Expanding and Summarizing
on the Section Concerning Breathing
I would now like to expand the explanation on mindfulness of breathing (anapana-sati).
The Discourse advises sitting erect in the samadhi-posture with mindfulness
alert and firmly fixed on the in-and-out breath. Various ways for developing
such mindfulness are then given:
1. Breathing in a long breath one knows, 'I am breathing in a long breath.' Breathing out a long breath one knows, 'I am breathing out a long breath.'
2. Breathing in a short breath one knows, 'I am breathing in a short breath.' Breathing out a short breath one knows, 'I am breathing out a short breath.'
3. 'Experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe in,' thus one trains oneself. 'Experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe out,' thus one trains oneself.
4. 'Calming the activity of the (breath-)body, I shall breathe in,' thus one trains oneself. 'Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe out,' thus one trains oneself.
In the first and second stages --of breathing in and breathing out a long
breath, and breathing in and breathing out a short breath-- one has to realize
exactly how one is breathing at that moment. This refers to the ordinary, unforced
breathing which normally goes unnoticed. With careful attention one will realize
that the breaths are either long or short. When fatigued or tired, one can see
that the breathing becomes heavy, perhaps with panting or gasping. When the
mind is upset and unquiet, one may also tend to take longer breaths than when
one is calm. Breathing exercises may also involve deep breathing.
With the body rested and peaceful, the breathing becomes quieter and more refined. When the mind is also tranquil, the breathing is even more delicate and refined. At first your mindful attention on the breath may not seem to bring any fruitful results. However, with persistence the mind will become more firmly established, allowing contentment (chanda), rapture (piti), and gladness (pamojja) to arise. This offers you a first taste of the fruits of the tranquil mind, the mind endowed with samadhi, which will encourage you onwards in your practice.
The third stage --of experiencing the whole body with the breath-- is concerned with being aware of all the corporeal group and the mental group. Be aware of your posture as you sit practising here, of the position of your hands and feet. Take note of the state of your mind and the clarity of your mindfulness and concentration. Such an awareness of the whole body indicates a broad mindfulness. This must be so refined that experiencing the whole body becomes experiencing the whole breath-body with each breath.
One notices, in simple terms, that the in-breath enters at the nose, passes midway at the heart and ends at the navel, whereas the out-breath starts at the navel, passes the heart and ends at the nose. This is one gauge for helping to direct one's attention. However, following the breath in and out will actually unsettle and unfocus the mind. The Lord Buddha therefore taught that one should fix the mind on that single point where the in-breath starts and the out-breath ends, i.e. where the breath contacts the nostrils or upper lip. This single point is the mark (nimitta) where one stations the mind. With each in-and-out breath one notes the air touching that mark (the nostrils or upper lip), and this is known as experiencing the whole body and breath-body.
This can be compared to sawing a piece of wood. Attention is focused solely on the cutting point and not on the complete length of the saw as it moves back and forth. Seeing that one point is like seeing the whole saw and, similarly, in attending to just that single mark one experiences the whole breath. This is the third stage.
Calming the activity of the breath-body is the fourth stage of training. This does not involve any suppression or holding of breath in an attempt to force it to become more refined. Rather, it involves a strengthening of the mind's concentration and calm. When the mind is calm and refined, so is the breath. The opposite way, of stimulating and exciting the mind, achieves only tension and stress.
The practice of concentration or samadhi is for peace and tranquillity in both body and mind. When the body and mind are still, the aim of this part of the practice is reached. However, the essence here is rather in stage three (above), with the fourth stage following on from there.
Counting and "Buddho"
In the beginning of the practice, trying to use only the Pali (textual)
instructions may be too difficult to accomplish. Therefore additional devices
to engage and hold the mind have been offered. For instance, there is (mental-)
counting of the breaths. This can first be done in a slow pattern by counting
each succeeding in and out breath as follows:
Inhale (count) one ... exhale (count) one
Inhale (count) two ... exhale (count) two
Inhale (count) three ... exhale (count) three
Inhale (count) four ... exhale (count) four
Inhale (count) five ... exhale (count) five
Then return again to counting one--one; two--two... etc., but this time continuing the sequence so that you end with six--six. Repeat the sequence again, returning to one--one (and so on) but this time adding seven--seven; then back to one--one and then up to eight--eight; one--one then up to nine--nine, and finally, the completed sequence from one--one to ten--ten.
