So correct me if im wrong samatha and vipassna are the goals of all forms of meditation. Anapanasati can be either for the goal of samatha or vipassana (or both). Vipassana is very cognitive, contemplative, and samatha is often the exact opposite, one pointed focus?

Im curious how it works. How does it connect to doctrines of tanha and clinging? Is the samatha concentration lead to deep state of non-reactivity? Like this is how it leads to tremendous results (samatha anapanasati is the meditation used in psychotherapy as just pure stress reduction) . But despite it's results it's not sufficient for the Buddhist path because serious stages of enlightenment require real understanding and insight.

And vipassana on the other hand from what i understand is for insight. it doesnt mean tranqulity and mental strenght cant come from it, in fact the true peace and strength does come from understanding eventually, but thats not the point. vipassana on death is generally not that happy go lucky an experience...

So while insufficent samatha is a good powerful tool for overcoming barriers? If someone is consumed by hatred or anger or anxiety or impatience and they are too frenzied to really practice so it would be good to tranquilize them first? If I'm dealing with a lot of stress samatha would be the place to go?

Tell me if everything I've described is correct. :) thanks

3 Answers 3


What you say is well researched, that's the traditional view. There are some other sutras to look at in addition:

Ekottara Agama 17.1 https://web.archive.org/web/20110811122049/http://sites.google.com/site/ekottara/eaxv

Satipatthana Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 10 https://suttacentral.net/mn10/en/sujato

Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta, Digha Nikaya 22 https://suttacentral.net/dn22/en/sujato

While it is possible to enter into samadhi by using samatha technique, it is said to not have liberating power. But one would have to be fully ignorant of the Dharmna teachings to fulfill such conditions, and it's probably unlikely. Vipassana is centered in the practice of investigation and arousing Wisdom, but each teacher seems to have slightly different idea what it is. Be patient in researching this. I think samatha acts as an anchor, and deep investigation into "reality" requires such calm and tranquility, so develop calm and tranquility, then go to Wisdom and Insight. I'm not of the opinion that this is anything but one practice ideally. Called by many names: Samadhi/Prajna. Calm/Insight. Tranquillity/Wisdom. Stopping/Seeing. Silence/Illumination. Emptiness/Fullness. Tiantai Master Zhiyi likens the pair as two wheels of a cart. You can indeed work with one wheel at a time (either samatha, or vipassana) but if you are planning to use the cart to get to Liberation (or just results) you need to use the whole cart.

Contemplation of death is never a bad idea, that is, if you are ready for it. Since we all invariably die.

And yes, calmness might be the first goal in starting this samatha/vipasanna practice.

  • Thanks for the response! So the danger with pure samatha is it could lead to something like a Deva state. Strength, calmness but with no insight. Samatha should be an instrument to practicing greater insight but can also be used as a first aid against stress and anger in daily life? Commented May 13, 2019 at 6:22
  • Dhyana practice that leads to Samadhi also leads to Sunyata, and directly to Anatta. Commented May 13, 2019 at 15:47

Vipassana (insight) is direct clear seeing thus does not requiring any thinking. Therefore vipassana it is not antagonistic to samatha (tranquility).

Both samatha & vipassana are natural results of the silent collected stable mind called "samadhi".

To answer the question: "how do I practice vipassana and how do practice samatha?", suttas such MN 149 say samatha & vipassana are products of developing/practising the noble eightfold, as follows:

Thus for him, having thus developed [practised] the noble eightfold path, the four frames of reference go to the culmination of their development. The four right exertions... the four bases of power... the five faculties... the five strengths... the seven factors for Awakening go to the culmination of their development. [And] for him these two qualities occur in tandem: tranquility (samatha) & insight (vipassana).

MN 149

In short, the main meditative practice of the Noble Eightfold is abandoning craving or letting go. Thus the Right Mindfulness factor instructs:

A bhikkhu abides contemplating (observing)...ardent, fully comprehending and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.

"Samatha" ("tranquility") is not "one-pointed focus" ("samadhi") nor is genuine "one-pointedness" ("ekaggata") an obstacle to vipassana. Its appears the questioner is reading the common non-sutta ideas of modern gurus.

  • In what sense do you mean by it not being one pointed? What I mean is that in the moment of meditation you are focusing on the breath completely (breath for anapanasati.) Commented May 13, 2019 at 9:57
  • In the west, & in various Buddhist traditions, there is generally made a distinction between Vipassana & Samatha, but genuine vipassana cannot occur without tranquility. For example, vedanupassana does not focus on ordinary emotions & feelings, but has piti & sukha (ecstasy & well-being) as its object of meditation. If the mind is in samadhi, impermanence, non self & unsatisfactoriness is seen clearly. By seeing those 3 clearly, disentchantment & letting go of negativity occurs, as described in Dhammanupassana. The 4 satipatthanas are not chosen freely, instead, they happen sequentially.
    – Val
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 10:39
  • So if im very stressed out and anxious in daily life I should practice samatha and attain a calm and strong mind that I can begin my investigation with? Commented May 13, 2019 at 12:27

IMO samatha and vipassana are two sides of the same coin. Calm and clarity as qualities of mind. In terms of method, I would distinguish between absorption and observation. Practically speaking it involves a broadening of attention, from a single object to multiple objects, thereby seeing the conditionality of experience.

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