Leading to Awakening
SAMYUTTA NIKĀYA 54:13
Today we will discuss ānāpānasati meditation (meditation on in and out breathing). Ānanda Sutta is the name of this discourse,
delivered by the Supreme Buddha.
With the Help of One Factor……
Once, Venerable Ānanda questioned the Blessed One, “Is there a factor, Blessed One, which when developed and pursued brings four
factors to completion, and four factors which, when developed and pursued bring seven factors to completion, and seven factors which,
when developed and pursued bring two noble factors to completion?”
The Blessed One replied,
“Yes, Ānanda, there is one factor which, when developed and pursued brings four factors to completion. And there are four factors which, when developed and pursued bring seven factors to completion. And there are seven factors which, when developed and pursued bring two noble factors to completion.”
Then Venerable Ānanda asked, “Blessed One, what is this one factor?”
The Supreme Buddha explained to Venerable Ānanda, “This one factor is ānāpānasati, which when developed and pursued brings the
four foundations of mindfulness (cattāro satipatthāna) to completion. The four foundations of mindfulness, when developed and pursued bring the seven factors of enlightenment to completion. The seven factors of enlightenment, when developed and pursued bring clear knowing and release to completion.” Concentrating and calming the mind by breathing in and breathing out, mindfully with full awareness, is known as ānāpānasati. Then, what would be the four foundations of mindfulness?
- The four foundations of mindfulness are:
• contemplation of the body,
• contemplation of feelings,
• contemplation of the mind, and
• contemplation of mental objects or thoughts.
This fourfold mindfulness, when developed and pursued brings the seven factors of enlightenment (satta bojjhanga) to completion.
Satta bojjhanga are the factors which fulfill the complete realization of the Dhamma. There are two elements to this realization – clear knowing (vijjā) and release (vimutti). Clear knowing is insight, and release is deliverance from defilements. Release or deliverance from
defilements can be accomplished by comprehending the causes for defilements, through the development of one factor. This factor is ānāpānasati.
A Strong Foundation (Virtue – Sīla)……
There is another thing that we should keep in mind. The four foundations of mindfulness cannot be realized through simple discussion. Some basic groundwork is needed. Can we build a massive building on a land without a strong foundation? No, we cannot. The building would collapse since there isn’t a strong base. Likewise, in order to pursue the four foundations of mindfulness, it is essential to have a strong foundation. The foundation is virtue or morality (sīla). This is the discipline in speech, action and thought. Control of verbal and physical action is somewhat easy. The more difficult task is controlling the mind. Nevertheless, there is a technique for disciplining the mind. It is
called the restraint of faculties. First, a person would abstain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and taking liquor or drugs that cause intoxication. Now, he is controlled with respect to physical action. Then, he would abstain from false speech, divisive speech, abusive speech
and idle chatter. Now, he has anchored himself in refraining from unskillful actions with both body and speech. The next step would
be controlling of mind. Having developed the virtues that purify speech and action, cleansing his thoughts is now a less difficult task.
What would be the process he adopts for mental development? He would go about it in the following manner. We have five physical sense organs – eye, ear, nose, tongue and body. The awareness or consciousness comes through these sense organs. He begins by preventing the cultivation of unwholesome thoughts. Let’s assume there is something that is unwholesome and blameworthy, yet we desire it very much. What should we do in this situation? We must be intelligent enough to think thus:
‘Although I am enjoying this at this moment, it will bring painful consequences throughout samsāra’.
In this manner, with the understanding of the misery and suffering of endless samsāra, every effort must be made to prevent the arising of evil and unwholesome thoughts. This is the way to establish a solid base for developing the fourfold mindfulness.
This Mind has been Defiled for a Long Time
The word meditation (bhāvanā) is used so often that we believe it is something very easy to do. In our normal life when we study a
subject, all we have to do is to listen, write and then memorize it. But, meditation is not an easy subject, as such. Meditation has to
be viewed in the right context. Our minds are obsessed with facts and thoughts. Indeed, it is very difficult for us to turn away from
habitual ways of thought and conduct. We are well aware that many in this country practice meditation as a way to liberate from suffering. However, when investigated deeply, we find that they haven’t made much progress. Therefore, it is clear that the practice of mindfulness is a difficult task. Mind is the core of our existence and for a long time it has been defiled. If we had purified and developed minds, it wouldn’t be necessary for us to gather here today. Firstly, we should understand that the mind is defiled by delusion and obsessed with all kinds of useless things. We have constructed our world either by seeing a visible object with the eye, hearing a sound with the ear, smelling an odour with the
nose, tasting a flavor with the tongue, touching a tangible object with the body, or cognizing a mind-object with the mind.
If someone advises us to release ourselves from the world, (which has been constructed by the six-sense faculties), to a certain extent, we would see the benefit. Why is that? It is because we
understand the misery of the world, with which we are engrossed. Therefore, we are aware that we should be liberated, and we strive for liberation from this misery. Virtue (sīla) is the stepping stone. It is the foundation for mental development. For this purpose, the sense organs must be controlled. This is very important. If after reflecting on an object, unwholesome thoughts associated with desire, hatred and
delusion arise in our minds, we should be fully aware of this. Then, we should consider the disadvantages of the unwholesome
thoughts in this way: ‘These thoughts of mind are unwholesome and bring painful consequences to me and others’.
With determination, those unwholesome thoughts should then be removed. By the removal of evil and unwholesome thoughts, the
mind stands firm and becomes calm. The Exalted One has expounded this repeatedly. It is essential for us to discipline
ourselves and make a strong foundation before we undertake the difficult task of training our mind through meditation.
Prepare to Breathe Mindfully ……
We would start by going to a quiet place, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Keep in mind however, that although we may go to a quiet place, which is away from the rattle of busy life, the mind cannot be relaxed easily. We can find seclusion physically by going into a room and keeping it locked. But, would the mind be secluded? We must adjust our minds for seclusion and quiet contemplation. The Exalted One expounded how mindfulness of in and out breathing (ānāpānasati) is developed and pursued so as to bring the four foundations of mindfulness to their culmination.
