Samatha Meditation – Everything You Need To Know

If you’re into meditation, you might have heard about Samatha from teachers like Pema Chodron and Jack Kornfield. It’s one of the most important of all Buddhist practices alongside Vipassana. It’s a “single-pointed meditation” that is one of the best meditations for concentration.

Also called “Peaceful Abiding”, Samatha is great for peacefulness and focus, and it reduces reactivity to thoughts and emotions. 

Let’s look at the instructions.

Guided Samatha Meditation

Samatha Meditation Guided Practice (Buddhist Meditation For Focus & Concentration)

Samatha Meditation Script

  1. [Optional] The best position for this exercise 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. (If you find this position uncomfortable simply sit on a chair).
  2.  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.
  3. Sit with a straight back so that your spine is elongated but relaxed. Tuck your chin down a little to elongate your neck. Gently open your mouth and rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Make sure your facial muscles are relaxed. 
  4. Choose a length of time that you will for. 
  5. 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. This will help to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, reduce amygdala activity, reduce sympathetic nervous system activity, and balance cortisol. In turn, this will reduce stress and relax your mind.  
  6. Now focus on your breath moving between your nostrils. This is the “one pointed focus” we talked about above.
  7. You will notice that while you focus on your breath, thoughts and feelings come to mind. You might experience mental chatter or “Monkey Mind”. Maybe you see certain images in your mind or feel certain emotions. This is normal. Allow these thoughts to flow freely through your mind. Do not attach to them. 
  8. Some teachers recommend reciting “Om” while meditating. 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 “one pointed focus”. 
  9. Always remember that the key is to observe the meditation object calmly.   
  10. To learn more I recommend reading the Samatha sutta.

Traditional Samatha Objects+

Traditional Samatha objects

Traditionally, Buddhists would practice Shamatha meditating on different objects. Many of these you will most definitely not want to meditate on. You’ll see what I mean!

I have included the list below simply for educational purposes. You might be surprised by some of the objects used in Samatha!  

 Ten Kasinas:

The kasina are physical objects that you can directly meditate on. These are:

  • Earth,
  • Water,
  • Fire,
  • Air,
  • Blue,
  • Yellow,
  • Red,
  • White,
  • Light,
  • Enclosed-space.

Ten kinds of Foulness:

These are ten meditations that involve meditating on decomposing corpses.

In the time of the Buddha, it was common for corpses to be disposed of in carnal grounds, which meant it was easy to find a corpse and meditate on it.

Today in Thailand, teachers advocate meditating on visions of your own body in various states of decay. Only advanced meditators should attempt this as it can be quite disturbing.

  • Bloated,
  • Livid,
  • Festering,
  • Cut-up,
  • Gnawed,
  • Scattered,
  • Hacked,
  • Bleeding,
  • Worm-infested
  • Skeleton

Ten kinds of Recollection (Anussati):

Anussati means “recollection,” “contemplation,” “remembrance,” “meditation” and “mindfulness.” These meditations involve devotional practices. For instance, 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),
  • Mindfulness occupied with the body,
  • Recollection of the Sangha (the Community),
  • Recollection of Virtue,
  • Mindfulness of Breathing,
  • Recollection of Generosity,
  • Recollection of Deities,
  • Peace,
  • Death.

Four Divine Abidings:

  • Loving Kindness,
  • Compassion,
  • Gladness,
  • Equanimity.

Four Immaterial States:

  • The base consisting of boundless space,
  • Boundless consciousness,
  • Nothingness
  • 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

We can also practice Samatha in a modern way by focusing on a positive object.

For instance:

  • Focus on the breath for calming and centering. 
  • Meditate on running water for freedom and flow.  
  • Meditate on blue skies for liberation. 

Basically, focus on a positive object. When we do this, we develop concentration. Plus, we absorb the positive quality of that object. That is the basis of this 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,
  • body,
  • positive mental qualities (like love and kindness)
  • and nature.  

Benefits of Samatha+

Benefits of Samatha Meditation 

1: Peacefulness & Focus

Samatha is all about cultivating a peaceful kind of concentration. Indeed, the word Samatha (Tibetan “shyiné”) is Pali for “Peaceful Abiding”, which means to have a calm and clear mind. This is essential.

Indeed, Buddhist monk Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche states that developing peaceful abiding is “the most important thing we can do… Peacefully abiding describes the mind as it naturally is. [The mind is] by nature joyous, calm, and clear.” [1] And Tibetan Buddhist scholar Jamgon Kongtrul says it’s about peace and pacification.

