Introduction to the Anapanasati Sutta
This book may possibly be stirring up a hornet's nest of indignation
and criticism because it gives ideas which go against a unilateral belief that
the Lord Buddha taught two separate types of meditation techniques, that is, "Concentration
meditation" and "Vipassana Meditation." This unilateral belief
which really means a "one-sided" belief is called "Ekamso-vada"
in Pali. It is to take a one-sided stand and maintain that one's own opinion or
view is correct and all other views are wrong. The Lord Buddha advised his disciples
to be flexible and not to be angry if someone gives a new or different kind of
understanding to his teachings. He taught his true disciples to listen closely
to what is being presented, then compare it with what is being taught in the suttas--to
see if it is correct or not. The key word here is suttas (not commentaries or
sub-commentaries). This admonishment about not getting angry saves his true disciples
from polluting their own minds. And in the process of being angry, they would
not be able to determine whether the criticism was fair or not.
In the same
way, this book is offered as a clarification of the teachings of the Lord Buddha's
method in practicing meditation. If one holds on to a unilateral belief that "Their
way is the only way" to practice meditation, without honestly investigating
what is being presented in the suttas, then they may possibly be lead astray.
Even the best of intentions can cause one to go away from the Buddha's teachings,
if those teachings are not occasionally questioned, investigated and compared
with the suttas.
The Lord Buddha illustrated the futility and absurdity of
unilateral belief and thinking by this story:
Once upon a time, there was
a king who, wishing to amuse himself, ordered the Royal Elephant to be brought
before him. He also ordered some blind men, blind from birth, to be brought near
the elephant. He then asked these blind men to touch the elephant and gave a description
of the elephant to him.
The man who touched the tail said the elephant was
like a broom. The one who touched a leg said it was like a tree. The one who touched
the body said it was like a wall. The one who touched the ear said the elephant
was like a winnowing fan. Thus, each described the elephant differently, but each
was sure that his own version was the true description of the elephant. They did
not realize that each one touched only a part of the elephant. Each blind person
had only a one-sided truth. They started arguing with each other, each sticking
to his own point of view. The argument ended up in quarreling and fighting. The
king and his ministers rolled with laughter as the blind men continued to quarrel
and fight with each other.
The Lord Buddha pointed out that meditators, as
well as philosophers dispute and quarrel with each other because similarly, they
see only one-side of the truth, or have only one way of looking at things. They
dogmatically cling to their views, maintaining that they alone have a monopoly
of that truth. All of the Buddhas consider and see all sides of the truth. That
is why the suttas are so much more important than the commentaries. Although the
comments made about a sutta may be helpful, it is absolutely necessary to check
what the commentary says against the original sayings of the Buddha.
proves that genuine Buddhism is in no way be called unilateral. According to this
Buddhist way of thinking, experience is multi-faceted and the Buddhist view is
therefore multilateral. If truth is multi-faceted, it cannot be stated in a unilateral
This is why the Buddha said, "I do not dispute with the world, though
the world disputes with me. No one who is aware of the whole truth can dispute
with this world." When a person asked the Lord Buddha for his view, he replied
that his view was that he did not oppose anyone in the world, whether human, divine
or diabolical. If this is the Buddhist position, how can Buddhist meditators come
in conflict with each other, or for that matter, with anyone in the world?
meditation practitioners become dogmatic, they cease looking for Truth (Dhamma)
because dogmatism separates all people, including those who seek to open and purify
their minds. This definitely causes conflict and verbal daggers to be thrown.
Meditation and mental purification is supposed to teach us love, compassion and
tolerance. If this is so, how can dogmatism prevail in the name of Truth?
Buddhist position cannot be understood if one is attached to preconceived notions
like, "This is the Only Way." This was why the Lord Buddha opened his
teachings with the words, "Open, is the Door to Deathlessness. May those
who have little dust in their eyes see clearly, so that they can let go of blind
faith." This idea is illustrated in a Zen Buddhist story:
Once, a professor
went to a Zen Master. He asked him to explain the meaning of Zen. The Master quietly
poured a cup of tea. The cup was full but he continued to pour. The professor
could not stand this any longer, so he questioned the Master impatiently, "Why
do you keep pouring when the cup is full?" "I want to point out to you,"
the Master said, "that you are similarly attempting to understand Zen while
your mind is full. First, empty your mind of preconceptions before you attempt
to understand Zen."
Please enjoy reading this book with a mind that is
open and free from preconceptions.
An Open Invitation:
Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambudhasa
Many people are now on a spiritual search
for a path that leads their mind to peace and openness. They discovered that the
norms of the world which emphasize material happiness, do not actually bring real
peace and security. Instead, it leads to more pain and dissatisfaction. To these
people, the Lord Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path exemplifies a simple and contented
life. A life that is open and free. He taught the methods to free our minds of
lust, hatred and delusion and started by showing his disciples how to have an
open mind that expands beyond its present limitations so that one can examine
with understanding. In the Kalama Sutta, the Lord Buddha explicitly stated that
one should always examine and investigate and not follow any beliefs blindly.
All of these admonishments were for the purpose of opening and expanding one's
experience so that they will not be attached to any particular doctrine without
This kind of honest inquiry into any particular doctrine
opens one's minds and expands their consciousness. Then, they can see what leads
to a close or tight mind and what leads to a mind which is open and clear. One
of the many lessons which the Lord Buddha taught is to first, expand our consciousness
by the practice of generosity (dana). When a person is miserly, they have a tendency
to have a tight and limited mind. Their mind holds on to material things and easily
becomes attached to them. Attachment of any form makes the mind uncomfortable
and tensed. This tension is the cause of immeasurable pain and suffering (dukkha).
Thus, by encouraging the practice of generosity, it teaches one how to have a
joyful, open and clear mind, which is never closed or tight. Another form of generosity
is the giving of time and energy to help those who are having problems, i.e. to
become real friends. This includes helping others to be happy! When one says or
performs actions which cause people to smile, it opens one's mind and then joy
arises, not only to the other person but in their own mind as well. This type
of practice helps one to expand their mind and let go of the tension.