“Ānanda, there is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty hut, sits down, and always
mindful, he breathes in; mindful, he breathes out”.
For this meditation one needs the sitting posture with a straightened upper body and legs crossed. The Blessed One always recommended this sitting posture for ānāpānasati meditation. The Blessed One had not advocated a sitting posture for any other type of meditation. However, a person who has gained mental development through ānāpānasati meditation, can then continue by maintaining any posture.
“Ujum kāyam panidhāya parimukham satim upatthapetvā” – “Holding his body erect, he sets mindfulness on the body.”
Then, the normal breath should be noticed and observed. It is essential to be mindful of the breath. But, are we able to at once focus the mind on the breath and eliminate all other thoughts? No, it is difficult to do so. The mind wanders to other thoughts. This is the nature of the unrestrained body and mind. That is why it is essential to first discipline ourselves in speech and action. Then, we can train our mind for meditation. If you have performed an unskillful action with your body and speech, your mind gets agitated and keeps on repenting the act.
To avoid this, one should have a strong determination to preserve mindfulness, and never act mindlessly. If we entertain various kinds of distracting thoughts, we cannot train the mind to concentrate on the object of meditation. That is why the mental calm through virtue is important.
Contemplation of Body (I)
Pay Attention to Your Natural Breath (Step 1)……
“So sato va assasati, sato va passasati”– “Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful, he breathes out.”
The in-breathing and out-breathing we know is automatic, and this happens throughout the day. However, when we try to breathe mindfully it is indeed complicated. Some people face difficulties in breathing when they try to breathe consciously, or mindfully. Some cannot notice the breath. The breath flows freely in its own natural rhythm; and normally, this flow of breath is not noticed. However, it is not easy to be mindful of the breath. Start your meditation on mindfulness of in and out breathing with your eyes closed. Merely allow the breath to ebb and flow freely under the light of full awareness. Your one and only aim is to focus the mind on the breath. You should not try to find the
point where the moving air strokes the nostrils, but keep your focus at the nose breath. Breathe in and breathe out mindfully
with full awareness. Your breathing should be very natural and effortless.
Are you Ready to Accept the Challenge?……
The Blessed One further explains:
“Dīgham va assasanto, dīgam assasāmi’ti pajānāti” – “Breathing in long, he knows that he is breathing in long.”
“Dīgham va passasanto, dīgham passasāmi’ti pajānāti” – “Breathing out long, he knows that he is breathing out long.”
How did he begin? He started breathing in and breathing out mindfully with full awareness. Now, he has gone a little further.
Let’s suppose, a beginner, while he is continuing the mindfulness practice in this manner, suddenly becomes overwhelmed with
anger for some reason. What should he do? Should he suspend the meditation of mindfulness of in and out breathing and
continue to nourish his anger? Mindfulness is observing whatever happens inside oneself. He should become aware that his mind is away from the primary meditation object. He is now aware of the obstacle that confronts him.
How is one’s mind possessed by ill will and anger? The anger will be there as long as it is willingly received and nourished. So, how would we overcome this obstacle? We should clearly understand that it is only ‘a concept’. The meditator should put forth his will to overcome the anger by wishing for the welfare and happiness of all beings. Then, the vicious thoughts of hatred will be forgotten. Similarly, when sensual desire or passion is present in him, he should reflect upon the repulsiveness of the body and establish thinking in this way:‘Indeed this body is full of impurities and one day it will disintegrate into dust.’ By seeing and being mindful on the repulsive nature of the body, he can detach from sensual desire and overcome this obstacle. Now, bring your attention back to the primary object – breathing.
Breathe in and breathe out mindfully with full awareness. This may only be for a short while, and again your mind may become distracted. It may wander and you may find it difficult to concentrate. For example, if you have travelled extensively around the world, your mind may start strolling all over the world! Whenever your mind wanders to other thoughts, be aware of them. One needs a lot of effort to manage these distractions and focus on the real task of maintaining concentration. You should not try to strain your body, as it is the mental effort that should be strong and effective.
We should strive with diligence to train the mind, but this must be done sensitively. Suppose there is a greasy object floating in the water. What would happen if one tried to grasp it by squeezing the object? It would slip through the fingers. But if you were to catch it gently and mindfully, you would be more likely to succeed. Mental training is also something that should be done carefully and patiently. It is through gradual training that one can observe the mind and control it. What are the prerequisites for this?
Firstly, effort is required, and then, the awareness and the ability to understand. Someone may sit for many hours keeping the body motionless, but no one would really know what he is thinking.
Blocking the Entry……
The Exalted One pointed out that when the meditator is mindful and attentive with breathing meditation, he is fully aware of the differences in the rhythm of his breathing. Breathing in long, he knows that he is breathing in long; breathing out long, he knows that he is breathing out long. He is gradually gaining the power of concentration and his mind does not wander to other thoughts.
The stress and tension of his body and mind are starting to ease. His concentration is high, and with it, comes rapturous joy, calm,
and peace of mind. For some, when they become relieved like this, they cling to this joy viewing it as ‘I’ or ‘my self’. Why does this happen? In this life process we hold the wrong view of personality-belief; belief in a ‘self’.
Let’s suppose, with this personality-belief, a person meditates for a few hours, and he is very happy and relieved to have meditated successfully. The next time he sits for meditation, he sits with a new problem in mind, which he did not have earlier. What is this problem? The first time, he managed to gain concentration by focusing the mind. This time, he expects to regain that concentration as soon as he sits down to meditate. Therefore, this time he sits with a new expectation – one which he did not have the first time. Previously, he gained concentration by focusing his mind on one solitary object, to the exclusion of all others. This time, his mind is in a hurry to experience the same concentration again, and this eagerness scatters his mind.
A gentleman here asked a question on whether one could shut himself off from anger or desire if they arise during meditation. Yes, for some, it is possible. As it comes in, whatever the object, you will make note of it, and then shut yourself off from it altogether. How do you do this successfully?
For one person, life is like a house with six doors, but he keeps only one door open. He then has the ability to identify everyone who enters and exits through this door, and also block the entry of unwanted persons. Another person may keep all six doors open, and stand at one door. In this case, anybody can walk in and out through the other doors. The ability to maintain one-pointedness of the mind (without
being distracted) will depend on the nature of each person. That is, how many doors they habitually keep open, and their ability
to keep only one door open.