2: Health  

  • Calms the mind
  • Increases concentration
  • Stops monkey mind
  • Promotes 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
  • Helps with ADHD according to research from Nirbhay N. Singh et. al. [Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior, Medical College of Georgia] 
  • Samatha reduces amygdala activity and balances cortisol, which reduces stress. Plus, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system to produce feelings of relaxation.
  • Promotes the release of serotonin and balances dopamine 
  • Exercises the pre-frontal cortex, hippocampus, anterior insula, and limbic system. The result is a stronger brain, improved cognitive function, and better emotional processing.

3: Nibanna

Samatha is part of the process of nibanna (nirvana/liberation). We use this method with Vipassana (Insight) on the path to enlightenment. According to Robert Buswell Jr [Buddhist and Asian studies scholar], these two are the most referred to meditations in the Pali Canon.

Many people wonder what the difference between Samatha and Vipassana is. 

The difference is that in Samatha we focus on a concept of the mind (such as “the breath”). Contrastingly, in Vipassana we focus on reality (the actual sensations we are experiencing).

Samatha and Vipassana were originally part of the same practice. In the Pali Canon, Buddha explains that they are two “qualities of mind”. We cultivate these qualities by meditating.

Samatha is also part of a process based on the Kimsuka Tree Sutta, in which Buddha says that serenity and insight lead to nibbana. 

4: Concentration

In traditional Buddhism, Samatha empowers the mind to concentrate (which in Pali is “Samadhi”).

Buddha said, “‘Bhikkhus, you should cultivate concentration. Bhikkhus, if you have enough concentration, you can understand phenomena as they really are.” [Khandha Vagga Samyutta and Sacca Samyutta]

When we focus on an object, we improve our concentration (“Samadhi). When we achieve high states of concentration, we become one with the meditation object. This is called Dhyana. (Read: Dhyana meditation instructions).

5: Concentration leads to insight (“Vipassana”)

We can improve our concentration with Samatha. And we can gain insight with Vipassana. Next, we come to Panna, which means “Liberating wisdom”.  

In The Four Ways to Arahantship Sutta, Ven. Ānanda states that the above process (the dharma wheel) leads to Arahantship.

We have to follow this process to achieve enlightenment. We cannot get to Dhyana, Vipassana, or Panna without Samatha.  

6: Peaceful abiding

As we practise Samatha, three things happen:

  1. You experience fewer mental phenomena (like thoughts and feelings)
  2. You have greater concentration
  3. Your mind is more still and peaceful.

Then the essential thing. Eventually, your focus becomes so strong that when you concentrate on an object you feel as though you are one with it. 

When this happens, 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, or “fixed mind” and what yogis call Samyama.

7: Samatha and Jhana

The Jhana are meditative states of stillness defined in Buddhism. They are Vitakka, Vicara, Piti, Sukha and Ekaggata.

At the highest state of Jhana, when the mind is 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 some practitioners used Samatha for supernormal powers. For instance, clairaudience. They believed that when the mind is absolutely attuned to an object, it receives 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 has two choices. Firstly, to use their power for the good of others. Secondly, to use their power for selfish ends. Only by using their power for the good of others can the meditator truly defeat Dukkha (suffering).

8: Stops Suffering

In Buddhism, suffering is called Dukkha.

Eliminating Dukkha is the ultimate benefit of Samatha.

Through continual Samatha practise, we learn to accept and to perceive the reality of physical, mental, and spiritual pain. This acceptance ends suffering.

“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. Plus, we alleviate the symptoms of wounds and illnesses. 


We can all gain a thing or two by practising Samatha.

With a calm mind, we can enjoy the moments oftra our lives. Samatha provides mental stillness that lets us focus. In turn, this increases productivity. But the best thing is “Peaceful abiding”.  

If you would like to experience this peacefulness for yourself, book an online meditation lesson with me today.

Share This:

Get My Newsletter

Plus, receive our exclusive meditation coaching videos for free.

By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations.


  1. wow……I deffinately want what Samantha meditation has to offer. Oh dear now im I shall practise Samantha without predjudice or expectation……but with infinite patience.Thank you

  2. Thank you for sharing! I am very happy to read that you recommend samatha as a foundation for vipassana! This is very much what my own teacher always recommends. Morality is a foundation for concentration and concentration is a foundation for wisdom. If you have samadhi then vipassana is easy. It is often forgotten or ignored nowadays… People seem to want quick results and forget that the dhamma can not be rushed. You just need to keep trying with lot of patience and metta (loving-kindness).

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

private meditation lessons (1)