Buddhist Meditation Article Series - 3

Mindfulness of the Breath - Ānāpānasati 
by Venerable U Paññānanda (Intagaw-Pa Auk)

What is Samatha?
The word samatha (serenity) is a general term for concentration. The word is almost synonymous with concentration (samadhi).
Samatha = Samādhi



Samādhi

Before we start to discuss about Samatha practice, we should know first what the concentration is. We can say that it is the mental ability to direct all your effort and attention on one thing without thinking of other things. It is the head of non-distraction(1). In texts, it is mentioned as 'mental one-pointedness' (One pointedness of the mind - cittassa ekaggatā)(2), so, Samatha meditation is to develop strong and deep concentration (one-pointedness) on one object.

It is because a meditator has to develop deep and stable concentration by focusing on one meditation object that a meditator should determine to practice one meditation subject only. So, we would normally suggest leaving aside all other old practices while practicing the currently chosen meditation subject.

Actually concentration is of many sorts (bahuvidho) and has various aspects. We shall confine ourselves to the kind intended here, calling the concentration profitable unification of mind (kusalacittekaggatā samadhi). Its function is to eliminate distraction. 

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(1) ...avikkhepasisañca samādhi. (paṭisambhidāmagga pāli. a) mahāvaggo, b) Ñānakathā, 35. Samasīsaṭṭhañāṇaniddeso)
(2) "Cittassa ekaggatā" is rendered as 'unification of mind' in the sense of harmony of consciousness and its concomitants in focusing on a single object. It is also rendered as 'one-pointedness of mind' in that sense, or in the sense of the focusing of a searchlight. This term is a synonym for samādhi (samatha = samādhi). 

Sources:

  • A Companion Volume to Brief Discussion on Ānapānasati (Mindfulness of the breath) by Venerable U Paññānanda (Intagaw-Pa Auk)
  • Image taken at Lankarama Buddhist Institute, La Puente, California. 

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