Identifying Long and Short Breathing – Like a Skillful Carpenter (Step 3)
The Exalted One explained long and short breath with a simile. Just as a skillful carpenter, while making a long turn, understands clearly,
‘I am making a long turn.’, the meditator when breathing in long, he knows that he is breathing in long; and when breathing out long, he knows that he is breathing out long. Or, breathing in short, he knows that he is breathing in short; and breathing out short, he knows that he is breathing out short.What made him notice and understand this difference? As he continues developing the various degrees of mindfulness, his mind gets fully concentrated on the breath. At times the breath may become so subtle that one can hardly catch it. You must be skillful enough to become aware of the breath again.
Experiencing the Whole Body of Breath, He Trains (Step 4)
“Sabba kāya patisamvedī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, Sabba kāya patisamvedī passasissāmī’ti sikkkhati.”
The Blessed One expounded thus:
“Experiencing the whole body I shall breathe in; experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe out’. Thus, he trains himself.”
One can be mindful of the breath and not of the body. He can do so when his mind is fully concentrated only on the breath. Yet, it
is like another body as mentioned in the Dhamma. Here, he trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the entire body of the breath,
and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body of the breath.
Calming the In and Out Breath, He Trains (Step 5)
“Passambhayam kāya sankhāram assasissāmī’ti sikkhati. Passambhayam kāya sankhāram passasissāmī ’ti sikkhati.”
Here, the meditator trains himself to breathe in, calming the bodily process (kāyasankhāra – in and out breath), and to breathe out, calming the bodily process. With the calmness of the entire process – body and mind, he begins to experience rapture.
Contemplation of Feelings (II)
Experiencing Rapture, He Trains (Step 6)
Experiencing Joy, He Trains (Step 7)
“Pīti patisamvedī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, Pīti patisamvedī passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.”
Now he is fully concentrated on the breath. His concentration is very high. Rapturous joy, calm, and peace of mind are incredible
experiences for him – something he has not experienced before. Remember, he is training himself. Therefore, he does not cling to
this rapturous joy. He trains himself to breathe in experiencing rapture, and to breathe out experiencing rapture. He continues this in
a calm detached way. Some people become elated when they get the feeling of happiness and bliss to the body and mind. A mind that is
obsessed by elation cannot concentrate. At that point, the concentration he gained would disappear. Then he starts regretting as to why he could not uphold the concentration he developed previously. Concentration, rapturous joy, calm, and peace of mind and body, are causally dependent; they are conditioned results. They do not arise by chance. If the mind is self, there wouldn’t be a problem. As it would be possible to say with regards to the mind, ‘Let my mind be thus.’ However, mind is not self. Now he trains himself to breathe in sensitive to rapture, and to breathe out sensitive to rapture. Calming the entire process of body and mind, he is experiencing rapture. He is experiencing this as a
result of continuous exertion for deliverance from mental defilements (ātāpi) and from clear comprehension (sampajāno).
Is the rapture easeful or stressful? It is indeed easeful – physically and mentally. He is breathing in sensitive to pleasure and
breathing out sensitive to pleasure, experiencing bliss. You can understand to what extent he has tamed his mind. The common
nature of the mind is that it can be swayed by anything. He has trained himself and therefore, his mind is not being mesmerized
by pleasure and rapture. His mind is tamed, controlled and restrained with continuous exertion for deliverance from
defilements. His mind is fully concentrated on the breath, and his concentration is very high. What will he do next?
He Trains Experiencing the Mental Formations (Step 8)……
“Citta sankhāra patisamvedī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati. Citta sankhāra patisamvedī passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.”
‘Experiencing the mental formations, he breathes in. Experiencing the mental formations, he breathes out. Thus, he trains himself.’
What are these mental formations (citta sankhāra)? These mental formations are two recognizable attributes – perception and feeling
(saññā and vedanā). Feeling is noted as pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. Here, it is a pleasant feeling, both physically and mentally. Perception is the recognition of objects. In this case, he perceives the status he gained with the development of mindfulness of in and out breathing. Experiencing the rapturous joy – physically and mentally, he trains himself to breathe in experiencing mental formations, and to breathe out experiencing mental formations.
Calming Mental Formations, He Trains (Step 9)……
The Exalted One explained how one can further develop and pursue mindfulness of in and out breathing, thus:
“Passambhayam citta sankhāram assasissāmī’ti sikkhati. Passambhayam citta sankhāram passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.”
“Calming mental formations, he breathes in. Calming mental formations, he breathes out. Thus, he trains himself.”
Earlier he trained himself to breathe in and out sensitive to rapture and pleasure. You may understand the degree to which his mind is being tamed now. Within what he feels and perceives, without getting obsessed by rapture and joy, he trains himself to breathe in and out, calming mental formations. Now what happens?
“Vedanāsu vedananupassī tasmim samaye bhikkhu viharati.” “On that occasion, the monk lives contemplating feelings in feelings.”
