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In my tradition (Triratna) there is a big emphasis of a lot of samatha practice before any vipassana practice. This has always made sense to me. However is this universal in all Buddhist schools? Are there any Buddhist schools that do minimal or even no samatha practice? Does anyone jump straight into vipassana?

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    Yes - there are quite a few teachers in the Theravada Tradition who teach Vipassana with little/no samatha - for example, the Mahasi Sayadaw lineage of teachers, S.N. Goenka, etc. – Monk Dec 28 '14 at 16:38
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    Even in S N Goenka's tradition (during the 10 day retreat for beginners), there are 3 days devoted to Anapanasati which is considered as Samata practice – TheDarkKnightRules Dec 29 '14 at 3:35
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While different traditions might emphasize one over the other, they all need a certain level of development for both:

"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 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. "Defiled by passion, the mind is not released. Defiled by ignorance, discernment does not develop. Thus from the fading of passion is there awareness-release. From the fading of ignorance is there discernment-release." AN 2.30

About the order of development, it could be in any order:

"There is the case where a monk has developed insight preceded by tranquillity...Then there is the case where a monk has developed tranquillity preceded by insight...Then there is the case where a monk has developed tranquillity in tandem with insight" AN 4.170

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Often mediators will get stuck in Samatha thinking that they have become permanently enlightened. Samatha takes away all the defilments but it's only temporary. Also mediators could get addicted to the bliss and calm that samatha brings. So, yes there is vipassana only approaches called "dry insight meditation" like in the Mahasi tradition that is perfect for laypeople and monastics.

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    Its a much needed warning about the sweet nectar of Samatha meditation. Its a 2-edged sword if not practiced correctly. – Lanka Dec 29 '14 at 17:19
  • Developing concentration is not a problem but beneficial as long as it is the right type. You should have reality as the basis of development than imagination. It should be based on arising and passing away of sensations without imaginations, visualisation and verbalisations. (Creates fabrications and feed into perception / views / notion.) – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Mar 29 '15 at 9:52
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You should not have an emphasis on which should develop fist but let it take its natural course. Both are important as wisdoms has concentration as the base and concentration has morality as the base. Like a roof over your head cannot exist without walls and a foundation.

  • I like this answer, but I do have a question for you Suminda. You say to let the development take its natural course - but do we not exercise volition as to which we are practicing at any given time? In other words, should I not set out in a given sitting to improve concentration, or to improve insight? Or should we be more dynamic and 'go with the flow' - focusing on concentration until something arises which needs noting or investigation, doing that, then returning to the concentration? – Jeff Wright May 26 '15 at 22:21
  • Take the long form Nibbida formula. Insight road: pamojja + dhamma vicaya -> Piti, Piti + dhamma vicaya -> passaddhi, passaddhi + dhamma vicaya -> Sukha, Sukha + dhamma vicaya -> Samadhi. So if you can develop Samadhi fast by all means do it or go the insight root above or a mix of both. You have to choose what is easy and natural for you. Also see: Bojjhangas – Another View by James Peel which might be interesting – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena May 27 '15 at 2:45
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    It is difficult to give more explanation in a comment as the character length and format issues. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena May 27 '15 at 2:47
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Well, according to AN 9.44 PannaVimutta Sutta Doing Samatha-Vipassana at the same time is the best way to Obtain and realizing Wisdom.

Without getting into Jhana, it would be hard to grab the true meaning of dhamma. As you get deeper in Jhana, your level of understanding will help you to understand the true meaning of dhamma.

As for AN 4.170 Yuganaddha Sutta, You need to read from AN 4.162-169 to understand more about the differences between each methods.

The best way for the human in this era is Samatha-Vipassana.

  • Jhana is not the mark of a stream-enterer. Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote a clear study about this here: budsas.org/ebud/ebdha267.htm . The true meaning of Dhamma is known by the stream-enterer, who only requires neighbourhood concentration (rather than jhana). – Dhammadhatu May 8 '17 at 2:26
  • You're right, jhana is not the mark of a stream-enterer. You're a stream-enterer when you realized the way and see the way to end all suffering yourself. – LomX May 8 '17 at 6:19
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Without any previous concentration exercises or Samatha training, no Insight is possible. How can you register the different sensations which arise and pass away so fast without a sharpened concentration? Anapanasati as a concentration exercise is just one of many. Walking, being aware of the movements of the feet is concentration. The Mahasi method of labeling the stretching of an arm is concentration.If you enter for a while into a deep jhana, nothing wrong. Enjoy it. Later it turns into a sober concentration and becomes normal. Very naturally one slips into Insight meditation.

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