Dhamma Letter No. 6

The Two Ways of Samadhi

The Two Ways of Samadhi

Dhamma Letter No. 5 touched on the fact that both vipassana and samatha can lead to samadhi (tranquility). In this letter, we will extend this concept by diving deeper into the differences in samadhi brought about by vipassana versus samatha.

What is samadhi?

Samadhi means tranquility and is achieved in two ways:

  1. Samatha meditation

  2. Vipassana meditation

What are the differences between samatha and vipassana as they relate to samadhi?

Samatha meditation involves concentrating on a single object. Often times, this involves suppressing the mind in certain ways as to increase and maintain focus on the object of concentration. No matter the depth of mastery of samatha meditation, the tranquility that it develops is fragile. The mind cannot hold one object in mind forever. Moment to moment, the mind is always changing. The conditions in which tranquility was achieved from samatha will not persist indefinitely. Eventually, conditions will change such that calmness and tranquility will be lost. In this way, samatha meditation can succeed in achieving samadhi, but it will be fleeting and forever fragile.

Vipassana meditation uses the body and mind as its objects of concentration; therefore, the specific objects of concentration are countless. Vipassana intends to see the body and mind clearly, as it truly is. The insights achieved in this process consequent wisdom. This wisdom helps understand ourselves, which in turn helps us understand and relate to others, thus harmonizing our relationships. This wisdom and understanding stemming from knowledge of all that is occurring in the mind and body brings about a sort inner tranquility, samadhi, that endures forever. Because this knowledge can endure indefinitely, the tranquility that comes with it will as well.

How does samadhi relate to Right View?

The understanding and wisdom from which samadhi is a result means to see clearly, to see as it is. 'Seeing as it is' means to see without conceptualizations of what one desires to see or has seen previously. It is through Right View, the first step of the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path that we come to see clearly. Therefore, one cannot be in complete tranquility, samadhi, until attaining Right View.

May all you be experienced in tranquility with your practice!

Buddha Sāsanaṁ Ciraṁ Tiṭṭhatu!
May the Buddha’s teachings last a long time!

​Bhavatu Sabba Sotiṁ ca Maṅgalaṁ ca!!
May everyone be led on the path of peace and blessing!

Sādhu Sādhu Sādhu !

If you have any dhamma-related questions, please feel free to ask at hi@dhammaletter.com. We will include your questions with the answers in future Dhamma Letters.