In this guide, I will share the Samatha meditation technique, script, steps and benefits.
Samatha meditation means “tranquility of mind” or “peaceful abiding”, which Buddhist monk Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche says is “the most important things we can do”. It
Samatha meditation technique is one of the most important of all Buddhist practices. It is a “single-pointed meditation” that stills the mind so we can focus and be less affected by mental phenomena.
In this guide, I will teach you everything you need to know about Buddhist Samatha meditation.
What Is Samatha meditation technique?
Samatha (Tibetan shyiné”) is one of the core disciplines of Buddhist meditation. The other is Vipassana [tutorial].
I’ve researched both these techniques in depth over the past decade, and have spoken with meditation teachers and authors to create the ultimate guides for you.
Samatha is all about calmness. The word itself can be translated from Pali to mean “Peaceful Abiding”.
Lion’s Roar says:
“Peacefully abiding describes the mind as it naturally is. [The mind is] by nature joyous, calm and clear. In shamatha meditation…we’re letting our mind be as it is to begin with.” 
In other words, Samatha is about returning the mind to its natural, joyful state.
Samatha is expressed through the Tibetan term “Shyine”, which mean “peace and purification”.
Samatha meditation is a way to calm the mind and produce inner peace.
How To Do Samatha Meditation Technique (Script & Steps)
We’re now ready to do Shamatha meditation technique script.
A few notes first:
- Samatha should always be relaxed. The very word “Samatha” literally means “calm”. So guess what. You should practice Samatha calmly.
- Go gently: Most of us unfamiliar with focusing our minds so absolutely on one thing. If you ask your mind for too much too soon, you could cause harm. Demanding yourself to focus on one object for an hour is like demanding your legs to run a marathon the first time you put your running shoes on. Injury will occur. That’s why it’s imperative to train your mind gradually. I’ve personally made the mistake of trying to focus too hard too soon before, and I know from first-hand experience that you’re only setting yourself up for migraine.
- Follow the Samatha meditation script slowly Slowly…? Yeah, I know, it’s a lot more fun to dive in at the deep-end. Smart strategy is this: Try to focus on your object for around five minutes the first time. Then after a week, you can try ten minutes and so on. But don’t start by demanding yourself to focus for such a long period that you strain your brain. Be wise. Your mind is your best friend and most important ally. Treat it as such.
Are you ready to start?
Let’s begin by looking at the best position for Samatha.
The best position for Samatha meditation is the “Seven Point Posture of Vairochana”. To do this:
- Sit comfortably on the floor. Open your hip flexors gently and enter a cross-legged position. (note: if you find this position uncomfortable simply sit on a meditation chair or bench, making sure that your feet are shoulder-width apart).
- I personally like to use Gyan mudra for Samatha. To do this, place your hands on your thighs with your palms facing upwards. Now place the tip of your thumbs lightly against the tip of your index finger. Allow the remaining fingers to be gently extended.
- Make sure you sit with a straight back so that your spine is elongated but relaxed.
- Tuck your chin down a little, which will help to gently elongate your neck.
- Gently open your mouth and rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth
- Make sure your facial muscles are relaxed, including your eyes, nose, mouth, and jaw.
- Now that we are in a good posture, we are ready to continue with our practice.
- Choose a length of time to meditate for. 20 minutes is a good bet.
- Take a few deep breaths in through your nose. Watch as your breath moves through your nostrils, through your throat, and down into your diaphragm. Continue to focus on this process of breathing for a few moments.
- Now focus on your breath moving between your nostrils. This is the “one pointed focus” of this method.
- You will notice that while you focus on your breath, thoughts and feelings come to mind. You might experience mental chatter; you might see certain images in the mind; you might feel certain emotions. This is normal. Allow these thoughts to flow freely through your mind. Do not attach to them.
- Some teachers instruct you to recite the mantra OM while doing this. This is fine. But you should choose to focus on one thing. If you meditate on the breath, do not meditate on OM. If you meditate on OM, do not meditate on the breath. Remember, the purpose is of “one point focus”.
- Always remember that the key is to observe the meditation object calmly. This is different to other meditations like Bhakti [tutorial].
Now that we have looked at how to do Samatha meditation with the script above, let’s look at the important of this method. It truly is quite staggering how powerful this simple exercise is.
Samatha, Vipassana, And The Process of Nibanna
Samatha is part of the process to nibanna.
Many people wonder how Samatha and Vipassana (another Buddhist meditation) relate to one another.
