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Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition - Dhamma Wheel

Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
manjusri
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Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby manjusri » Thu Jul 07, 2011 3:00 am

Hello to everyone,

I am new to this forum and my question to those here: is the actual attainment of shamatha being actively promoted in the Theravada tradition these days by any of it's teachers, either here or elsewhere? We hear a lot about the importance of vipassana, but very little, it seems, about the importance of shamatha. I'm very curious how shamatha is generally regarded, and whether or not those within the tradition believe it's attainment is essential for a successful vipassana practice?

Back in 1988, I and a small group of Westerners completed a one year shamatha retreat in Washington State under the aegis of a Tibetan teacher (Gen Lamrimpa) and a Westerner, B. Alan Wallace. Shamatha, in the Mahayana sutrayana tradition, is regarded as indispensable for a successful insight practice, and yet, aside from Alan Wallace, I know of no one else who is promoting it's actual attainment.

Any feedback would be very much appreciated.

Metta,
Manjusri

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Ben
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Ben » Thu Jul 07, 2011 4:41 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Moggalana
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Moggalana » Thu Jul 07, 2011 8:28 am

Hi Manjusri,

Leigh Brasington has a good website about Jhanas and their various interpretations in the theravadin world. Look here: http://www.leighb.com/jhanas.htm

If you are interested in books, I would recommend Ajahn Brahm's and (pdf), Shaila Catherine's and Bhante Gunaratana's .

There is also the .

Ajahn Lee's is also quite popular here.
Let it come. Let it be. Let it go.

manjusri
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby manjusri » Thu Jul 07, 2011 3:40 pm

Thanks to Ben and Moggalana for posting (and Ben's warm welcome). I very much appreciate the links and suggestions.

In the Tibetan tradition, shamatha is considered a necessary attainment for engaging in a successful and effective vipassana or insight practice. Vipassana is understood, in my tradition, as an analytical meditation on the emptiness of both self and phenomena. Shamatha provides the necessary concentration as well as stability and clarity of mind needed to engage in a protracted meditation on emptiness. Shamatha falls just short of the first jhana as understood in the Tibetan tradition.

As far as I know, the full attainment of shamatha (all nine stages) is not something that many people are working towards. This is true, I believe, in both the Mahayana and Theravadin traditions. Is it understood, in your tradition, that one need not attain the full complement of shamatha to go on to have a non-conceptual realization of emptiness? How, if full shamatha is not required, does one do that? I can't imagine, personally, how one would be capable of advancing up through the nine stages of shamatha while, at the same time, engaging in insight practice? I would imagine that anything that takes your mind off your object (mine was the breath) would be considered a distraction?

And what place do the jhanas hold in your tradition? Are they necessary? Can you attain the first jhana, for example, without having attained shamatha first?

I realize these are a lot of questions! I am trying to understand how shamatha fits into your tradition vis a vis my tradition. Are we on the same page, or are there important differences?

BTW, is there a way to get an email notification when someone posts on this (or any other) thread? If someone could help me with that, I'd very much appreciate it. I couldn't find anything in the control panel that addresses this option.

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ancientbuddhism
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby ancientbuddhism » Thu Jul 07, 2011 3:41 pm



Ajahn Chandako gives a succinct presentation of how Samatha and Vipassanā are presented in the Nikāyas as a combined contemplative effort. And how this was presented by Ajahn Chah and the TFT.
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)


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daverupa
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby daverupa » Thu Jul 07, 2011 3:45 pm

Why do people generally still refer to vipassana as a practice? The jury is in: it's inaccurate. Even seeing samatha as a practice is inaccurate. They are two qualities of mind to be developed through Dhamma practice, not two types of Dhamma practice.

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ancientbuddhism
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby ancientbuddhism » Thu Jul 07, 2011 3:51 pm

I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)


Kenshou
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Kenshou » Thu Jul 07, 2011 4:09 pm


Kenshou
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Kenshou » Thu Jul 07, 2011 4:14 pm

Last edited by Kenshou on Thu Jul 07, 2011 4:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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tiltbillings
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 07, 2011 4:44 pm


Nyana
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Nyana » Thu Jul 07, 2011 5:15 pm


manjusri
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby manjusri » Thu Jul 07, 2011 5:54 pm


nathan
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby nathan » Thu Jul 07, 2011 6:43 pm

If one cultivates only samatha one may overcome the hindrances and develop considerable calm or the jhanas. If one cultivates only vipassana one may overcome the hindrances and develop the three perceptions of annica, dukkha and anatta.

If one cultivates the two qualities together one may overcome the hindrances, develop the three perceptions of annica, dukkha and anatta and continue to maintain these three perceptions throughout the continued development of calm and the jhanas.

It has typically been my experience that in applying energy to the cultivation of samatha and vipassana at the same time and inclining more energetically towards the cultivation of samatha the five hindrances are more readily overcome than by cultivating only samatha or vipassana and that vipassana is cultivated simultaneously by means of attending to the three perceptions of annica, dukkha and anatta that arise in relation to the flux of attention, the diversity which is opposed to samatha, as attention ranges throughout the various perceptions of the compounded conditions.

Cultivating the two qualities together in this way, when samatha deepens into jhana one continues to perceive the annica, dukkha and anatta natures of the compounded conditions which together make up the jhanas and formless concentrations. This is how the two qualities support and nurture the development of each other and how vipassana can continue to support useful and beneficial discernments throughout and up to the formless concentration on no-thing-ness and immediately following the concentration of neither perception nor-non-perception and the cessation of feeling and perception.

In my experience the two qualities work together seamlessly with the two exceptions of the one case where there is only one mental quality remaining and the one case where there are no mental qualities remaining. Even in the case of these two exceptions, when vipassana has been cultivated together with samatha, discernment can resume again as soon as there are at least two or more mental qualities arising together again in a compounded manner.
Last edited by nathan on Thu Jul 07, 2011 7:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

Freawaru
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Freawaru » Thu Jul 07, 2011 6:57 pm

Last edited by Freawaru on Thu Jul 07, 2011 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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daverupa
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby daverupa » Thu Jul 07, 2011 6:58 pm


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tiltbillings
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 07, 2011 7:01 pm


manjusri
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby manjusri » Thu Jul 07, 2011 9:32 pm


manjusri
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby manjusri » Thu Jul 07, 2011 9:59 pm


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daverupa
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby daverupa » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:18 pm


Nyana
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Nyana » Thu Jul 07, 2011 11:53 pm



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