Samādhi in Buddhism

6 May 2539
เป็นตอนที่ 1 จาก 13 ตอนของ


As I have learned from different sources, people in the West have shown an increasing interest in Buddhism and particularly in samādhi. For this reason I feel it necessary for us to have a clear comprehension of the subject and would like to talk about in a general way today.

Let us start by taking a look at the vocabulary related to the subject. The Pali terms have been loosely translated as follows:

bhāvanā: meditation or, more faithfully, development

samādhi: concentration

kammaṭṭhāna: subjects of meditation; meditation exercises

We frequently hear the word meditation being used for samādhi. But it does not really convey the actual meaning. People use it out of habit and for lack of understanding. I have talked with an American professor who taught Buddhism in America. He said that there was no practice of samādhi in the West in the same sense as in Buddhism. The closest kind of such a practice would probably be the one of the Quakers. When the Quakers come to a meeting, they sit quietly and calmly, and if someone experiences some thoughts, he will stand up and tell the people at the meeting what his thoughts were. Still, this cannot be compared to our practice in Buddhism because the two are far different.

When the scholars who studied Buddhist scriptures through English translations and those of other English-speaking Buddhist communities decided to use a word more precise than meditation, they came up with the word concentration. When we use the English word concentration, we have a clearer conception. In whatever we do, like when we study, our mind has to concentrate. When we say concentrate, we mean the mind has to focus on one point. If we do not concentrate, it will be difficult to understand the subject. The meaning of the word concentration is closer to that of the Pali term samādhi.

Bhāvanā means development in reference to the mind. When translated literally, it has the meaning of growth, cultivation. When our mind does not have a wholesome quality, we develop it; this is called bhāvanā. The development of anything of a wholesome nature is called bhāvanā, like developing faith, loving-kindness, samādhi, wisdom, understanding, and so forth. The word meditation is loosely used to stand for bhāvanā. But it has to be understood that these are simply words that we use to explain.

When we talk about bhāvanā or development of the aspects of the mind and wisdom, it is sometimes also called kammaṭṭhāna. There are two main kinds of meditation:

  1. Tranquillity meditation (samatha-bhāvanā) and
  2. Insight meditation (vipassanā-bhāvanā).

Tranquillity meditation is aimed at developing inner peace, which calms the mind in order to attain samādhi. Insight meditation cultivates wisdom, which will enable us to see the true nature of life and the world, to see that all compounded things are impermanent—they arise, proceed, and dissolve. They cannot remain static in their original form; they have to follow the metamorphic process and evolve according to cause and condition. The knowing of this truth is called insight.

ตอนก่อนหน้า/ตอนต่อไปI. The Correct Way of Practicing Meditation >>


  1. Based on a lecture given at Wat Dhammaram, Chicago, Illinois, on May 5, 1996. This slightly abridged version of the text was translated into English by Janet Chan, and the translation was edited by Susan Kirchhoff.

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