Lord Buddha also emphasized the importance of keeping one's moral disciplines
(sila). There are five moral precepts which release the mind from remorse, anxiety
and guilty feelings, when they are continually kept and observed. These precepts
are abstaining from killing living beings, abstaining from taking what is not
given, abstaining from wrong sexual activities, abstaining from telling lies,
and abstaining from taking drugs and alcohol. One's mind will be tension-free
when they keep these simple rules of conduct continually.
Lord Buddha taught the methods of meditation (bhavana) or mental development to
free the mind from tension. The essence of meditation is to open and calm one's
mind and accept whatever that arises without any tightening at all. And thus,
this book of instructions is written for those who are on this noble quest. To
a beginner, these instructions may appear confusing and difficult to understand
but, one will gradually discover the many benefits when these instructions are
In actual fact, meditation, as taught by the Lord Buddha,
is never broken into different types, as is commonly practiced today. It is never
deep concentration in any of its forms, that is, fixed or absorption concentration
(appana samadhi), access or neighborhood concentration (upacara samadhi) or moment-to-moment
concentration (khanika samadhi) --which actually brings tightness to the mind
and suppresses the hindrances. The 'concentration' meditation is a form of suppression,
a kind of cutting off at one's experience which causes a kind of resistance to
arise in one's mind. As a result, there is a conflict with reality. On the other
hand, "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation" opens one's mind and is continually
expanding it, which does not ever exclude or resist anything. A 'concentrated'
mind does not meditate in the Buddhist way. It doesn't matter whether one is talking
about full or fixed absorption concentration, or access concentration. It is still
The important rule of the meditation is, no matter what distracts
one's mind away from the breath and tranquilizing one's mind, they simply open,
expand, let it go without thinking about the distraction, relax the mind and tightness
in the head, feel the mind open and relax away the tension, and softly redirect
one's attention back to the object of meditation i.e., the breath and relaxing.
The act of calming the mind and relaxing the tightness in the head before coming
back to the breath makes a huge difference between "Concentration Meditation"
and "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation". A meditator who practices "Concentration
Meditation" over-focuses on the object of meditation and thus, they have
the tendency to close or tighten the mind until there are no more distractions.
This practice leads to deep absorption of mind where hindrances are blocked. On
the other hand, "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation" has the tendency to open
one's mind and to allow the mind to become calm naturally. One does not suppress
or force their mind to stay focused on the object of meditation. Instead, the
mind is always aware of what it is doing in the present moment. Whenever any distraction
arises, one lets go, opens, expands and relaxes the tightness in the head before
coming back to the breath and calming the mind. Thus, as described in the sutta,
"Tranquil Wisdom Meditation" leads to wisdom, full awareness, sharp
mindfulness and eventually to the highest goal of attaining nibbana.
the out-breath, the relaxing of the tightness in the head and the opening and
expanding of one's mind, is one's home base. This means that whenever the mind
goes away from home, they first let go, relax the tightness again, feel the mind
expand and become calm, then redirect the attention back to the breath and calming
the mind. One "Always Comes Back Home" regardless whether it is a wandering
thought, an emotional pain, a physical sensation or any other distraction. They
are all treated in the same way! This is by far the easiest meditation instructions
that the Lord Buddha ever gave. Simply let go, relax the tightness in the head,
feel the mind expand and become tranquil, redirect the attention back to the breath,
on the in-breath relax the tightness in the head and calm the mind, on the out-breath
relax the tightness in the head and calm the mind. Easy! Do not try to control
the breath. Just breathe normally and naturally. That's it in a nutshell. The
rest of the book describes these instructions, but with more precise explanations.
As one examines and explores the meanings in this book, they will begin to understand
and gradually apply this technique in their meditation sittings as well as during
their daily activities. At the same time, one will marvel at the beauty and simplicity
of the Lord Buddha's "Mindfulness of Breathing" (Anapanasati).
all who read this book find it helpful and may they reach the highest goal.
Of Rose-apples, Bodhis and the Way to Nibbana
In recent years, there have
been many expositions of the Lord Buddha's teachings in English and other languages.
However, a great number of them lack authenticity and do not accurately represent
the Buddha's words. Many are written in such a free-lance way that it is difficult
to even recognize these writings as Buddha-Dhamma. Thus, the purpose of these
pages is to draw attention to the far reaching significance of the Lord Buddha's
Dhamma, which includes the meditation instructions, and the initial guidance
to an understanding of his teachings and their practical applications. This book
attempts to give an accurate description of meditation based on the Anapanasati
Sutta (which instructions are exactly the same, letter for letter and word for
word, as the Satipatthana Sutta and the Maharahulavada Sutta, sutta number 62.
Both are from the Majjhima Nikaya.), with only limited use of standard commentaries.
It is selected from the Middle Length Sayings translated from Pali by the Venerable
Nanamoli and Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi.
We will first start with redefining
some words which are regularly misunderstood (or badly used to suit some commentaries),
misused and are causing a lot of confusion to the practice of the Lord Buddha's
method of meditation. Firstly, let us look at the word jhana. In Pali, jhana has
many types of meanings. It can mean meditation stages or illumination. However,
when the common translation of the word jhana as being merely "concentration"
is used, misunderstanding takes place. Thus, the author will explain its meaning
whenever it occurs in this book. The author also observed that the word jhana
was never defined as "fixed concentration, access concentration or momentary
concentration" in the suttas. These definitions are only mentioned in some
The Lord Buddha invariably includes the word jhanas (meaning
'meditation stages', not fixed absorption of mind) in the full gradual training.
According to the suttas, these meditation stages are not mystical or magical experiences.
They are simply stages to be recognized by the meditator. These meditation stages
(jhanas) contribute to the build-in perfection of the path which emphasizes deep
tranquillity, wisdom, stillness and opening of the mind. These qualities provide
a solid base for the realization of both calmness of mind and the development
of wisdom. While they are still mundane, the jhanas (meditation stages) are the
very 'footsteps of the Tathagata' that forms the gradual training which leads
Next is the Pali word samatha. The more accurate meanings of samatha
are peacefulness, calmness, tranquility, serenity or stillness and not as the
commonly translated terms like absorption or fixed concentration. Thus, the author
prefers to use the word tranquility.
