From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Ānāpānasati (Pali; Sanskrit: ānāpānasmṛti), meaning 'mindfulness of breathing' ("sati" means mindfulness; "ānāpāna" refers to inhalation and exhalation), is a fundamental form of meditation taught by the Buddha. According to this teaching, classically presented in the Ānāpānasati Sutta,[1] practicing this form of meditation as a part of the Noble Eightfold Path leads to the removal of all defilements (kilesa) and finally to the attainment of nibbāna (nirvana).

In both ancient and modern times, anapanasati by itself is likely the most widely used Buddhist method for contemplating bodily phenomena.[2] Traditionally, anapanasati is used as a basis for practicing meditative concentration (samadhi) until it reached the state of full absorption (jhana). It is the same state, reached by the Buddha during his quest for Enlightenment.[3] In the Zen tradition, anapanasati is practiced with zazen or shikantaza (in the Soto tradition). Anapanasati can also be practised with other traditional meditation subjects including the four frames of reference[4] and mettā bhāvanā.[5]


[edit] Buddhist origins

Part of a series on


Portal of Buddhism

History of Buddhism

Timeline - Buddhist councils

Major Figures

Gautama Buddha
Disciples · Later Buddhists

Dharma or Concepts

Four Noble Truths
Noble Eightfold Path
Three marks of existence
Dependent Origination
Saṃsāra · Nirvāṇa
Skandha · Cosmology
Karma · Rebirth

Practices and Attainment

Buddhahood · Bodhisattva
4 Stages of Enlightenment
Wisdom · Meditation
Smaran · Precepts · Pāramitās
Three Jewels · Monastics

Countries and Regions


Theravāda · Mahāyāna


Pali Canon · Tibetan Canon
Chinese Canon

Related topics

Comparative Studies
Cultural elements

The Buddha's teaching in this matter was based on his own experience in using anapanasati as part of his means of achieving his own enlightenment.

The Ānāpānasati Sutta specifically concerns mindfulness of inhalation and exhalation, and recommends the practice of ānāpānasati meditation as a means of cultivating the seven factors of awakening: sati (mindfulness), dhamma vicaya (analysis), viriya (persistence), which leads to piti (rapture), then to passaddhi (serenity), which in turn leads to samadhi (concentration) and then to upekkhā (equanimity). Finally, the Buddha taught that, with these factors developed in this progression, the practice of ānāpānasati would lead to release (Pali: nibbāna; Sanskrit: nirvana) from suffering (dukkha).

[edit] The practice

The practice of ānāpānasati varies. Typically, one begins by sitting in a comfortable position, with the back and neck straight, in a comfortable and peaceful environment.

The meditator should breathe naturally, without attempting to change the length or depth of the breath.[6] If the breath is short, the meditator should simply observe that the breath is short. If the breath is long, the meditator should simply observe that the breath is long.

While inhaling and exhaling, the meditator practises:

  • training the mind to be sensitive to one or more of the entire body, rapture, pleasure, the mind itself, and mental processes
  • training the mind to be focused on one or more of inconstancy, dispassion, cessation, and relinquishment
  • steadying, satisfying, or releasing the mind.

Tutors will explain that, in an untrained mind, thoughts constantly arise, disturbing the focus. They arise and fall away, like waves in an ocean. If one disregards them, they slowly wither and disappear. On the other hand, if one pays them attention, one is soon lost in a web of thoughts.

In this tradition there are two types of thoughts: thoughts from the past and thoughts about the future. These may bring happiness or sadness. It is said that, when left unattended, the mind will flit from one thought to another, wandering aimlessly.

Practitioners are tutored to avoid their practice being disrupted by passing thoughts and to nudge themselves into concentrating on their breathing again.

A popular non-canonical method used today, loosely based on the Visuddhimagga, follows four stages:

  1. counting each breath at the end of exhalation
  2. counting each breath at the beginning of inhalation
  3. focusing on the breath without counting
  4. focusing only on the spot where the breath enters and leaves the nostrils (i.e., the nostril and upper lip area).[7]

[edit] Stages of Ānāpānasati

Formally, there are sixteen stages — or contemplations — of ānāpānasati. These are divided into four tetrads (i.e., sets or groups of four). The first four steps involve focusing the mind on breathing, which is the 'body-conditioner' (Pali: kāya-sankhāra). The second tetrad involves focusing on the feelings (vedanā), which are the 'mind-conditioner' (Pali: citta-sankhāra). The third tetrad involves focusing on the mind itself (Pali: citta), and the fourth on 'the truth' (Pali: dhamma). (Compare right mindfulness and satipatthana.)

