Sunday, December 3, 2023

🔗📝notes on 'samatha'


From DPD

samatha 1.1

masc. (+gen) stilling (of); serenity (of); calming (of); settling (of); peace (of); (comm) mental unification [√sam + a + tha] ✓

samatha 1.2

masc. (+gen) (vinaya) settlement (of); deciding (of); appeasement (of); adjudication (of) [√sam + a + tha] ✓

samatha 2.1

nt. (+gen) evenness (of); balance (of); equilibrium (of) [sama + tha] ✓

Common wrong views on samatha


⛔samatha is not equivalent to samādhi!

⛔samādhi is not "stillness"! Stillness is an essential ingredient, but Samādhi is undistractible lucidity, and one can do vipassana while in states of samādhi such as the four jhānas, and first three formless attainments. Samādhi contains both samatha and vipassana within, they operate simultaneously.
✅If you had to find the closest synonym to samatha, it wouldn't be samādhi, it would be 
4👑☸ → STED → 7sb☀️ → 5🌊 passaddhi-sam-bojjh-aṅgassa  the passaddhi (pacification awakening factor)

My preferred translation term for 'samatha'

I like 'stilling (of)' the best, because the English word 'still' contains the letters 's' and 't', and so does 'samatha'. So it helps you remember the pāḷi and english correspondence.

But in practice, I'll usually use 'serenity', because unfortunately Ajahn Brahm in modern times has popularized a (wrong) interpretation of samādhi as "stillness". 

So because it's important to distinguish samādhi from samatha, I usually go with 'serenity'.


forum discussion


https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/49950/sensing-vs-knowing-inhalation-and-exhalation-in-anapana-according-to-goenka-trad/49965?noredirect=1#comment80524_49965

No, the main purpose of breath meditation is not to develop samatha. Collection of sutta passages on breath meditation here: https://lucid24.org/sted/16aps/index.html The main purpose is to counter the tendency for most people to engage in senseless thinking. Breath awareness is a way to root your attention in a skillful Dharma and prevent the mind from wandering in unprofitable directions.

So in whatever way one can be aware of the breath, at the nostrils, abdomen, in any body part, or the whole body simultaneously, as long as it brings the awareness to the breath and any skillful Dharma and away from the mind's tendency to become deluded and wandering, then the purpose has been served.

Step 3 of the the 16 steps is also important to understand correctly. 'sabba kāya patisaṁvedi', is to become senstive to the sensation of breath in the entire physical body. Not restricted to nostril, or abdomen, or any other small part.


  • What is your definition of Samatha? I always just translated it as concentration, any kind of concentration. 
    – Lowbrow
     3 hours ago
  • DPD (digtal pali dict.) has:samatha 1.1 masc. (+gen) stilling (of); serenity (of); calming (of); settling (of); peace (of); (comm) mental unification [√sam + a + tha] ✓ grammarexamplesdeclensionroot familycompound familyfrequencyfeedback samatha 1.2 masc. (+gen) (vinaya) settlement (of); deciding (of); appeasement (of); adjudication (of) [√sam + a + tha] ✓ 
    – frankk
     3 mins ago       
  • samatha is an important ingredient of samādhi, but it is not equivalent to it. samādhi ("concentration") in EBT (early buddhism) means the mind is undistractible, lucid (seeing reality clearly without distortion). Samatha, if you wanted to equate it with something, would more closely match the passadhi awakening factor (pacification, deep relaxation). 
    – frankk
     just