By now, he has developed his awareness to such an extent where he dwells contemplating feelings (vedanānupassana), within the
mindfulness of in and out breathing. Ānāpānasati (mindfulness of in and out breathing) is a form of kāyānupassana (contemplation of
the body). Thus, the meditator is now developing the contemplation of feelings (vedanānupassana) within the contemplation of the body (kāyānupassana). What is contemplation of feelings? Contemplation of feelings is becoming mindful of feelings as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. He remains mindfully and ardently focused on feelings, in and of themselves. Here, it does not mean ‘amisa vedanā’ – feeling, which is related to the world of sensual pleasures, such as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral feelings that one experiences when seeing a visible object,
hearing a sound, smelling an odor, tasting a flavor or touching something tangible. The feeling he is experiencing here is a sensation related to the higher meditational realms (nirāmisa vedanā). We should not forget that our discussion is based on the mindfulness of in and out breathing (ānāpānasati bhāvanā). The four foundations of mindfulness (cattāro satipatthāna) are
explained well in the Supreme Buddha’s Teachings, the Noble Dhamma. However, in many places within Sri Lanka where meditation is being taught, the instructors do not teach this as explained in the Dhamma. While in the process of breathing in and out, they instruct meditators that if they should feel a pain in some part of the body, let’s say the knee, meditators should switch all of their mental energy to their knee and note in the mind as “pain, pain”. But that is not the correct interpretation. What is clearly specified is how contemplation of feelings
(vedanānupassana) is developed by mindfulness of in and out breathing (ānāpānasati). In Supreme Buddha’s Dhamma, it is clearly explained how mindfulness of in and out breathing is developed and pursued so as to bring the four foundations of mindfulness to their
culmination. When first developing mindfulness of in and out breathing, the meditator discerns the differences of his breathing,
and remains focused on the breath. This is kāyānupassana. Thereafter, he discerns the differences of the mind as he trains himself to breathe in and out sensitive to rapture and pleasure. Thus, he is experiencing feeling and perception. Further, perceiving the differences (of feeling and perception in his mind), he trains himself to breathe in and out calming mental formations. At that point, he remains focused on feelings
(vedanānupassana) – ardent, alert, and mindful, with continuous exertion for deliverance, restraining greed and distress. This is how mindfulness of in and out breathing brings the contemplation of body and contemplation of feeling to their culmination. It is now obvious that this meditation needs to be developed and pursued ardently with thorough understanding and awareness. One should realize how strong and enormous the mental effort
and patience need to be, in order to bring about mental purity and perfection. There is one more thing to remember. Not everyone can develop ānāpānasati bhāvanā immediately. Once, Venerable Rāhula, as a young novice, approached Arahant Sāriputta, and was advised to
develop and pursue ānāpānasati. At the time, Venerable Rāhula did not know the way to develop ānāpānasati, and so, he went to
the Blessed One and asked, “Would the Blessed One teach me about ānāpānasati?” The Blessed One, when exhorting the novice Venerable Rāhula, first gave detailed instructions on vipassana – a method to investigate with insight, by analyzing aggregates, material elements, sense spheres, etc…, and then finally instructed him on the practice of ānāpānasati meditation. The reason is that the Blessed One recognized Venerable Rāhula’s temperament and what would be most suitable for him. Could we all be cured from our various illnesses by using one type of medicine? No, we could not. Different medicines are being prescribed for different types of ailments, depending on each individual’s physical condition. Likewise, as temperaments differ, so do the objects of meditation. Supreme Buddha taught many ways to meditate. The Blessed One taught ānāpānasati to those with the ability to keep mindfulness well. The Supreme Buddha was emphatic on the
importance of practising ānāpānasati, and described it as peaceful, sublime, and perfects the four foundations of mindfulness. However, if one continually tries but cannot establish mindfulness on breathing, then he can practice other kinds of meditation for the time being.
“Vedanaññatarāham Ānanda etam vadami, Yadidam assāsa – passāsānam sādhukam manasikāram.”
“Ānanda, when I say, ‘by proper attention to inhalation-exhalation’, it is like another feeling.” Most of the meditation practices that have become popular today are not in line with the Dhamma. Those practices are to note in your mind, “pain, pain”, when you feel pain in some part of your body during meditation, and this they say is vedanānupassana – contemplation on feeling. If your mind goes somewhere, they say to note “going, going”, and this they say is cittānupassana – the contemplation of mind. If you feel sleepy, they say to note “sleepy, sleepy”. And, if a desire or agitation presents itself in the mind, they say to note “desire, desire”, or “agitation, agitation”, and this they say is dhammānupassana – the contemplation of mind objects. Those are the incorrect practices today that people are being taught as meditation.
However, the futility of such practices is apparent when studying the word of the Tathāgata: “I say, ‘practising ānāpānasati, by paying
attention to experience these (rapture, pleasure, feeling, perception) is said to be a certain kind of feeling’.”
Contemplation of Mind (III)
Experiencing the Highly Concentrated Mind (Step 10)……
The Blessed One explains thereafter:
“Citta patisamvedī assasissāmi’ti sikkhati. Citta patisamvedī passasissāmi’ti sikkhati.”
“Experiencing the mind, he breathes in. Experiencing the mind, he breathes out. Thus he trains himself.”
He trained himself to breathe in sensitive to pleasure, and to breathe out sensitive to pleasure. Now, what is he developing
successively? He is developing equanimity – the result of a calm concentrated mind. He is able to do this because he did not get attached to that pleasure in the mind. He cognized all differences that occurred in the mind (perceptions of in and out breathing, rapture, pleasure, etc…). He experienced the mental formations – feeling and perception in ānāpānasati, without being swayed by them. He is now very sensitive to the mind. Experiencing the highly concentrated mind, that is inclined to equanimity, he breathes in and breathes out. Thus, he trains himself.
Gladdening the Mind, He Trains (Step 11)……
He further trains himself:
“Abhippamodayam cittam assasissāmī’ti sikkhati. Abhippamodayam cittam passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.”
“Gladdening the mind, he breathes in. Gladdening the mind, he breathes out. Thus, he trains himself.”
Without clinging to the gladdening of the mind by calming; without being scattered; and without being obsessed by sense desire, ill will or sloth and torpor, he trains himself. Gladdening the mind is described as peaceful, pure happiness. This satisfaction occurs in a mind that is well guarded and restrained; in a mind that is not obsessed by the five hindrances. Such a mind indeed, brings great bliss. He is not confused or puzzled. He trains himself to breathe in and breathe out, increasingly gladdening the mind.
Thoroughly Establishing Mindfulness, He Trains (Step 12)……
“Samādaham cittam assasissāmī’ti sikkhati. Samādaham cittam passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.”
“Concentrating the mind, he breathes in. Concentrating the mind, he breathes out. Thus he trains himself.”
Now he trains himself to breathe in and breathe out, thoroughly establishing mindfulness. His mind is fully concentrated.
Releasing the Mind from Hindrances (Step 13)……
“Vimocayam cittam assasissāmī’ti sikkhati. Vimocayam cittam passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.”
“Liberating the mind, he breathes in. Liberating the mind, he breathes out. Thus he trains himself.”