Samatha and Vipassana were originally part of the same practice. In the Pali Canon, Buddha explains that Samatha and Vipassana are two “qualities of mind” that should be cultivated by meditating. Vipassana is actually not referred to in the Pali suttas as a form of meditation but as a quality that is developed through mindfulness. Buddhist scholar Robert Buswell Jr. states that Samatha is the most commonly mentioned technique in the Pali Canon and that Samatha is followed by jhnana and leads to insight (vipassana).
Take a look at the dharma wheel below, and you’ll see how Samatha meditation technique is part of a process.
This image shows the Dharma wheel and the Buddhist path to Nibbana (Nirvana).
- In traditional Buddhism, Samatha meditation technique empowers the mind to concentrate (which in Pali is “Samadhi”).
- Samadhi (concentration) then leads the mind to be absorbed by the object of concentration in Dhyana (Read: Dhyana method instructions).
- This in turn leads to insight (“Vipassana”)
- And, finally, what Buddhists call “Liberating Wisdom” (Panna).
This is an essential process leading to enlightenment.
Simply put: it’s a process.
We cannot get to Dhyana, Vipassana, or Panna without Samatha.
We need to practice Samatha meditation technique to develop calmness, because calmness leads to focus, which leads to insight and wisdom.
Calm abiding (Samatha) comes first.
Why Is Samatha (calmness) So Important?
Samatha meditation technique is one of the best meditations for focus and concentration.
Essentially, Samatha calms the mind, and calmness creates both concentration and insight. Oftentimes the mind is unruly. We often act in thoughtless ways, or get caught up in emotions, or simply see things from the wrong point of view. We experience “Monkey Mind”. We fall for the tricks of the mind.
I was once made ill by the “tricks of my mind”. When I went through depression many years ago, I thought I was seriously ill even though I had nothing wrong with me. My mind was playing tricks on me. I kept seeing myself ill and thinking the worst. I went through hell. And it was a hell entirely created by my mind. What did I learn? I learned not to be a slave to my thoughts or my mind. So how do you stop being a slave to your thoughts?
How do you take control of the mind?
Samatha creates mental control by cultivating “peaceful abiding”, which is essentially calmness.
- Silences your thoughts
- Creates inner calm
- Create insight into the true nature of the mind
- Creates true vision of reality (allows us to see things for what they are)
The meaning of Samatha (Sanskrit: शमथ; Chinese: 止 zhǐ) is literally translated as “mind-calmness” and this is what it is all about.
Samatha is a way of training the mind to be still so that we can concentrate.
In the Samatha meditation script, we focus on one object and meditate on it. This gradually builds our focus and stills the mind.
When you tried the Samatha meditation script above, you may have found it challenging. When I started doing Samatha meditation, I could only focus for a couple of minutes. We have to build that mind-muscle just like we build our other muscles at the gym. As you practice, you will go through the stages of focus, from fish to monkey-mind to monk.
Most people are not used to focusing entirely on one thing. But through regular practice, the mind grows stronger.
As the mind grows stronger, three things happen:
- You experience less mental phenomena
- You have greater concentration
- Your mind is more still and peaceful (remember our discussion about “Peaceful Abiding”? Your mind will be starting to abide peacefully.
Then the essential thing:
Eventually, your focus becomes so strong than when you concentrate on an object you feel as though you are one with it; you are not aware of the difference between the meditation object and yourself because your mind is so keenly focused. This is what Buddhists call Jhana, “fixed mind”.
Samatha and Jhana
The Buddha taught that there are five stages of Jhana through which the meditator progresses.
The Jhana are meditative states of stillness used in Buddhism. They are Vitakka, Vicara, Piti, Sukha and Ekaggata.
At the highest state of Jhana, when the mind is wholly fixed on external reality, we are freed from desire, lust, hatred and other mental impurities. The result is complete happiness and serenity. We achieve enlightenment.
Gets deeper too:
In ancient times there were some practitioners who used Samatha meditation technique as a means to gain supernormal powers like clairaudience. They believed that when the mind absolutely attuned to an object, it can receive messages from that object. For instance, when focusing absolutely on another person, the meditator would hear their thoughts.
At the highest level of Jhana the mediator is left two choices: use their power for their own good or for the good of others. Only by using their power for the good of others can the meditator truly defeat Dukkha, suffering, from their mind.
Ultimately, Samatha meditation is about removing Dukkha
In Budhhism, suffering is called Dukkha. Eliminating Dukkha is the ultimate aim of Samatha meditation technique. Through continual Samatha practise, we learn to accept and to perceive the reality of physical, mental and spiritual pain. This sense of acceptance then allows us to overcome the pain.
