dmattwads

Samatha vs Vipassina

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So before I get into my main point/ question I want to state that I do realize that the Samatha vs Vipassina debate in Buddhism and meditation circles in general is one of many and varied opinions. What I am interested in is hearing individual experiences with one or the other or both. I realize there are many teachers that advocate various approaches for various reasons and I also realize that there is no one size fits all approach. 

 

  I'd personally say that the two main "teachers" I claim are Ajahan Braham and Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu of youtube fame. Ajahan Braham seems to advocate for more of a Samatha approach in order to reach the jhanna  states after which insight is supposed to come as a result. Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu on the other hand does not teach this approach but rather Vipassina insight meditation by the means of noting or labeling what ever arises in the mind as a way of gaining insight. 

 

  Lately I have been thinking that the Samatha approach is better for me as I feel pretty good from doing it, whereas after doing the Vipassina method I often tend to feel agitated. I'm sure other people may have had other experiences but I am speculating that having endured a lot of childhood trauma in my early years perhaps Vipassina isn't the best for me. Can anyone relate? 

 

  Aside from that I would be interested in hearing other peoples experiences and thoughts on this topic. 

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Go with what you feel.

Shamatha is an extremely valuable skill for all meditative practice, for all of life. As the internal dialogue quiets, the mind naturally looks at the looker and insight will naturally arise. In my opinion and experience, insight is more likely to occur to a tranquil mind than a turbulent mind. That said, insight can occur spontaneously to anyone at anytime. Nevertheless, skill in shamatha will serve you well even beyond insight. 

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Samatha is very calm, peaceful and slow.

 

Vipasanna however is the polar opposite. You are forced to sit in agonizing pain until you hit samadhi and the pain goes.

Both will work but one will work in a week the other... maybe 3 years depending on your spiritual maturity.

I went to Samatha classes for a good 6 months last summer and I don't feel like I grew much. If anything I got the vibe that they like to play-down your experiences. You have an awakening, you tell them, they tell you to dismiss it because you haven't been going to class long enough.... seems a bit stupid to me.

 

 

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21 minutes ago, shortstuff said:

Vipasanna however is the polar opposite. You are forced to sit in agonizing pain until you hit samadhi and the pain goes.

Are you sure this is the right way? Why do people consider forceful and masochistic pain endurance practices necessary evils for spiritual cultivation? I would consider having another teacher who can make meditation fun again.

 

Then again I am doing atiyoga (dzogchen), and it does away with vipassana approach completely because open awareness is superior to our usual limited attention (mindfulness).

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According to some Dzogchen masters, like Tulku Urgyen for example, it is said that Ati culminates when an optimum balance between Vipassana and Samatha is struck. And striking this balance is vital as it promotes stabilisation of Ati (the View). The preliminary Ngondro sadhanas are recommended for achieving this expressed purpose of balance, supported of course by a strong arousal of bodhicitta (which is the key point that sets Vajrayana apart from the 'lesser' yanas). 

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Basically Vipassana helps to bring the View into alignment/focus, and Samatha helps to prevent the potential of getting stuck or contracted (leading to conceptual delusions) when that spacious awareness is reached. So both are equally emphasised, even in Dzogchen! lol

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Why was I writing in this thread in the first place? I wanted to give a view that the Buddhist sutra teachings and their favorite methods, samatha and vipassana, may not be the most pleasant and easiest ways to health and enlightenment. I can only encourage everyone to investigate this claim and try out yourself whether atiyoga (with some guruyoga) could work for you.

 

There are many ways to establish ati and reinforce its experience as C T implied in his earlier post. I have learned to do it through simple but very effective tantric practices that culminate in guruyoga prior to ati meditation. All of these prior exercises introduce open awareness naturally and use barely any meditative effort excluding some gentle visualization (in which I am not very good), hence leading to stable ati without any deliberate samatha or vipassana visitations. It's frankly amazing that such teachings exist.

 

1 hour ago, C T said:

Basically Vipassana helps to bring the View into alignment/focus, and Samatha helps to prevent the potential of getting stuck or contracted (leading to conceptual delusions) when that spacious awareness is reached. So both are equally emphasised, even in Dzogchen! lol

Theoretical explanations such as this can be meaningful in some dzogchen traditions if they utilize them in practice.

