Samatha


Samatha

Samatha (Pāli), śamatha (Sanskrit) or orthographically romanized to "shamatha" and is often translated as 'Calm Abiding' (Tibetan shinay), comprises a suite, type or style of Buddhist meditation or concentration practices designed to enhance sustained voluntary attention, and culminates in an attention that can be sustained effortlessly and for hours on end [ [http://wisdompubs.org/Pages/search_results.lasso Wallace, A: 'The Attention Revolution', Wisdom Publications, 1st ed., 2006, p.6] ] . Samatha is a subset of the broader family of Samadhi ("concentration") meditation practices [ [http://wisdompubs.org/Pages/search_results.lasso Wallace, A: 'The Attention Revolution', Wisdom Publications, 1st ed., 2006, p.131] ] .

Etymology

According to Jamgon Lodro Thaye, insight may be garnered by an exegesis of the etymology of "shamatha":

The Tibetan term is "shiné" ["shi-ne"] (SHi-gNas) and the Sanskrit is "Shamatha". In the case of the Tibetan, the first syllable, "shi", and in the case of the Sanskrit, the first two syllables, "shama", refer to "peace" and "pacification". The meaning of peace or pacification in this context is that normally our mind is like a whirlwind of agitation. The agitation is the agitation of thought. Our thoughts are principally an obsessive concern with past, conceptualization about the present, and especially an obsessive concern with the future. This means that usually our mind is not experiencing the present moment at all. [Ray, Reginald A. (Ed.)(2004). "In the Presence of Masters: Wisdom from 30 Contemporary Tibetan Buddhist Teachers". Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Shambala. ISBN 1-57062-849-1 (pbk.: alk. paper) p.69. ]

The semantic field of "shi" and "shama" is "pacification", "the slowing or cooling down", "rest". [Ray, Reginald A. (Ed.)(2004). "In the Presence of Masters: Wisdom from 30 Contemporary Tibetan Buddhist Teachers". Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Shambala. ISBN 1-57062-849-1 (pbk.: alk. paper) p.69. ]

The semantic field of "né" is "to abide or remain" and this is cognate or equivalent with the final syllable of the Sanskrit, "tha". [Ray, Reginald A. (Ed.)(2004). "In the Presence of Masters: Wisdom from 30 Contemporary Tibetan Buddhist Teachers". Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Shambala. ISBN 1-57062-849-1 (pbk.: alk. paper) p.70. ]

General discussion

Buddhists consider meditation to be an act of concentration on a particular object or idea, sometimes in conjunction with inquiry into the nature of the object, as with "wisdom" (or Prajñā) practices such as vipassanā ("insight") or Dzogchen [ [http://wisdompubs.org/Pages/search_results.lasso Wallace, A: 'The Attention Revolution', Wisdom Publications, 1st ed., 2006, p.164] ] . Therefore, meditation from other religious traditions are sometimes referred to as a variation of samatha meditation that differ in the focus of concentration; such as breathing, scriptural passage, mantra, religious picture, a rock, body (as a representation of death), and so on. In this sense, samatha is not a strictly Buddhist meditation. "Shamata" in its single-pointed focus and concentration of mind is cognate with the sixth 'limb' of Ashtanga Yoga or Raja Yoga which is Dharana or 'concentration'. For further discussion refer Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

For Buddhists, it is commonly practiced as a prelude to and in conjunction with "wisdom" practices [ [http://wisdompubs.org/Pages/search_results.lasso Wallace, A: 'The Attention Revolution', Wisdom Publications, 1st ed., 2006, p.164] ] . Traditionally, in Buddhist meditation there are 40 objects of meditation, although the breath as an object of meditation enjoys the widest popularity in contemporary society. Mindfulness of breathing or ānāpāna meditation which accompanies the Buddhist doctrine of rising and falling, can be used for both Samatha and Vipassanā Meditation. Samatha can include other Samadhi practices, as well.

Within Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhism, "Samatha" practice or 'Calm Abiding' progresses along ten carefully articulated stages or Bhumi, leading, in the tenth stage, to an exceptional state of meditative absorption or concentration [ [http://wisdompubs.org/Pages/search_results.lasso Wallace, A: 'The Attention Revolution', Wisdom Publications, 1st ed., 2006, p.6] ] called the first jhāna (Sanskrit: dhyāna) which is often translated as state of tranquillity or bliss. Thus, it furthers the right concentration aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path.

Śamatha is commonly used in Tibetan Buddhism and various branches of the Pure Land tradition.

Vajrayana perspective

Dzogchen Pönlop Rinpoche clearly charts the developmental relationship of the sadhanas of "shamatha" and "vipashyana":

The ways these two aspects of meditation are practiced is that one begins with the practice of "shamatha"; on the basis of that, it becomes possible to practice "vipashyana" or "lhagthong". Through one's practrice of "vipashyana" being based on and carried on in the midst of "shamatha", one eventually ends up practicing a unification of "shamatha" and "vipashyana". The unification leads to a very clear and direct experience of the nature of all things. This brings one very close to what is called the absolute truth. [Ray, Reginald A. (Ed.)(2004). "In the Presence of Masters: Wisdom from 30 Contemporary Tibetan Buddhist Teachers". Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Shambala. ISBN 1-57062-849-1 (pbk.: alk. paper) p.76. ]

ee also

* Kammaṭṭhāna
* Muraqaba

External links

* [http://www.vipassana.com Buddhist Meditation in the Theravada tradition]
* [http://here-and-now.org/VSI/Articles/TheoryMed/theoryHow.htm How Meditation Works]
* [http://www.samatha.org# The Samatha Trust]
* [http://www.buddhanet.net Buddhanet Main Page]
* [http://www.buddhanet.net/ebooks_m.htm# Buddhanet Meditation E-Books]

Notes


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