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Currently writing a summary of Buddhism, I now have to write about the famous Samatha Bhavana meditation.

Having explained how to practice Samatha Bhavana, I'm now proceeding to explain why practice Samatha Bhavana, and that's where I need your kind help.

Many say that the point of Samatha Bhavana is to stop desire, and therefore suffering - as desire and suffering are indeed intimately connected.

Is that true : is that the point ? And if yes, how does Samatha Bhavana stop desire ?

If that's not true, what then is the real point of Samatha Bhavana ?

I've come across many different views on that matter, really... That's why I need the help of seasoned Buddhists in order to answer it.

Thank you in advance.

  • The real goal of meditation is insight. The calm from the samatha practice is just a means to this end. – OidaOudenEidos Jun 3 '16 at 8:12
  • Both very precise and short, thank you very much! – Arthur A. Jacomelli Jun 4 '16 at 20:21
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The purpose of Samatha Bhavana is to obtain a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now (AN 4.41) so the mind has a source of pleasure that is superior to (AN 2.66) & therefore overcomes the need for using (dangerous, troublesome, diminishing value & unsatisactory) sensual pleasures as a source of happiness (MN 75).

Keep in mind the 'Middle Way' taught by the Buddha (SN 56.11) is that way of life that seeks the pleasure of jhana. The Middle-Way is not a path of deprivation or torment.

In addition, Samatha or Tranquility is also one quality contributing to the stability of Concentration ('Samadhi'). Concentration serves as the means to Insight (Vipassana).

That said, Samatha Bhavana cannot permanently stop or 'uproot' the tendency towards desire (craving). Only Vipassana Bhavana can uproot desire.

However, as already stated, Samatha Bhavana does help in giving up much sensual desire since the pleasure of Samatha Bhavana is superior to the pleasure of sensuality.

To quote the scriptures:

Bhikkhus, there are two kinds of pleasantness. What two? Sensual pleasantness and the pleasantness of giving up sensuality. Of these two, the pleasantness of giving up sensuality is better.

AN 2.66

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Māgandiya, a delight apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, which surpasses even divine sensual bliss. Since I take delight in that, I do not envy what is inferior nor do I delight therein.

MN 75

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There is the development of [mind using] concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to a pleasant abiding in the here & now....There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana...

There is the development of [mind using] concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents....There is the case where a monk remains focused on arising & falling away with reference to the five aggregates...

AN 4.41 Samadhi Sutta

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These two qualities have a share in clear knowing. Which two? Tranquillity (samatha) & insight (vipassana).

When tranquillity is developed, what purpose does it serve? The mind is developed. And when the mind is developed, what purpose does it serve? Passion (lust) is abandoned.

When insight is developed, what purpose does it serve? Discernment is developed. And when discernment is developed, what purpose does it serve? Ignorance is abandoned.

AN 2.30

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O monks, the well-instructed noble disciple, seeing thus [the five aggregates are impermanent, unsatisfactory & not-self], gets wearied of form, gets wearied of feeling, gets wearied of perception, gets wearied of mental formations, gets wearied of consciousness. Being wearied he becomes passion-free. In his freedom from passion, he is emancipated. Being emancipated, there is the knowledge that he is emancipated. He knows: 'birth is exhausted, lived is the holy life, what had to be done is done, there is nothing more of this becoming.'"

Anatta-lakkhana Sutta

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Arthur A. Jacomelli.. I felt that there is an inherent error in your question or approach. I do hope that you would see this from this little note that I will write. The goal of meditation in Buddha Dhamma is Nibbana, and nothing less than that. When writing a summary of Buddhism, Samatha & Vipassana, the most important point that should be stressed is that the thirty seven (37) requisites of Enlightenment (Bodhipakkhiya dhamma) comprise the entire Doctrine of the Buddha and all these dhamma pertaining to Enlightenment could be realized through contemplating on breathing. Only other summery is the discourse addressed by the Tathagatha to a hermit named Bahiya Daruchiriya (Bahiya of the Bark-cloth).