Now he is liberating the mind from the nivarana or hindrances (sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness, drowsiness
and doubt). He trains himself to breathe in and to breathe out releasing the mind. What is he developing now?
“Citte cittānupassī bhikkhu tasmim samaye viharati.”
“Ānanda, on that occasion the monk remains focused on the mind in and of itself – ardent, alert and mindful. His mindfulness of in and out
breathing is developed and pursued so as to bring the contemplation of mind (cittānupassana) to its culmination.”
With Ardent, Clear Comprehension and Mindfulness……
Now, let’s review this progress from the beginning. First he trained himself to breathe in and out experiencing the body. This is kāyānupassana (contemplation of the body). “Kāye kāyānupassī Ānanda bhikkhu tasmim samaye viharati.” The Exalted One expounded: “Ānanda, on that occasion the monk remains focused on the body, in and of itself.” The Blessed One regularly repeated the phrase, “Ātāpi –
sampajāno satimā vineyya loke abijjha domanassam.” The completion of the four foundations of mindfulness (cattāro satipatthāna)
within the concentration of ānāpānasati, cannot be considered as a given. Satipatthāna means the setting up of mindfulness. Establishing or setting up of mindfulness cannot be done effortlessly.
As explained above, there are certain requirements that need to be fulfilled in establishing mindfulness. Ātāpi is ardent and continuous exertion and perseverance for the development of concentration and deliverance from defilements. Sampajāna means clear comprehension for deliverance from defilements, wrong views and perceptions. Satimā is mindfulness to focus the mind on the ānāpānasati, to the exclusion of all other thoughts and to fix the mind there.
What is vineyya loke abijjha domanassam? Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind are the world. The world as experienced from these faculties, is continually correlating with the world of form, sound, smell, taste, tangibles, and mental objects. Interaction with the external world normally creates defilements like greed and distress. Therefore, we must tame and restrain this greed and distress, as described previously.
With the development of kāyānupassana he was in a position to bring vedanānupassana to its culmination. By concentrating on ānāpānasati to a higher degree, he brings the cittānupassana to its culmination. He will now develop dhammānupassana
(contemplation of mind objects). Purely based on the deep concentration of mind through mindfulness of in and out breathing, the meditator directs his thoughts to insight for the achievement of the noble goal.
In view of this, the Blessed One exhorted thus: “Nāham, Ānanda, mutthassatissa asampajānassa ānāpāna sati samadhi bhāvanam vadāmi.” – “I say, Ānanda, one who is inattentive, and who lacks clear comprehension, he is not one doing ānāpāna.” Mind development achieved with great effort is not something that can be achieved overnight. It needs time and regular practice. Meditation is not only ānāpānasati. Reflection on the repulsive nature of the body is also a type of meditation. Some people find it difficult to concentrate on mindfulness of in and out breathing, but they might be able to develop the meditation on repulsiveness (asubha). Some can very well develop the meditation on loving kindness (mettā), and others can develop the concentration of reflection on material elements (dhātumanasikāra). As temperaments differ, so do the objects of meditation. Those who can practice mindfulness to a high degree, can get fully concentrated on the ānāpānasati. They can frequently practice and develop ānāpānasati.
If a person who has developed the concentration of mindfulness on ānāpānasati inquires from another person about his development on ānāpānasati, that person may reply, ‘Oh no, I cannot develop concentration at all!’ In case you come across a person who is unable to develop concentration of mindfulness on ānāpānasati, you should not criticize him under any circumstances. You only have to encourage him to select another object of meditation that is more suitable for him. We cannot properly analyze ourselves without first practising a meditation. We cannot judge the mind even after meditating for one or two hours. Some cannot develop concentration even if
they practice throughout the entire day. However, if you continue to practise ānāpānasati with strong determination for a few days,
concentration could develop gradually. Therefore, you should not get disheartened for not obtaining a significant achievement
by practicing just for a few hours.
Let’s suppose a person goes to a lonely place and tries to practice ānāpānasati for just a few minutes. He is in a hurry, and so when he is not successful in ānāpānasati, he switches over to meditation on loving kindness (mettā). And again, after a little while, he finds it impossible to continue, so he changes the meditation object and starts meditation on the extraordinary qualities of the Supreme Buddha (Buddhānussati). Following that, he is not mindful or patient, and switches to practising walking-meditation. Finally, without practicing anything properly, he gives up altogether. You cannot practise mindfulness in this manner. You should strive hard to train your mind and develop the best that is in you. For some, it is easier. They have determination and persistence as ingrained qualities, and they are less likely to get discouraged. The Exalted One made clear how one can train himself to breathe in and out, liberating the mind from the five hindrances. Now, his mindfulness is fully developed, his concentration is very strong, his mindfulness is thoroughly established, and his mental effort is enduring. Having gained perfect and concentrate calm, he is now able to develop insight (vipassanā) meditation – to see reality.
Contemplation of Mind Objects (IV)
Contemplating on Impermanence, He Trains (Step 14)……
The Blessed One explains:
“Aniccānupassī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati. Aniccānupassī passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.”
“Contemplating impermanence, he breathes in. Contemplating impermanence, he breathes out. Thus, he trains himself.”
Anicca means ‘impermanence’. Being able to see everything in terms of impermanence is not something that comes automatically after gaining concentration of mind. Now, he trains himself to breathe in contemplating impermanence, and he trains himself to breathe out contemplating impermanence. Some meditation teachers declare that impermanence is something that just becomes visible to a mind, like appearing in a meter, and enables one to gain something called ‘vipassana nana’ (insight knowledge) by continuous determination. This theory or view is not in accordance with the Supreme Buddha’s Dhamma.
Impermanence of Breath……
Ānāpānasati is something that should be developed and pursued mindfully and discerningly. Now, he trains himself to breathe in
focusing on impermanence, and to breathe out focusing on impermanence. Purity of mind has been achieved through the elimination of the hindrances (nīvarana). His effort, mindfulness and concentration are now being directed towards focusing on impermanence. He is contemplating on impermanence within ānāpānasati. He can see the impermanent nature of his own breath in its rise and fall; the impermanence of his body; and the impermanent nature of the pleasant feeling and perception that he experienced.