 

Open awareness is the original nature of mind. If it helps someone to stay there better by applying methods of samatha and vipassana, then great. The simpler way I do it is just relaxing into ati, which is increasingly easy and natural. Is it any wonder why atiyoga is sometimes called non-meditation?

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Thank you for taking the time to expand some interesting points, Virtue. Its much appreciated. 

 

Happy to note that you are able to sustain the View with ease. However, its my understanding that there are refining levels of samatha and vipassana being engaged as one progresses in stabilising Ati, and even in non-meditation for that matter, so it might perhaps be a bit generalised to say that these 2 modes of practice are exclusively the domain of the sutric path. Some masters equate non-meditation with the state of being free of distractive and discursive mental activity, where one rests simply in the wide open expanse of self-arisen awareness. Imo, the cognisant aspect (bliss arising from seeing all phenomena as empty) and the resting aspect (innate wisdom) in union in that expanse, where there is no mistaking the View, is the same as the end-result of fusing the practice samatha and vipassana in the most effective way possible. 

 

This is merely my limited understanding based on the little practice i have done thus far, so please do not take the above as some sort of authoritative opinion. :)

Edited by C T
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I was wondering if anyone else has ever felt that after doing either meditation that even if they feel good while doing it, a little while later they feel bad (mentally/emotionally)? I think I am starting to notice this pattern, and this is over the space of several years. 

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Feelings come and go. In basic Buddhism the practitioner hopefully will have learnt to understand that feelings are not-self, impermanent and therefore bound to cause agitation. Knowing this one begins to become less attached and unperturbed. 

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22 minutes ago, dmattwads said:

I was wondering if anyone else has ever felt that after doing either meditation that even if they feel good while doing it, a little while later they feel bad (mentally/emotionally)? I think I am starting to notice this pattern, and this is over the space of several years. 

 

Yes, things like that can be very common. Sort of like with meditation, you dig a quiet hole,¬†relax in it and the energy rises with it. But as you get caught up with more normal daily concerns, that energy starts to ‚Äúhit‚ÄĚ unresolved issues and fears, and that can spill¬†over in your mind as emotional pain. It is all a process as you clear away stuff.

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With some types of meditation maybe, but not all will yield this kind 'hits' - unresolved issues and fears are self-created. If the meditator is firmly established in understanding the basis of buddhadharma then the possibility of taking these things as real does not arise, since the self does not exist independently. But that particular knowledge must first be realised and integrated. Without this integration it is most likely that identifications with these 'becomings' will continue unabated until the meditator gains the wisdom of knowing how to discern fundamental buddhist paradigms. 

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17 minutes ago, C T said:

With some types of meditation maybe, but not all will yield this kind 'hits' - unresolved issues and fears are self-created. If the meditator is firmly established in understanding the basis of buddhadharma then the possibility of taking these things as real does not arise, since the self does not exist independently. But that particular knowledge must first be realised and integrated. Without this integration it is most likely that identifications with these 'becomings' will continue unabated until the meditator gains the wisdom of knowing how to discern fundamental buddhist paradigms. 

 

So, if you believe in particular concepts then with the right meditation you will not have any issues that arises from your spiritual progression or practice? Nothing ever get's "hit" it just all goes away nice and easy?

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6 minutes ago, Jonesboy said:

So, if you believe in particular concepts then with the right meditation you will not have any issues that arises from your spiritual progression or practice? Nothing ever get's "hit" it just all goes away nice and easy?

C T wrote about realization which by definition is beyond mere belief and conceptualization. One may intellectually "see" that non-attachment and letting go are simple and beneficial, but that is a far cry from actually realizing either.

 

My teacher also keeps stating that most people hoard a lot of karmic energies tangled with their limited self-image or ego. Once permanent awakening occurs, this instantly realizes and resolves karmic unwinding.

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3 minutes ago, Jonesboy said:

 

So, if you believe in particular concepts then with the right meditation you will not have any issues that arises from your spiritual progression or practice? Nothing ever get's "hit" it just all goes away nice and easy?

 

If a belief is established in a self that is a permanent entity then it will follow that the hits will be real. That is the logical progression isnt it? 

 

So if a practitioner happens to be free of clinging to notions of permanence, then the idea of being hit does not even arise, so what is there left to go away when nothing is stuck? Being stuck and contracted are states of mind that can only arise where the belief in a truly existent self is strong. 