The Pali word samadhi is equally important
too, as it has many different meanings such as calmness, unified mind, tranquility,
peacefulness, stillness, composure of mind, quiet mind, serenity, and one of the
lesser meanings, "concentration". Thus, the true meaning is not merely
fixed absorption concentration or access concentration, but calmness or stillness
in different degrees. Interestingly, Rhys Davids found through his studies, that
the word samadhi was never used before the time of the Buddha. Even though
as a Bodhisatta, he practiced 'concentration meditation', this word has a different
meaning other than concentration. The Lord Buddha "popularized" the
word samadhi to express calm wisdom, tranquility, openness, awareness, along with
developing a mind which has clarity and wisdom in it. Later, the Hindus changed
the meaning to 'concentration'. Hence, the author will use either stillness, or
composure of mind, or unified mind. According to the Pali-English dictionary written
by Buddhadatta, the prefix sama means "calmness or tranquility" and
dhi means "wisdom". When these two meanings are added together, the
word samadhi can actually mean "tranquil wisdom". If one chooses to
use the word concentration', they must know that it means stillness of mind or
composure of mind, or a unified mind and not absorption, fixed (appana), or access
(upacara) concentration or even momentary (Khanika) concentration.
is written with a deep conviction that the systematic cultivation of 'Tranquil
Wisdom Meditation' brings both insight into the seeing of the true nature of this
psycho/physical (mind/body) process and serenity of mind at the same time! Furthermore,
there is the seeing and realizing the cause and effect relationships of all dependent
conditions. This means seeing dependent origination which is the development of
penetrative wisdom that leads to dispassion, emancipation and enlightenment. As
a matter of fact, the Lord Buddha discovered that 'concentration practices' of
any kind did not lead him to Nibbana.
After becoming a homeless one, the Bodhisatta
went to two different teachers of "concentration meditation". His first
teacher was Alara Kalama. After learning the Dhamma and discipline, he practiced
until he attained a very high and distinguished stage of meditation called the
"realm of nothingness". The Bodhisatta then went to his teacher and
asked whether he could proceed any further with that meditation. Alara Kalama
replied that it was the highest stage anyone could attained. The Bodhisatta was
dissatisfied and went to another teacher by the name of Uddaka Ramaputta. He learned
the Dhamma and discipline, then practiced it and attained the "realm of neither-perception
nor non-perception". The Bodhisatta again went to his teacher and asked a
similar question about there being more to attain. Again, the Bodhisatta was told
that this was absolutely the highest attainment anyone could achieve. The future
Buddha was disappointed because he saw that there were still many more things
to let go of. He observed that these "concentration techniques", which
focused intensely on the object of meditation caused tightening in the mind. He
reasoned that there was still attachment whenever there was tension in the mind.
He also noticed that if any part of the experiences were suppressed or not allowed
to arise, (This occurs with every form of 'concentration'--that is, fixed absorption
concentration, or access concentration.) there was still some kind of holding
on or attachment to an ego belief. Thus, after six long years of trying all of
the various spiritual and ascetic practices from body mortifications like starving
the body, to holding the breath, he realized that these practices did not lead
him to a calm and open mind which was free from attachment and suffering.
the night of the Bodhisatta's realization of the supreme nibbana, he recalled
an incident at a ploughing festival while he was just a young boy of one or two
years old. When his attendants left him alone under a rose-apple tree, he sat
in "tranquil wisdom meditation" and experienced a mind that was expanded
and opened! He saw that this form of meditation would lead him to the experience
of "tranquility jhanas" (as opposed to 'concentration jhanas'). As
a result of the "tranquil wisdom meditation", his mind was filled with
joy, his body became light and happy. When the joy faded away, he then experienced
strong calmness and peacefulness. His mind and body became very comfortable. His
mind was very still, composed, with sharp mindfulness and full awareness of what
was happening around him i.e., he could still hear sounds and feel sensations
with his body, etc., at that time.
When the Bodhisatta sat under the Bodhi
tree to meditate on the full moon night of May and made his great effort to attain
the supreme nibbana, he recalled that not all forms of pleasure are unwholesome.
He realized that there could be pleasurable feelings arising in the mind and body
although there was not any attachment to anything. That very night, the Bodhisatta
practiced "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation" through the method of opening
and expanding the mind. In short, he practiced the "Anapanasati" or
"Mindfulness of Breathing". And as we all know, he became the Buddha
or the supremely enlightened one.
The Anapanasati Sutta taught by the Lord
Buddha 2500 years ago still provides the most simple, direct, thorough, and effective
method for training and developing the mind for its daily tasks and problems as
well as for its highest aim--the mind's own unshakable deliverance from greed,
hatred and delusion. The method described here is taken directly from the sutta
itself and its results can be seen clearly and easily when one practices according
to the instructions on the sutta. The author would like to emphasize that the
instructions in this book are not his "own opinion", but is actually
the Lord Buddha's own instruction given in a clear and precise way. It can be
called the "Undiluted Dhamma", because it comes directly from the suttas
themselves, without a lot of additions or free-lance ideas.
Sutta gives the most profound meditation instructions available today. It includes
the "Four Foundations of Mindfulness" and the "Seven Enlightenment
Factors" and shows how they are fulfilled through the practice of "Mindfulness
of Breathing". This is done by attaining all of the meditation stages (jhanas).
This sutta shows the direct way to practice "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation"
and does not categorize meditation practices. Strangely, the current separation
into various types of meditation like "fixed absorption concentration , or
access concentration" and "momentary concentration" meditation
seems to occur only in the commentaries but never in the suttas. Thus, one must
notice this and compare them with the suttas for their accuracy.
attainment of the fourth jhana, three alternative lines of further development
become possible. This sutta deals with only one of those, namely the attainment
of all the material and immaterial jhanas (meditation stages), followed by the
experience of the cessation of perception and feeling (nirodha samapatti in Pali)
and finally the experience of Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppada). In these
attainments, the Lord Buddha mentions four meditative stages that continue the
mental unification established by the jhanas (meditation states). These states
described as "the liberation that are peaceful and immaterial", are
still mundane states. Distinguished from the material jhanas (meditation stages)
by their deepening of the subtle mental observations, they are named after their
own exalted stages: "the base of infinite space, the base of infinite consciousness,
the base of nothingness, the base of neither-perception nor non-perception."