Impermanence of Body……
What has he seen in the body? What does this body consist of? This physical body contains and comprises the four great elements, which are known as: solidity/earth (pathavi), fluidity/water (āpo), heat or temperature (tejo) and air (vāyo). We generally use the word rūpa (material form) to denote the body. When he is breathing in and out, he is focusing on impermanence of material form which is derived from the four great elements.
Impermanence of Feeling……
Thereafter, he is focusing on feelings. Dependent on contact, feeling arises. What is contact? Contact is the coming together of three things. For example, eye, form and eye-consciousness come together, and it is their convergence, that is called contact. Similarly, with ear and sounds, nose and smells, and so on, through to mind and mental-objects. In this instance, when body, tangible object and consciousness
come together, there arises contact. With the arising of contact, simultaneously, there arises feeling (vedanā) – feeling born of body contact. Since feeling is conditioned by contact, feeling differs in accordance with the change of contact. This way, he contemplates on the impermanence of feeling.
Impermanence of Perception……
Then, there is the recognition of perception. This is called saññā (perception) which is also subject to change as it is conditioned by contact. Perception changes due to impermanence of contact.
Impermanence of Formations……
Perception is followed by sankhāra (mental formations). If the mental factor was directed to a certain matter, on that occasion
there is volitional activity, and this is called sankhāra. Here, he observes the impermanence of the mental formation with the
change of contact. All these are based on the activities of the mind. Now he understands every aspect in this life process which was
considered as self (form, feeling, perception and formation); or anything pertaining to a self. He has real wisdom to see things as
they really are. One may contemplate on impermanence saying “anicca, anicca” continuously, but still be holding onto the notion
of “I am” or “mine”. To avoid this, it is important to realize the impermanent, no-self nature in inhalation-exhalation and in any
other external object.
Impermanence of Consciousness……
Finally, he sees the impermanent nature of all that has been cognized (the rise and fall of breath, rapture, joy, feelings, and perceptions). It is through this insight that the true nature of the five aggregates of clinging is understood and seen in the light of impermanence:
• material form (rūpa) derived from the four great elements,
• feeling (vedanā) that is conditioned by contact,
• perception (saññā) that is conditioned by contact,
• mental formations (sankhāra) that is conditioned by contact, and
• consciousness (viññāna) that is conditioned by mentalitymateriality (nāma-rūpa)
Being fully concentrated on ānāpānasati, he now dwells ardent, with full awareness, and clear comprehension of impermanence.
With the base of this awareness, established in anicca impermanence), he develops an understanding of his own life, the impermanent nature of others who breathe and live, and the impermanent nature of material form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness (the five aggregates of clinging). Thus, he observes the impermanent characteristic of phenomenal existence, internally and externally. He does not see a difference in him and the outer world. He sees the characteristic of phenomenal existence as subject to cause and effect. Now he is gaining knowledge, and his comprehension is increasing. He sees things as they really are, in whatever material form: whether past, present or future, far or near, external or internal. He sees the impermanence even of the rapture and pleasure that he is
experiencing in breathing mindfully. Now, based on the impermanent breath, he understands the impermanent nature of the five aggregates of clinging. He realizes that whatever is impermanent and subject to change, is suffering (dukkha). And, whatever is impermanent is without self (anatta). It is through this insight that the true nature of the aggregates is clearly seen; in the light of three signs (ti-lakkhana):
impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and without self(anatta). He sees the impermanent, suffering and no-self nature of all
conditioned and component things. As a result, he knows there is no “I”, no self, or anything pertaining to a self. When he trains
himself to breathe in and out focusing on impermanence, he understands that anything taken as ‘mine’ is impermanent; anything taken as ‘I am’ is impermanent; and anything that is taken as ‘my self’ is impermanent. He realizes that whatever is impermanent, is without self. That which is without self, is not ‘mine’, not ‘I am’, and is not ‘my self’. Thus he sees everything as it really is – with wisdom.
Contemplating Detachment, He Trains (Step 15)……
“Virāgānupassī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati. Virāganupassī passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.”
“Contemplating detachment he breathes in, contemplating detachment he breathes out. Thus, he trains himself.”
With this realization, he understands clearly that what is impermanent is not worth clinging to. If his mind was obsessed
by the five hindrances, he would not be able to concentrate successfully on an object of a wholesome nature, and he would
not be able to avoid clinging. But here, he has tamed and guarded his mind very well by training himself to breathe in and out, focusing on
impermanence. With that development, he now trains himself to focus on dispassion. Thus, he becomes dispassionate towards:
material form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness. He becomes dispassionate towards the five
aggregates of clinging by seeing the true nature. This is not a kind of disinterest or simple boredom. This is a true realization. With
this awareness as a foundation, he develops an understanding of his own life. Through dispassion, he is detached from material form, detached from feeling, detached from perception, detached from mental formations, and detached from consciousness. Now, he is
breathing in and out with the view of no-self. He sees the arising and passing away of the five aggregates of clinging. He neither
makes any identification, nor has any attachment towards ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘mine’. Observing the phenomenon of arising and passing, he
develops wisdom which leads to detachment. He trains himself to breathe in focusing on dispassion, and to breathe out focusing on dispassion. In this way, he dwells detached – without clinging towards anything in the world; without clinging to the body; without clinging to the pleasure he is experiencing in breathing; without clinging to perception; without clinging to the mental formations; and without clinging to consciousness.
Contemplating Cessation, He Trains (Step 16)……
Now, he focuses on cessation. It is the cessation of what? It is not the cessation of material form, feeling, perception, mental
formations or consciousness. It is the cessation of the wrong view of personality-belief, which he held with regards to the five
aggregates of clinging, as this is ‘mine’, this ‘I am’, and this is ‘my self’. He understands the non-substantial (non-self) nature of the
five aggregates of clinging. Through developed insight, ignorance is abandoned. With the abandonment of ignorance, craving is eradicated. Craving is attachment, and attachment is abandoned. Desire and passion are abandoned. He is liberated. Yes, he is liberated from suffering!
