Samatha and Vipassanā (Tranquility and Insight Meditations): Points of Distinction

1 January 2519

Samatha and Vipassanā
(Tranquility and Insight Meditations):
Points of Distinction

Point of distinction Samatha Vipassanā
1. Nature Dependent on concentration Dependent on wisdom or insight
2. Characteristic Non-restlessness; no anxiety Knowing things as they are
3. Function Overcoming the five hindrances to the effective working of the mind Destroying ignorance or delusion (such as that manifested through the three perversions, which conceal the three characteristics of existence)
4. Appearance Stability of mind; state of being undisturbed Not deluded by phenomena
5. Proximate Cause Happiness Concentration
6. Object A mental image The present phenomena or activities
7. Meditating Factors Initial application, Sustained application, joy, happiness, one-pointedness of mind and other associated mental factors Ardor, clear comprehension and mindfulness
8. Method – To fix the mind on one single object (chosen from among the 40 meditation subjects) – To meditate on (be mindful of and clearly comprehending) any mental or physical activity or phenomenon that is performed or presents itself at the present moment. (These activities and phenomena are, for practical purposes, classified into the four foundations of mindfulness: body, feelings, states of consciousness and ideas)
– A secluded place and a particular physical posture are often needed – Any place and any posture are serviceable
– Practice preferably confined to two sense-doors (the eye and the mind) – No particular sense-door can be prescribed
9. Stages of Attainments Meditative absorptions Various insights and stages of purifications.
10. Profits – Calm and happiness of mind
– Fivefold supernormal knowledge
– Rebirth in Form and Formless Realms
– Temporary freedom; foundation for vipassanā
– Destruction of mental defilements
– End of suffering and final freedom
– The attainment of nibbana

 

N.B.: The five hindrances are sensual excitement (kāmachanda), ill will (byāpāda), sloth and torpor (thīna-middha), flurry and worry (uddhacca-kukkucca), and doubt (vicikicchā).

The three perversions are those of perception (saṭṭā-vipallāsa), of thought (citta-vipallāsa), and of views (diṭṭhi-vipallāsa).

Main Source: The Visuddhimagga III and XIV, and traditions.

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