Any ānāpānasati meditation session should progress through the stages in order, beginning at the first, whether the practitioner has performed all stages in a previous session or not.[citation needed]

Satipatthana Anapanasati Tetrads
1. Contemplation of the body 1. Breathing long First Tetrad
  2. Breathing short
  3. Experiencing the whole body
  4. Tranquillising the bodily activities
2. Contemplation of feelings 5. Experiencing rapture Second Tetrad
  6. Experiencing bliss
  7. Experiencing mental activities
  8. Tranquillising mental activities
3. Contemplation of the mind 9. Experiencing the mind Third Tetrad
  10. Gladdening the mind
  11. Centering the mind in samadhi
  12. Releasing the mind
4. Contemplation of Dhammas 13. Contemplating impermanence Fourth Tetrad
  14. Contemplating fading of lust
  15. Contemplating cessation
  16. Contemplating relinquishment
Table 1. The Four Satipatthanas and the Sixteen Phases of Anapanasati.

[edit] Meditation with breath

Anapanasati is a core meditation practice in Buddhism, especially in the Theravada school, and involves merely being a "passive observer of the natural involuntary breathing process."[8] rather than being in control of the breathing. In any case, anapanasati is not the only breathing-based type of Buddhist meditation. For example, in the Buddhist meditation practices of Tibet, Mongolia and Japanese Zen meditation, control of the breathing is an important element.

In the throat singing so widely prevalent in the Buddhist monasteries of Tibet and Mongolia[9] the long slow outbreath during chanting is the core of the practice. The sound of the chant also serves to focus the mind in one-pointed concentration samadhi, while the sense of self dissolves as awareness becomes absorbed into a realm of pure sound. In Zen meditation, the emphasis is upon maintaining "strength in the abdominal area" [10] (dantian or "tanden") and slow deep breathing during the long outbreath, again to assist the attainment of a mental state of one-pointed concentration.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ In the Pali canon, the instructions for anapanasati are presented as either one tetrad (four instructions) or four tetrads (16 instructions). The most famous exposition of four tetrads — after which Theravada countries have a national holiday (see uposatha) — is the Anapanasati Sutta, found in the Majjhima Nikaya (MN), sutta number 118 (for instance, see Thanissaro, 2006). Other discourses which describe the full four tetrads can be found in the Samyutta Nikaya's Anapana-samyutta (Ch. 54), such as SN 54.6 (Thanissaro, 2006a), SN 54.8 (Thanissaro, 2006b) and SN 54.13 (Thanissaro, 1995a). The one-tetrad exposition of anapanasati is found, for instance, in the Kayagata-sati Sutta (MN 119; Thanissaro, 1997), the Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22; Thanissaro, 2000) and the Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10; Thanissaro, 1995b).
  2. ^ Anālayo (2006), p. 125.
  3. ^ "A Sketch of the Buddha's Life". Access to Insight. Retrieved on 2007-12-03. 
  4. ^ In regards to practicing anapanasati in tandem with other frames of reference (satipatthana), Thanissaro (2000) writes:
    At first glance, the four frames of reference for satipatthana practice sound like four different meditation exercises, but MN 118 [the Anapanasati Sutta] makes clear that they can all center on a single practice: keeping the breath in mind. When the mind is with the breath, all four frames of reference are right there. The difference lies simply in the subtlety of one's focus.... [A]s a meditator get more skilled in staying with the breath, the practice of satipatthana gives greater sensitivity in peeling away ever more subtle layers of participation in the present moment until nothing is left standing in the way of total release.
  5. ^ According to Kamalashila (2004), one practices anapanasati with mettā bhāvanā in order to prevent withdrawal from the world and the loss of compassion.
  6. ^ Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta No. 118, Section No. 2, translated from the Pali
  7. ^ Kamalashila (2004). Meditation: The Buddhist Way of Tranquillity and Insight. Birmingham: Windhorse Publications; 2r.e. edition. ISBN 1-899579-05-2. . Regarding this list's items, the use of counting methods is not found in the Pali Canon and is attributed to the Buddhaghosa in his Visuddhimagga. According to the Visuddhimagga, counting (Pali: gaṇanā) is a preliminary technique, sensitizing one to the breath's arising and ceasing, to be abandoned once one has consistent mindful connection (anubandhā) with in- and out-breaths (Vsm VIII, 195-196). Sustained breath-counting can be soporific or cause thought proliferation (see, e.g., Anālayo, 2006, p. 133, n. 68).
  8. ^
  9. ^ The One Voice Chord
  10. ^ Tanden: Source of Spiritual Strength

[edit] Sources

[edit] Primary sources

[edit] Secondary sources

  • Anālayo (2006). Satipaṭṭhāna: The Direct Path to Realization. Birmingham, England: Windhorse Publications. ISBN 1-899579-54-0.

[edit] Further reading

  • Mindfulness with Breathing by Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu. Wisdom Publications, Boston, 1996. ISBN 0-86171-111-4.
  • Breath by Breath by Larry Rosenberg. Shambhala Classics, Boston, 1998. ISBN 1-59030-136-6.
  • Tranquillity and Insight by Amadeo Sole-Leris. Shambhala, 1986. ISBN 0-87773-385-6.

[edit] External links

Personal tools