It’s often claimed that the term “Samatha Vipassana” only appears once in the Early Buddhist texts, namely at MN 149:

"tassime dve dhammā yuganandhā vattanti — samatho ca vipassanā ca"

"These two things — serenity and insight — occur in him yoked evenly together."

This claim of once is an oversimplification.

Perhaps this famous “once” being referred to here is how Samatha and Vipassana are explained only once as “evenly yoked together”. The Pali phrase “samatho ca vipassanā”, or “Samatha and Vipassana”, occurs 198 times, throughout the Pali Canon:

  • In DN 33: once

  • In DN 34: once

  • In MN 73: once

  • In MN 149: 4 times

  • In MN 151: 3 times

  • In SN 41.6: once

  • In SN 41.7: once

  • In SN 43.2: once

  • In SN 45.159: once

  • In AN 2.32: once

  • In AN 2.173: once

  • In AN 2.231 to 2.246: 180 times (once you expand all the peyyalas)

  • In AN 4.254: once

  • In AN 6.54: once

Note: there are no occurrences in the Khuddaka Nikaya, when I look in the following:

  • Khuddakapatha
  • Dhammapada
  • Sutta Nipata
  • Udana
  • Itivuttaka
  • Theragatha
  • Therigatha

I don’t go so far as to claim that “Samatha Vipassana” is a major theme in the Early Buddhist Texts, owing sheerly to these 198 appearances. In fact, the 197 other appearances of “Samatha Vipassana” in the EBTs (aside from the famous appearance above, in MN 149) only vaguely mention “Samatha Vipassana” in a passing, cursory way; merely to list it as something wholesome and beneficial in many different ways when developed, without really expanding on it, or delving into any technical particulars about it.

So it’s not untruthful to say that there was only one appearance of “Samatha Vipassana” in the EBTs, where anything of deeper substance was said about it: namely that it should be “evenly yoked together”, and even that much is a very scant expounding on the topic. So to call “Samatha Vipassana” a very minor theme (as a teaching in and of itself, never mind it being a complex, highly nuanced system of meditation) in the EBTs is indeed true.