These states of consciousness are very attainable if one ardently and continually
keeps their daily meditation practice going. As this is a gradual training, one
first must learn to walk before they learn how to run. Thus, the beginning of
the meditation practice is the basis for further development.
This is a straight
and direct path towards liberation and the supramundane nibbana. It does, however,
require sustained meditative effort, applied to a simple object of meditation
to watch, i.e., the breath, followed by the relaxation and expansion of the mind
which allows the mind to become calm and clear without distractions.
one practices the Anapanasati Sutta as a "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation",
they find that their creativity and intuition increase as their practice develops.
This forms the timeless and universal appeal of a true 'Doctrine of Enlightenment'
(realizing Dependent Origination and the Four Noble Truths) which has the depth
and breadth, the simplicity and intelligence for providing the foundation and
the framework of a living Dhamma For All. One will sense the urgency of the fundamental
"non-materialistic" problems and search for solutions that neither science
nor the "religions of faith" can provide.
More important is the
final realization which comes through the method of "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation"
that invokes experiencing the various meditation stages (jhanas) and seeing through
direct knowledge, all of the twelve links of "Dependent Arising". This
means seeing and realizing directly the second and third Noble Truths. And when
these two Noble Truths have been seen and realized directly, this implies that
the First Noble Truth and the Fourth Noble Truth are seen and practiced. This
is because one can't see the "Origin of Suffering" without first seeing
the "Suffering" itself and suffering would not cease without practicing
the way leading to the cessation of suffering. Thus, seeing and realizing Dependent
Origination, means that one sees and realizes all of the Four Noble Truths, which
is actually the true essence of Buddhist meditation.
The true aim of the Anapanasati
Sutta is nothing less than final liberation from suffering which is the highest
goal of the Lord Buddha's Teachings--Nibbina. The practice of the Buddhist Path
evolves in two distinct stages, a mundane (lokiya) or preparatory stage and a
supramundane (lokuttara) or accomplished stage. The mundane path is developed
when the disciples undertake the gradual training in developing their virtues
(continually keeping the precepts), tranquility or deep composure of mind, and
developing wisdom. This reaches its peak in the practice of "Tranquil Wisdom
Meditation", which deepens direct experience, and at the same time, shows
one the three characteristics of all existence, as well as, all of the Noble Truths.
In short, there are two kinds of nibbina, one is the worldly or mundane type
of nibbana and the other is the supramundane or unworldly type of nibbana. The
mundane or worldly type of nibbana is attained every time the meditator lets go
of an attachment or hindrance and relief arises along with a kind of happiness.
This type of nibbana will occur many times when one is seriously practicing "Tranquil
Wisdom Meditation'. The supramundane type of nibbana only occurs after the meditator
sees and realizes 'Dependent Origination' (Paticcasamuppada) both forwards and
backwards. (This means realizing the Four Noble Truths.) This supramundane nibbana
takes time and effort to achieve. However, that does not mean that it is impossible
for laymen and laywomen to attain it. With persistent daily practice and by taking
an occasional meditation retreat with a competent teacher who understands how
the "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation" works, even those who live active lives
in the world can still achieve the highest goal of the Supramundane Nibbana. It
was mentioned in the Parinibbana Sutta, that during the time of the Lord Buddha,
many more laymen and laywomen became saints than the Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis when
they practiced on a regular basis. The common belief that one must be a 'Bhikkhu'
or 'Nun' in order to reach this goal is just not true. The exhortation of the
Lord Buddha was for all people who were interested in the correct path to 'Ehipassiko'
(a Pali word meaning 'come and see'). This is very good advice because it helps
those who are interested, to get out of the judgmental, critical mind and honestly
practice to see if this is, in fact, the right way.
is the teaching which makes the Lord Buddha's path unique among all other types
of meditation. During his period of struggle for enlightenment, Dependent Origination
came as a marvelous and eye-opening discovery that ended his pursuit in the darkness:
"Arising, arising--thus, Bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before there
arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, understanding and light". (Samyutta
Nikaya X11. 65/ii.105). Once enlightened, the mission of the Tathagata is to proclaim
Dependent Origination (This means the Four Noble Truths.) to the world (Samyutta
Nikaya X11.25-6). The Lord Buddha taught this in discourse after discourse, so
much so, that the Dependent Origination soon becomes the most essential and important
teaching of all. When the Arahat Assaji was asked to state the Master's message
as precisely and as briefly as possible, he gave the doctrine of arising and ceasing
of phenomena. With a single sentence, the Lord Buddha dispels doubt about the
correctness of this summary: "He who sees Dependent Origination sees the
Dhamma, he who sees the Dhamma sees Dependent Origination." (Taken from the
Middle Length Sayings [Majjhima Nikaya] Sutta 28 section 38). This means seeing
and realizing all of the Noble Truths. This is the only way!
When one's faculties
have gained a degree of maturity and they see the twelve links of 'Dependent Origination'
clearly, the mundane path rises to the supramundane path because it leads directly
and surely out of 'Suffering'. One then realize 'The Origin of Suffering', 'The
Cessation of Suffering', and 'The Path Leading the Way Out of Suffering'.
is another interesting sutta about seeing of the Four Noble Truths, found in the
Digha Nikaya Sutta number 16, section 5.27. From this section of the sutta, one
concludes that the way to attain enlightenment is by following the Eightfold Path
and realizing the Noble Truths. It says:
5.27] "In whatever Dhamma and
Discipline the Noble Eightfold Path is not found, no ascetic is found of the first
grade (meaning a sotapanna), second grade (meaning sakadagami), third grade (meaning
anagami), or fourth grade (meaning an arahat). But such ascetics can be found,
of the first, second, third, and fourth grade in a Dhamma and Discipline where
the Noble Eightfold Path is found. Now, Subhadda, in this Dhamma and Discipline
the Noble Eightfold Path is found, and in it are to be found ascetics of the first,
second, third and fourth grade. Those other schools are devoid of [true] ascetics;
but if in this one the Bhikkhus were to live to perfection, the world would not
lack for Arahats.