 

Chadrakirti said idiots believe doing bad things lead one to hell, and doing good things lead one to heaven. Beyond good and bad, he said the wise are liberated. There is some truth to this. The true practitioner is one who does not cling to any beliefs -

 

Kyabgon Phakchok Rinpoche said, "When you start believing, then something is wrong. You shouldn't believe it. This is the typical buddhist teaching. You believe it, you are finished. Like for example, you call yourself a buddhist? First, you need to ask a question. Who are you? Do you exist yourself, to be called a buddhist? I'm not kidding really! First, you don't have an ego, an "I" to be called a Buddhist... then how are you going to say I'm a buddhist!? It's contradictory to your practice! Contradictory to your whole thing! But people tell me they are Buddhist. I say "ok." I carry a mala, they say I'm fanatic believer. I say, "ok, you want to say like that no problem." But if, sincerely, you ask me that question, then I don't have no belief... The real non believer I think is Buddhist. The nihilistic people they have belief very strong. I'm not kidding."

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4 minutes ago, virtue said:

C T wrote about realization which by definition is beyond mere belief and conceptualization. One may intellectually "see" that non-attachment and letting go are simple and beneficial, but that is a far cry from actually realizing either.

 

My teacher also keeps stating that most people hoard a lot of karmic energies tangled with their limited self-image or ego. Once permanent awakening occurs, this instantly realizes and resolves karmic unwinding.

 

Thank you Virtue,

 

I believe he was talking about meditation not a realization. He was saying with the right beliefs and practices one never has any issues that might arise.

 

Even with the realization of working through obstructions. That working through can still be a pain in the ass. aka not always fun. It takes effort when caught up to step back and reside, to do ones practice and trust in it in those times of pain and suffering.

 

I have found it is when one does work through the issues it is the expansion afterwards that is always worth it.

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12 minutes ago, C T said:

 

If a belief is established in a self that is a permanent entity then it will follow that the hits will be real. That is the logical progression isnt it? 

 

So if a practitioner happens to be free of clinging to notions of permanence, then the idea of being hit does not even arise, so what is there left to go away when nothing is stuck? Being stuck and contracted are states of mind that can only arise where the belief in a truly existent self is strong. 

 

Chadrakirti said idiots believe doing bad things lead one to hell, and doing good things lead one to heaven. Beyond good and bad, he said the wise are liberated. There is some truth to this. The true practitioner is one who does not cling to any beliefs -

 

Kyabgon Phakchok Rinpoche said, "When you start believing, then something is wrong. You shouldn't believe it. This is the typical buddhist teaching. You believe it, you are finished. Like for example, you call yourself a buddhist? First, you need to ask a question. Who are you? Do you exist yourself, to be called a buddhist? I'm not kidding really! First, you don't have an ego, an "I" to be called a Buddhist... then how are you going to say I'm a buddhist!? It's contradictory to your practice! Contradictory to your whole thing! But people tell me they are Buddhist. I say "ok." I carry a mala, they say I'm fanatic believer. I say, "ok, you want to say like that no problem." But if, sincerely, you ask me that question, then I don't have no belief... The real non believer I think is Buddhist. The nihilistic people they have belief very strong. I'm not kidding."

 

I think you are talking two different levels of being.

 

If you have realized emptiness it isn't a concept any longer but a state of being. Hence as you stated no issues and nothing get's hit.

 

Until one has realized such a state, issues still get hit because it is all local mind. Even the belief, is just a thought, one that you are caught up in. If you still believe in a CT and all the beliefs that make up CT. You are still caught up and getting "hit" by stuff.

 

One concept doesn't move one beyond other concepts and issues. Only a true realization will do that. Saying that believing in a concept that is not realized will make everything smooth and easy is just propaganda.

 

Edited by Jonesboy

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On 12/28/2017 at 8:36 PM, dmattwads said:

Lately I have been thinking that the Samatha approach is better for me as I feel pretty good from doing it, whereas after doing the Vipassina method I often tend to feel agitated. I'm sure other people may have had other experiences but I am speculating that having endured a lot of childhood trauma in my early years perhaps Vipassina isn't the best for me. Can anyone relate? 

 

I'm not a buddhist ( or anything for that matter, just BES) but I can relate to childhoodtrauma's.