After completing a full sequence from one to ten, begin the cycle again as before, i.e. one--one to five--five and so on, until reaching one--one to ten--ten again.
When the mind is sufficiently steady, a pattern of more rapid counting can be used. This entails (mentally-) counting one with the inhalation and two with the exhalation. Continue this sequence until you reach five. Then, returning to one continue until you reach six. Carry on these rounds until you reach ten.
These counting techniques can be individually adjusted to one's own practice so as to achieve satisfactory results. One possible adaptation, for example, is to count from one straight through to ten and, having counted ten, return to one and start the cycle again.
If plain counting does not suit you then the word 'Buddho' may be used instead. Inhale (mentally-) reciting 'Bud-', and exhale, (mentally-) reciting '-dho'. Inhale 'Bud-', exhale'-dho,' and so on.
Counting or using a mantra word such as Bud-dho is a useful aid in the beginning stages of the practice. It can be compared to using lined paper to guide the hand when we were first learning how to write. When a suitable degree of competence, steadiness of mind and practice has been attained, the device of counting and Bud-dho should be discarded, with a pure mindfulness carrying on alone. This is the general method of practice, and each practitioner should decide what is most suitable. This method is purely for the developing of calm, and will bring peace and stability to the mind.
I would like to remind you of the four fundamentals of practice: Conscientious perseverance (atapa and sacca), full and clear comprehension (sampajannya) and mindfulness (sati). These are always essential to your practice.
The Benefits of Samadhi
The unquiet, restless mind wastes time and effort with its lack of application and focus. We may wish to study a book but cannot concentrate due to disturbing and proliferating thoughts. However, a mind well trained (as described above) in calm and steadfastness allows us to apply ourselves. For example, we can apply ourselves to that book and can quickly digest and understand it, with a better recall as well. Thus the gains and benefits of the trained, stabilized mind manifest not only in a passive resting of the mind in happiness, but also in whatever activity we may engage in.
1st August 2504 B.E. (1961)
* * *
Review of the Basic Practice
Samatha kammatthana is the place of work to bring calmness and stability
to the mind. Vipassana kammatthana is where insight into the truth arises in
One begins practice by taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha because one is following the Lord Buddha's Dhamma rather than any other way. Faith (saddha) and confidence (pasada) in the Buddha --He who has opened up the Way for our practice to follow-- is the going for refuge.
You should determine to keep at least the Five Precepts. Even your sitting here now is also to establish and improve your moral virtue. With your refuge, faith and precepts established, you can now practise for calm and insight.
The practice leading to a calm and stable mind is elucidated in the Great Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness (Maha Satipatthana Sutta) as mindfulness of breathing. One establishes mindfulness on the in-and-out breath, long or short (etc.), experiencing the whole body and calming the breath-body. The (Buddhist) Teachers have also offered supplementary ways: focussing the attention at one point in the breathing cycle (i.e. at the nostrils or upper lip where the breath makes contact), for example, or using counting to help, or by reciting 'Bud-dho'. There are other variations, but they always boil down to focussing the mind in one place. When your mind becomes one-pointed, you can be sure everything is going well. But at any rate, just keep your mindfulness focussed and you will be able to make the mind one.
Characteristics of the Mind
I would like to explain a little more about the nature of the mind; how difficult it is to tame and control with its habitual jumping and racing about. Even with mindfulness fixed on a single object, it will continually buck and pull away. Where does the mind jump to? It struggles around among mental objects, following after desires, wishes, attractions and the obstacles (palibodha) which are worries and anxieties. These external involvements are those concerns which we think and conceive about. Once they are caught up in the mind they agitate as worries and anxieties. If they are many and you are unable to throw them out, then the mind can't be pacified. However, everyone with true determination can expel them and achieve a calm mind.
The Method of Examining the Mind
Mindfulness is essential for guarding the mind right from the beginning.