The mind opens when it sees and realizes these twelve links
of Dependent Origination directly. As a result, the mind becomes dispassionate
and free. This is as true now in present times, as it was 2500 years ago. Any
teaching that doesn't highlight the necessity of the Dependent Origination as
its realization and final goal or destination, isn't teaching the true path. Currently,
many people say that seeing impermanence, suffering, and not-self is realizing
nibbina. However, one must note that although these characteristics do lead the
way to realizing nibbina and are very important to develop, they don't directly
allow one to see the supramundane state of Nibbana. The meditator can see, one
or all of the three characteristics of existence, i.e., impermanence, suffering
and not-self, without directly seeing Dependent Origination, but, when one sees
Dependent Origination directly he will always see all of the three characteristics.
According to the first sutta in the Maha Vagga of the Vinaya, it cannot work.
any other way.
The Courage to Investigate
Currently, there seems
to be some disputes regarding the kinds of meditation the Lord Buddha taught.
One school of thought says -- "One must begin by practicing 'Jhana [fixed]
concentration meditation' and then proceed to the fourth jhana  before switching
over to the practice of 'vipassana meditation' or momentary concentration [khanika
sarnadhi]. Other schools of thought say that one can attain Nibbana without going
through the jhanas, but only practice "vipassana meditation" or
developing access concentration [upacara samadhi] right from the beginning of
their meditation practice.
Interestingly, the word "vipassana' or 'vidassana'
(which has the same meaning) is only mentioned very few times in the suttas, whereas
the word Jhana (here meaning tranquil wisdom meditation stages, not fixed concentration)
is mentioned many thousands of times. Moreover, the Anapanasati Sutta shows that
the Lord Buddha taught only one kind of meditation, that is by simultaneously
developing both the jhanas and wisdom. (Here, the word jhana means meditation
stages or illumination of mind, not deep absorption or fixed concentration (appana
samadhi), access concentration (upacara samadhi) or even momentary concentration
(Khanika samadhi).) This sutta actually shows the method of how to tranquilize
the mind and develop wisdom at the same time by seeing the true nature of existence.
This means observing anicca [impermanence], dukkha [suffering], anatta [not-self],
along with seeing and realizing the cause and effect relationships of Dependent
Origination. At the same time, it also fulfills the "Four Foundation of Mindfulness
and the Seven Enlightenment Factors". Hence, the way leading to the realization
of Supramundane Nibbana is clearly and precisely taught in this wonderful sutta.
The commentaries and sub-commentaries have divided "concentration"
and "vipassana" into different forms of meditation. This kind of "separation"
does not appear in the suttas. Although it is mentioned in the Anggutara Nikaya
that the first part of the practice is samatha and the second part is vidassana
(developing wisdom), it is not saying that they are two different types of practices
or meditations. The practice is the same! It is only that different things are
seen at different times, as in the case of Sutta 111 'One By One as they Occurred'
from the Majjhima Nikaya. This sutta gives an explanation of Venerable Sariputta's
meditation development and experience of all the jhanas (meditation stages) before
he attained arahatship.
When one starts to differentiate and categorize meditation
practices, the situation becomes very confusing. This is also evident in the popular
commentaries like the Visuddhi Magga and its sub-commentaries. One begins to see
inconsistencies when they make a comparison with the suttas. Nowadays, most scholars
use just a line or parts of a sutta to ensure that the commentaries agree with
the sutta. However, if one were to read the sutta as a whole, the sutta has an
entirely different meaning. This is not to say that scholars are intentionally
making wrong statements, but sometimes they are caught in looking at such tiny
details or parts of the Dhamma with a unilateral view that they tend to lose view
of the larger picture of things. The description of the jhanas (here again meaning
absorption or fixed on or into the object of meditation, where concentration suppresses
the hindrances) in the Visuddhi Magga, doesn't exactly match the description given
in the suttas and in most cases, these descriptions are very different!
example, the Visuddhi Magga talks about having a sign (nimitta in Pali, this can
be a light or other visualized mind-made pictures) arise in the mind at certain
times when one is practicing jhana meditation (absorption concentration [appana
samadhi] or when one gets into access concentration [upacara samadhi] or even
in momentary concentration [khanika samadhi]. With each type of 'concentration'
a nimitta of some kind arises. When this happens one is practicing a 'concentration'
type of meditation practice which the Bodhisatta rejected as being the way to
Nibbana! However, if one were to check the suttas, the description of nimittas
arising in the mind has never been mentioned. And, if it were very important,
it would be mentioned many times. The Lord Buddha never taught concentration techniques,
having nimittas (signs) arising, or the chanting of mantras. These are forms of
Hindu practices that have sneaked into Buddhism for a few hundred years. Their
influences can be seen in the 'concentration practices' and in the Tibetan Buddhist
styles of meditation, as well as, in other popular commentaries like the Visuddhi
Magga. Thus, the current ways of practicing "concentration", do not
conform to the descriptions given in the suttas.
One must always honestly
and openly investigate what is being said and then check it against the suttas.
It is best that one does this not with just part of the sutta but the whole sutta
itself, because taking out one or two lines from various sections can cause confusion.
When one honestly questions what the Lord Buddha's Teachings really are, they
will observe that open investigation helps one to see more clearly and thus, questions
can be answered rationally. One must always remember that the commentaries and
sub-commentaries are the authors' interpretation of what the suttas say and mean.