Thus the Tathāgata explained to us:
“Nirodhānupassī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati. Nirodhānupassī passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.”
“Contemplating cessation, he breathes in. Contemplating cessation, he breathes out. Thus, he trains himself.”
It is now clear how one comprehends, in their entirety, the Four Noble Truths. Suffering is the phenonmenal existence of the five
aggregates of clinging. The cause for the arising of suffering is craving. Craving results from delusion, which prevents man from
seeing things as they really are. Therefore, cessation of suffering is achieved when craving is eradicated and extinguished. The path
leading to the cessation of craving is the Noble Eightfold Path, expounded by the Enlightened One. The Supreme Buddha explained that the meditator trains to breathe in focusing on cessation of craving, and to breathe out focusing on cessation of craving.
Contemplating Relinquishment, He Trains (Step 17) ……
He now experiences relinquishment. He relinquishes lust, hatred and delusion, and he relinquishes the notion of ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘mine’.
Thus, The Blessed One expounded that this one factor – ānāpānasati, when developed and pursued brings clear knowing
and release to completion.
“Dhammesu dhammānupassī Ānanda tasmim samaye bhikkhu viharati.” – “On that occasion, Ānanda, the monk remains focused on
mental qualities in and of themselves.”
Clear and Radiant, like the Sun and Moon……
You can see the clarity of the path to Nibbāna. It is clear and radiant, like the sun and the moon. The meditator, the inquiring mind, will not find it difficult to understand this state. The Enlightened One has very distinctly explained how mindfulness of in and out breathing is developed and pursued so as to bring the four foundations of mindfulness to their culmination. Does it say anything here so as to note “sleepy, sleepy” if you feel sleepy; or if a desire presents itself in the mind, to note “desire, desire” etc. No, it does not. Ānāpānasati meditation is indeed a discerning process that has to be followed carefully – as Supreme Buddha had instructed. The Exalted One has pointed out so clearly how a meditator develops and pursues ānāpānasati to bring the four foundations of mindfulness to completion. He developed and pursued ānāpānasati with great effort and continuous exertion for deliverance from defilement (ātāpī); with clear comprehension for
deliverance from defilement (sampajāno); with mindfulness (satima); subduing greed and distress (so yam tam hoti abhijjhā
domanassānam pahānam), and clearly perceiving reality through discernment (tam paññāya disvā). He is more and more equanimous (sādhukam ajjhupekkhitā hoti). This one factor, ānāpānasati, has been developed and pursued to bring the four foundations of mindfulness (cattāro satipatthāna) to completion.
Completion of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment……
The Enlightened One further explains:
“Katam bhāvitā ca Ānanda katam bahulī katā satta bojjhange paripūrenti.” – “And Ānanda, how are the four foundations of
mindfulness developed and pursued to bring the seven factors of enlightenment to their culmination?”
Now, the seven factors of enlightenment (satta bojjhanga) should be cultivated in the mind. The Pāli term ‘bojjhanga’ is composed of
bodhi and anga. ’Bodhi’ is the realization of the Four Noble Truths and ’anga’ means ‘conducing factors’.
The seven factors of enlightenment are:
• mindfulness (sati)
• analysis of the Dhamma (dhammavicaya)
• energy (vīriya)
• rapture (pīti)
• tranquility (passaddhi)
• concentration (samādhi)
• equanimity (upekkhā)
Mindfulness is Steady……
The mind is now well established on the four foundations of mindfulness, and highly concentrated on ānāpānasati.
“Tasmim samaye Ānanda bhikkhuno upatthitā sati hoti asammutthā.” –
“Ānanda, on that occasion his mindfulness is steady and without lapse.”
When he is breathing in and breathing out, focusing on impermanence, mindfulness as a factor of enlightenment, is aroused.
“Sati sambojjhango tasmim samaye bhikkhuno āraddho hoti.” On that occasion, he develops mindfulness as a factor of enlightenment.
The following terms are used by the Blessed One to describe ‘bojjhanga’ (factor of enlightenment):
• viveka nissitam – dependent on seclusion, gained by removing the five hindrances that defile the mind
• virāga nissitam – dependent on dispassion, gained from contemplating impermanence
• nirodha nissitam – dependent on the entire cessation of craving, and
• vossagga parināmi – resulting in relinquishment, leading to Nibbāna.
In this way, mindfulness becomes a factor of enlightenment.
“So tathā sato viharanto tam dhammam paññāya pavicinati pavicarati parivīmamsamāpajjati.”
Remaining mindful in this way, he examines and analyzes the true nature of the five aggregates of clinging that are impermanent, unsatisfactory and without self. What is this doctrine? This is the doctrine of conditionality. “Dhammavicaya sambojjhango tasmim samaye bhikkhuno āraddho hoti.” When he remains mindful in this way, examining, analyzing and coming to an understanding of the impermanence of the five aggregates of clinging, then, analysis of the Dhamma as a factor of enlightenment is aroused.
“Āraddham hoti viriyam asallīnam” –“Exertion and increasing effort to strive and continue.”
When he examines and analyzes with discernment, persistent energy is aroused. The function of energy is to discard unwholesomeness that has arisen in the mind; to prevent the development of unwholesomeness that has not yet arisen; to develop wholesomeness that has not yet arisen; and to maintain and promote the further growth of wholesomeness that has already arisen, through meditation. Energy as a factor of
enlightenment, is aroused.
As he proceeds with mindfulness, clear comprehension, persistent energy, and by seeing with insight, there arises intense joy. This joy or rapture, as a factor of enlightenment, is aroused.
Calm and Tranquil……
“Kāyopi passambhati, cittampi passambhati.”
When he is enraptured, the body becomes calm, and the mind becomes calm. When the body and mind of an enraptured monk
becomes calm, then tranquility, as a factor of enlightenment, is aroused.
Mind Becomes Concentrated……
“Yasmim samaye Ānanda bhikkhuno passaddha kāyassa sukhino cittam samādhiyati.” –
“Ānanda, for one who is at ease – his body calmed, the mind becomes concentrated.” Then, concentration as a factor of enlightenment, is aroused.