Any inattention, and the mind will have darted away in a flash. The mind must
then be speedily led back inside if mindfulness is to be recovered.
If one checks to see why the mind had darted away, one may find the cause in something like the sound of a car, of people walking past, or the noise of something falling. The mind zips away to that particular sound and then starts to roam further afield. It may have wandered on through many varied episodes before one realizes the fact and is able to return it to one's determined point. However, should another noise intervene, the mind may then be off again --continuing on from one thing to another in what might seem like a moment even though it spans many different episodes.
Using mindfulness, always return the mind to your chosen point and, carefully establishing mindfulness, examine it there. The mind will then be pacified and, when checked in any particular episode, will usually not go off there again but will rather follow some other affair instead. This method must be repeated until the mind is tamed and able to come to calm with contentment (chanda), rapture (piti) and ease (pamojja). This will give a taste of the first stages of calm and samadhi, furthering your satisfaction in the practice and facilitating the focusing and settling of the mind in samadhi.
Following on from the section on breathing is the section on posture (iriyapatha-pabba).
Here the Lord Buddha teaches the use of clear-comprehension. When walking, one
is aware of one's walking; when standing, one is aware of one's standing, and
likewise with sitting or lying down. When changing position, be aware of that
movement. Aim to keep up this clear-comprehension and awareness.
On close examination one finds intention (cetana) present before any position is taken up, or even before one moves to change that posture. For example, there is the intention to walk or to sit. However, in the actual walking or sitting, one's clear-comprehension is liable to be broken by the mind's straying away in thinking of other affairs. Therefore, make sure that clear-comprehension is aware and safeguarding any posture you are presently in.
Clear Comprehension (Sampajannya)
Another section (sampajannya-pabba) also deals with clear-comprehension, classifying the major postures in a more detailed way. Be aware of what you are doing. At the moment of taking a step forward or backwards, of looking or turning, of stretching the body out or contracting it in --whatever you are doing-- be clearly aware. Dressing, eating, drinking, relieving yourself: notice how these things proceed. This includes walking, standing, sitting, lying down, speaking, being silent, going to sleep and waking. This constant self-awareness is the practising of clear-comprehension. It will safeguard you from carelessness and negligence and can bring only benefit.
On Impurities (Patikkula)
This section (Patikkula-pabba) deals with the impure or unclean aspect of
the body. One examines the body from the soles of the feet below, upwards to
the crown of the head. It is surrounded and encased in skin and full of various
foul and repulsive impurities.
These are the bodily parts:
hair of the head (kesa), hair of the body (loma), nails (nakha), teeth (danta), skin (taco), flesh (mamsam), sinews (naharu), bones (atthi), bone-marrow (atthiminjam), kidneys (vakkam), heart (hadayam), liver (yakanam), diaphragm or membranes (kilomakam), spleen (pihakam), lungs (papphasam), large intestines (antam), small intestines (antagunam), undigested food (udariyam), excrement (karisam), bile (pittam), phlegm (semham), pus (pubbo), blood (lohitam), sweat (sedo), fat (medo), tears (assu), skin grease (vasa), spittle (khelo), nasal mucous (singhanika), oil of the joints (lasika) and urine (muttam).
These number thirty-one but the Lord Buddha also pointed to the brain-in-the-skull (matthake matthalungam), which makes thirty-two bodily parts in all.
Even though the Lord Buddha actually intended this teaching for the monks (bhikkhu sangha), it still remains very much the truth concerning the various parts of this body, and lay people might therefore adapt this manner of examination for themselves. He pointed out that this body is so compounded that it must become rotten and putrid, as is seen when it becomes a corpse. But when it can still be nurtured and supported then one can also manage to depend on its support. This impure aspect is not usually observed unless one examines it to see for oneself --when it's always ready to manifest.
All of this is concerned with calming and assuaging the mind from its satisfaction and passionate attachment for one's own and other people's bodies. If you wish to realize this calm then use the method of this section for examination and contemplation. It is especially important in your samadhi practice, when the abating of such attachment for both your own and other people's bodies becomes vital. This, then, is one strategy to help in the firm establishing of your mind in calm and tranquillity.
12th August 2504 B.E. (1961)