Many times good intentioned monks look for ways to expand their understanding
and attempt to help themselves and others with their comments. Then as time goes
by, more scholar monks will expound on a certain comment, explaining the different
and subtle meanings of some tiny phrases and individual comments. This "dilutes"
the true teachings and thus, has the tendency to take one further away from the
true meaning and understanding of the suttas. As a result, many puzzling questions
For example: "In the practice of momentary concentration, where
does Dependent Origination fit into the scheme of things?" This practice
doesn't seem to go hand in hand with the teaching of Dependent Origination. Another
question is: "According to the suttas, Right Effort means bringing up zeal,
or joyful interest, or enthusiasm (chanda) in the mind. However, some meditation
teachers say Right Effort only means "noting". Other puzzling questions
that one might asked are, "Which suttas mentioned the terms momentary [Khanika
Samadhi], access [Upacara Samadhi], and absorption or fixed concentration [Appana
Samadhi]?" and "Which sutta describes 'Insight Knowledges'?" or
"Which sutta says that there is no mindfulness while in the jhana meditation
stage?". Please note that in the Parinibbana Sutta, the Lord Buddha had requested
his disciples to always check against the suttas and not any other texts.
must come a time when one must stop repeating the words of others, and stop practicing
ways of questionable methods, without doing some open and honest investigation
of the original teachings of the Lord Buddha. One must not depend on hearsay,
or blind belief in what a teacher says, simply because he is the authority. In
the Kalama Sutta, the Lord Buddha gives some very wise advice:
" It is
unwise to simply believe what one hears because it has been said over and over
again for a long time.
" It is unwise to follow tradition blindly just
because it has been practiced in that way for a long time.
" It is unwise
to listen to and spread rumors and gossip.
" It is unwise to take anything
as being the absolute truth just because it agrees with one's scriptures (this
especially means commentaries and sub-commentaries).
" It is unwise to
foolishly make assumptions, without investigation.
" It is unwise to abruptly
draw a conclusion by what one sees and hears without further investigation.
It is unwise to go by mere outward appearances or to hold too tightly to any view
or idea simply because one is comfortable with it.
" It is unwise to be
convinced of anything out of respect and deference to one spiritual teacher (without
honest investigation into what is being taught).
We must go beyond opinions,
beliefs and dogmatic thinking. In this way, we can rightly reject anything which
when accepted, practiced and perfected, leads to more anger, criticism, conceit,
pride, greed and delusion. These unwholesome states of mind are universally condemned
and are certainly not beneficial to ourselves or to others. They are to be avoided
On the other hand, we can rightly accept anything
which when practiced and perfected, leads to unconditional love, contentment and
gentle wisdom. These things allow us to develop a happy, tranquil, and peaceful
mind. Thus, the wise praise all kinds of unconditional love (loving acceptance
of the present moment), tranquility, contentment and gentle wisdom and encourages
everyone to practice these good qualities as much as possible.
Parinibbana Sutta, the Lord Buddha's advice to the Bhikkhus is very plain and
precise. One is to practice according to the scriptural texts and observe whether
the practice is done correctly. Only after close examination and practice, along
with experience, can one be sure that the scriptures are correct. Thus, the Lord
Buddha's advice to the Bhikkhus is not only to use the suttas, but also to check
whether the suttas are correct according to the Dhamma and the Discipline. This
is how one makes sure that the information is true and can then be practiced correctly.
This is taken from Sutta number 16, section 4.7 to 4.11 of the Digha Nikaya translated
from the book "Thus Have I Heard" by Maurice Walsh. It says:
At Bhogangagara the Lord stayed at the Ananda Shrine. And here he said to the
monks: "Bhikkhus, I will teach you four criteria. Listen, pay close attention,
and I Will speak.' 'Yes, Lord,' replied the Bhikkhus.
4.8] "Suppose a
Bhikkhu were to say: 'Friends, I heard and received this from the Lord's own lips:
this is the Dhamma, this is the Discipline, this is the Master's teaching', then
Bhikkhus, you should neither approve nor disapprove his words. Then, without approving
or disapproving his words and expressions should be carefully noted and compared
with the Suttas and reviewed in the light of the Discipline. If they, on such
comparison and review, are found not to conform to the Suttas and the Discipline,
the conclusion must be: "Assuredly this is not the word of the Lord Buddha,
it has been wrongly understood by this monk; and the matter is to be rejected.
But inhere on such comparison and review they are found to conform to the Suttas
and the Discipline, the conclusion must be: "Assuredly this is the word of
the Lord Buddha, it has been rightly understood by this Bhikkhu." This is
the first criterion.
4.9] "Suppose a Bhikkhu were to say: "In such
and such a place there is a community with elders and distinguished teachers.
I have heard and received this from that community'; then, monks you should neither
approve nor disapprove his words. Then, without approving or disapproving, his
words and expressions should be carefully noted and compared with the Suttas and
reviewed in the light of the Discipline. If they, on such comparison and review,
are found not to conform to the Suttas and Discipline, the conclusion must be:
"Assuredly this is not the word of the Lord Buddha, it has been wrongly understood
by this monk'; and the matter is to be rejected. But where on such comparison
and review they are found to conform to the Suttas and the Discipline, the conclusion
must be: "Assuredly this is the word of the Lord Buddha, it has been rightly
understood by this monk." That is the second criterion.
a monk were to say: "In such and such a place there are many elders who are
learned, bearers of the tradition, who know the Dhamma, the Discipline, the code
of rules : I have heard and received this from those Bhikkhus, . . . this is the
Dhamma, this is the Discipline, this is the Master's teaching", then, Bhikkhus,
you should neither approve nor disapprove his words. Then, without approving or
disapproving, his words and expressions should be carefully noted and compared
with the Suttas and reviewed in the light of the Discipline. If they, on such
comparison and review, are found not to conform to the Suttas and the Discipline,
the conclusion must be: "Assuredly this is not the word of the Lord Buddha,
it has been wrongly understood by this monk", and the matter is to be rejected.