“Tathā samāhitam cittam sādhukam ajjhupekkhitā hoti.” –“He oversees the mind thus concentrated, with equanimity.”
Throughout all of this, he sees the five aggregates of clinging and the impermanent, unsatisfactory and no-self nature of the five aggregates of clinging. Therefore, he remains equanimous, alert and mindful. In this way, equanimity as a factor of enlightenment, is aroused.
From the foregoing, it is clear now that based on the four foundations of mindfulness – kāyānupassana, vedanānupassana, cittānupassana and dhammānupassana, the seven factors of enlightenment – sati, dhammavicaya, vīriya, pīti, passadhi, samādhi and upekkhā come to completion. Therefore, mindfulness of in and out breathing – ānāpānasati, when developed and pursued, brings the four foundations of
mindfulness to completion. And, the four foundations of mindfulness, when developed and pursued, bring the seven factors of enlightenment to completion.
Vijjā – Complete Knowledge of the Four Noble Truths
Vimutti – Liberation from Craving
“Vijjā vimuttim paripūrenti.” – “The factors of enlightenment, when developed and pursued, bring clear knowing and release to completion.” Clear knowing is the insight, and release is the liberation from threefold craving: sensual craving (kāma-tanhā), craving for existence (bhava-tanhā), and craving for non-existence (vibhava-tanhā). This is the knowledge of reality – seeing things as they really are,
and it is called ‘yathābhuta ñana’. By virtue of this clear knowing, he is liberated. What is it that he previously did not see in its true nature? He did not see the true nature of the five aggregates of clinging. What is it that he sees now in its true nature? He sees the true nature of the
five aggregates of clinging. Because of this, he has eradicated the craving towards the five aggregates of clinging. Through developed
insight, ignorance and craving are abandoned. He progressively discerned the impermanent, unsatisfactory and non-self nature of the five aggregates of clinging. He understands that all phenomenal existence is causally dependent (paticcasamuppāda – dependent arising).
He released himself from personality-belief (sakkāya ditthi) – the wrong view of the five aggregates of clinging as permanent, satisfactory and self. He realized that there is no “I”, no persisting psychic entity, no ego principle, no self, or anything pertaining to a self.
True Deliverance by the Excellent Guidance of the Tathāgata……
As expounded by the Tathāgata, ānāpānasati, when developed and pursued, brings the four foundations of mindfulness to completion. The four foundations of mindfulness when developed and pursued bring the seven factors of enlightenment to completion. The seven factors of enlightenment, when developed and pursued bring clear knowing and release to completion, in this very life. When this Dhamma is investigated, understood, and realized, the delusion of ‘I am’, ‘mine’ and ‘my self’ that brought suffering throughout samsāra, is completely eradicated. Thus, one is liberated from the shackles of samsāra. This is the true deliverance. Let us now analyze our lives. By not realizing the truth, we have travelled this long and sorrowful cycle of birth and death, with great suffering and pain. Due to ignorance and delusion we
perceive self in what is not self. When we are caught up in this delusion, we view, perceive and think erroneously. These wrong
views prevail in the world until the Supreme Enlightened One reveals the true nature. The Blessed One proclaimed how one can
achieve deliverance from ignorance and delusion.
Don’t Miss this Opportunity……
After death of a human being, it is very rare that the subsequent rebirth is in a human plane. Similarly, it is very rare that a human
being after death reappears as a deity in a good state of existence. The subsequent rebirths of many beings are in states that are nonhuman or in unfortunate states of existence. After death, most human beings reappear in a state of deprivation, in a bad destination, or in hell.
Supreme Buddha explained this with a simile. The Blessed One placed a little soil on the tip of a fingernail, and compared that to all the soil on this great Earth. The soil on the tip of the fingernail is insignificant in comparison to the soil on this great Earth. Even so insignificant, are the beings who reach perfect sanctity, the final liberation from suffering. Therefore, it is clear that this is not something that can be
accomplished effortlessly. Each individual has to put forth the necessary effort, and work out his own deliverance with mindfulness. A noble disciple, who possesses unflinching energy with firm determination to realize the Four Noble Truths, will be able to work out his deliverance.
Let’s Live Close to the Perfect One, the Tathāgata……
Suppose one leaves the household life and becomes a monk. He is wearing a robe just as the Tathāgata wore a robe, and walking
just as the Tathāgata walked. Even if a monk should walk directly behind the Tathāgata, holding the robe of the Tathāgata, he will
not progress along the path to enlightenment and final deliverance from the suffering of samsāra, if he is weak in determination and thought. He will not find the way to wisdom; the way to enlightenment. He would be considered to be living very far from the Tathāgata. Yet, there may be a person who is physically very far away from the Tathāgata, but heedful, ardent and resolute, and therefore, he may find the way to wisdom; the way to enlightenment. He would be considered to be living very close to the Tathāgata.
The Doctrine is our Teacher……
The Blessed One is not alive today. But, the Doctrine, which the Blessed One set forth, is alive. This Doctrine is our Teacher. Therefore, we must analyze the Dhamma with pleasant minds and with reverence as we worship the Tathāgata, the Perfect One. If you would like assurance that this discourse that I explained to you today is conforming to the words of the Tathāgata, please refer to the Ānāpānasati Samyutta – Samyutta 54 in the Samyutta Nikāya. Personal views and ideas are neither interesting nor important to us. No one in the universe can be liberated from the fetters of samsāra without the Doctrine of the Blessed One. Therefore, the Dhamma is our refuge.
Breath Leads to Liberation from Samsāra……
Now see, we have been breathing in and out right along as we discussed this discourse. Yet, we did not know that based on simple breathing, the mind could be developed to the final stage – the Arahant stage. The truth has been discovered and revealed by the Enlightened One.
Let all of us take up the supreme aspiration; the highest aspiration in the world that could be attained with a human mind. May all of us walk the path of virtue, concentration and wisdom, to shorten our sorrowful journey in samsāra and attain complete liberation – the supreme bliss of Nibbāna!
Sādhu! Sādhu! Sādhu!
May you have the opportunity to understand the Four Noble
Truths in Gautama Sammā Sambuddha’s Dispensation.