Vipassana vs. Samatha: What’s the difference?

“Vipassana” refers to “insight” and “samatha” refers to tranquility. Most introductory books on Buddhism will state that these are two distinct forms of meditation, but not everyone is of this opinion and the issue is controversial. The purpose of Vipassana meditation is to acquire a moment-to-moment mindfulness of the inconstancy of each and every event, cultivating a kind of stoic resignation to what you experience.

According to Thanissaro Bhikkhu, however, it is a mistake to teach that Vipassana is the crowning jewel of Buddhist meditation to the exclusion of samatha, because what we actually see in the Pali Canon are descriptions of two qualities that can be cultivated side by side in the same meditative practice.

“Jhana” (Absorption) is used more frequently as a term in the Pali texts, and during the few instances in which Vipassana is described with reference to a mindfulness technique, it is almost always paired with samatha as the two qualities individuals ought to cultivate rather than two distinct forms of meditative practice. It was jhana, therefore, in the eyes of the compilers of the Pali texts, which leads to the qualities of samatha and Vipassana.

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Experienced psychology writer and practitioner of psi abilities. Looking forward to contributing to a worldwide awakening to the reality of psi phenomena.

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