Meditation is a technique that works with the mind and there are many different types of meditation practice depending on what your goal for meditation is.
One form of meditation is Samatha meditation which is a tranquility meditation practice that comes from the Buddhist traditions.
In this article, we are going to be looking at what Samatha meditation involves, how to practice it and what the purpose of this Buddhist meditation really is.
What Is Samatha Meditation?
Samatha meditation is one of the three types of meditation practiced by those who follow the teaching of the Buddha. The three main meditation practices for a Buddhist are Samatha which means tranquility or calming concentration, Vipassana which means insight and Metta Bhavana which means loving kindness.
Most commonly Samatha and Vipassana are practice alongside one another but there are very clear differences between the two.
Of all the Buddhist meditation techniques, Samatha meditation is the one that is most practiced in the west in places like the United States and England.
Samatha practice is a form of mindfulness and people focus their mind on breathing to enhance concentration and this is considered a calm abiding form of meditation.
On the other hand Vipassana is a meditation practice which sees Buddhists placing their concentration on the teachings of Buddha as a way to deepen their wisdom and is seen as an insight meditation rather than mindfulness. This type of Buddhist meditation allows practitioners to move towards enlightenment just like Buddha did.
What Is The Purpose Of Samatha Meditation?
Samatha, which is sometimes called Shamatha meditation has the sole purpose of stabilising the mind. We all experience what is known as the monkey mind where our thoughts bounce around and this can make it difficult to live a steady life. We are forever moving from one thing to the next without engaging the mind.
However, a Samatha practice will help greatly with your concentration and in turn, this can calm the mind. According to Lion’s Roar, those who practice Samatha meditation can use this as a foundation for moving towards a Vipassana practice.
Samatha is a mindfulness practice that often focuses on the breath as a way of achieving a calm mind. it is an awareness practice that will eventually result in the ability to meditate on emptiness and awareness, letting go of thoughts that often plague the mind.
Some meditation teachers will use a technique where an object is used to focus the mind as well as the breath. This technique was suggested by Buddha himself and helps meditators improve their concentration, further installing a foundation for moving onto Vipassanā. The object can be anything but traditionally a coloured disc is used to focus the mind during this meditation technique.
As we develop this concentration practice, we begin to see our mind for what it is. Meditations like this open our eyes to the true state of our mind where some thoughts have quality and meaning but others don’t serve us at all. One of the benefits of Samatha meditation is that, over time, we learn to sit with a calm mind and accept it in the state it is in; it’s true nature.
Samatha And Vipassana For Jhanas
In the Buddhism tradition, there are states known as jhanas, each jhana is an altered state of consciousness which is invoked by samadhi, a word meaning concentration.
In order to achieve true samadhi, one would need to take part in various meditations. Beginning with Samatha meditation and including Vipassana which is an insight meditation rather than a calm practice.
The first four jhanas can be achieved through the calm Samatha meditation and when you emerge from these, you will be able to move onto an insight meditation technique, or Vipassana.
It can be tricky to understand the concept without going through the experience but essentially, these stages are not separate but combined and as you go through the stages, your level of concentration becomes more and more profound, eventually resulting in an insight into the mind. The power of this is incredible since this insight allows you to examine reality and become ultimately free.
How To Do Samatha Meditation
There are many classes for meditation all over the world; just think about the Shambala society, headed by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, a tradition that many people across Europe and the USA engage in. However, you do not need to attend a class to get a healthy meditation experience, you can experience the joy of Samatha meditation at home.
Here is a brief overview of what the technique involves and how you can practice from this mindfulness meditation.
The Samatha meditation technique is usually practiced in a traditional seven point posture. It has been used in the east for thousands of years but is now more widely recognised in the USA, England, Wales and Ireland. The points of the pose are as follows:
Sit with crossed legs
Place the hands on the knees or in the lap
Keep your back straight
Keep the shoulder wide so that the heart remains open
Slightly lower the chin
Let the mouth open slightly with the tongue resting on the roof of the mouth
Keep the eyes open and softly gaze just in front of the nose.
For a more detailed run down of the way you should sit, take a look at this video.
However, there are some who may find this pose uncomfortable and that is OK. One of the great benefits of Samatha meditation is that you can adapt it to suit you. With this in mind, you are free to sit another way provided that way allows you to keep the spine straight.
Performing The Samatha Meditation Technique
Samatha puts a huge focus on the breath and there are many ways you can achieve this calm form of mindfulness. The most important part is that the quality of the meditation allows you to feel at ease and with a clear mind. This is the most simple way to focus on the breath and practice Samatha.
Once you are sitting in a comfortable position, begin by focusing your attention on your breath.
You may notice that thoughts enter the mind; this is normal just bring the mind back to the breath. Keep doing this as many times as you need.
When you breathe out, feel the breath leaving the body and dissolving into the air around you.
On your inhale, imagine the breath filling up you body. You may hold it for a while before breathing out again.
When you feel calm, you can chant om on your inhale, ah as you hold the breath and hung as you exhale. This is a great way to calm the mind.
If you prefer you can focus the mind on an object, some people find achieving samadhi much easier like this.
Meditation is a great way to bring clarity and calm into your life. Whether you want to do this simply to clear your mind or whether it is a component of a much more diverse spiritual practice, Samatha meditation is the very foundation of Buddhist meditations and is used by many to help them propel forward to Vipassana, one of the insight meditations.
Samatha is the name for calm or concentration and this practice involves paying attention to the breath and is very easy to incorporate into your life. It will help you to focus your mind and accept the mind for what it is.