But where such comparison and review they are found to conform to the Suttas and
the Discipline, the conclusion must be: "Assuredly this is the word of the
Lord Buddha, it has been rightly understood by the monk." This is the third
4.11] "Suppose a Bhikkhu were to say: "In such and such
a place there is one elder who is learned . . . I have heard and received this
from that elder . . . this is the Dhamma, this is the Discipline, this is the
Master's teaching, then, Bhikkhus, you should neither approve nor disapprove his
words. Then, without approving or disapproving his words and expressions should
be carefully noted and compared with the Suttas and be reviewed in the light of
the Discipline. If they, on such comparison and review, are found not to conform
to the Suttas and the Discipline, the conclusion must be: "Assuredly this
is not the word of the Lord Buddha, it has been wrongly understood by this Bhikkhu;
and the matter is to be rejected. But where such comparison and review they are
found to conform to the Suttas and the Discipline, the conclusion must be. "Assuredly
this is the word of the Lord Buddha, it has been rightly understood by the Bhikkhu."
This is the fourth criterion.
of open investigation and exploration into the ways and means of the Lord Buddha's
Middle Path, is open to all who have an inquiring mind. This means a mind which
is not stuck in looking at things through pride and attachment at what they "think"
is right without first checking with the suttas. Occasionally, some meditators
become very attached to their opinions and teachers such that they think their
method is the "only way", without checking the true teachings from the
suttas. As this book is taken directly from the sutta, one can observe how things
can be confused and misrepresented by some commentaries and sub-commentaries.
If one has the courage to investigate and practice, they will be pleasantly surprised
at the simplicity and clarity of the Lord Buddha's teaching, especially when commentaries
like the Visuddhi Magga are left alone. Although the suttas appear dry and repetitive,
they are quite illuminating and can be fun to read, especially when one practices
the meditation and gains intellectual knowledge at the same time.
to Tranquil Wisdom (Samadhi) Meditation
Before one starts with their meditation,
it is very important to build a strong foundation of morality (sila). If the meditator
doesn't even practice the five precepts, they will lose interest and finally stop
meditating, because they think that the technique is incorrect. Actually the Lord
Buddha's technique works very well. The meditator is just not doing the complete
practice nor is one doing it in the correct way. Keeping the precepts is essential
to the development and purity of the mind. If one breaks any of these precepts,
they will experience a lot of restlessness, remorse, and anxiety due to their
guilty feelings. This causes the mind to be tight and clouds one's thoughts.
precepts are absolutely necessary for any spiritual attainments. They provide
the mind with general mindfulness and awareness which helps one to have a peaceful
mind that is clear from any remorse due to wrong doing. A peaceful and calm mind,
is a mind that is tension-free and clear. Thus, it is a very good idea to take
these precepts everyday, not as some form of rite or ritual, but as a reminder
for one's practice. Taking the precepts everyday helps to keep one's mind, speech
and actions uplifted. There are people who recite these precepts in the Pali language.
However, it can turn into an empty exercise if the meditator doesn't completely
understand Pali. For the earnest meditator it is best to recite these precepts
daily in a language that one understands so that the meanings are clear without
a doubt. These precepts are:
1. I undertake to keep the precept to abstain
from killing living beings
This precept includes non-killing of beings like
ants, mosquitoes, and cockroaches.
2. I undertake to keep the precept to abstain
from taking what is not given
This covers any forms of stealing which even
includes taking a pencil from work without permission or using equipment like
copy machines for personal use.
3. I undertake to keep the precept to abstain
from wrong sexual activity.
Basically, it means not having any sexual activity
with and another person's partner, or having sexual activity with someone that
is still under the care of a family member. It also means that one must follow
the sexual laws of the land . Any sexual activity that causes undue pain to another
being will cause one to have remorse and guilty feelings to arise.
4. I undertake
to keep the precept to abstain from telling lies, using harsh speech, slandering
others, and speaking gossip or nonsense talk.
This means abstinence from any
type of speech which is not true or helpful to others. It also includes abstinence
from telling white lies.
5. I undertake to keep the precept to abstain from
taking drugs and alcohol which dulls the mind.
Many people think that drinking
one glass of beer or one social glass of wine would not effect their mind. But
this is not true! If one is practicing meditation, they become very sensitive
and will notice the effects of even taking something as harmless as aspirin. It
can dull one's mind for a whole day. How much more with alcohol and other drugs!
However, when one is sick and the doctor says that they must take a certain drug
as medicine, then please take the medicine. This precept refers to taking drugs
or alcohol in order to relax and escape from the stress of the day.
as one realize that they have broken a precept, one should first forgive themselves
and acknowledge that they are not perfect. This helps one to free their mind a
little. One then retakes the precepts as soon as possible and make a determination
not to break the precepts again. Taking the precepts again will help to re-purify
the mind. Over a period of time, one will become more aware and naturally abstain
from breaking them due to realization of its harmful effects.
only one meditation technique at a time because the mind will becomes confused
if one tries to mix and match various meditation. Mixing and matching only stops
one's progress. The best way is to pick only one teacher who truly understands
the meditation. The way to select a good teacher is by observing if their students
are kind, pleasant, friendly and supportive. Then, stay with that teacher for
a period of time and see for oneself whether their mind becomes more happy and
peaceful all of the time, not just while meditating, but in daily life as well.
This is ultimately the best way to choose. Does one's awareness of mind states
become clearer and easier to recognize then let go of them during one's daily
activities as well as during the sitting practice? Otherwise, check with the teacher
and the suttas to see if what is being taught agrees with them. As one's practice
deepens and the meditation becomes better, the suttas become clearer and easier
to understand. This always happens when the teacher is using the suttas as his
Lastly, it is very important for the meditator to recognize whenever
the five hindrances arise. They are lust or greed, hatred or aversion, sloth and
torpor or sleepiness and dullness, restlessness or remorse, anxiety or scatteredness
and doubt. A hindrance is an obstacle or a distraction because it completely blocks
practicing meditation either while sifting or in their daily activities
or seeing things in the present moment clearly. It also causes one to take an
impersonal process, personally. Whenever these hindrances arise, one identifies
with them very strongly and takes them personally i.e., "I am sleepy, I am
restless, I like and I want, I dislike and I hate, I have doubt". These hindrances
completely clouds their mind and stops one from seeing clearly whatever happens
in the present moment due to the ego involvement of "I am that".
one is practicing "fixed concentration' the meditator lets go of any distraction
and then redirects their mind back to the meditation object again. On the other
hand, when one is practicing "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation", one lets
go of the distraction (this part is exactly the same as the 'fixed concentration'),
relaxes the tightness in the head and feels the mind becomes open, expanded and
calm. Only then does one redirect their attention back to the object of meditation.