“Dukkha” and “Suffering” are Buddhist vernacular. Today we are more likely to say that meditation allows us to overcome negative thinking, depression, anxiety, stress, and all other mental pain, as well as to help to alleviate the symptoms of wounds and illnesses.
Samatha is about eliminating Dukkha.
Traditional Shamatha meditation objects
Samatha is all about focusing the mind on one thing. Traditionally, Buddhists would practice Shamatha with different meditation objects. Many of these you will most definitely not want to actually meditate on (you’ll see what I mean!). The list below is simply for educational purposes to show how to do Samatha meditation technique as was originally taught all those years ago.
The kasina are physical objects that you can directly meditate on. These are:
Ten kinds of Foulness:
These are ten meditations that involve meditating on decomposing corpses. Yes, really. In the time of the Buddha, it was common for corpses to be disposed of in carnal-grounds, which meant it was relatively easy to find a corpse and meditate on it. Today in Thailand, teachers advocate meditating on visions of your own body in these various states. Only advanced meditators should attempt this as it can be quite disturbing.
- The bloated,
- The livid,
- The festering,
- The cut-up,
- The gnawed,
- The scattered,
- The hacked,
- and scattered,
- The bleeding,
- The worm-infested
Ten kinds of Recollection (Anussati):
Anussati means “recollection,” “contemplation,” “remembrance,” “meditation” and “mindfulness.” These meditations involve devotional practices, like recollecting the sublime qualities of the Buddha, and meditative attainment, such as the ability to recollect past lives.
- Recollection of the Buddha ( the Enlightened One),
- Recollection of the Dhamma (the Law),
- Recollection of the Sangha (the Community),
- Recollection of Virtue,
- Recollection of Generosity,
- Recollection of Deities,
- Recollection of Death,
- Mindfulness occupied with the body,
- Mindfulness of Breathing,
- Recollection of Peace.
Four Divine Abidings:
- Loving Kindness,
Four Immaterial States:
- The base consisting of boundless space,
- The base consisting of boundless consciousness,
- The base consisting of nothingness
- The base consisting of neither perception nor non-perception.
- The One Perception : the Perception of Repulsiveness in Nutriment.
- The One Defining : the defining of the Four Elements.
Modern Shamatha Meditation Technique
Mainly Samatha meditation technique involves focusing on a positive object that elicits a positive response. If you want a speedy answer to how to do Samatha meditation technique, it’s this: focus on an object that creates positive mental states.
- The breath is calming and centring. This is why we can calm the mind by meditating on the breath.
- Running water is free and flowing. When you meditate on running water, you free your mind and create flow.
- Blue skies signify liberation. When you meditate on a clear sky, you liberate your mind.
Focus on an object with a clear positive trait and you will a) develop your concentration, and b) mentally absorb the positive quality of that object. That is the basis of Samatha meditation.
You can choose to focus on any positive object you like. Some of my personal favourite objects to meditate on are: stars, the sky, candles, water, my cats, my breath, my body, positive mental qualities (like love and kindness) and nature.
Feel free to choose your positive objects.
I highly recommend that among your meditations you include meditations on your body, your breath, physical movement, a calming sound, and positive mental images. The body and the breath are particularly important as they anchor your mind and enhance your mind-body connection.
The Benefits Of Samatha Meditation
There is a reason why Buddhists consider this technique so important.
There are lots of benefits of Samatha meditation.
Like these benefits:
- It calms the mind
- Increases concentration
- Stops monkey mind
- Promote joy
- Increases inner peace
- Helps to balance emotions
- Makes you more productive
- Helps you to see reality outside of mental delusions
- Reduces prejudices
- Reduces stress
- Boosts immune system
- Promotes positive feelings
These are the most essential health benefits of Samatha meditation as proven by science.
As with most meditations, there are a few key ways in which Samatha helps us. For starters, it reduces amygdala activity and balances cortisol, which reduces stress. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system to produce feelings of relaxation. Meanwhile, happy neurochemicals like serotonin are released, and dopamine is balanced. The act of focusing the mind on one thing also exercises the pre-frontal cortex, hippocampus, anterior insula and limbic system. This strengthens the brain, improves cognitive function, and improves emotional processing.
Samatha meditation is a vital meditation technique. And I don’t just mean for Buddhists. For everyone.
With a calm mind, we can enjoy the moments of our lives.
Samatha also provides mental stillness. And with stillness we can focus, meaning we will be more productive.
But the best thing is inner peace, that sense of “Peaceful abiding”.
Samatha is a gentle way of restoring inner peace to the mind. That makes it a must-use technique not just for Buddhists, for everyone.
How did you get on with Samatha? I’d love to hear from you.
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