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Questions regarding Samatha Meditation and Anapanasati meditation


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Dear Everyone

I have some questions regarding Samatha Meditation and Anapanasati meditation, what are the similarities and differences between them? Does the practice of Anapanasati lead to Samatha ("tranquility of the mind", or "mind-calmness")? Are both intertwined conceptually? Does either practice lead to a similar outcome? Does anyone know of any resources for Samatha practice (I am interested)? I am currently reading Practical Insight Meditation by Mahási Sayádaw which has lead to some clarification. Lately I have decided to take a step back from Vipassana meditation and prioritize more on relaxation meditation (Yoga Nidra) daily and maintain an Anapanasati practice. Yet I'm a bit confused and seeking some clarity on the topic. I often believe that I just over analyzing the process which is common with me. Any thoughts, insights, or advice from those who encountered the similar issues would be kindly appreciated. 

Kind Regards

Rui

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Hi Rui,

Samatha (unification of mind) and vipassana (clear seeing, or insight) are qualities of mind, not methods. Goenka's body scan method is commonly known as "Vipassana," but this is a misnomer. Anapanasati (literally "mindfulness of the breath") is the Buddha's instructions for developing both samatha and vipassana using the breath as the object of meditation.

So, yes, anapanasati will develop samatha. In fact, so will traditional "vipassana" meditation. These two can not be pulled apart as completely independent aspects. However, you can emphasize one over the other. As for resources, there are many available, across a wide range of traditions. Considering your terminology and reading material, and since you are already practicing anapanasati, Right Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu might be a good place to start. The book is freely available in a variety of formats at that link. For a more thorough, more academic text, perhaps consider Mindfulness of Breathing: A Practice Guide and Translations by Bhikkhu Analayo. I have not read this one myself, but I have read a number of his other works and they are all very high-quality.

Finally, I will ask you to consider: Perhaps you already know enough. If you are prone to overanalyzing, then you are probably the type who always wants more information, more confirmation. (I speak from personal experience!) Often, we already know enough and would benefit far more from simply doing the work. That said, study is important, too. Just be careful about letting it impede your practice.

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Very wise advice 

11 hours ago, Nathan said:

Perhaps you already know enough. If you are prone to overanalyzing, then you are probably the type who always wants more information, more confirmation. (I speak from personal experience!) Often, we already know enough and would benefit far more from simply doing the work. That said, study is important, too. Just be careful about letting it impede your practice.

Indeed, thinking and not doing often impedes progress and this applies to everything. Lately my feelings of uncertainly began to arise during my practice of Vipassana, then I began overanalyzing aspects of the practice seeking confirmation. This in itself lead to more confusion and often subsequent abandonment of practice on some days (Not good at all). Needless to say it is nothing more than challenges that the mind presents during times of stress. I personally feel that Kit's Relaxation Meditation in conjunction with anapanasati has lead to greater ease in my mind, and has strengthen my practice. Cheers thank you for the kind response Rui

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10 hours ago, ruitheosteopath said:

Lately my feelings of uncertainly began to arise during my practice of Vipassana, then I began overanalyzing aspects of the practice seeking confirmation. This in itself lead to more confusion and often subsequent abandonment of practice on some days (Not good at all).

Are you familiar with the Five Hindrances? If not, learning about them might be more helpful than reading about methods, such as anapanasati. What you describe here is the hindrance of doubt - the most dangerous of them all. Here is a short article by Gil Fronsdal (excellent teacher): Doubting Doubt: Practicing With the Final Hindrance. You can find his articles on the other hindrances on this page (scroll down to Five Hindrances). There are audio recordings of related talks here, if you prefer listening.

Anapanasati + lying relaxation is a great combination, and all you have to do to develop insight (vipassana) is simply be aware of what is happening in your experience during these practices.

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