 

Take the slow and careful route, as long as the troubles that come up lead to agitation, you ( meaning the bodymindsystem that you're inhabiting at the moment)  have to deal with that agitation. When that agitation gets too big, it'll set you back.

 

Later there may come a moment where the ' you' becomes so aware that those emotional troubles are not ' you' anymore. Just a memory, something that has formed the way the ' you' behaves, something ' you' can observe instead of being emotionally pulled into.. Then you can go deeper/faster. The moment will arise of itself, you'll know when it happens.

 

at least, that was the way for me, I've been going too fast, at first. But it is not the healthy way. Do not let people push you, it's your life, your path, your pain.

 

just my two cents of course 

 

I wish you love and light om your path

 

BES

 

 

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Thanks... I've actually taken a few days off from meditation to see what happens, and this has been my observation. The feelings have become less intense, I'm still aware of them but they are not so acute. I'm sure to some degree I probably identify with the feelings but I don't think that is the main issue. Its like I got my leg stuck in a bear trap, I don't think the bear trap is me, but it still hurts like hell lol. 

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Its ok to acknowledge hurt, but not so ok to sustain a mindset that says "I am hurting". 

 

I think release is very possible when certainty in knowing the subtle differences is established. 

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51 minutes ago, Jonesboy said:

 

I think you are talking two different levels of being.

 

If you have realized emptiness it isn't a concept any longer but a state of being. Hence as you stated no issues and nothing get's hit.

 

Until one has realized such a state, issues still get hit because it is all local mind. Even the belief, is just a thought, one that you are caught up in. If you still believe in a CT and all the beliefs that make up CT. You are still caught up and getting "hit" by stuff.

 

One concept doesn't move one beyond other concepts and issues. Only a true realization will do that. Saying that believing in a concept that is not realized will make everything smooth and easy is just propaganda.

 

 

There is always the encouragement in Buddhist practice to put conceptual understandings to the test, which can only help when one has fully grasped the basics of the teachings. Otherwise it will be almost impossible to obtain the correct result. 

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2 hours ago, C T said:

Its ok to acknowledge hurt, but not so ok to sustain a mindset that says "I am hurting". 

 

I think release is very possible when certainty in knowing the subtle differences is established. 

 

I am a big believer in moving beyond the mind when hurting.

 

Of feeling the underlying energy of the upset and residing, being with that obstruction, that feeling and letting it go.

 

Our hurts as described by the OP is energy hitting upon obstructions. His practice is a little to much, hitting upon issues which cause mind stories. To me the story doesn't matter, the brain likes to come up with issues or make one up if one isn't present. So finding the underlying issue is just more thoughts chasing thoughts. The issue you find may just be a surface issue, there is always more.

 

So instead of saying the issue is not believing in a concept that makes everything easy. It is more like he is doing to much and needs to slow his practice down. Notice after he took a break for a couple of days things eased. This is a common occurrence for people trying to push the practice to fast.

 

So for me when dealing with issues is again moving beyond the thoughts, beyond the upsets, residing in the energy of the obstruction is much like your acknowledging the upset and not getting caught up in the "I am hurting". I guess the difference is I am more of a fan of being or being with instead of thinking of concepts in such times.

 

I would agree that over time, concepts become realizations and it's always best to put our concepts to the test with practice.

Edited by Jonesboy
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I do admit that while I'm doing it I find meditation generally enjoyable and tend to do it quite a bit especially when I have lots of free time it can be several hours a day. So I agree with what you said about slowing down and going too far too fast. Again it seems to be confirmed by taking a break causing me to feel better. In the meantime there's always study and reading of the texts which I had been neglecting with an emphasis more on meditation practice but which are very useful in and of themselves.

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1 hour ago, Jonesboy said:

 

I am a big believer in moving beyond the mind when hurting.

 

To me the story doesn't matter, the brain likes to come up with issues or make one up if one isn't present. So finding the underlying issue is just more thoughts chasing thoughts. The issue you find may just be a surface issue, there is always more.

 

 

 

Thanks. Im glad there's something we can agree on. 

 

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In my limited experience with Vipassana, I can say that it hurts like hell.  (Emotionally; physically I was OK.)  It`s also quite wonderful.  Then again, I`m a big believer in so many things -- first and foremost myself -- so that likely explains my experience.

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