The small difference of relaxing the mind and feeling it open and calm, changes
the whole meditation from a 'fixed concentration' to a more flowing, mindful and
calm kind of awareness, that doesn't go as deep as the absorption types of meditation.
As a result, the meditator becomes more in tune with the teachings in the suttas.
When one is practicing "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation", they do not
suppress anything. Suppression means to push down or to push away or not allow
certain types of experience i.e., it stops the hindrances from arising. Instead,
when a hindrance arises, one must work to open their minds by seeing it clearly
as anicca (impermanence, it wasn't there and now it is), dukkha (suffering or
unsatisfactoriness, one sees that when these distractions arise they are painful),
and anatta (not taking it personally, seeing the hindrances in the true way as
being an impersonal process that one has no control over and not taking these
hindrances as "I am that"). One then lets go of this obstruction, relaxes
the tightness in the head, calms the mind and finally, redirects the attention
back to the practice of 'Mindfulness of Breathing'.
As a result, one begins
to see clearly how the mind works and this leads to the development of wisdom.
When one allows and does not identify with these hindrances, they will naturally
fade away, and the mind becomes more clear and bright. Every time one lets go
of the ego attachment of "I am that", the mind naturally becomes more
expanded, alert and mindful. Thus, one of the main reasons of this book is to
show that whenever one suppresses any thing, they are not purifying the mind,
or experiencing things as they truly are. At the time of suppression, one is pushing
away or not allowing part of their experience and thus, this contracts the mind
instead of expanding and opening the mind. As a result, it is not purifying the
mind of ignorance. One is actually stopping the process of purification of the
mind! It is impossible to experience the unconditioned state of the Supramundane
Nibbana when one does not let go of everything that arises, and in that way, purify
the mind of the ego belief of "I am that". The Lord Buddha had never
taught suppression of any experience nor did he teach a meditation that causes
the mind to fix or to absorb into the meditation object. Remember, he rejected
every form of 'concentration meditation' as not being the correct way. Actually,
any kinds of pain or emotional upset or physical discomforts and even of death
must be accepted with equanimity, full awareness or strong attention and not identifying
with it or taking that pain personally.
Real personality change occurs when
one opens and expands their mind and let go any kinds of hindrances, pain, suffering
and tension even in their daily lives. This means that one opens and expands their
awareness so that they observe everything with a silent mind which is free from
tightness and all ego-attachment. One gradually leads a happy and calm life without
a lot of mind chatter, especially during their daily activities. When one practices
"concentration meditation", one will feel very comfortable and happy
while in the deep meditation but when they get out of these exalted stages, their
personality remains the same (this means that the hindrances attack them but they
do not recognize and open their mind. Thus, they contract their mind and become
even more attached!). They might even tend to be prideful and critical! This is
because whenever a hindrance arises during the meditation, the meditator lets
it go and immediately goes back to the object of meditation again. They do this
without calming and relaxing the tightness caused by the distraction. Instead,
their mind tends to close or contract and tighten around that experience (while
in sitting meditation) until the mind becomes more deeply 'concentrated'. As a
result, this suppresses the hindrance. Thus, they have not completely let go of
the ego-attachment to that distraction. Their mind is also tight and tense because
they are not seeing clearly that they are not opening and allowing, but closing
and fighting with that distraction. This explains why nowadays meditators complain
that they have huge amounts of tension in their head. Actually, when one truly
lets go of any distraction, there will not ever be any tension in the head. As
a result of this suppression, there is no real purifying of the mind and thus,
personality change does not occur.
Now, we are almost ready for the Anapanasati
Sutta. But, before we go into that, let's look at some words which have been changed
so that their meanings in the texts become clearer. For instance, the word 'rapture'
is replaced by 'joy', and the word 'pleasure' is changed to 'happiness'. In addition,
the word 'concentration' is replaced by 'stillness', 'composure of mind', or 'unified
mind'. When one practices according to the Lord Buddha's instructions as described
here, they will be able to confirm their experiences by reading the suttas. As
a result, there is better understanding of these profound texts.
note: In these few opening chapters, the author has touched on some controversial
views about the practices of absorption or fixed concentration (appana samadhi),
access concentration (upacara samadhi) and momentary concentration (khanika samadhi).
Thus, the author appreciates very much if the reader finds any mistake, they would
indicate the suttas which mentioned these various concentration practices.
one practice "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation" there is only opening, expanding
of the mind and allowing, then relaxing the tightness caused by the hindrance
or distraction, before going back to the object of meditation again. This opening
and allowing helps one to be more aware and alert to the things which causes pain
and suffering so that they can open up and expand even further. With this kind
of awareness, there is personality change and only then can one fulfill the Lord
Buddha's admonition of "We are the Happy Ones".
The author refers to the Anapanasati Sutta, which includes the Four Foundations
of Mindfulness, as well as the Seven Enlightenment Factors.
 See Thus Have
I Heard. The Long Discourses of the Buddha, translated by Maurice Walshe, Wisdom
Publications (1987), p.556.
 See Mahasaccaka Sutta, sutta number 36 of
 This means all nine of them! They are the four material
jhanas, the four immaterial jhanas and the cessation of perception and feelings.
 Here, the word 'jhana' carries the meaning of absorption concentration
(appana samadhi), or access concentration (upacara samadhi) - This is the stage
right before the mind becomes absorbed into the object of meditation. These are
the standard definitions as given by the current meditation teachers.
In this context, it only means absorption (appana sarnidhi) and not access concentration
 some meditation teachers call this momentary concentration
or moment.to-moment concentration (khanika samadhi)
 Notice the plural
form of the word sutta -- this means seeing the agreement many times.