- Talks on Meditation given in the Blue Mountains by Venerable Chanmayay Sayadaw
- Meditation Course for Beginners by Sayadaw U Pannananda
- A Comprehensive Manual of the Abhidhamma