The Buddha had the exceptional quality of being able to direct his discourse in the most appropriate manner like an arrow that meets its target. The Blessed One said to Bahiya,

“Then, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus – In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. Then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. Where there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor between the two. This is the end of suffering”.

I am sure that you will find enough material on Samatha as it is not particular to Buddhism alone. But in Buddhism Samatha and Vipassana cannot be separated. If you do the goal of meditation can never be reached. Before even getting into these two aspects something else needs to take place. The following simile explains this:

Take the case of a wild elephant, the wild elephant has first to be brought out from the forest into the field hitched to a tame trained elephant. Hence it is taken to a stockade and tied up securely until it is tame. When it thus becomes absolutely tame and quiet, it is trained in the various kinds of work in which it will be employed in the service of the king. It is only then that it is used in state functions and on battlefields. The realm of sensual pleasures resembles the forest where the wild elephant enjoys himself. The Buddha Sasana resembles the open field into which the wild elephant is first brought out. The mind resembles the wild elephant. Confidence (saddha) and desire (chanda) in the sasana-dhamma resemble the tame elephant to which the wild elephant is hitched and brought out into the open. Sila-visuddhi (purification of virtue) resembles the stockade. The body, or parts of the body, such as out-breath and in-breath resemble the post in the stockade to which the elephant is tied. Kayagati-sati resembles the rope by which the wild elephant is tied to the post. The preparatory work towards samatha and vipassana resembles the preparatory training of the elephant. The work of and samatha and vipassana resembles the parade ground or battlefield of the king. Other points of comparison can now be easily recognised.

People are different to one another, so there are four different ways samatha and vipassana is developed in us. In the first type… A person first develops Samatha, and after having established himself in subsequently contemplates the five groups of grasping etc. develops Vipassana. So that is Samatha followed by vipassana - after which the path is born in him/her. The second type is Vipassana followed by samatha - after which the path is born in him/her.

Yuganaddha Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya Sutta 4.170) explains the third type. That is these two develops in Tandem. Ven. Ananda describes the paths to arahantship by which insight (vipassana) and tranquillity (samatha) work hand-in-hand in this sutta. So that is Samatha and vipassana together, simultaneously - after which the path is born in him/her, and lastly in another type of people the mind stands fixed internally (i.e. on the cognizant consciousness or 'self') until it become one-pointed- after which the path is born in him/her.

  • Mm. Thank you very much, I feel that my question has been answered quite in depth already thanks to you two. I'm going to use all these useful pieces of information and keep on writing my essay. Thank you once again! – Arthur A. Jacomelli Jun 3 '16 at 6:06
  • Does one practice meditation to develop Right Concentration, and if so, would this make access to jhāna necessary to meditation? – avatar Korra Sep 19 '16 at 0:06
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    You are partly right @avatar Korra, as Buddha has said if you don’t have the pleasure & rapture that can come from jhana, you’re always going to be tempted by sensuality. That been said, one cannot come to Right Concentration without having the first seven parts of the link. Most important is Right Understanding (clear comprehension of the Four Noble Truths). If & when you have that Jhana is like stores of food. The first jhana is like water & grass. With the higher jhanas you get honey, butter & ghee. With Right Understanding if you practice Right Concentration, you develope right resolve, – Saptha Visuddhi Sep 19 '16 at 0:42
  • If jhāna is where the Noble Eightfold path leads us, then is access to jhāna something that meditators should try to do at each sitting? When can one expect to develop such a skill? – avatar Korra Sep 19 '16 at 1:02
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    Jhana can be said as a sense of wellbeing and stability you can develop from within. Only inside Jhana, can the sapta bodhyanga (Seven factors of enlightenment) can be fully developed. For this one has to practise Samatha and Vipassana properly. Then dispassionateness with understanding definitely take place. When I say PROPERLY, this is way to do this. READ. – Saptha Visuddhi Sep 19 '16 at 1:13

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