What is Samatha?
Samatha means calm or peace. Samatha meditation is an effective but gentle
way of training the mind to develop inner strength and freedom from turmoil,
leading on to clarity and understanding. This path from calm to insight
was followed by the Buddha himself, and is a central tradition of Buddhist meditation.
"The mind is fickle and flighty. It flies after fancies wherever it
It is difficult indeed to restrain. But it is a great good to control
A mind self-controlled is a source of great joy."
There are many techniques to practise Samatha. Mostly, when we say about
Samatha we refer to the 40 methods such as:
1. Ten special meditation objects, or Kasina(10)
2. Ten loasthsomeness or impurity, or Asubha(10)
3. Ten reflections or Anussati (10)
4. Four sublime states of mind, or Brahma Vihara(4)
5. Four formless spheres, or Arupa(4)
6. One perception of food loathsomeness, or Sanna(1)
7. One absence of the cycle of existence, or Vivatthana(1)
Now, the most popular methods which people are practising Samatha or
Concentration Meditation around the world is "Loving-kindness Meditation".
Loving-Kindness Meditation or Mettabhavana:
The original name of this practice is mettabhavana, which comes from the
Pali language. Metta means ‘love’ (in a non-romantic sense),
friendliness, or kindness: hence ‘loving-kindness’ for short.
It is an emotion, something you feel in your heart. Bhavana means development
or cultivation. The commonest form of the practice is in five stages,
each of which should last about five minutes for a beginner.
1. In the first stage, you feel metta for yourself. You
start by becoming aware of yourself, and focusing on feelings of peace,
calm, and tranquillity. Then you let these grow in to feelings of strength
and confidence, and then develop into love within your heart. You can
use an image, like golden light flooding your body, or a phrase such as
‘may I be well and happy’, which you can repeat to yourself.
These are ways of stimulating the feeling of metta for yourself.
2. In the second stage think of a good friend. Bring
them to mind as vividly as you can, and think of their good qualities.
Feel your connection with your friend, and your liking for them, and encourage
these to grow by repeating ‘may they be well; may they be happy’
quietly to yourself. You can also use an image, such as shining light
from your heart into theirs. You can use these techniques - a phrase or
an image - in the next two stages as well.
3. Then think of someone you do not particularly like
or dislike. Your feelings are ‘neutral’. This may be someone
you do not know well but see around. You reflect on their humanity, and
include them in your feelings of metta.
4. Then think of someone you actually dislike - an enemy.
Trying not to get caught up in any feelings of hatred, you think of them
positively and send your metta to them as well.
5. In the final stage, first of all you think of all four people together
- yourself, the friend, the neutral person, and the enemy. Then extend
your feelings further - to everyone around you, to everyone in your neighbourhood;
in your town, your country, and so on throughout the world. Have a sense
of waves of loving-kindness spreading from your heart to everyone, to
all beings everywhere.
"Sit in a comfortable fashion. Let your body relax and be at rest.
As best you can, let your mind be quiet, letting go of plans and preoccupations.
Then begin to recite inwardly the following phrases directed to yourself.
You begin with yourself because without loving yourself it is almost impossible
to love others."
May I be peaceful.
May I be happy.
May I live with ease and well being.
May I care for myself joyfully.
May I be free from inner and outer harm.
May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I come to freedom in this very life.
"As you say the phrases, you may also wish to use the image from
the Buddha's instructions: picture yourself as a young and beloved child,
or sense yourself as you are now, held in the heart of loving-kindness.
Repeat the phrases again and again, letting the feelings permeate your
body and mind."
"Practice this meditation repeatedly for several times until the
sense of loving-kindness for yourself grows." "When you feel
ready, in the same meditation period you can gradually expand the focus
of your loving-kindness to include others. After yourself, choose a benefactor,
someone in your life who has truly cared for you. Picture them and carefully
recite the same phrases: May he/she be filled with loving- kindness and
so forth. When loving-kindness for your benefactor has developed, begin
to include other people you love in the meditation, picturing them and
reciting the same phrases, evoking a sense of loving-kindness for them."
"After this, you can gradually begin to include others: friends,
community members, neighbours, people everywhere, animals, the whole earth,
and all beings. Then you can even experiment with including the most difficult
people in your life, wishing that they, too, be filled with loving-kindness
and peace. With some practice a steady sense of loving-kindness can develop
and in the course of 15 or 20 minutes you will be able to include many
beings in your meditation, moving from yourself, to a benefactor and loved
ones, to all beings everywhere."
"Then you can learn to practice it anywhere. You can use this meditation in traffic jams, in buses and airplanes, in doctors' waiting rooms, in
a thousand other circumstances. As you silently practice this loving-kindness meditation among people, you will immediately feel a wonderful connection
with them -- the power of loving-kindness. It will calm your life and
keep you connected to your heart."
We can say these phrases repeatedly to other creatures:
Just as I wish to be peaceful, may you be peaceful also.
Just as I wish to be happy, may you be happy.
Just as I wish to live with ease and well being, may you do so also.
Just as I wish to be free from harm, may you be free from harm also.
Just as I wish to be filled with lovingkindness, may you be filled also.
Just as I wish to be free, may you be free also.